New research reveals that 86% of companies now expect on-site post-sales services from industrial suppliers. UPS customer examples show how a new supply chain setup can improve technicians’ efficiency by up to 30 min per service and strongly...
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New research reveals that 86% of companies now expect on-site post-sales services from industrial suppliers. UPS customer examples show how a new supply chain setup can improve technicians’ efficiency by up to 30 min per service and strongly improve the cash conversion cycle. Jean-François Mathieu, Marketing Manager, UPS Europe explains more...
The UPS Industrial Buying Dynamics Study is one of the few detailed studies available on the relationship between industrial buyers and suppliers.
It is a study that provides a unique understanding of how industrial buyers identify suppliers such as industrial distributors, manufacturers and e-marketplaces, their satisfaction with existing suppliers and their propensity to change suppliers in search of improved value and service.
Interviews were carried out with purchasing professionals and the study provides a detailed view across countries and sectors and one of the key learnings of this year’s study is that industrial buyer expectations of post-sales support are increasing across Europe.
In 2015, 78% of survey respondents said they expected on-site post-sales services from industrial suppliers; in 2017 that has risen to 86%In 2015, 78% of survey respondents said they expected on-site post-sales services from industrial suppliers; in 2017 that has risen to 86%, driven particularly by significant rises in expectations amongst UK and German respondents.
In fact, European expectations of post-sales support are now running well ahead of expectations in the US where 76% expect on-site support, although in China a remarkable 99% of industrial buyers expect on-site support.
In a world where sources of industrial supply have proliferated, the service offer from suppliers has become one of the most critical differentiators between competitors. Indeed, the UPS 2017 Industrial Buying Dynamics Study shows that while an effective returns process is the most important post-sales service, buyers now also expect a much wider range of services, with on-site maintenance and repairs cited as being important to them by over 70% of respondents.
This necessity of on-site maintenance and returns brings about logistics challenges for suppliers that may go beyond their traditional operational skill-set.
The survey shows that 60% of buyers typically need delivery for all orders within 48 hours or less, with little if any differences in figures cited appearing between respondents from disparate sectors.
The survey shows that 60% of buyers typically need delivery for all orders within 48 hours or less, with little if any differences in figures cited appearing between respondents from disparate sectors Over half of buyers need on-site service at least every three months, and nearly a fifth of buyers say they need on-site service at least every month. However, only a quarter of buyers say they actually receive on-site service within 24 hours, although that figure does rise significantly to 80% when we focus on a response time of 48 hours.
One company who have recently had to acknowledge this problem and find a means to overcome the challenge was Sealed Air, a leading producer of materials and manufacturing equipment for food safety, facility hygiene and packaging was recently facing challenges managing on-site service in Europe for their TASKI® floor cleaning machines.
They were managing their own supply chain through a network of 19 warehouses, supporting over 500 field service engineers providing aftersales services.
However, they had found that their service response time was continually beginning to slip below their buyer’s expectations – an issue that the senior management team at Sealed Air had quite rightly identified as one that was set to be costly both in terms of top line revenue, brand reputation and bottom line profit.
The solution that they put in place was to work with UPS in combining UPS Express shipping services with the UPS Access Point™ network to deliver parts to their field service engineers. With wait times for parts delivery massively reduced by utilising this approach, Sealed Air found that they were able to significantly improve their response times – which in turn improved their ability to meet customer expectations whilst simultaneously reducing costs by driving efficiency.
The UPS Access Point is a dropbox/locker network that features over 15,000 locations across Europe where buyers can collect or drop off parcels.
Meanwhile, UPS was able to consolidate the company’s network of warehouses into a single, centralised distribution centre. The new service infrastructure allows field technicians to order a part up until 1pm, and have it in hand early the next morning.
Field Service Engineers across Europe are typically able to find a UPS Access Point location within a few kilometres of their home or buyer, meaning that the time spent by engineers collecting spare parts has been reduced by approximately 30 minutes per service order. If each engineer was to process just one order per day then that would be an instant time saving of 250 work hours a day.
That equates to the same as adding in over 30 more engineers to the workforce!
Simply working smarter has allowed Sealed Air engineers to complete more service trips on a weekly basis, reduce the number of warehouses and inventory levels and to bring their post sales offering back on track – something which is vital for any organisation that wishes to remain competitive in this ever increasingly service-centric world.
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There has been consitent talk about the role of 3D printing could play in field service logistics and spare parts management for many years now but still we have yet to see a clear solution arrive using the technology. Kris Oldland talks to Tim...
