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Field Technologies Magazine Features UniTek Global Services

A fleet management solution has helped UniTek Global Services reduce service fleet accidents and speeding by one-third.

Shift Your Fleet Management Focus To Driver Safety

By Brian Albright, Field Technologies magazine

A fleet management solution has helped UniTek Global Services reduce service fleet accidents and speeding by one-third.

Trucks may be the most expensive assets that a fleet operator has, but drivers are arguably the most valuable. For field service companies, inefficient dispatch and management of fleets and drivers can cause a variety of issues. First, the technicians driving the company’s vehicles are the “face” of the company to its clients. If those technicians aren’t dispatched efficiently, you can experience issues with customer satisfaction and lose credibility. And if your drivers aren’t operating company vehicles in a safe manner, then your company can incur hard-dollar costs (to replace trucks) along with a bevy of other issues.

UniTek Global Services has gone the extra mile to ensure the safety of its drivers and vehicles with a GPS fleet management solution that provides realtime alerts to technicians and managers if the vehicles aren’t being operated correctly. At the same time, the location data from the GPS solution has improved dispatch and routing efficiency so that the company is able to better serve its clients.

Headquartered in Blue Bell, PA, UniTek has nearly 100 facilities across North America and provides design, engineering, and maintenance services for a variety of telecom providers, municipalities, and more. UniTek is an expert at managing a highly skilled technical workforce on behalf of a diverse customer base. The company has three primary divisions that use the company’s new GPS solution: DirectSat USA, which provides service fulfillment for satellite television providers like DIRECTV; FTS USA, which provides engineering services, installation, maintenance, and other services for cable television providers like Comcast, Charter, and Time Warner; and Pinnacle Wireless, which provides wireless network construction and services for carriers, along with sophisticated systems integration and public safety/life safety solutions.

The Importance Of Efficiency And Safety For A Third-Party Service Provider
As a third-party service provider for many of its clients, UniTek not only has to meet its contractual obligations for the companies it works for, it also serves as a first point of contact for its clients’ end customers. As such, ensuring that the company’s roughly 2,200 technicians and 2,600 service trucks complete their scheduled service stops on time and in the safest possible manner is critical to its brand promise. With efficiency and safety as important as they are at UniTek, the company saw GPS fleet management as an opportunity to optimize its operations in both areas.

Of the two areas UniTek hoped GPS would impact, safety was at the core of the company’s decision to deploy its GPS fleet management solution. UniTek deployed its GPS solution in 2009, initially to improve driver safety and reduce accidents and speeding incidents. Prior to that point, the company did not have a GPS solution in place. “We wanted to move toward the utilization of GPS as a routing tool, but we were first focused on using the solution to better monitor driver behavior and be more consistent with our safety policies,” says Darrell Shalters, director of fleet/facilities at UniTek Global Services. “Safety is a core value of our company and comes first. The routing was a value-added benefit that’s still a work in progress for us. We’re light years ahead of where we were in 2009, but the safety functions are really the most valuable component right now.”

Primary Goal For GPS Deployment: Reducing Accidents
When the company began looking for a GPS solution, the primary goal was to reduce accidents. “We wanted the ability to predict the future, if you will, using driver scorecards to forecast potential infractions, then we could say, ‘This technician is probably at risk for a rear-end collision because of certain events on their scorecard,’” Shalters explains. “We use that scorecard to alert and issue driver safety training if need be when we see those thresholds broken. We also monitor excessive idling to reduce fuel consumption and lower our carbon footprint per unit.”

“We wanted to move toward the utilization of GPS as a routing tool, but we were first focused on using the solution to better monitor driver behavior and be more consistent with our safety policies.”Darrell Shalters, UniTek Global Services

According to Shalters, the company issued an RFP and evaluated several different GPS vendors. The president of DirectSat, the CFO, and the vice president of operations participated in the selection process. Ultimately, UniTek selected the Driver Safety and Fleet Management solutions, both part of the suite of field service solutions from Trimble Field Service Management, to manage its vehicle visibility. The Trimble Driver Safety and Fleet Management solutions provide real-time GPS vehicle tracking, and include an in-vehicle device that issues real-time alerts and feedback to drivers.

