After-sales service has become a market differentiator. And as service logistics has matured, it has evolved its own distinct supply chain, which includes transportation, technical repairs, and end of product life.
This supply chain is often fragmented and not well integrated. Companies want to connect their post-sales service supply chain from a visibility and technology perspective, to drive efficiencies and improve customer service.
Tip Number 1: Improve visibility in the service supply chain to drive gains in efficiency and customer service.
Speed is one of the key elements of post-sales support, across industries. But what needs to happen fast should be determined by the terms of the post-sales service contract.
Tip Number 2: Everything doesn’t have to happen at hyper-speed. Use the service contract to define critical needs requiring rapid response.
Post-sales service comes together at the customer’s site. Improving the efficiency of the field service technician can spell big gains in customer service and satisfaction.
Next-day response can rely on rapid transportation to move needed parts and materials from a centralized location to the field service technician or customer location, where the service technician will perform a repair, replacement, or upgrade.
But critical, often same-day response relies on field stocking locations in addition to a rapid-response network. Balancing these two very different needs without overbuilding or overstocking the supply chain means taking advantage of highly developed logistics and data resources.
Field stocking locations provide the rapid response needed for mission-critical service needs, but visibility and stocking levels can get out of hand quickly. Small field stocking locations near customer sites help many companies remain responsive to customer emergencies.
Tip Number 3: To ensure the efficiency of field technicians, parts can be held or delivered to a pickup counter, store location, or a growing network of retail access points near the technician, or the end customer site.
A strategic, central stocking location with access to premium transportation services can satisfy many of the needs of next-day service, and keep inventory visible without building huge stockpiles.
The combination of centralized stocking and limited, mission-critical field stocking can provide better control of inventory levels without compromising service.
Tip Number 4: Centralized stocking combined with premium transportation allows for next-day service and keeps you in control of your inventory.
Take a Network View
Planning the information and goods flows for both forward and reverse distribution enhances the efficiency of the field technician by reducing touch points.
This network approach has a benefit as a reverse supply chain, to take back unused parts for restocking, or used or obsolete parts for repair or recovery and disposal.
Whether handling service parts outbound or returns from the field, one of the goals of any after-sales supply chain strategy is to reduce complexity and the number of touch points. This type of fluid network helps provide dynamic scheduling, improving the efficiency and the overall effectiveness of the service network.
Connected to a global fulfillment system with sophisticated logistics, data, and financial systems that reach into developed and developing markets, the same level of service can be extended to the end customer, resulting in a win in the post-sales service race anywhere in the world.
Tip Number 5: The same systems that schedule critical deliveries can generate return documents to route unused or recyclable parts to their appropriate destination, reducing handling and paperwork for field technicians, while gaining better control of inventory.
This article was adapted from an interview with UPS Vice President of Post Sales/Contract Logistics David O'Leary published in Material Handling & Logistics (MH&L).
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