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Would you walk into a pub that served you a warm beer the previous time? Or, go back to this fine dining restaurant with your partner if it was noisy and unclean? One word that can make or break it for the service business is ‘Experience’.
With customer satisfaction being the buzz word in the past years, now the new trending words are ‘Experience Economy’, ‘Customer Delight’, and ‘Good-feel Service’. The trend is very common in the B2C sector which has led to terms like ‘Uberized Service’, ‘Amazon like Delivery’ or ‘Disney like Experience’.
This wave of keeping customers happy and providing them with a great experience has to become a priority on the list of the majority of Field Service Directors today. With the quest to create the perfect value proposition and customer experience comes in the various challenges that these leaders in manufacturing face today.
Recently, I had a fantastic opportunity to moderate a round-table discussion along with Kris Oldland, Editor of Field Service News about the Challenges that Service Leaders Face today and the future technologies in Field Service and Spare Parts at the Spare Parts Summit Summit in Coventry, UK.
One important observation was the interlinking of issues with spare parts and field service. The service leaders faced challenges in obsolesce management, spare parts management, data collection, utilisation and analysis along with field workforce training and planning.
With the advent of digital tools, faster production and time to market, one big challenge for Service Leaders today is obsolescence management as it has become increasingly challenging to predict and prepare for the future. IoT and connected machines have made predictive maintenance easier and helped the service organisations to move into the proactive space than the reactive space. One challenge still remains with break-fix due to user mismanagement, negligence or insufficient training.
Although IoT allows companies to note some cases of misuse and offer training proactively preventing damage to the machines and need for servicing prematurely. The service leaders have accepted that there will always be break-fix with machines whether it is due to an unforeseen circumstance or a user issue. So the goal in these instances is to have enough data to be able to get a technician with the right spare parts to the location and get it fixed immediately.
"One important observation was the interlinking of issues with spare parts and field service..."
This is a shift from the older model of a technician visiting to collect information, making a fault report to get the spare parts and revisiting the customer to fix the issue which is a higher cost for the service company and loss in uptime for the customers. Tracking of spare parts and more specifically ‘Having the rights parts at the right place’ is also an issue being tackled currently by the service leaders.
Some leaders are concerned about the tracking of spare parts as they become ‘lost’ with technicians, in spare part boxes or in inventories. Technologies like RFID readers, GPS tags could play a big role in actively tracking the spare parts to make sure the parts can be delivered to the right place when required.
The manufacturing, service and aftermarket space today is in a fantastic rush for data and today is commonly referred to as the new gold or oil. Kris Oldland had an interesting take on how this gold can be dug out but will still be useless unless refined and put it in the right form. One challenge with data is also getting data from the right source.
Similar to ores to extract gold, if the content of the ore is bad, the gold will be very expensive to extract and the return on investment will be low or negative. Data has a similar proposition today. Companies have started asking, how much data is enough data and which data is good data. With better data processing, artificial intelligence and machine learning making progress, the data analysis and processing woes should be answered more effectively in the near future.
The challenges cannot be addressed with a magic wand or just ignored, but being able to address them is a progressive first step. Collaboration with the customers and getting them involved in the whole process of solving the challenges can also boost progress for the service organisations.
To sum it up according to a Forbes quote,’An experience is not an amorphous construct, it is as real an offering as any service, good or commodity.’
Skype, the VOIP service released in 2003, the pre-cursor to video-calls over the web is now taken for granted. A true game changer, the application means business meetings can take place in one room with worldwide attendees interacting in real-time; friends and family can keep in touch from both sides of the world. In technological terms, it was disruption on a huge scale. It seemed appropriate then that one of the creators of Skype, Jonas Kjellberg, should present a keynote at this year’s Spare Parts Business Platform.
Delegates packed into the main conference room to hear how the Swedish entrepreneur disrupted and continues to disrupt in pursuit of constant innovation. Billed as part of the event’s Service Mastery Day, Kjellberg’s hour-long presentation urged delegates to bring this culture of disruption to their business framework. Once the cash cow of the service sector, spare parts has perhaps remained stagnant in its outlook and, Kjellberg, suggested disruptive elements such as AI, drones and 3D printing should be welcomed and embraced.