“We chose Trimble because from a long-term perspective, they had a more hard-wired solution that we felt comfortable with, and there would be less risk of tampering,” Shalters says. “The dashboard tool was also a huge benefit for safety. We felt they had the best long-term solution for our needs.”

Customer Experience Another Key Focus For Fleet Management
Beyond driver safety, customer service was also at the forefront of UniTek’s decision on which fleet management solution would best fit its needs. “During our evaluation process, we also considered how the solution would help us to set ourselves apart from our competitors,” Shalters says. “We wanted to measure the quality of service, performance against our on-time commitments, and the ability to get the right technician to the right job.”

The company piloted the Trimble GPS solution with vehicles at each of the three divisions. “We started with the DirectSat business because they have consistent routing data,” Shalters says. “The FTS and Pinnacle divisions were deployed after that.”

The full deployment began in 2009 and was completed in 2012 across all three businesses. Employees are trained on the solution by Trimble via WebEx sessions biannually.

The company’s trucks are equipped with the Trimble Driver Safety unit in the cab, which provides immediate alerts to drivers if they exceed operational thresholds such as speeding, harsh braking, excessive idling, and so on. Those same alerts are simultaneously sent to regional managers so they can be addressed in real time.

“With the solution in place, we’re able to better schedule the technicians and ensure every technician has a full, productive day.”

Darrell Shalters, UniTek Global Services

From Rugged Devices To Smartphones
Because UniTek delivers service for a variety of companies to their customers, the dispatch, routing, and work order management processes vary by division and by customer. DirectSat, for instance, receives work order information via its clients’ field service management solutions, sending out schedule updates in the evening and the morning for the technicians. Some clients send routes through other means (including by fax) that are then forwarded to the drivers.

All of the company’s drivers carry mobile computers. UniTek is phasing out the rugged mobile devices currently in use in favor of smartphones. DirectSat is issuing Samsung Galaxy phones to technicians, while FTS is deploying iPhones. UniTek is issuing OtterBox rugged cases with the smartphones to improve their durability.

For the DirectSat business, jobs are automatically scheduled through a third-party scheduling system. At the beginning of the day, the normal workload is already prerouted on the technician’s mobile device. For any emergency jobs or other ad hoc work orders, the dispatchers use the Trimble Fleet Management solution to determine where the closest technician is located so that they can be dispatched to that new job.

Fleet Management Improves Routing And Dispatch
The FTS and Pinnacle divisions use the GPS solution to guide dispatching as well. “We can follow up on technicians if they haven’t checked in as ‘en route’ or ‘on-site’ for a specific work order,” Shalters says. “We can use the GPS to validate upcoming time frames, so if we’re close to exceeding the response time we can check on them and see where they are relative to the job site.”

Over the past 14 months, UniTek has expanded its use of the GPS solution for routing and dispatching. Shalters says dispatchers can easily reroute technicians based on their skill sets and locations using the GPS solution. Prior to the GPS system, dispatchers would have had to make multiple phone calls to locate the tech closest to the job.

“With the solution in place, we’re able to better schedule the technicians and ensure every technician has a full, productive day,” Shalters says. “We can make sure all of our trucks are rolling. We can rotate the vehicles into service if there are spare units and also monitor weekly and daily mileage.”

The company can measure service trends and generate reports that show where the technicians are deployed each week. “We have consistent measuring tools that enable us to examine ways to enhance our business,” Shalters says.

Fleet Management Investment Leads To A 30 Percent Safety Improvement
While the routing/scheduling component of the solution is still in its nascent stages at UniTek, the company has maximized its use of the GPS solution’s safety features. “We use the safety monitoring component extensively,” Shalters says. “We use Trimble Driver Safety as a daily reporting tool, so we know in real time when the drivers have exceeded the posted speed limit, for example. They get an alert, as does the manager.”

UniTek is putting that data to use in more ways than just alerts, too. The driver safety data is also used for weekly safety meetings and is presented on monthly finance and operations (F&O) reports for senior management. “The managers get a full history of accident reports, workers’ comp claims, and they see a safety scorecard for each line of business,” Shalters says.

