At the Install

A couple of weeks ago, when I showed you all the different departments of employees here at Banks Engineering (at the Christmas party), I said I’d tell you more about the Install group in a week or two. Well, make it two.

I guess it should technically be called the Banks Factory Installation Center, but all of us here refer to it simply as Install.

Every day, five days a week, we normally have five to eight trucks and motorhomes in the Install building (or just outside) getting new Banks products—you guessed it—installed. Inside the building there are five lifts and work stations, three of 9,000-pound capacity and two of 15,000 pounds, so they can handle almost any kind of pickup or flatbed trucks, gas, or diesel. Outside, in a partially enclosed area (which one of the installers referred to as the “Banks motorhome cabana”) are two large drive-on lifts of 27,000-pound capacity each and 20 feet long, so they can handle any type of gasoline motorhome we’ve seen so far. The diesel “pusher” rigs (motorhomes with a diesel engine mounted north-to-south in the rear, behind the rear axle—by far the most common type) are so heavy that they must be worked on on the ground, so there is another stall for them in the “cabana,” next to the two lifts.

Manning these eight work stations are—you guessed it again—eight installers, known here at Banks as technicians. Each is an ASE certified mechanic with considerable experience in the field, usually consisting of some as dealer line mechanics and some in specialty shops. These guys are kept busy by Cliff Hollaway and Jim Ovard, who are the Installation Department Coordinators, who schedule each installation 1-1/2 to 3 weeks in advance. Many installations can be done in one day, even if it’s a complete PowerPack and a Banks Brake (which, it seems, a large number are). Each Banks product or system has a specified installation time, and the customer is charged for this stated time at an hourly rate that is competitive with area auto dealer shop rates. This is a win/win situation for the customer. First, you know ahead of time how much the installation is going to cost, rather than guessing how long it will take. Second, if the technician runs into glitches—and you know how often that happens if you’ve ever turned wrenches yourself—and takes longer than the specified time, you don’t pay extra. (I must point out, however, that if your vehicle has physical problems, such as frozen or sheared exhaust manifold bolts that must be extracted, or if you have made modifications that cause the job to take longer, they will charge you for this extra time, which I think is only fair.) On the other hand, these technicians install these systems on the same vehicles every day, and you can bet they have learned the most efficient methods for doing the job quickly and properly the first time. If they get the job done in less time than specified, you get to go home sooner. That’s win/win, isn’t it?

Contrast this to doing the installation at home, by yourself. No matter how good a mechanic you are, a first-time installation is going to take a lot longer than someone who does it daily. And if you mess anything up, you have to fix it. The Banks Install technicians take every vehicle they work on for a comprehensive test drive when it’s finished. They check the proper operation of such things as the Banks Brake or SmartLock, and they measure such things as manifold pressure and exhaust gas temperature (on turbo diesels) compared to quantities they know should be correct. So they know everything is installed and working correctly before the vehicle is returned to the owner. All Banks products are warrantied for 2 to 5 years (some lifetime), and if any problem arises that is installation-related, you know they’ll take care of it.

The Install guys work from 6:00 to 3:00 daily (I think they’re crazy). But that means that, if your installation can be done in one day, you’ll miss traffic driving in, and you’ll leave before bad traffic in the evening. The waiting room in the Install building is about as nice as most people’s living rooms, with color TV, free coffee, a magazine rack, and drinks and snacks available. It, and the entire install shop, are cleaned daily by the Banks maintenance crew (in fact, their shop is in the Install building, too). But many who are arriving in motorhomes, or pickups towing 5th wheels or other types of travel trailers—from all parts of the country—prefer to park in the quiet dead-end street out front (we refer to it as Camp Banks), to spend the night. We provide water and electrical hookups, and there are nearly always two or three “Campers” out there.

I’ll end with a fun anecdote that typifies a day at Install. Cliff related that one day there were six or eight customers in the waiting room, chatting away. A black diesel pickup with a sprint car-like aluminum wing on the roof pulled up outside, and one of the customers inside, from Virginia, exclaimed, “There’s a truck just like that that I see at home all the time.” When the owner of the truck came in, it turned out that it was the same truck. The two owners lived 40 miles apart in Virginia, and passed each other every day going to work. They became friends in the Install waiting room and, once their Banks parts were installed, caravanned home together—3,000 miles. As Cliff put it, “Every day we get someone from somewhere.” I don’t think I could have put that better myself.