After-sales service is becoming an important strategic success factor in industrial companies. Due to the long service life of machines and plants of between 20 and 40 years, there are many service opportunities and thus sales potentials. These must be exploited. It is important to keep an eye on current developments and trends in order to meet the increasing demands of customers and provide high-quality service.
In this blog post, we would like to answer the following questions from our perspective:
What trends are currently shaping the after-sales services sector in machine, plant and equipment manufacturing or among their operators? Which trends are likely to continue or even intensify in 2021?
Trend 1: Digitization of processes and digital services
The digitization of processes and information has long since found its way into mechanical and plant engineering. After-sales service is also increasingly being considered here. In 2021, those who have not already done so, should focus on consolidating all relevant service information in a single system and making it available digitally to the relevant user groups. Increasingly, "software as a service" models are being used for this purpose.
Linking parts lists with 2D/3D drawings, repair instructions, electronic circuit diagrams and other service documents leads to an increase in efficiency for service technicians. A digital customer portal and simple search options enable customers themselves to identify the spare parts they need and order them independently online. Calls to the support hotline and incorrect orders are thus reduced.
The benefits: more efficient processes, cost savings and greater satisfaction among customers and employees.
Trend 2: One platform for all service information - or: Digital Information Twin
A long-term trend is the digital representation of all service-relevant information of a machine in a Digital Information Twin (DIT). This form of digital twin can be classified as a digital twin of performance, i.e. it relates to the period from the first use of a product. The aim is to gain a comprehensive, digital understanding of the lifecycle of individual products, machines and systems and to use this for future maintenance and servicing measures.
Within the Digital Information Twin, all relevant (service) information of all product components from the various systems is synchronized in one platform and made available to the user groups. The data is not only presented virtually, but also processed and networked in such a way that considerable added value is generated for the individual user.
In short, knowledge is generated from data and converted into concrete recommendations for action.
Trend 3: Predictive maintenance
Predictive maintenance is a trend that will continue among manufacturers and operators of plant and machinery in 2021. The aim of this proactive maintenance method is to predict future maintenance requirements, thereby avoiding malfunctions and making maintenance processes more efficient. Machines and systems in operation are permanently monitored via sensors and networking. The resulting data is stored and analyzed centrally. Machine learning methods are used to predict future maintenance requirements.
Maintenance operations can thus be optimally planned, costs saved, and the service life of the machines increased.
Trend 4: Higher customer expectations and demands regarding support and service
As in previous years, customer expectations will continue to rise in 2021. In the area of after-sales services, this means that customers' demands on support and service employees will also continue to increase. In addition to technical expertise, communication skills and in-depth knowledge of the products will also be required. To provide the best possible assistance to support and service staff, it makes sense to have an intelligent, digital platform that employees can also access in the field via mobile devices.
If technicians are also working in remote locations or at other sites without Internet reception, an offline version of this platform is necessary. Using extensive search options and linked information, service technicians can quickly access the information they need at that moment. Knowledge and experience, as well as maintenance measures that have already been carried out, can be recorded via the digital system and thus made available to all support staff.
The goal: A 360° service view of all machines and systems as the basis for satisfactory service.
Trend 5: Remote services
From installation and commissioning to remote maintenance and troubleshooting: 2020 in particular has shown that these services are also possible remotely - i.e., without a physical presence on site. Even more complex problems can be solved by remote services: Via online meetings, video calls (with augmented reality) or by smart glasses, technicians receive the necessary instructions and assistance directly on site.
This is the kind of support customers in the mechanical and plant engineering sector will expect in 2021 and beyond. Eliminating travel time, faster problem resolution and shorter downtime are just a few of the many benefits remote services will bring.
Companies that have not yet invested in remote services should look at this topic in 2021.
Conclusion: Successful after-sales service in 2021 will be achieved by smart, digital platforms
After-sales service will remain one of the critical success factors for investment-intensive products in 2021. The vision and long-term trend is the development of a Digital Information Twin. However, this is not a detached product, but a platform that usually requires an extensive digitization process. Lay the foundations for this now by digitizing your (service) information and bringing it together in a central system.
Our service information system supports you in this.
Would you like to learn more?
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