The safety elements of the fleet management solution have paid off in spades. According to Shalters, the number of auto incidents has been reduced by 30 percent across all three divisions since 2009.

GPS Reduces Idling By 20 Percent
The company has also reduced excessive idling, which has saved on fuel. According to Shalters, UniTek has reduced idling close to 20 percent since the solution was deployed.

Managers can also use the solution to calculate miles traveled per day versus the number of stops completed to help measure employee productivity. “We can see how long the technicians are spending at each stop, which helps us evaluate how the technicians are being dispatched and how long the work orders are taking to be completed,” Shalters says. “We have each stop geofenced so we can compare how long the stop takes and see who is falling way out of range.”

The visibility the solution provides has been a benefit in and of itself, Shalters says, since the company can leverage the location data and reports to measure how it is performing against customer expectations to improve routing and to ensure technicians are being utilized in the most efficient manner. “Just being able to view the trucks at any time of day within the GPS solution has been a huge benefit for us,” Shalters says.


“We’ve had significant reductions in accident events since we deployed the solution.”

Darrell Shalters, UniTek Global Services


Next Up: GPS And Timecard Integration
Next up, the company plans to integrate the GPS solution with a timecard system. That integration is being tested in UniTek’s Canadian division, Wirecomm Systems, Inc., later this year.

Still, Shalters says that driver and vehicle safety remains at the forefront of UniTek’s GPS initiative. “Enforcing our safety standards is our first priority, and the Driver Safety system is a key part of that,” he says. “We’ve had significant reductions in accident events since we deployed the solution, and we’ve got a great tool to measure our performance.


How Fleet Management Transforms Driver Safety

Fleet management solutions are often focused on visibility and efficiency, and they have a big impact on those areas. When UniTek Global Services deployed its GPS-based fleet management tool, though, it was focused on a different aspect of what fleet management can do — improve driver and vehicle safety. The company deployed the Fleet Management and Driver Safety solutions from Trimble Field Service Management to help reduce accidents, speeding, and harsh braking in its fleet.

Trimble’s Driver Safety solution is at the center of UniTek’s safety initiative. The solution uses GPS technology to deliver detailed reports on how drivers operate their vehicles. This allows the company to spot unsafe driving habits early and conduct targeted driver training and counseling to help minimize accidents.

The solution includes a truck-based mobile unit with a computer processor, GPS receiver, and wireless modem; Web-access data analysis and reporting tools; and a secure database. The system measures and calculates scores for a variety of driving behaviors and compares them to average measurements for the entire fleet. Managers can use these scorecards to address any problems before they result in an accident.

The in-vehicle display has been particularly valuable for UniTek. It sends audible and visual alerts to drivers when they operate the vehicles outside of company guidelines, using red, yellow, and green LEDs to indicate safety levels. Drivers are able to self-correct their behavior in real time.

“We can address an alert the same day based on the severity. For example, if they are going 25 miles per hour over the speed limit, that gets addressed immediately through a phone call to the driver,” says Darrell Shalters, director of fleet/facilities at UniTek Global Services.

The system measures accelerations exerted on a truck during turns, starts, and stops and can generate maps of harsh maneuver locations. It can also produce reports on fuel consumption, efficiency, and CO2 output. For more information on Driver Safety and Fleet Management, visit www.trimble.com/fsm.

Click here for the online article.

Supply Chain World Magazine features UniTek Global Services

Written by: Jim Harris

 

UniTek Global Services knows that for it to meet the needs of the ever-changing technology market, the company itself must evolve.

 

“UniTek is short for ‘universal technician’ and though our company has evolved greatly during the past nine years, the concept of the universal technician and our people providing that service remain the foundation of our strategic and balanced growth strategy,” says UniTek Chief Executive Officer Rocky Romanella. “We aspire to always have the best, brightest, most-informed and best-educated people in the industry as we strive to be a fully integrated solutions provider for our customers. In this respect, our supply chain and logistics team and their business partners must continually gather, analyze and provide insight to our organization on ways to deliver service excellence to our customers and drive growth. This requireunitek1s a thoughtful and balanced approach as we endeavor to be a customer-focused company that provides innovative and profitable solutions to strategic market segments.”

