According to the study “Erfolgsfaktor After Sales Service” (“After sales service as a factor for success”) published by VDMA Marine Equipment and Systems and the Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services CML, focusing even more heavily on the after sales service market offers the maritime supply industry considerable potential for maintaining its successful position against international competition, particularly taking into account innovative technologies under the umbrella of Industry 4.0.
The results of the study clearly confirm the extraordinary significance of service business in the maritime sector, write Lutz Kretschmann from the Fraunhofer CML and Hauke V. Schlegel from the VDMA’s working group for Marine Equipment & Systems in an article for trade magazine Schiff&Hafen. The companies surveyed are already generating a significant portion of their turnover through services, and also see great potential for growth. The study identified the key factors for success in after sales as being ensuring minimum customer downtime, guaranteeing excellent spare part availability and implementing an efficient logistical system.
Given the wide variety of challenges, maritime supply companies are setting very different priorities for the expansion of their after sales business. However, it is possible to identify a range of shared approaches. Virtually all companies see investing in their own employees’ expertise as a core area of action for the future. On top of this, two thirds of the experts surveyed cite optimisation of worldwide distribution and the number of service sites as one of the most important tasks in improving performance in after sales service. The top 3 measures also include expanding offerings in remote services and condition-based maintenance, which play a major role in the strategic planning of many companies.
Patterns of success in the after sales business
The maritime supply companies that are most successful in after sales have a more comprehensive range of services on the market than other companies. This is particularly pronounced in individualised service sectors, such as maintenance contracts, exchange module services and customer training. In addition, it is clear that the most profitable companies are making greater use of measures from the field of Industry 4.0, converting the increasing volume of data from ship operations into useful information. This allows them to successfully manage the high complexity of planning and steering after sales and meet increasing customer requirements.
Product design as a key to increasing efficiency
The key to increasing the efficiency of after sales processes lies in product design. If consistently implemented, “design for serviceability” facilitates rapid and uncomplicated completion of repairs throughout a product’s service life. This is all about designing products in such a way that fast replacement of important (wear) parts is possible. Use of non-variable or standardised parts and assembly into replaceable modules instead of numerous individual parts are another option. With “design for logistics”, it is also possible to reduce logistical effort and costs through design of modules, components and spare parts with storage, transport and packaging in mind.
Condition monitoring throughout the entire life cycle
Evaluation of a product’s status information throughout the entire life cycle is a core aspect of many Industry 4.0 applications. The range of possible applications that arise here spans from simple detection of malfunctions, to diagnosis and prediction of system status, to opportunities to adjust control parameters, such as avoiding costly consequential damage in the event of technical issues. Development of comprehensive condition monitoring that goes beyond mere detection is a starting point for more precise spare part requirement forecasts, anticipatory maintenance and optimised fleet management. At the end of the day, this is the only way to effectively reduce maintenance costs, minimise downtime and extend system lifespans.
Innovative business models for the supply industry
Systematic building of a service portfolio is what is required in order to live up to the high and increasing strategic and financial importance of after sales business in the maritime supply industry. One example is pay-per-use models, whereby the product remains under the manufacturer’s ownership and the customer simply pays for functions actually used. This model has been common practice for aircraft turbines for many years. Similar models would be conceivable for various systems in the maritime sector, not only for primary drives but also for load handling systems, deck machinery, and even new systems such as ballast water treatment.