On his ninth year as a field service manager for Scania Mining, Martin Dewar is now on his sixth country assignment. He has spent the past year in Chile to set up sales, training and on-site services for mining vehicles.
Following a lifelong Scania career in the UK, Scot Martin Dewar left his native Edinburgh in 2010 for what was to be a one-year assignment in India.
“My role has developed over the years to become more of a support for distributors and dealers in training and product information,” he says. “I train distributors that subsequently roll out training schemes to the dealer level. I also visit customers to provide service support,” adds Dewar.
The one-year assignment in India was followed by Liberia, Iraq, Russia and Peru with the longest assignment in Russia. “I gradually gained the trust of customers. Mining customers are different, and relationships and services must be tailored to their specific environments, rules and the need to maximise uptime. So everything must be personalised, it can’t be copied and pasted. I call it TLC, tender loving care.”
Customer service must be personalised
To effectively carry out an assignment as field service manager requires a presence in the country of at least two years, according to Dewar. “Arriving in a new country, you spend the first six months understanding the work, the culture and the way of working,” he says. “The first year you only scratch the surface. It’s during the second year that you can make an impact,” he explains.
According to Dewar, two to three years is sufficient to put sustainable training programmes in place. “Once the penny drops you can take the job to the next level. When I came to Russia, they didn’t even have a mining department and no mining-specific services. After two years, everything was running smoothly in terms of trucks, parts and services.”
Dewar is now based in northern Chile, where mining for copper and gold is taking place in different areas. There is also an increase in lithium mining, which is now in demand globally. However, it’s difficult to accelerate that mining process.
“I conduct on-site visits to five customers and am establishing relations with a sixth customer. One of these is the Escondida copper mine and I travel weekly to the mining sites for a bit of everything – technical support, supervision and fleet management.”
Dewar says that he is trying to learn Spanish and is beginning to understand what is said in meetings, a feat he mastered during his previous assignment in Russia.
“This is a very special job – it’s not for everyone.”
“This is a very special job – it’s not for everyone. You need to be a good communicator, as well as being sensitive to cultural differences, and open-minded. Because you don’t just work for the Scania organisation, but for the customers as well,” Dewar says.
He explains that it’s physically and mentally demanding to be away from one’s family with three to four months between visits. In addition the mining environments can be harsh with extreme temperatures – scorchingly hot and bone-chillingly cold. In Chile, Dewar is also subjected to high altitude. But it’s all part of the job for him. “I’m now 45 years old and it’s been a fantastic journey. I can’t imagine another job,” he says.
Loyalty to Scania seems to run in the Dewar family. Martin Dewar’s brother Iain works for Scania West Africa and his son is now following in his footsteps and is enrolled in the apprenticeship programme at the Scania GB workshop in Edinburgh. “Scania is a family business for the Dewars,” says Martin Dewar proudly.