 

Senior Vice President of Supply Chain and Engineering Shannon Schell says the company constantly reviews industry trends and ways to position customers and the organization to capitalize on new technologies. “To stay ahead of the curve, we are focusing on data – for visibility into every facet of our business – and mobility as we look to connect the wired and wireless industries by harnessing the talent of our people and the strength of our supply chain and engineering prowess,” he adds. “Through every interaction, we want to make sure our customers know we are ready to take on any challenge.”

 

The upgrade in wireless technology in recent years from 3G to 4G to LTE networks in particular has required the company to increase its knowledge base and adjust its services. UniTek’s subsidiary, Pinnacle Wireless, has the capabilities and expertise to engineer, procure and build, as well as maintain large-scale communication projects for customers in the transportation, public safety, energy, wireless carrier, government, institutional and enterprise markets.

 

The cable and satellite television markets will likely also see significant changes within the next few years. UniTek serves these markets through three business units: DirectSat USA, which performs fulfillment, installation, upgrade and repair services on behalf of satellite television providers; and FTS USA and Wirecomm, which provide cable installation, maintenance, splicing, certification, disconnect and customer service to the cable television industry.

 

“These are already very mature markets, but still offer opportunities to continue to develop new solutions for our key customers,” Schell says. “UniTek will also look to provide services in non-traditional venues like malls, offices and stadiums and for a multitude of businesses as the traditional use of cable and television becomes part of a robust marketing and informational platform. Today, most homes are wired for entertainment. Looking forward our technicians have the capacity to fully integrate the latest technologies to automate a home, including appliances, utility systems and security networks – making it not only safe and entertaining, but a smart asset.”

 

UniTek’s subsidiaries operate in every one of the largest metropolitan markets in the United States and eastern Canada.

 

 

PROCESS IMPROVEMENTS

 

 

For UniTek, upgrading its own technology and supply chain processes is critical to its ability to keep up with the latest developments in the markets it serves. “Everything we do as we move forward will require us to be as efficient as possible in our supply chain and logistics operations,” Schell says. The company has a number of internal processes in place to maintain regular communication with vendors as well as sales, marketing and warehouse operations. UniTek uses a network of close to 100 facilities across the United States and Canada, and works with a number of third-party logistics providers. The company also operates and maintains a fleet of more than 3,000 trucks and other equipment that it uses for installations, deliveries and construction projects.

“Through disciplined engineering, we ensure customer deployments are quick and cost-effective. Everything we do we have a process for,” Senior Director of Logistics Warren Kucker says. “If it’s not documented somewhere, it doesn’t exist.”

UniTek uses Oracle to integrate its inventory, vendor and warehouse management systems. It continues to evolve and utilize state-of-the-art technologies to enhance its just-in-time inventory management system. “Our systems integration and construction projects can have hundreds or even thousands of different pieces of equipment and/or components. In order to better manage a project from start to finish, we are creating an automated inventory and closeout process,” Kucker says. “Every piece of equipment a technician uses is scanned and linked to the employee and/or the job, which significantly impacts our materials management and inventory investment. Our automated closeout process closes the loop on our billing process to reduce days sales outstanding and ultimately improve cash flow. These upgrades and updates will translate into savings for both our company and our customers.” The company is also examining ways to better utilize its 3PL partners. “There’s a large shift in the industry toward being an integrated partner as opposed to a vendor-customer relationship,” Kucker says. “Working with our customers and our vendors will help us to design a supply chain that adds value for all of our constituents.”

