Service Parts and the Uptime Era: What Manufacturers Need to Know

To meet this new definition of performance, manufacturers need to rethink their operations strategies across the board to make product uptime—not just reactive, quick repairs or replacements—a priority.

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Service part availability has always been a stumbling block for manufacturers and their after-sales service organizations. In fact, according to The Service Council, 50 percent of service attempts fail due to a lack of part availability. Yet while there’s always dialogue about service parts management among after-sales service professionals, the status quo is no longer acceptable.

Disruption from companies like Amazon, millennials in the workforce, emerging technology and rapidly evolving customer expectations are creating a significant opportunity for manufacturers to adopt new ways of thinking to succeed in this ever-changing landscape.

These changes are leading many manufacturers to switch from a “break-fix” model to one that guarantees product uptime. In a break-fix world, after-sales service largely is centered on reactively replacing parts before they have failed. With a focus on product uptime, however, manufacturers place more emphasis on predictive maintenance.

With this in mind, here are three key ways manufacturers can adapt to the “uptime era” quickly and successfully.

Maximizing Service Parts Distribution

Since there’s an increasingly greater emphasis on maximum product uptime, manufacturers must ensure their service supply chains remain efficient and optimized. While Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and legacy ERP systems may have been helpful in the past, managing service parts inventory with outdated, cumbersome tools is no longer an effective way to do business.

The good news is that a cloud-based service parts management solution can help manufacturers increase both margins and revenue from after-sales service, while simultaneously ensuring maximum product uptime. It easily integrates into an existing ERP system, and allows manufacturers to track service parts, eliminate excess and obsolete stock, and forecast when new parts are needed. These practices are critical for meeting customer delivery expectations and maintaining an edge over both direct competitors and third-party e-commerce sites. Beyond keeping products in the right place at the right time, inventory management technology also reduces carrying costs, which are estimated at a mind-boggling 25 percent of the value of inventory that’s on the shelf.

Prepping Service Techs for New Technology

In an uptime world, much more emphasis will be placed on predictive maintenance, knowing how to fix smart parts, remote performance monitoring and more. This will require service teams to have a whole new—or at least revamped—skill-set that, literally, views “time as money.” 

Experienced field service technicians with years of experience and knowledge are retiring, and with that comes an influx of millennials as the new field service employee base. According to WBR Digital, millennials are “digital natives and collaborators” and focus on “up-selling and value ads, the customer experience… and connected technologies.” As this shift in staffing continues, it’s more important than ever to equip new technicians with the skills and resources necessary to make maximized product uptime a reality.   

Service Parts are Key to Great Customer Experiences and Loyalty

According to BI Intelligence, it takes 12 positive experiences to negate one negative experience. And given how competitive the manufacturing category has become, businesses can’t afford to leave customers unsatisfied with after-sales service. Product uptime is more than just a secondary target metric; now, it’s the primary way of doing business. The need for pre-emptive maintenance is more important than ever, especially for manufacturers that need to meet the product uptime promised in SLAs. If they can meet (and exceed) these expectations, they’ll form long-standing relationships with clients, and gain more and more market share.

And while this may seem like a relatively seamless shift in strategy, service organizations should be aware of common failure points, and identify strategies on how to best guarantee maximized product uptime and customer satisfaction if they want to hit the ground running.

Maximized product uptime is rewriting the book on what performance means for manufacturers. And to meet this new definition of performance, manufacturers need to rethink their operations strategies across the board to make product uptime—not just reactive, quick repairs or replacements—a priority.

Gary Brooks is chief marketing officer at Syncron. With 20 years of marketing experience, Brooks is a revenue focused business-to-business marketing executive who believes in qualitative work with quantitative results to deliver breakthrough revenue performance.