However, political upheaval through Brexit is creating a type of disruption a long way from the technological and business sort that drives innovation. Indeed, as I write this the EU has just agreed an extension to the UK’s departure, pushing the exit day back to 31 October. A major thread of negotiation and debate is the movement of goods in the EU and any tariffs imposed will inevitably have an affect on the supply chain. In a fascinating presentation towards the end of the first day, Lars Karlsson, CEO and Managing Director at KGH Global Consulting and an expert in customs warned delegates about the impact that the UK’s withdrawal could have on logistics. Karlsson, who was commissioned by the European Parliament Constitutional Committee to suggest possible border-solutions post-Brexit shared his thoughts on the impact of import and export between the EU and UK. Of course, while businesses are doing everything they can to prepare for all Brexit outcomes, until politicians come to an agreement we can still only speculate on what sort of mark Brexit will leave.
"Once the cash cow of the service sector, spare parts has perhaps remained stagnant in its outlook..."
One future trend that could impact positively on the supply chain is 3D printing and on day two of the conference, Atanu Chaudhuri from Aalborg University – and recent guest on the Field Service Podcast – presented case studies from two Danish manufacturers to delegates on selecting suitable spare parts for 3D printing (or additive manufacturing to give it its other term). Adopted within the medical, automotive and aerospace sectors additive manufacturing is yet to truly take-off in service, due in-part to the lack of a solid business case being waved in front of a perhaps cynical industry. However, as part of Atanu’s presentation, Mads Blaabjerg Uhre from Nilfisk, a supplier of professional cleaning equipment, and an advocate of 3D printing took part in a far-reaching Q&A on the subject, which may have persuaded some of those in the audience to re-consider their view on the subject.
Elsewhere on day two, sessions straddled warehouse management, digitization and stock optimisation. On the latter, Andrea Capello, Head of Parts BU at Ariston Thermo, a producer of thermic comfort products for commercial and industrial use, was able to share some of the guidelines that he uses to check stock-level by cluster and some of the tools used in this process. He outlined the importance of having a clear understanding of stock-balance, including inventory and location and affirmed that only then can you be fast and responsive to the customer.
Delegates left the two-day event enriched with new ideas, contacts and an accurate overview of where they and their business sit in the spare parts world. Thomas Igou, Editorial Director at Copperberg, the organisers behind the event, said this year’s conference had been a success and he looked forward to the next gathering. “With over 150 participants from all corners of Europe,” he said, “and across the manufacturing sector, 12 partners including the leading solutions providers in the sector, and high profile speakers that included the co-founder of Skype, the event was two intense days of knowledge sharing. I look forward to the next edition in February 2020, this time in Germany.”
A year is a long time in field service and 2020’s Spare Parts Business Platform, I’m sure, will reflect the trends of a dynamic and constantly moving industry.
Ahead of the forthcoming inaugural Spare Parts Summit being held in Warwick, UK on April 12th, Field Service News Editor-in-Chief, Kris Oldland talks to Thomas Igou, Content Director, Copperberg about the impact the growing trend of servitization...
Ahead of the forthcoming inaugural Spare Parts Summit being held in Warwick, UK on April 12th, Field Service News Editor-in-Chief, Kris Oldland talks to Thomas Igou, Content Director, Copperberg about the impact the growing trend of servitization will have upon the spare parts sector...
In his role as Content Director with conference producer Copperberg, Thomas Igou has been at the heart of conversations in both the Field Service and Spare Parts sectors for many years now. So who better to assess how the continued trend of servitization is impacting on both sectors?
With Copperberg launching a new UK focused version of their highly respected European Spare Parts Forum I was keen to get his view of what the key issues facing those working in the Spare Parts sector were and if the introduction of outcome-based contracts would require a rethink of how manufacturers align there field service and spare parts operations.
“There are three main themes on the macro level looking at how digital transformation is impacting organisations and more importantly the service business,” explains Igou.
Most manufacturers today are going through some form of servitization process moving from a purely transactional business to a more servitized model“Most manufacturers today are going through some form of servitization process moving from a purely transactional business to a more servitized model. That creates both great opportunities but also some sizeable challenges from a spare parts perspective and then to add to those challenges there are a number of other disruptive factors in the market at the moment as well.”
“eCommerce, AI, 3D printing and so on are all necessitating transformation in the spare parts sector, which has tended to be the cash cow within a service businesses because of the purely transactional nature of the business - the customer needs the spare part, he orders it, pays for it, gets it delivered.”