 

 

QUALITY AND SAFETY FIRST

 

 

UniTek’s internal improvements will ultimately help it better serve its customers. The company is consistently ranked highly by customers in a number of service metrics including quality and on-time delivery. “We’re well-respected for the quality of the work we do and our dedication to meeting service commitments,” Schell says. “When it comes to tower climbing, we’re building our reputation as the safest and the best. With this as a competitive differentiator, in the future, our universal technicians could literally install anything – it’s a value proposition that we’re beginning to call ‘Uniquely UniTek.’” Schell credits the company’s internal culture and values for its positive reputation. “Our philosophy is that we want our people to ‘Think Like a Customer, Act Like an Owner and Feel Like a Valued Employee,’” he says. Safety is another value that can be seen throughout UniTek’s operations. “Safety is a core value and a way of life at our company and is something we will not compromise,” Schell adds. “Everything we do here has safety at the very forefront.” ­­­

Wall Street Transcript Interviews CEO Rocky Romanella

a-082ROCKY ROMANELLA joined UniTek Global Services as Chief Executive Officer in July 2012, and was appointed to the board of directors in March 2013, bringing 36 years of management, operations and engineering experience to the company from his career at United Parcel Service. Under his direction as President of Retail and Residential Operations, UPS successfully launched one of the largest rebranding initiatives in franchising history, revolutionizing the $9 billion retail shipping and business services market. He was responsible for the global strategy of all U.S. and international retail channels. As President and General Manager of UPS Supply Chain Solution’s Americas Region, Mr. Romanella was instrumental in leading UPS’s entry into the health care industry while managing and integrating more than 20 acquisitions into the Supply Chain Solutions business. His responsibilities have also included overseeing nearly 72,000 employees throughout nine states. Mr. Romanella has experience in all facets of the UPS business operations. For over three decades, he held various management positions including hub and package operations and industrial engineering. He led project teams on numerous special assignments to develop customer solutions tools and processes for improving operational efficiencies, and was instrumental in generating revenue growth for UPS Supply Chain Solutions in North and South America. While serving as Vice President of UPS’s South California District, Mr. Romanella led the district to become the first in UPS history to reach $1 billion in annual revenue. He is a winner of the UPS Chairman’s Award for Excellence. Mr. Romanella holds a bachelor’s in management from St. John’s University.

 

 

SECTOR — TELECOMMUNICATIONS

 

 

TWST: Please start by introducing us to UniTek. Mr. Romanella: UniTek is a family of companies that formed through a series of acquisitions. We offer infrastructure services and solutions to Fortune 200 customers in the wireless, cable and satellite television end markets. On June 4 of this year, UniTek will proudly celebrate its 10-year anniversary. Our history of making acquisitions presented the company with two opportunities, one that created immediate growth and another that is designed to create ongoing growth opportunities by fully integrating these companies into a one-stop solution for our customers.

 

UniTek initially focused on cable installation and fulfillment services before moving into the satellite industry. We then executed a series of acquisitions to help move us into the wireless space and subsequently into systems integration with the acquisition of Pinnacle Wireless and, prior to that, Berliner Communications. When you put together this portfolio of services, you get a formidable provider of engineering and construction management, installation fulfillment solutions, and wireless telecommunications infrastructure and systems-integration solutions. That is who UniTek is today.

 

Most importantly, we are a company of outstanding individuals, with integrity and safety as our core values. Our mission statement sums up who we really are and what we aspire to be as a company. We connect the wired and wireless worlds. The wired world includes fulfillment —satellite and cable infrastructure — and the wireless world includes our wireless communications business. In addition, we are vendor agnostic, which means we can work with many different prestigious providers to deliver the right manufacturer’s solution to our customers.

 

But there are also several other factors that we think speak to what UniTek is as a company, what we continue to aspire to be, and what differentiates us from our competitors. For example, we strive to work with the best technology in order to be the best at what we do. A familiar phrase that you hear throughout our organization is: “If you do something, be the best at it.” Someone is going to be the best, so why not UniTek? We have this measure of operational excellence in everything we do, and we hold ourselves to very high standards, which we found generally translates into happy customers. If our standards are higher than our customers’, then we should always exceed their expectations.

 

Also, we work to hire only the best and the brightest, the most informed and the best-educated people in the industry. For us this is a two-way street; our people strive to be the best, and we provide an environment that facilitates excellence. Our people do valuable, groundbreaking work using cutting-edge technology. This combination positions UniTek to keep ahead of industry trends.

 

Our company started with the concept of the universal technician, and thus the name UniTek. The initial business strategy was that a technician would provide specific cable and satellite installation services. Our company and strategy has since evolved into that of a universal solutions provider with highly qualified individuals providing more services to more customers.

