Pre-emptive maintenance increases customer satisfaction

Identify failure points to maximize uptime.

By Gary Brooks

After-sales service has long adhered to the “break-fix” model – a reactive method where service repairs are made as they are needed, opposed to proactively repairing equipment before it fails.

Maximizing product uptime isn’t necessarily a new thought, but it does require a new way of thinking. Manufacturers that properly leverage IoT and advanced after-sales service technologies will be well equipped to succeed in this new way of doing business, edging out the competition and improving financial performance and the overall customer experience.

As customer expectations change and the manufacturing sector consolidates, it’s becoming more important than ever to ensure that downtime is minimized – or preferably, eliminated.

With this in mind, manufacturers and their supporting dealer organizations, are shifting gears away from the break-fix model and toward an uptime guarantee model to gain increased market share and remain competitive. The need for pre-emptive maintenance is more important than ever, especially for manufacturers that need to meet the product uptime promised in service level agreements (SLAs).

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.

Below are three key items that service organizations must keep in mind as the uptime model moves front and center:

Service parts availability
As equipment uptime becomes a key competitive differentiator for manufacturers and their dealer organizations, it’s crucial to have the right service parts in the right place to make repairs quickly – or even pre-emptively – to repair a part that’s about to fail. With modern technologies, leveraging smart parts and the Internet of things (IoT) to proactively repair equipment before it fails can minimize downtime and maximize revenue.

Because of the long lifecycle of most durable goods – sometimes between 20 and 40 years – and the variations in downtime severity, manufacturers need to ensure service parts are available when and where they are most in demand to ensure product uptime. Depending on the equipment, downtime can result in halted production lines or stalled construction projects, which can negatively impact deadlines and revenue. Automating service parts inventory management consistently ensures service parts are immediately available when and where a repair is needed to guarantee maximum product uptime.

Shifting staff focus 
With the break-fix train of thought, 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 – skillset 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 adds, enhancing 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 maximized product uptime a reality.   

Leveraging modern technology
Along with equipping service technicians with a new set of knowledge, after-sales service organizations should consider next-level tools that help them adapt to this new way of doing business. Taking a proactive approach to performance and after-sales service adds complexity to day-to-day operations that’s nearly impossible to manage via Excel spreadsheets or other outdated manual processes.

Instead, manufacturers need to adopt solutions and business practices that will help them better understand customer equipment usage and part performance in real-time, then schedule maintenance events to prevent equipment breakdowns – all from under one data management umbrella. Fortunately, there are modern service parts planning technologies available to do just this.

Gary Grooks is CMO of Syncron, an international after-sales service solutions provider.