This is Chris Halliwell, Technology Marketing Center Director, chiming in for the Leaders' Blog.
Your customers' aftermarket services can deliver a sizable chunk of operating contribution to their business' bottom lines, so it's important to understand how your offer to system OEMs affects their Field Service performance metrics. This post shares some recent learning about this topic from a discussion with a senior executive who has experience in both the systems Field Service business, and in managing a component supplier organization chartered to support aftermarket services.
The context for understanding the challenges your customer's Field Service organization faces is that your customer's customer sees aftermarket support as a cost adder, and your customer's sales people don't want to bring up the possibility of a failure during the effort to win business. This is understandable, but unfortunate, since customers don't really know if their suppliers have a responsive, high quality service team until there is a field problem. As I learned early in my career at IBM, it is at the moment of field failure, with significant cost of operational downtime looming, that you fully deliver on the quality promise that includes component reliability, component operational life, and serviceability. Nothing never breaks.
How Component Offers Add Field Service Value to Customers
Here are tips on component offer elements that make system OEMs more efficient and profitable, and therefore should result in value that may protect component prices over time.
- Service Schedules are the most important element – that is, the frequency and types of service required to maintain up-time. This critical information allows the OEM to plan preventative maintenance activities and price service contracts with customers more profitably.
- Service Kits have many benefits – that is, pre-tested sub-assemblies that offer premium pricing opportunities to your customer, reduce spare parts inventory, and allow the OEM's customers to quickly get back up and running.
- Labeling saves significant Field Service personnel time – components that are clearly labeled with repair part or kit numbers reduce maintenance costs/hassle and avoid very inefficient personnel time overruns when the wrong kit is ordered; new technologies are really helpful here, such as RFID chips that can be scanned or QR codes that take you right to the correct ordering (or repair) page from your phone
- Availability - remember that the cost of downtime drives your OEM customers to loose profitable aftermarket business to third party service organizations, most frequently due to lack of spare part availability. Spare parts suppliers have to comply with the new “Amazon mindset that says ‘I want one click ordering and next day delivery."
Warranty Sleight of Hand
It is a huge hassle for most system customers to simply determine if your component is in or out of warranty, and there are some clever solutions emerging in the form of mobile apps (covered in a previous post). However, I'll leave you with the final word of advice from our helpful Field Service executive: know your customers' warranty policy. It is not uncommon for system customers to offer limited warranties, then push through Procurement to secure longer warranties from the suppliers, and make money on the margin.
All of this adds up to a hope that you will build a direct relationship with your customers' aftermarket managers, support their businesses with information and packages that maximize their efficiency, and build a solid partnership to mutually reap the value of improved end user support.