 

We talked about our history earlier, but an important part of our strategy as we seek to continue to integrate our company and grow our national footprint is to strategically view ourselves as one company, not a conglomerate of acquisitions, with the ability to service customers throughout the United States and Eastern Canada. With that in mind, the concept of the universal technician is very applicable now and will be well into the future. For example, we will train our people to do more things, potentially out of one facility where a worker can learn fulfillment installation, tower climbing and even maintenance work. This is what will differentiate and position UniTek for growth.

 

That is a little bit of UniTek’s history, and I would say that in all probability very few people know we are going into our 10th year. But we are excited about year 10 and the opportunities open to us.

 

TWST: As you said, your wireless capabilities came through the acquisition of Pinnacle. Is Pinnacle now wholly integrated to the company?

 

Mr. Romanella: All of our businesses are now fully integrated. Today, all the assets of our organization, whether it’s the Pinnacle Wireless division, the AT&T tech side of our business or even our satellite/cable business are all potentially available as solutions to all of our customers. We are now one cohesive organization. We made great progress in integrating our businesses, which we believe provides us with a strategic advantage, because now all of the company’s assets are available as a solution to all of our customers.

 

Another advantage to integrating our business is it becomes a strategic footprint. We currently do business in our different segments across most of the U.S. For example, we have satellite and cable teams in one part of the country, with Pinnacle Wireless tower crews and systems integration experts potentially in yet another part. These businesses overlap in certain areas. However, when you lay out a map of the U.S. and start to plot the nearly 100 facilities we have, you can see that as an organization we have excellent reach to service customers throughout the country.

 

TWST: Based on that, are you looking at more acquisitions as you go forward?

 

Mr. Romanella: We have a very good geographic footprint and the skill sets necessary to grow the business. Our focus right now is on organic growth as opposed to making acquisitions. We cannot definitively say there will be no more acquisitions. If the right acquisition opportunity presents itself, we will of course consider it. But again, that is not our focus at the moment.

 

TWST: What are the actual products and services you offer, and where do you see your best opportunities at this time? 

 

Mr. Romanella: We have the ability to be a full-service solutions provider, which we believe presents an outstanding value proposition, because we can provide our customers with complete end-to-end solutions. We also have customers who require us to do only specific parts of a job, but many times request additional work over time as we prove the value of our services to them.

 

The question is, what does the customer need? For example, in the case where a customer needs a complete cell tower built, we can provide a full end-to-end solution — engineering the tower, site acquisition, project management, actually building the site on behalf of the customer and providing maintenance going forward.

 

On the wireless side, we can provide total end-to-end solutions or parts of a project depending on the customer’s needs. For example, we do site acquisition for some customers, and I would like to point out that we are strong in this piece of the business. We also have a strong engineering team. In the case of this group, they often just do an engineering piece for a customer because the customer outsourced the integration piece.

 

On the systems integration side, we build networks and systems, and then we integrate them. Whether it’s a VoIP or a Wi-Fi system in a particular building, or a distributed antenna system in another building, UniTek can connect them together from a public safety perspective. We also think there is a natural maintenance piece that we could provide. If we build the system, then we believe we are certainly the best qualified to maintain that system.

 

When you think about the wireless space, we believe the high demand for data will continue going forward. We want to position UniTek as a company that can handle the telecom data needs of today, and more importantly the wireless data needs of tomorrow. We are able to handle whatever the client needs. Our goal is to be the complete end-to-end solutions provider. Once a customer tells us what keeps them awake at night, we work to solve those problems. If it isn’t something we do today, hopefully it is something we can do for them tomorrow, because if it is a concern for one customer it is likely to be a concern for other customers as well.

 

TWST: As you mentioned, you provide wireless services but also satellite, cable and others. Are you seeing a change in the mix of your business?

 

Mr. Romanella: Actually we are looking to diversify our customer base as well as enter into different markets that we don’t service today. If you look at us geographically, we have a national footprint but at the same time remain currently a Northeast-centric company. We are looking for opportunities to expand into areas in the U.S. where we do not have an established presence, or areas where we have operations like on the West Coast and believe there is room to grow. We are also diversifying our portfolio and strategically changing the mix of our customers.