There has been consitent talk about the role of 3D printing could play in field service logistics and spare parts management for many years now but still we have yet to see a clear solution arrive using the technology. Kris Oldland talks to Tim Helsen, UPS to see if it is on the horizon and if so how will it work and what benefits will it bring...
KO: 3D printing has for a while been positioned as a major disruptive technology within supply chain management, but can it really be a magic bullet to help field service companies meet the challenge of getting parts to their engineers in a more timely fashion?
TH: At UPS we see two potential areas for using additive manufacturing in field service operations and spare part supply.
Firstly, 3D printing has the potential to be used for a more tailored part supply based on customer needs at any given moment in time. In particular for older machines where spare parts are not on high demand and the moulders that were used for mass production are not available anymore. In situations such as this, spare parts can be created through additive manufacturing at a relatively low cost and supplied to the engineer in a short amount of time.
A broader use of 3D printing technology can be imagined in situations where the manufacturer is making adjustments to a certain part based on data collected from the field.
Furthermore, if manufacturers only stock high demand items and switch to 3D printing technology for low demand items, they can significantly reduce their overall inventory levels and operating costs.
KO: What are the challenges and benefits for a field service organisation to adopt 3D printed parts as part of their spare part management strategy?
TH: The key benefit is that field service organisations can tailor spare parts according to the needs of their customers and thereby improve customer satisfaction and loyalty levels. The key challenge for field service organisations will be to make the financial investment and accumulate the knowledge and the expertise to switch from traditional manufacturing to 3D printing.
UPS has integrated 3D printing facilities into its global network and built up expertise in additive manufacturing, so our customers do not have to.
KO: There are numerous examples of high quality 3D printed parts being used in industrial products, but realistically with today’s technology and infrastructure are 3D printed parts a valid solution in terms of spare parts management for field service companies?
TH: Despite 3D printing’s current shortcomings in some field service situations (parts made from several components, large or complex parts that take a long time to print,..), UPS offers field service providers value because we combine an on-demand 3D printing manufacturing network at central air hub locations with a global logistics network. Together, they form an on-demand economy business, allowing for asset-light operations if you are a field service company.
KO: Do you think 3D printing solutions will become a standard tool offered by major logistics providers (such as FedEx, UPS, K&N etc) or do you think it will remain a specialist sector?
TH: 3D printing is going mainstream. And as it does, the technology is likely to revolutionise traditional manufacturing and redefine our notion of supply chain logistics.
3D printing is going mainstream. And as it does, the technology is likely to revolutionise traditional manufacturing and redefine our notion of supply chain logistics.
We partnered with a 3D printing company to build a 3D printing facility at our global Louisville hub and in 2016 began offering this service in Asia too, with scope for further expansion.
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Kris Oldland, Editor-in-Chief Field Service News asks isn’t it about time we learnt to manage spare parts as well as we can manage the mobile workforce?
Kris Oldland, Editor-in-Chief Field Service News asks isn’t it about time we learnt to manage spare parts as well as we can manage the mobile workforce?
When looking through the list of topics discussed in most field service conferences it seems that there is one area that is often heavily overlooked - which is namely the topic of parts distribution. So often we talk about the importance of getting the right engineer, with the right skills to the right job and getting them there on time.
Of course it’s all a moot point if they don’t have the right parts needed to complete the job.
Yet head to any industry event, or look through the pages of any industry journal (including even our own humble offering) and you will find far more content that is weighted towards managing the dispatch of engineers than you will see focussed on the dispatching the parts that they need to do their job.
In our defence it’s an easy trap to fall into - there are just so many more voices shouting about mobile workforce management than there are shouting about parts management and service logistics.
Companies such as FedEx, Keuhne Nagel and UPS have all stepped up to the plate to try and help resolve some of the pain points felt by field service organisations in relation to their parts delivery.
Firstly, the number of companies that can offer the ability to deliver across international borders and to the type of time scales that field service organisations require are very few and far between. Secondly, within such organisations, field service and parts management is really just a very small component of their wider operations, so perhaps gets a touch overlooked.
Yet, slowly that is beginning to change.
Companies such as FedEx, Keuhne Nagel and UPS have all stepped up to the plate to try and help resolve some of the pain points felt by field service organisations in relation to their parts delivery. Also we are beginning to see more and more senior logistics professionals become focussed on field service as a sector.
One such individual is Tim Helsen, Netherlands Country Manager, UPS who was speaking recently at the Field Service Europe conference held in Amsterdam, and I was pleased to receive his invite to connect over a coffee at the event to gain his perspective of how companies such as UPS can help field service companies overcome the perennial challenge of cumbersome and ineffective parts management and logistics.
