Maintenance and aftermarket technicians spend up to 50 percent of their worktime searching for spare parts. Thanks to 21st century technology, that could soon be a thing of the past!
Guest column by Philipp Descovich, CEO of Partium;
Originally published: FACTORY / May 2022 (German)
Surveys conducted in the USA, Canada, Germany and Austria conclude that there is a large-scale problem when it comes to the search for spare parts and replacement components. Skilled technicians spend between 20 and 50 percent of their time simply trying to identify and find these parts! Yet, while there is now an ingenious solution, most companies are still griping about labor shortages.
Lacking skilled workers in production and maintenance? Maybe. Lacking efficiency? Definitely!
Three real-world examples to give the above figures some perspective: First, in the field of maintenance, one of the largest rail operators in the German-speaking realm, if not whole Europe, estimates that it generates 250,000 challenging spare-part searches per year, each taking more than 15 minutes. Furthermore, a large automotive manufacturer in Germany, which consists of a highly trained staff, estimates it requires 12 minutes per spare-part search - hundreds of which are carried out daily in each of its plants. The workload is enormous and even effects OEMs. One Austrian equipment manufacturer with 150 employees admits that 80% of its staff is responsible for answering spare-part inquiries and merely 20% with value-adding tasks such as preparing quotations.
These problems are 100% avoidable. And the solution is completely within reach.
While perpetual issues such as a shortage of skilled workers and poor quality data certainly play a role, more often than not, the problem lies in outdated or complicated software, a lack of access options, and the fact that the advantages of mobile technologies are not being fully exploited.
Artificial intelligence can turn a 15 minute search into 15 seconds.
In the three cases mentioned above, the companies could have easily joined the chorus of complainers. Instead, they took action to deal with the problem of time-consuming spare-part searches head on. Faced with a shrinking labor market, a retiring generation of highly experienced baby boomers, and the ever-increasing challenges posed by a multi-lingual, globalized consumer base, these companies turned to technology to solve their problem.
Good bye, master data misery!
The word should have gotten out by now: tedious, 3-year, master data collection projects are not the solution. This is the 21st century. There is AI that can utilize existing data from different systems like ERP/EAM, catalogs and web shops and combine it with widely accessible product information, effectively turning a 15-minutes spare-part search into 15 seconds.
Don't think about how it works; think about how it can work for you.
For the rail operator and automotive manufacturer mentioned above, the time and resources saved have been enormous. But, even for OEMs that employ apps and hotlines to help their customers find spare parts, the benefits can be significant. In the case above, specifically, the company’s 150 employees can now focus on offers and upsells instead. What’s more, they can see what parts are being searched for but not purchased. And that in real time.
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