 

TWST: Is one of your goals to increase the number of end-to-end customers? 

 

Mr. Romanella: Yes, ideally we want to provide complete end-to-end solutions. As we enter new markets with potential new product lines, our focus will remain on the process and our solutions. Additionally, we want to advance to the next level and capture the maintenance piece of the business.

 

After you build something, there is always the question of what happens when you walk away. That’s an important piece from a customer relationship point of view, and it also says a lot about how you are as a company. You stand by your product, you understand your product, and frankly you want to be part of the whole life of the project. Networks will always need upgrades, and we want to be the company responsible for those upgrades. If you are maintaining a system that you implemented, then you are the logical, natural partner to come to upgrade that system.

 

I think there is a lot of value in that philosophy as well. So I think as we move forward and start to look at new revenue opportunities and places for us to grow and expand, we must first understand what our customers need in order to truly be their end-to-end provider. We can then methodically look at what else we can do in that space.

 

TWST: I know that you announced your third-quarter results in November, and one of the numbers that stood out to me was an increase of 15.3% in revenue. What accounted for that increase? 

 

Mr. Romanella: Actually, there are two reasons for the increase in revenue. At the end of the 2012, we completed our last acquisition as part of our satellite business. Our business leader there did an excellent job with the integration. In addition, we had organic growth in certain areas of our business. So what you see in our third-quarter results is a combination of good integration of the satellite acquisition and organic growth.

 

We had some unfortunate situations happen over the past year, and there was some disruption, but at the end of the day we feel that UniTek is now positioned to grow its business organically, and we’re committed to that. As a team we made it through a somewhat difficult and challenging time, and we stayed focused on growing the business and on executing our strategic plan. If we can grow organically during a difficult period, which we did, then we are cautiously optimistic about our growth in 2014 and beyond.

 

TWST: Tell us about your background and about the key members of your management team. 

 

Mr. Romanella: Let me first tell you about the aspect of the business of which I’m most proud — the team we have assembled. We have had our challenges, but through it all we have been able to attract and retain a highly talented pool of people, not only at the senior level, but also at the middle-manager level. Our middle layer of management is outstanding. The vast majority of our midlevel managers have good industry knowledge and a strong core work ethic, which is a big part of our culture and what we look for in people. There are two other qualities that we also look for in our people: hard work and enthusiasm.

 

We make sure all our people share our cultural values. I interview every senior-level and middle-level manager, because I want to talk to them about our culture, vision, strategy and what it means to be manager at UniTek. I want to be sure they understand that safety and integrity are our core values, and we never compromise either of them. We do what we say we’re going to do, and we present ourselves in a professional manner.

 

Our senior team has a solid background and good diversification with strong industry experience. There are also a few of us from UPS, with a first-class background, strong industry knowledge and good business acumen. Our CFO, Andrew Herning, has outstanding business insight and a diverse background, including operational finance and corporate roles that complements the team’s skill set. He was previously with an accounting firm, and has both private and public company experience.

 

Our general counsel, Kathy McCarthy, also does a great job. She has a strong legal background and impressive industry experience, but more than that, Kathy has excellent business vision. Because we have such strong business leaders, I want them to participate in the decision-making process. We are building UniTek into a performance-driven organization connected by the principles of balanced leadership, where each of us thinks like a customer, by approaching each challenge as a true solutions provider, acts like an owner by understanding the business and what leads to success, and feels like a valuable employee by knowing our work matters and never compromising on safety.

 

As to my background, I was fortunate to spend 36 years with a great company like UPS, where I grew up in a culture of integrity and honesty. At UPS we cared about our people and we cared about the type of work people did, and that helped me through some of UniTek’s recent difficulties. I always said, “We’re going to do the right things. We’re all going to own up to our mistakes. Whatever is wrong is wrong. And we will fix it and be the better for it.”

 

I think that one of the things that makes a good leader is being open to receiving bad news. Nobody wants to hear it, but you’ve got to have an open door policy where people feel comfortable bringing you bad news. If everybody keeps telling you everything is wonderful, something is wrong. You have got to be able to accept bad news, and then you find over time they start to bring you the good as well. They start to say to you, “When I was heading home last night I was thinking, why can’t we do this?” And we respond positively, “That’s right, why can’t we do that? Let’s figure out how we can.” This is how you generate results.

