Problems with parts...

Feb 23, 2016 • FeaturesParts Pricing and Logistics

Spare parts and inventory management is an ongoing challenge for field service companies, Sharon Clancy looks at some of the main solutions available to help ensure your engineers are never waiting for parts....

Right part, right place, right time is as important as having the right engineer in the right place at the right time.

With many supply chains now global, ensuring the right parts are in the right place is also a case of managing supply chains.

It’s a fact recognised by the top service management solution providers, Advanced Field Servicel, IFS and ServiceMax are among those who incorporate parts inventory control and management as part of their service management software.

The modules allow you to replenish, automate processes such as pick, pack and ship and monitor stock levels. However, keeping track of the spare parts is one challenge.

Actually getting them to your engineers when they need it is another problem entirely. So let’s take a look at solutions for both., looking first at getting the parts to our engineers.

There are a number of different solutions to help field service companies tackle this.

Supply chain companies in parts logistics 

Global supply chain management specialists have recognised that the requirements of service parts logistics sits neatly with their expertise.

They already have just-in-time delivery credentials for manufacturing, so are ideally placed to extend it into aftersales support.

DHL, for example has a division called Service Logistics that integrates spare parts delivery, on-site and return-to-base repairs, returns, exchanges and recycling. “The larger the field service team, the more complexity involved. Engineers can be spread geographically, fixing a wide range of equipment from a variety of suppliers”

It taps into DHL’s worldwide network that includes mission-critical same-day deliveries with lead times as short as one hour.

The larger the field service team, the more complexity involved. Engineers can be spread geographically, fixing a wide range of equipment from a variety of suppliers.

The larger the field service team, the more complexity involved. Engineers can be spread geographically, fixing a wide range of equipment from a variety of suppliers. Getting the right parts to the right engineer or right customer can be challenging. Inventory costs money, which is why no-one wants to hold it.


Parts suppliers might offer shared warehousing and remote stock locations. As noted earlier. field management software often includes parts inventory visibility and planning.

Another option is CEVA who provide call centers staffed with highly trained operators to take orders, organise deliveries and book maintenance calls, ensuring your customers receive the highest level of service.  Delivery of scheduled and mission-critical spares to your customers, field engineers or stock rooms according to your service level agreements is available.

They are also able to provide returns and reverse logistics by managing the reverse flows of surplus or damaged products back into the network, where we undertake screening before repair, reuse or disposal, minimising cost and maximizing your revenue wherever possible.

They can manage the logistics of your swap and repair service, improving visibility to reduce cost and improve reliability. Another option available from Exchange Logistics is their service parts logistics offering - through a network of strategic stocking locations they can manage the delivery of ‘mission critical’ and scheduled parts to your field engineers.

Overnight deliveries

Overnight deliveries have become a key component in parts logistics for service people.

Automotive dealers have got parts logistics down to a fine art – to keep their customer satisfied the vehicle needs to be back on the road as soon as possible, not waiting for a part to arrive.

Automotive dealers have got parts logistics down to a fine art – to keep their customer satisfied the vehicle needs to be back on the road as soon as possible, not waiting for a part to arrive.

At the same time, most of the automotive parts warehouses are centrally located in one or two locations across Europe.


This has required investment in order and in the infrastructure necessary to get those parts sometimes a thousand miles, overnight – by boat, road or plane.

In the UK, logistics provider Bespoke Distribution Aviation (BDA) specialises is overnight delivery of spare parts and vital components for the automotive, media and agricultural sectors using its own distribution network and fleet of planes and trucks.

The company has eight gateway hubs for both air and road routes across Europe, including Germany, France, and Ireland. The firm flies freight into Coventry overnight in order to meet next-day delivery times.

BDA has invested in Civil Aviation Authority approved screening technology to process air cargo quickly. its own outbound freight to its Ireland hub, as well as scanning inbound and outbound freight to its hubs in Frankfurt and Maastric.

BDA says its greatest strengths lie in the time critical spare parts supply chain with late mainland European collections for Through The Night Pre 07:00 and 08:00 delivery in the UK, Early Morning Pre 09:00 and 10:00, Next Day and Same Day delivery solutions and returns logistics.

Collection can be up to 8.30 pm depending on distance from the nearest hub.

Returns can be collected at the point of delivery so engineers are left with stock that could be used elsewhere. BDA can handle all of your shipment types from packet, parcel and pallet through to long length and oversized items.

ByBox of course pioneered in night deliveries to secure and conveniently located lockers, in order to bring parts closer to engineers ready for 8am.

Inventory management 

Creating a parts stocking strategy to respond to global service demand is challenging when you rely on inadequate tools or traditional manufacturing-centric supply chain methods.  PTC points out that it's tough to get an accurate service parts forecast when you have a mix of fast- and slow-moving parts with sporadic demand, a large array of parts due to extended product support, and the added complexity of managing new part introductions and last time buy.

PTC Service Parts Management is designed to make sure that you have the right parts available at the right time and the right place, which helps you meet your customers’ service parts needs by balancing the unique complexities of the global service supply chain.

Delivery Connect from Blackbay records a full audit trail of actions that have been performed on a package during the package lifecycle within the network.

By comparing the current location of a package against the expected location which is either stored within the package data in Delivery Connect, or is derived from actions that have been carried out on the package (scan to route, delivery to depot etc), exceptions are clearly visible to the operational staff.

This is visible to operational staff through the Delivery Connect web application but the data is also accessible by the companies own systems through integration via the Delivery Connect API.


Delivery Connect includes a rich dashboarding and reporting tool that provides visibility to operational staff of exceptions with their area of the business.

By comparing the current location of a package against the expected location which is either stored within the package data in Delivery Connect, or is derived from actions that have been carried out on the package (scan to route, delivery to depot etc), exceptions are clearly visible to the operational staff.

For example, a package that has been delivered to one depot, but which has a delivery postcode belonging to a route which is associated with a different depot, would be visible through an exception report or dashboard.

The application also gives visibility to operational staff of collections and deliveries that have not been made but which are past their time window or the time window is in jeopardy enabling them to take corrective action with the driver – communication is possible via the in-built messaging system.

Operational staff can make corrections to incorrect package data (eg contact details, address details and these updates will automatically be applied to the driver/courier handheld manifest.

Returns management 

Field engineers often need to return spare or broken parts – either to a warehouse, back for repair or, if under warranty, to the original manufacturer for inspection.

Blackstripe from ByBox is designed to make it easier for engineers to do this and for the part to be tracked through the network.

All the information required is contained within the electronic label, so there is no need for engineers to take on the job of ensuring the label is correctly addressed

Engineers a simply attach a Blackstripe label to the package over the original delivery barcode.


The item is then routed it back to the originator, creating a faster return loop and ensuring it arrives at the correct final destination, with total traceability at all stages.

Engineers then just drop the return part off at their ByBox drop box, from where it will be collected and automatically sent on the correct route via Bybox’s Coventry hub.

All the information required is contained within the electronic label, so there is no need for engineers to take on the job of ensuring the label is correctly addressed.

The service engineer that goes to his customer and uses some of the spare parts in his van for example.:

If he uses the connection of a barcode scanner and their link.connect API, he can scan the spare parts and the warehouse can start preparing the box that he needs to have for the next day.



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