Leading materials handling equipment (MHE) supplier, Goscor Lift Truck Company, notes that the MHE supply chain has transformed into a service-centric sector, moving away from just supplying products to offering end-to-end solutions.
In today’s operating conditions, consumers are doing more research before they make their buying decisions. They expect suppliers to meet their needs and respond to their problems effectively and swiftly. This is even more so when it comes to big-ticket purchases, such as MHE.
Customers not only prioritise the product, they expect the service they receive once they have bought the piece of equipment to be up to their expectations. The aftersales services play a role in the client’s decision to purchase. This is the view of Darryl Shafto, MD of Goscor Lift Truck Company (GLTC), a leading MHE supplier in southern Africa.
“Provision of MHE products is one thing, and the ability to provide unparalleled aftermarket support to keep the product running at all times, is quite another,” says Shafto. “What matters more today, and has been for long, is the service delivered after the product has been supplied.”
Shafto is of the view that this is a golden age of services, and the MHE supply chain is transforming into a service-centric sector, moving away from just supplying products to offering end-to-end solutions. “Although companies still push products, there is now a bigger focus on delivering the value that customers get out of using those products,” says Shafto.
It is evident that the timely provision of spare parts and aftersales services such as conducting repairs; installing upgrades; reconditioning equipment; carrying out inspections and day-to-day maintenance; offering technical support, consulting, and training; are crucial pillars of customers’ buying decisions. This gives them peace of mind, and allows for ease of budgeting as maintenance is a fixed cost and takes the day-to-day headaches away from maintenance managers.
At the core of GLTC’s service strategy
While service initiatives are the starting point, Shafto believes that it is the speed of the service that really matters. “There is so much emphasis on speed of service as the importance of uptime cannot be reiterated enough in today’s operating conditions. For an MHE supplier of GLTC’s stature, speed of service is at the core of our service strategy,” he says.
To be able to execute that strategy, Shafto says a fundamental pre-requisite is to have the infrastructure that allows the company to respond to any service needs timeously. “We have a strategic national footprint with branches in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, East London, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Nelspruit and Bloemfontein, complemented by a strong network of dealers in the outlying areas.”
However, Shafto also mentions that infrastructure alone may not be enough in today’s information age. He is of the view that aftermarket is evolving from just being the provision of spare parts and fulfilling maintenance contracts. Skills shortage and rapid advancement in machine technology all but makes it impossible for customers not to use the specialist skill and information available at the branch.
“The use of newer technologies, such as fleet management solutions, is helping ease maintenance issues. Rapid development in machine technology, particularly the use of electronic controls and remote monitoring systems, have opened up new avenues of fleet monitoring and remote troubleshooting,” says Shafto.
“We find that delivering accurate data on fleet performance and all the important parameters of the customer’s operation that speak directly to productivity, total cost of ownership and ultimately the bottom line, is part of the most vital services that we offer, and this all needs to happen swiftly,” he adds.
In order to make use of the technology available, GLTC has invested in people and the ability to monitor fleet activity promptly. This is to ensure a rapid response to fault detection or service requirements. This often happens prior to the machine owner becoming aware of an impending issue. Technology is thus used to aid productivity and reduce the owning and operating costs.
Shafto notes that technological evolution, anchored by trends such as automation and Internet of Things, is influencing the supply chain in terms of service provision. We are well ahead of the curve in that regard. For instance, GLTC offers APS (Automatic Positioning System) on all its VNA trucks.
“We also offer Access 123, which is patented by one of our principals, Crown, and is already a self-diagnostic real time fault finding instrument. So, I believe we are already ahead of the game and as technology evolves so will the rest keep up with this technology. In conclusion, I wish to stress the criticality of prioritising an MHE supplier that has this sort of capability when it’s time for those buying decisions,” concludes Shafto.