A Digital Customer Portal for Highly Individual Services in Mechanical Engineering and Plant Construction

A Digital Customer Portal for Highly Individual Services in Mechanical Engineering and Plant Construction

by Dr. Arndt Döhler and Tobias Giese

The products in mechanical and plant engineering are complex and individual: A machine can consist of several thousand parts, of which about 20 percent are on average "customized". In addition, the life cycle of the products is long and service and maintenance are an important part of the overall business. New digital services and bundles of product and subsequent services can create added value for long-term customer loyalty. In addition, digital self-service functions help to realize savings. The appropriate platform for all this is a sales and service portal. Here are a few ideas on how to use it:

  1. The installed base: digital starting point for fast spare parts orders

Procuring spare parts can be a power drain: it needs to be quick, the element can be a small part that may not even exist anymore in its original form - and the overall situation is tense already because the machine is not working as it should be. This is where a digital machine park or a customized spare parts list comes in handy.  This way, the spare parts order can be generated quickly and specifically: The digital image and the parts list help to identify the part to be replaced and the corresponding part number. Those who sell particularly complex machines can include 3D eyewear concepts in which the digital 3D image directly on the machine helps to find out the part number for the defective part.

  1. Operating instructions, explanatory films, etc.

Content can be offered on the customer portal as an individual point of contact to the customer, helping him or her to make optimum use of the machine: 24/7 access to operating instructions, help functions or explanatory films support its correct operation.

  1. Self-service functions - added value for everyone

According to surveys, more than half of all B2B customers prefer self-service as a support channel. What's more, 71 percent of all business customers are positively impacted on their loyalty to the provider by self-service functions. And the provider does not only benefit from the obviously higher customer satisfaction. For them, they are efficient and help to save costs.

The possibilities of the self-service portfolio are rich: They range from ordering spare parts to commissioning a service engineer with the appropriate qualifications for a desired time window and with the shortest possible travel distance.

  1. Lacing up product service bundles

Especially when the machine builder is in strong competition with suppliers of comparable products, product service bundles can help to stand out from the competition. In bundles, the product can be supplemented by a package consisting of regular maintenance, the provision of a replacement machine in the event of a breakdown, a 24x7 commitment for service technicians, etc. Such bundles, well tied up and reliably implemented, help to keep the customer loyal in the long term. In addition to the machine, the customer receives kind of a guarantee for high reliability.

  1. Self-service for customers worldwide

Those who grow rapidly and also export worldwide need IT that can grow with them. On the one hand, this applies to quantity and sales volumes. On the other hand, a fast rollout in new markets must be possible. A good basis for this is a multi-layer portal architecture in which the data for the entire infrastructure is stored centrally and country versions are already preconfigured. On this basis, a country rollout can take place within a few days because the country-specific configuration can be created simply by mouse click.

  1. Centrally anchored revision service

The multi-layered architecture allows the user a centrally anchored and therefore fast and consistent change service: adaptation at the central level is sufficient. It is automatically "pulled through" to all country versions.

  1. Pay per use

Pay-per-use concepts are certainly not the model favored by the machine manufacturer. Nevertheless, the pressure is coming from the market: the concept of car sharing is increasingly gaining acceptance in the B2B sector as well. Rolls Royce offers turbines on a rental basis and Linde has more than forklifts for lease. A concept that can also be used as a value-added add-on in mechanical engineering. Thanks to sensor technology, machine utilization can be measured and the data transferred to the portal. Intershop presents the concept in its "Smart Drill" IoT use case using a drill as an example. The pay-per-use idea is also linked to an automated prepayment procedure.

  1. Thinking ahead to predictive maintenance

As soon as the machine is equipped with sensor technology and data can be collected and evaluated, you can think ahead and offer predictive maintenance from the customer portal. How high was the utilization of the machine so far? How high was the assumed level of wear? When should a failure-prone part be replaced as a precaution to avoid downtimes? The machine user can find corresponding recommendations, maintenance and service offers in the portal. The advantage for both the customer and the manufacturer is that machine reliability can be further increased. And reliability is a great asset.

More information on our digital customer portal can be found on our website.

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