How do you assess the quality of service KHS provides based on your talks with customers to date and their impressions?
We can be very proud of everything we’ve done in Service up to now. The average age of a KHS machine on the market is about seventeen years. A not inconsiderable number of lines and machines in operation at our customers’ sites are even older than thirty. This has a positive commercial effect for our clients; machines with a lengthy service life are operated long after they’ve exceeded their depreciation period. However, this only works if we at KHS support the customer with our service expertise as his or her strategic partner throughout the entire service life of the machine. At the same time the long life cycle and high degree of individuality of our machines present us with a number of challenges, as this diversity requires that we adopt many different approaches to service which can often stand in the way of a streamlined, economic organization of the Service Division.
Tobias Wetzel has been in charge of the Service Division at KHS since September 1, 2015. After the first few months in this position we asked him about the status quo and current challenges faced by KHS Service Division and to give us his prediction on what service at KHS will look like in the future.
Which specific challenges does this situation present?
In addition to having the necessary expert knowledge on the technology of our older systems, the availability of spare parts especially is a big topic. Our customers expect help quickly when they have problems, the basis for this being short delivery times. Out of over 500,000 different item numbers which can be sold as spare parts only about 60,000 are actually ordered per year – and over half of these just once. Which parts will these be? Despite our experience it’s impossible to predict this with 100% accuracy. Many of these items are also no longer readily available on the market and have to be specially manufactured. This means that it’s very difficult to plan the procurement of this kind of spare part. We’re working on this by creating dedicated production capacities. This means placing even more production resources on standby in-house or buying in parts from external suppliers.
How does this long service life – beyond the availability of spare parts – affect other tasks in Service?
We aim to give our customers the longest possible economic benefit from our machines. Thanks to the many conversion and upgrade options we offer and the continuous expansion of these, we can ensure that older machines are also technologically state of the art. We take innovations from our new machine business and apply them to the Service Division so that we can offer these – where useful – to our customers as upgrades for existing lines. Conversions like these become something of a challenge if customers have made improvements to the machine themselves over the years without updating the documentation accordingly. We’re planning to expand our service project management team here in order to minimize potential risks in advance in the future.
Which other services does KHS offer its customers?
Our machines constitute a system network of sensitively coordinated process units which only harmonize with one another perfectly if they are regularly serviced and maintained. The longer the machines are in production, the more important this aspect becomes. A line audit can be carried out, for instance, especially prior to larger conversion projects with a high level of investment. Here, KHS specialists from our line optimization team give older systems a thorough check and make recommendations for optimization in order to keep the line availability at a constantly high level. Both we and the customer then have a very good overview of the current state of the line before possible conversion options are implemented. This consultancy program is very well received by our customers.
Another example is the Bottles & Shapes™ program, with which KHS supports customers when introducing new packaging designs to their existing machines. Here, we always focus on the efficiency of the entire filling line – from the design of the container through suggestions for possible labels to shippable pallets for the retail trade.
How do you develop your personnel for these tasks?
We need highly qualified expert personnel for our various tasks and services in order to satisfy the demands of the market. A huge challenge particularly in some newly industrializing countries. We don’t just have to find suitable employees but also keep them with KHS in the long term. In the last few years we’ve expanded our network of service centers worldwide in order to provide an even better and faster local service, the most recent new additions being in Chile, Dubai, and Pakistan. We’ve hired many new service engineers for this purpose. In other countries, such as Angola, Iran, and Myanmar, we’re just about to open new service points.
Parallel to recruiting new employees we’re also heavily investing in further training. Dual programs, where service engineers learn from colleagues with practical experience on the one hand and intensify their knowledge through targeted, subject-specific advanced training programs on the other, guarantee that our colleagues undergo constant further development. We also want to motivate colleagues to undertake assignments worldwide from the Central Division. By being out in the field our personnel can intensify both their expert knowledge and personal skills. Working in many different countries of the world demands intercultural expertise and has a very positive effect on an individual’s personal experience. Over the past years we’ve not only increased the number of employees in Field Service with these measures but also greatly boosted the quality of their work.
Which developments do you expect in Service at KHS in the next few years?
The focus will continue to be on service quality and proximity to the customer. Following the principle of going with the customer, we’ll be where our customers are. In the future more and more customers will also expect that we at KHS take over regular maintenance entirely – for example, in the form of maintenance contracts. Simultaneously, there’ll also be a shift from services based on spare parts and maintenance alone to proactive service with condition-based maintenance which has a positive effect on the life cycle of the machine in the long term. Condition-based maintenance systems will make recommendations to the customer as to when to replace components before these fail. This puts us in the position of being able to approach the customer in good time in order to avoid production downtimes and keep line efficiency permanently high. For one thing is clear: our customers expect their machines to have a consistently high level of availability so that they can produce with optimum economy. This means that parts must be provided quickly and that KHS is proactive in its reaction. This is what our services will be geared towards in the future.