OEMs Improve Service with Online Parts Portals
OEMs are leveraging online portals for parts and accessories to get them to contractors quickly and more easily
We live in a world where millions of people have free access to two-day shipping via Amazon. Some markets even have same day delivery. It’s no surprise to say online shopping has made our lives a little easier. Now, asphalt paving and production companies can begin to take advantage of that speed and simplicity when buying equipment parts and accessories.
Also known as digital aftermarket sales, many OEMs have begun to offer parts online that are shipped directly to the customer. This can reduce lead times, increase price transparency and offer customers a wider array of parts. It’s also one of the top ways OEMs can take advantage of technology in the construction sector, according to a recent report by McKinsey & Company.
“Online ordering can potentially have a positive economic effect for customers and dealers,” said Volvo Construction Equipment Product Manager Jeff Logan. “For customers, if they realize they need a part at the end of the day or after hours, they can start the ordering process right away instead of waiting for the morning. And having customers play a role in ordering frees dealers from some of that work, allowing their employees to focus on other tasks.”
Volvo CE, Gothenburg, Sweden, has offered online ordering of parts and accessories since 2010. The service, available to customers in North and South America, is used by around 30 dealers and 1,100 customers, though Logan said that number is constantly growing.
Customers gain access the system by their dealer, and can order parts directly through their dealer via the portal 24/7. The dealership will also review each order for accuracy before sending the order onward. Dealers can also customize the online portal, by highlighting certain pieces of equipment or parts and, later, adding logos to their pages.
“Previously, customers typically needed to order parts through the more traditional method of contacting their dealer in person or by phone,” Logan said. “I think as the younger generation that grew up with technology comes up through the ranks of the construction industry, [ordering parts online] will become ubiquitous.”
Although online parts ordering doesn’t improve the shipping timeline, it can improve the customer’s ordering experience.
“For instance, if a customer logs on after hours and starts the process, that saves them the time they would have spent the following morning doing that after the dealership opened,” Logan said. The online parts portal also allows customers to buy accessories, like lubricants, brake cleaner and other chemicals that are not in Volvo’s parts book.
Telematics also play a role.
“With the Volvo CareTrack telematics system and the ActiveCare Direct machine monitoring and fleet utilization reporting system, customers can see potential issues with equipment earlier, allowing them to be more proactive in ordering parts before a machine goes down,” Logan said. “With online ordering, they can be even more proactive. For example, if they get an alert after the dealership is closed, they can go online to review parts and start the order.”
Volvo CE will also be opening a parts distribution center near Toronto, and is exploring additional distribution centers in the U.S., Logan said.
Parts: Only the Start
Caterpillar Inc., Peoria, Illinois, launched My.Cat.Com November 2016.
The website offers Cat® customers the ability to view useful information about their fleet, but also provides parts lists and links directly to Caterpillar’s online parts ordering portal, Parts.Cat.Com.
Since its launch, over 10,000 customer companies have used My.Cat.Com, according to Brent Steffen, IoT Product Manager in the Digital Enabled Services Division of Caterpillar Inc. Thousands of end users use the system on a monthly basis.
“The full array of information and insights in My.Cat.Com works together to help customers be more efficient in managing their fleets, scheduling and performing maintenance, learning about operating tips and tricks for their fleet, and getting in contact with the right dealer representative when they need it,” Steffen said.
Cat customers can access My.Cat.Com free of charge to view a wide variety of Caterpillar and Cat dealer-provided information about their equipment—on Cat and non-Cat machines, connected to telematics or not, owned, rented, or leased. To access basic telematics data, including hours, location, utilization and health alerts, they must have a subscription to Cat telematics.
“In the telematics and IoT space, our customers have choices. Caterpillar provides an array of options from freemium to premium. For our more advanced customers who require more frequent data, expanded telematics equipment management, or site productivity capabilities, they can upgrade to our VisionLink® offering and select the plan that best aligns with their needs,” Steffen said.
Customers can also use the portal alongside their dealer to schedule service, request a quote, rent equipment and, of course, purchase parts. My.Cat.Com also houses an advice center with operating videos, safety tips, operation and maintenance manuals and reference guides.
Cat customers can register here, and then contact their Cat dealer to gain access to the correct information.
Plan for the Future
Although My.Cat.Com is already quite robust in its offerings, Steffen said this is only the beginning.
“My.Cat.Com has a full-featured roadmap for future development that builds on the visibility of information and improving the daily workflows our customers manage every day to help them be more efficient and productive,” Steffen said. “We plan to enable more customization by the user, centralize more information so our users spend less time searching for answers, and deliver a more integrated experience across our digital properties.”
Volvo CE is also innovating to further improve parts delivery. They’ve been experimenting with 3D printing, mostly for plastic parts related to the cab but plan to expand into steel printing and creating tools for its dealers.
“Our 3D parts are made to be the same as conventionally manufactured ones,” said Daniel Kalfholm, Volvo CE’s project leader of purchasing for aftermarket products. “There are no major differences in the way they function.”
“The advantages [of 3D printed parts] are huge,” Kalfholm said. “For the equipment manufacturer, it’s faster and more cost-effective to have a single line of production from idea to reality. But it is the customers who really benefit.”
For example, if a part has moved out of serial production or is too expensive to produce through conventional methods, 3D printing can be used to produce those parts. 3D printing can also eliminate the need for a minimum order that injection molding and casting methods often require, and can offer parts replacement on a local level.
“For Volvo CE, it means we can support our customers locally more efficiently, more economically and with far shorter lead times,” Kalfholm said.
Although Kalfholm said Volvo isn’t using 3D printing on a large scale yet, there is great potential.
“In my opinion, it’s likely to have as big of an impact in manufacturing as turning or milling did during the Industrial Revolution,” Kalfholm said. “While it’s not possible to provide a timeline, for our industry, the growth is exponential.”