“Whereas on the flip side, when you look at field service it’s actually the opposite - field service directors are looking at how to move from being a cost centre to being a profit centre, and servitization plays a role in facilitating that shift. “
“However, the impact that is being seen in spare parts operations as companies move towards an outcome-based model, is that companies actually, start to cannibalise some of their spare parts revenue - because instead of being purely transactional, spare parts orders and deliveries start being included in SLAs, so actually, you will make less money from the sale of spare parts.”
“Essentially, it is something of a contradictory development because companies have to take away from one side to add value to the other.”
As Igou mentions for the spare parts executive there are additional external challenges to be contended with as well as the internal questions being raised by outcome-based contracts. Not least of these is eCommerce.
“eCommerce is another very significant topic of conversation at the moment, especially regarding competition from China where quality is getting better and better but as Chinese organisations have access to much cheaper raw materials they are able to be far more price competitive compared to European or North American organisations,” Igou explains.
“And that is before we even get to challenges centred around pirated parts - there are even growing fears around how companies like Amazon or Google could enter the sector and take a large share of the market revenue quite easily as they have done in other industries and sectors.”
Indeed, the Spare Parts sector is perhaps facing some of its most testing times ahead, but there remain plenty of opportunities also - many of which lie in tightening up efficiencies in two of the sectors mainstay topics - pricing and logistics.
The main aim with the spare parts sector is tackling how to deliver the right part, at the right time and at the right price“The main aim with the spare parts sector is tackling how to deliver the right part, at the right time and at the right price,” Igou explains.
“Most companies are now trying to move away from the cost plus model (i.e. how much does it cost to produce the part and then adding the profit on top) towards a more value-based approach, or if a company is entering a new market, they may prefer a market-based pricing strategy. Here, of course, eCommerce is again having an impact because prices are becoming more transparent - anyone can go on eBay or the internet and see on your website how much it costs to buy a part from China compared to say Egypt and then compared to the US or Europe.”
“If you have price differences it can be awfully bad for businesses so companies are facing a need to standardise prices across the board.” “In terms of logistics, the big discussion remains centred around whether companies should have a centralised warehouse management solution (where you have one big warehouse holding all of the stock and service all of Europe) or whether they opt for a decentralised strategy, operating multiple smaller warehouses which are closer to their customers, but which cannot stock as much inventory per warehouse.”
“In addition to that, there is a new consideration emerging,” Igou adds.
”We had a great session at this year’s European Spare Parts Forum from Schneider Electric about segmenting logistics depending on customer segments. Schneider found that customers in each of the differing sectors they service have different behaviours and expectations. For example, in one industry it may be that their customers need a very rapid solution and the key issue for that industry may be availability, so their logistics channel needs to be very good and very flexible and agile.”
“Whereas, another customer segment might be more demanding of uptime or more price sensitive etc, so segmenting your service supply chain based on your customer segment and the specific needs of that sector is another consideration that is beginning to enter the conversation.”
Of course, as Igou mentions, as companies move towards outcome-based solutions there is a danger of spare parts revenue being cannibalised as part of the wider service offering.
So where does he see the future of Spare Parts Management - will it ultimately become swallowed up as a subdivision of field service operations perhaps?
“It’s a great question and one I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought to,” replies Igou when I put this to him.
Whilst yes, servitization will mean some cannibalisation of the spare parts revenue, I don’t see that it’s going to destroy the spare parts business“With some of the larger organisations that were involved at our Aftermarket Conference at the end of October last year, we saw that even with companies such as SKF and GE Healthcare, i.e. major multi-national companies who have been working towards outcome-based services for some time now, still only about a third of their customers are on outcome based contracts and these are the organisations that are really at the forefront of this shift.”
“So whilst yes, servitization will mean some cannibalisation of the spare parts revenue, I don’t see that it’s going to destroy the spare parts business. There are always going to be some customers who won’t want these long term contracts and who will be happy to continue on a more transactional type of arrangement.”
“So I think the Spare Parts business will always have that transactional element and it will always be a profit centre. There will however, perhaps be a need for establishing some different internal relationships and some different processes may need to be considered moving forwards.”
The inaugural UK Spare Parts Summit will run on the 11th of April and will mirror the highly interactive peer-to-peer format of Copperberg’s UK focused field service event The Field Service Summit.
For more information on this event visit and last minute for registration opportunities visit: www.sparepartssummit.co.uk
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