Firing on all cylinders

Monday, June 30, 2008

BROADVIEW, Ill.--The Service Center guarantees that its pledge to donate $50 to charity for every cylinder it loses is not just a bunch of hot air.

With locations in the suburbs of Chicago and Detroit, the five-year-old oxygen cylinder filling and equipment repair contractor claims to understand respiratory providers’ frustrations with mysteriously disappearing cylinders, convoluted logistics, long-term binding contracts and rising prices. At the heart of that empathy is a team with an extensive HME background, says President Jeff Addante.

“Responsive service is the culture here-it’s all we do and all we know,” said Addante, a 17-year HME veteran who worked for local provider Dependicare before joining the Service Center last year.

Methodical attention to detail in filling, testing, cleaning and delivering oxygen cylinders and backing it up with guarantees is the company’s formula for success, Addante said. For instance, the Zero Lost Cylinders guarantee offers customers a $50 donation to the charity of their choice if even one cylinder is lost.

Addante reports the company is growing in excess of 25% annually. It currently serves 250 active customers in a territory that includes Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and parts of Ohio. Its customers “run the gamut” in size, Addante said.

The Service Center uses a hub-and-spoke model for its services, with the Southfield, Mich., shop focusing on tank filling, while the Chicago-area location performs in-house hydrostatic testing and concentrator repairs. Once a week, units from Michigan are trucked over for repair work.

“Many cylinders go missing because of farmed-out hydrostatic testing,” Addante said. “Because we do our testing in-house, we can give them 100% reconciliation. We give them back the exact number of cylinders they send in.”

Sensing concerns among its customer base, the Service Center does not require providers to enter into long-term binding contracts, which Addante calls “a frustration” that allows for frequent price increases while not accounting for service.