Equipment repair and maintenance companies provide many variations of repair and maintenance services. While many companies that support equipment and asset maintenance programs are associated with the nomenclature “field service management,” they may in fact operate either partially or wholly as depot maintenance and repair facilities. While fundamentally different than field service organizations, they share many of the same process steps as pure field service organizations.
Depot service management is a business capability that utilizes depot service centers to provide maintenance and refurbishment services for field-based products, parts, and components. Unlike field service organizations, customers ship products to depot service centers for service rather than sending technicians to customers’ locations. Once products are serviced or repaired, they are shipped back to customers for use.
Depot Service Organizations Face Unique Challenges
All service organizations are tasked with keeping their customers up and running while also creating new revenue streams and minimizing service operations interruptions and associated costs. However, depot service organizations face additional challenges including:
- Coordinating return logistics between the customer and repair center
- Providing product loaners (provisioning, recall, refurbishment, and restocking)
- Fulfilling parts orders that do not require service (pull, pack, and ship)
- Receiving and tagging products received at the depot service center
- Enabling technicians to self-dispatch work order
- Tracking customer assets while they move around the depot service center
- Engaging/communicating with customers throughout the service process
- Coordinating service activities with third-party vendors
- Returning serviced products to customers
- Measuring and analyzing depot-specific performance metrics
Compounding these challenges are the technologies that typically support depot service organizations. Commonly, they utilize spreadsheets or ERP (manufacturing) systems rather than purpose-built solutions designed to effectively manage complex depot service operations. This means today’s service leaders lack the systems that specialize in equipment and asset management, enable efficient depot service processes, and generate the business information needed to drive improvements.
Modern Solutions Drive Visibility, Productivity, and More
Modern depot service management solutions improve information visibility, eliminate data silos, automate business processes, and support decision-making. They give service leaders a real-time view of what is happening on the shop floor, improve product tracking, enable service productivity, grow operating profitability, increase customer satisfaction, and, where applicable, ensure regulatory compliance. Key attributes of modern depot service management solutions include:
- Complete service information architecture that provides real-time access to the business information needed to effectively enable service delivery (e.g., customer service level agreements, customer accounts, parts, and product information, install base, service history, service contracts and entitlements)
- Automated return materials authorization capabilities to coordinate shipments to the depot service center
- Advanced barcode scanning to support key service capabilities (e.g., RMA product receipt and tagging, parts ordering and consumption, quick form fills, product location tracking)
- Multi-channel digital communications to enable customer engagement (e.g., status updates, approval requests)
- Tracking assets’ chain of custody and the time spent at each step of the service process
- Configurable workflows and process automation by product family or line to drive service efficiencies and eliminate manual errors
- Service work order debriefing to capture the time, parts, and other costs associated with servicing customer’ products
- Shipping/Carrier coordination (e.g., auto-generate shipment labels and schedule pick-ups with FedEx)
- Automated inventory level adjustments
- Automated invoicing that accurately reflects all technician reported time and parts and respects pre-agreed pricing
- Advanced management reporting for key service metrics and AI-driven recommendations for driving improvements
Now more than ever, service organizations need to digitize, optimize, and automate their service operations to ensure business continuity, to deliver effective support to customers, and to remain competitive in the market. Looking forward, industry analysts expect to see service organizations adopt business continuity plans that shift their delivery model from field-based to depot-based in response to recent world events (e.g., technicians not able to go on-site to deliver service). The cost of establishing depot facilities and product shipping is expected to be offset by the reduction in fleet and regionalized resource costs.
For more information, watch ServiceMax and Bolt Data’s on-demand webinar: Best Practices in Depot Repair Solutions.