“There are a couple of key trends as we see it,” Helsen commented when asked on why so many companies seemed to struggle getting spare parts into the hands of their engineers, or even in some cases just delivering parts to their customers.
“Firstly, we are seeing a large number of companies telling us that their customers are demanding better aftermarket solutions from them, yet when we spoke to those exact same companies they were not treating the aftermarket side of their business as a priority.”
78% of companies stated that effective spare parts management and delivery was highly sought after by their customers but only 12% were treating this area as a priority, so there is clearly a disconnect
Having spent time further investigating this disconnect Helsen believes that the causes are the pragmatic results of a number external pressures on field service organisations.
He identifies the challenges of recruiting, training and maintaining field engineers, who are themselves working on ever more complicated devices, as a key reason why companies naturally tend to push their focus, and indeed their infrastructure towards what he describes as ‘simply getting their guys out on the road.’ As such, parts management is often the neglected cousin.
However, this approach, whilst clearly being endemic to our industry is one of purest folly. In his presentation, given a little earlier in the day, Helsen went through a number of case studies highlighting how paying such little heed to the delivery of parts coukld have a dramatic knock on effect when it comes to the performance of field engineers.
Discussing how they had worked with Snap-On in the UK he explained; “They had 400 engineers and up until we began working with them those engineers would get their goods delivered at home. So whilst they were scheduled to start work at 8am, they would be waiting in between 8 and 10am.”
“The solution that we offered them was ‘you know which customers in the day you know you are going to help so we can redirect those packages so you don’t have to wait at home’. The packages will then be delivered to the closest proximity of that customer - which is typically between 5 and 10 km away maximum.”
The UPS solution also allows the technicians to pick up from locations such as petrol stations and newsagents which expands the available working hours adding additional flexibility (which can be a big benefit to customers and engineers alike) plus UPS also provide a dedicated app which allows for parts tracking but also allows engineers to redirect packages in real time.
Giving field technicians a means to also adapt the collection of any parts they need in reflection of such changes is a vital tool that should be welcomed with open arms by field service companies.
In fact, it could even be argued that seeing as parts should really be more easily managed than people, it’s incredible that such solutions are only now beginning to become part of the fabric of field service management.
For me, it seems that the biggest failing we have all undertaken - practitioners, vendors and media alike, is to treat parts management and service logistics as a separate entity to workforce management. Admittedly there are software platforms that incorporate parts management alongside FSM tools, Astea comes to mind as one solution that offers such a solution, but even then how closely aligned is it to the actual delivery of parts?
How many field service companies have fully integrated parts handling and delivery into their mobile workforce management systems?
Yet the benefits of doing so are clearly vast.
As Holden explains “If you look at the time savings in the magnitude of saving 80 minutes a day and multiply it by the number of engineers they have, this is a saving of anywhere between 2 and 6% of the total staffing of their engineers.”
The technology is available, and essentially the argument has already been won by the workforce scheduling vendors
Indeed, as I talk to Helsen, I find myself nodding in agreement as not only does his argument very easily stack up, but it’s almost a word for word a repetition of the arguments put forward by the scheduling engine providers.
Arguments which by now most in the field service industry are very well versed in to the point that they’re universally accepted as common sense.
The technology is available, and essentially the argument has already been won by the workforce scheduling vendors - even many SMBs now utilise some form of workforce optimisation, because the R.O.I is clear to see.
It seems the next easy win for field service companies looking to improve efficiency margins is quite simple - revisit your parts management and service logistics chain and put the same emphasis on getting the right parts to the right place at the right time as you do getting engineers - surely it’s about time we were able to get parts in the right place as well as we can people?
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Logistics provider UPS recently showcased a working prototype of a drone solution that launches from the top of a delivery truck. The test which was conducted in collaboration with drone-maker Workhorse echoes a proposed means of using drones...
Logistics provider UPS recently showcased a working prototype of a drone solution that launches from the top of a delivery truck. The test which was conducted in collaboration with drone-maker Workhorse echoes a proposed means of using drones within a delivery mechanism suggested by Ralph Rio, A Research Director with the ARC group which Field Service News reported on back in December 2013 whereby drones are used to augmented existing delivery drivers capabilities whilst they are in the field rather than deliver packages straight from the depot.
UPS believe that sending drones to make deliveries from package cars could bolster efficiency in their network by reducing miles driven across their delivery route and whilst the test was for residential delivery, a similar approach could potentially be adapted for delivery of parts to field service technicians - particularly if combined with other technology such as the location based services offered by organisations such as Glympse.