 

Many people think some organizations have this giant think tank at the top that comes up with the next big thing. We find that’s often not the case; innovation usually comes from people performing the work and from customers talking to you, telling you where their markets are going, where their business is going and what help they need to get there. If you can achieve that relationship with your people and your customers, that’s how you really know you are getting that partnership. When you have an open dialog you become a true solutions provider, and then frankly, they will become yours.

 

Overall we have a really good group of business leaders, and I want and need them to participate in the decision-making process. Like I said earlier, we “think like a customer, act like an owner and feel like a valuable employee.”

 

TWST: When talking to investors, what are the most important points to highlight about who UniTek is today? 

 

Mr. Romanella: We are confident in our belief that our company is better, stronger and more efficient than it has ever been. We are fully integrated as one company, with one vision and one unique brand. We know who we are, what we stand for and what things we’re striving to achieve.

 

Part of our mission is to have the best and safest people in the industry. We came up with what we call our eight elements, the first of which is safety as a core value. We are focused on each of these elements day to day, week to week and month to month. These elements are communicated throughout our organization. We’re going to grow as a company and we’re going to enter into new markets, so we made a strategic decision to hire and train our own technicians to climb towers to gain capacity in the marketplace and differentiate UniTek, but we have to do it safely.

 

We said we have to diversify our customer base, so we’ve asked all of our employees to look for new areas where we can grow, to look for new places for us to do business, and to look at these new opportunities from a top-down, bottom-up perspective. We have talked with them about where we plan to invest our money, what our capital investment will be, what rate of return we expect to receive, and how we can reduce our debt and better understand our costs. Basically we are asking our employees to work with us to identify how to become more efficient in all of the things that we do and to be our best brand ambassadors.

 

We have publicly stated that we want to improve our capital structure, and we expect to look to refinance our debt after we have filed our audited financials. At that point we will have almost a full year of execution under our belts and should be able go to the marketplace and get a more reasonable rate. We think the best way to refinance our debt is to support our CFO by managing costs at all levels and giving him the best opportunity to present the best financial results we can produce.

 

Additionally, I think every company wants to generate free cash flow, so we are conscious about that. We try to drive down expenses from every level, so we counsel employees on how they can help in that effort by looking at operating expenses and managing individual expenses on a daily basis. As I have said previously, we want our employees to act like owners. We want them to ask themselves, if they owned this business, would they buy that, would they rent that, can they optimize their equipment or can they optimize their buildings better?

 

When you look at UniTek as a whole, we have an opportunity as we move across the country to stabilize our earnings over time. In the Northeast, at times the weather isn’t the best for doing outdoor work. However, if we can work in West Palm Beach, Florida, where the weather is generally good year round and where we currently don’t have a presence, that would help to smooth out workflow and earnings in our wireless business. While being strong in the Northeast is a positive, we don’t want to limit ourselves to just one region.

 

Finally, we talk all the time about having the best people in the industry. Everybody we add to our organization has to embrace our cultural values of integrity, honesty and safety, and want to be part of creating and sustaining something special. When you come on board at UniTek, you are part of a family atmosphere that promotes and embraces this culture. We consistently talk about these eight elements, and we want our people to know they are part of the solution. We think this will drive our strategy going forward and position us to grow and capture new business as the markets in which we operate evolve and change. We want to be ahead of the curve. If you go 3G to 4G, what’s 5G going to look like? We don’t necessarily know, but we want to be ready for it when it happens.

 

I always think the best way to gauge how well we are doing with our customers is when they come up with something they need to get done, they think of us and say, “Hey, we need to get UniTek on the phone, because we want to get their thoughts on how to implement this.”

 

TWST: Thank you. (LMR) 

 

ROCKY ROMANELLA 

CEO & Director 

UniTek Global Services 

Gwynedd Hall 

1777 Sentry Parkway West 

Suite 302 

Blue Bell, PA 19422 

(866) 454-5671 

www.unitekglobalservices.com