We’re entering the ‘uptime era’; here’s how manufacturers can prepare
Service parts management is a field that has largely been ignored by the manufacturing industry. With an increasing emphasis on maximum product uptime, manufacturers must ensure their service supply chains remain efficient and optimised; but more often than not, service attempts fail due to a missing part.
While after sales service professionals have a handle on service parts management, manufacturers are currently missing an opportunity to please customers and differentiate from competitors by ensuring their equipment is continually functioning and productive.
The rise of online retailers like Amazon, millennials in the workforce, emerging technologies and rapidly evolving customer expectations is bringing industry disruption from all sides. The expectation now is for 24/7 service and immediate solutions. As with any challenge, however, there is opportunity. These disruptors allow manufacturers to adopt new ways of thinking and improve after-sales service. Here are three key ways manufacturers can adapt to the “uptime era” quickly and successfully.
Migrate to the cloud
While Excel spreadsheets and legacy ERP systems may have been helpful in the past, managing service parts inventory with these outdated, cumbersome tools is no longer an effective way to do business. A cloud-based inventory solution can help manufacturers increase both margins and revenue from after-sales service, while simultaneously ensuring maximum product uptime. Integrated into an existing ERP system, it 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.
Don’t react; predict
The old “break-fix” form of working means that after-sales service is largely centered on reactively replacing parts once they have failed. However, 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.”
The influx of millennials as the new field service employee base presents an opportunity to adopt new methods. 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 these new technicians with the skills and resources necessary to make maximised product uptime a reality.
Improve customer experience
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. It is fast becoming 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.
While this may seem like a relatively seamless shift in strategy, service organisations should be aware of common failure points, and identify strategies on how to best guarantee maximised product uptime and customer satisfaction if they want to hit the ground running.
Maximised 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.
By Gill Devine, VP sales for EMEA, Syncron
Pandora and IBM digitise jewellery supply chain
Pandora has overhauled its global supply chain in partnership with IBM amid an ecommerce sales boom for its hand-finished jewellery.
The company found international success offering customisable charm bracelets and other personalised jewellery though its chain of bricks and mortar retail destinations. But in 2020, as the COVID-19 outbreak forced physical stores to close, Pandora strengthened its omnichannel operations and doubled online sales.
A focus on customer experience included deploying IBM’s Sterling Order Management, increasing supply chain resiliency and safeguarding against disruption across the global value chain.
Pandora leverages IBM Sterling Order Management as the backbone it its omnichannel fulfilment, with Salesforce Commerce Cloud powering its ecommerce. Greater automation across its channels has boosted the jeweller’s sustainability credentials, IBM said, streamlining processes for more efficient delivery. It has also given in-store staff and virtual customer service representatives superior end-to-end visibility to better meet consumer needs.
Jim Cruickshank, VP of Digital Development & Retail Technology, Pandora, said the digital transformation journey has brought “digital and store technology closer together and closer to the customer”, highlighting how important the customer journey remains, even during unprecedented disruption.
"Our mission is about creating a personal experience and we've instituted massive platform changes with IBM Sterling and Salesforce to enable new digital-first capabilities that are much more individualised, localised and connected across channels and markets,” he added.
Pandora’s pivot to digital
The pandemic forced the doors closed at most of Pandora’s 2,700 retail locations. To remain competitive, it pivoted to online retail. Virtual queuing for stores and virtual product trials via augmented reality (AR) technology went someway to emulating the in-store experience and retail theatre that is the brand’s hallmark. Meanwhile digital investments in supply chain efficiency was central to delivering on consumer demand.
“Consumer behaviour has significantly shifted and will continue to evolve with businesses needing to quickly adapt to new preferences and needs,” said Kareem Yusuf, General Manager, AI Applications and Blockchain, IBM. “To address this shift, leading retailers like Pandora rely on innovation to increase their business agility by enabling and scaling sustainable supply chain operations using AI and cloud.”
Yusuf said Pandora’s success was indicative of how to remain competitive by “finding new ways to create differentiated customer experiences that protect their enterprises from disruptions to help mitigate risk and accelerate growth”.