The world of spare parts has been woefully neglected for too long within the field service conversation. Fortunately, that is beginning to change dramatically as companies start to face up to the importance of having excellent visibility into service-related stocks and assets. But this is just the first step?
The world of field service has always been a complicated industry to optimize. There are so many moving parts, both literally and figuratively. Ours is a sector which sits against a backdrop of constant rapid change and innovation. Often the critical question is how do we ensure that the elements we introduce to improve our service operations today are also solutions that can be future-proofed to ensure that they will continue to allow us to thrive tomorrow?
Yet in 2020 that question is ever more critical than ever.
We are now focused on building a new-normal after months of severe restrictions due to COVID lockdowns. As we do so, a real spotlight has been placed above the inadequacies that many field service organizations have when it comes to their spare parts and inventory management.
While the world is still reeling from the impact of COVID, and while uncertainties of a second wave loom large over our head, we could be forgiven for hunkering down and getting by as best we can. The reality though is that now is the time to take stock. Now is the time to assess the holes in our service operations that lead to inefficiencies. And for many field service organizations that means that now is the time to establish the right processes and implement the tools that allow us to banish the headache of poor-parts management forever.
"The key to planning for a robust future impervious to a future scenario that may supply chains being effected, as we saw earlier this year, is to leverage the tools that are already available that critically can provide visibility into an organization's spare parts inventory..."
One approach that has been at the heart of digital transformation for many organizations in the manufacturing sector is to ensure their field service management solutions are deeply embedded within an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tool. One such solution is Eagle Field Service, which is part of Exel Computing's broader ERP solution.
As Carl Cridland, Senior Marketing Executive, Exel, Computing Systems explains. "Eagle Field Service is unique, in that it is an element of a larger suite of ERP software, the functionality of this larger suite of ERP can be included in your Eagle Field Service installation as a single, comprehensive solution – extending the functionality of your Field Service Management (FSM) solution to meet the wider needs of your business."
The more extensive suite of ERP software that Exel provide, EFACS E/8 – was developed to meet the needs of manufacturers across a wide range of industries, including Aerospace & Automotive. These are industries that require accurate and comprehensive stock management functionality, down to the level of complete traceability. With the Aerospace industry being particularly hard hit, such granular levels of visibility have been crucial as major organizations have had to get a firm grip on what is and what isn't going to be possible in terms of plotting their path to recovery.
In the automotive industry, another that was cruelly impacted by the pandemic, such visibility into spare parts inventory has possibly been even more crucial. For many of the major automotive manufacturers, at the peak of the lockdown, the only aspects of their business that remained fully operational were the lucrative and always in demand spare parts and maintenance operations.
"The final part of the equation is to take visibility from the back office and into the hands of the engineer..."
"These industries also work on 'LEAN' and 'Just in Time' principals," Cridland explains. "They must keep stock levels low in order to maintain cashflow and save cost on storage but must also manage supply chains accurately to ensure customer expectations are met, or even exceeded. It is for these reasons Exel can provide the functionality to easily meet the needs of Field Service providers whether they be in Aerospace, Automotive or any other industry with similar requirements."
The key to planning for a robust future impervious to a future scenario that may supply chains being effected, as we saw earlier this year, is to leverage the tools that are already available that critically can provide visibility into an organization's spare parts inventory.
As Michael Blumberg, Chief Marketing Officer, Mize explains, "Durable Equipment Manufacturers can future proof against poor parts management by ensuring that parts are readily available, easy to find, and easy to order or purchase when they are needed."
"Applications such as inventory tracking, parts locators, customer portals, and electronic parts catalogs facilitate this outcome," Blumberg adds. "By implementing these solutions, manufacturers can minimize equipment downtime, ensure a high first-time fix rate, and increase aftermarket service revenue."
Indeed, once implemented, a vast amount of the pain of inventory management can be removed via automation.
As Cridland explains "Functionality, such as automatic reorder limits – whereby parameters are set that when items reach their minimum threshold an order is placed. That order can be placed without human intervention if necessary, via a workflow which has the potential to weigh the benefits of purchasing from supplier A, B or C dependant on, say - cost, supplier reliability and due date. Should senior management want visibility on orders placed over, say £1000, the workflow would email or text the required staff and await sign-off before purchase."
The final part of the equation is to take visibility from the back office and into the hands of the engineer. Indeed, placing the tools into the hands of the engineer so that they can check availability and even order parts while on-site with the customer is critical.
"Such levels of engineer autonomy were what defined best-in-class service operations throughout the height of the lockdowns, and this is likely to continue as we look forward to the new normal..."
Of course, the primary aim of any field service call is always the first-time-fix. However, when this is not possible, the ability for the engineer to take proactive action that allows the customer to see that everything possible is being done to get them back operational as soon as possible is an essential aspect of ensuring strong on-going customer relationships.
The Eagle Field Service mobile solution, for example, provides engineers with the capability to manage their stock inventories along with placing purchase order requests and the ability to move stock to another engineer. Stock deliveries can be routed to the engineer's address, a dropbox, the customers' site or an ad-hoc address. Engineers can also have the option of purchasing locally.
This flexibility can empower an engineer to make the best decision for the customer while out in the field. It should also be noted that such levels of engineer autonomy were what defined best-in-class service operations throughout the height of the lockdowns, and this is likely to continue as we look forward to the new normal.
"The primary objective of Eagle Field Service is to get the right engineer to the right place, at the right time with the right kit," Cridland adds. "Spare parts management is absolutely integral to the success of any field service operation."
- Read more about Parts Pricing and Logistics @ www.fieldservicenews.com/blog/tag/parts-pricing-and-logistics
- Read more news and features and commentary from the team Eagle Field Service @ www.fieldservicenews.com/blog/dir-software-exel
- Follow Exel Computing on Twitter @ https://twitter.com/exelcomputersys
- Read more news and features and commentary from the team at Mize @ www.fieldservicenews.com/blog/all-about-mize
- Follow Mize on Twitter @ @ https://twitter.com/mizecom
- Read more exclusive Field Service News articles written by Michael Blumber @ https://www.fieldservicenews.com/blog/author/michael_blumberg