Driving Growth with After-Sales Services

Klassischer deutscher Maschinenbau: MTU in Friedrichshafen (Foto: MTU Friedrichshafen)
German engineering: MTU in Friedrichshafen (photo: MTU Friedrichshafen)

A high-speed ferry has docked in a Greek port for routine maintenance. In the machine room, the technician responsible reads the serial number from the nameplate on one of the four 5,300 HP diesel engines. This is a time-consuming but necessary task – because otherwise he can’t uniquely identify the engine and the individual components. “To make such maintenance work simpler in the future and prepare activities in advance in the office, we implemented a central database that stores information about all our products,” says Stefan Keldenich, senior manager information logistics at MTU Friedrichshafen, a Tognum brand. MTU specializes in high-power propulsion systems. It builds engines, automation systems, and complete propulsion systems for a variety of different applications, ranging from ships, agricultural, industrial, and military vehicles through power supply units for hospitals, drilling platforms, and power stations.

After-sales area set to continuing growing

In 2008, the Tognum Group generated sales of €3.1 billion, with some €696 million attributed to after sales in the engines business unit. Such stunning figures are part of a current trend. Peter Thomin, business department consultant at VDMA, says: “Over the past 10 years, many companies in the machinery and plant engineering and construction industry have successively professionalized and expanded their after-sales activities. Our most recent survey revealed that, in 2008, after-sales revenues rose to account for 18.7% of total sales. But customer-focused business models are a must for such figures to be achieved.”

MTU Friedrichshafen is also honing its customer-focused business model. In the next few years, the plan is to increase revenues by selling more spare and reconditioned parts, concluding maintenance contracts, and expanding the repair business. Stefan Keldenich explains: “To achieve this growth target, we have to above all develop and provide suitable after-sales products. However, it’s also important for us to continue improving our service quality and customer retention. As the basis for this, we need detailed and high-quality data about all the MTU products that our customers use.”

Next Page: Product documentation needed improving

Klassischer deutscher Maschinenbau: MTU in Friedrichshafen (Foto: MTU Friedrichshafen)

Product documentation needed improving

This was where problems arose. Once the engines and generators had been installed in the ships, trains, or oil platforms, information about alterations or repairs made by MTU service employees or technicians working for the customer or OEMs was only sporadically sent to MTU. The various user groups rarely accessed the existing portal. Apart from that, the product documentation focused heavily on the engines, and the individual components were depicted insufficiently in a whole system context.

That’s why, in spring 2007, MTU opted to implement a new portal solution and database that would meet the various information needs of the different user groups, initially for the marine market segment. In the first step, process and IT consulting company Mieschke Hofmann und Partner (MHP) was commissioned to develop a solution concept within the framework of a preliminary study. In the second step, starting summer 2007, MTU employees from the various user departments worked together with the MHP consultants in several workshops and created the After Sales Object (ASO) Database, which is based on SAP technologies and comprises a back-end and portal. There were two major challenges. First, it was difficult to ensure that the master data from the complex production processes was transferred without errors. Second, the portal applications had to be as user-friendly as possible, because the aim was to increase the number of reports significantly. The ASO Database went live in summer 2008.

Clear product data

The service employees can now – either on site or beforehand in the office – use the portal to select the right item with the help of various search criteria (such as the name of the ship) and access all the information they need. Fundamental data about the product is available, as is information about the condition, spare parts, and guarantee and maintenance agreements. Furthermore, the individual components are clearly shown within the context of the whole system. This makes it much easier to identify, for example, how the ship’s engine is connected with the other components. As well as providing existing information, the portal also made it possible for data from the field to be optimized. With the help of an individually created interactive PDF document (iPDF), reporting different service activities is now a straightforward matter.

It very soon became clear that the new technology met MTU’s expectations. For example, data accesses increased by up to 25% thanks to the unique assignment of systems and components. What’s more, the number of people using the portal every week more than doubled, with the number of weekly data accesses even increasing five-fold compared with the legacy solution. At the same time, more reports from the field were being received, so that data quality improved continually. Ultimately, the portal enabled actionable intelligence – and thus the development of new after-sales strategies and products.