The pandemic has dramatically increased the reliance on electronics and appliances. Be it at home, offices, or in factories. The high pressure on machines is causing breakdowns, raising demand for repair or replacement. Normally, cheaper and readily available equipment, appliances, and electronics are usually replaced, and the larger, expensive, and custom-built equipment are usually repaired. However, supply chain disruption has had a domino effect on businesses industry-wide. The unavailability or delay in raw material or parts procurement has hit both ends of the product’s lifecycle.
While it has compelled manufacturers to halt the launch of new products, it has also negatively impacted their repairing services. This has pushed consumers to either utilize independent repair shops or wait for days/weeks for the authorized service provider to find the part to be replaced. As the demand for services escalates, we wonder how we can turn this into an opportunity for enhancing brand value.
NAVIGATING THE THREADS CONNECTING REPAIR SERVICES AND REVERSE LOGISTICS
The increased demand for repair services has exposed two fundamental problems of the repair services management sector.
1. Legacy Processes and Functions: Most service providers have traditionally used manual functions to conduct work order management, scheduling and dispatch, route planning, real-time communications, invoicing and payment management, inspection, opportunity assessment, and business performance analysis. The paper-based processes and uncertain maintenance cycles negatively affect the convergence of cost optimization, turnaround time, and operational efficiency for accurately tracking and managing the goods for the repairing process.
2. Disjointed channels and lack of visibility: The link between repair services and reverse logistics is often not well integrated. Legacy processes have led to misalignment between the two operations often causing unpredictable delays and extended downtimes, which add to the woes of the customers. Most companies use reverse logistics to send back recently purchased items from the customer to the manufacturer. They use other different channels to execute repairing activities, such as acquiring the part for replacement directly from the manufacturer, direct after-sales network, intermediaries, or from authorized and independent suppliers/vendors. The use of different channels also causes siloes in the supply chain. These siloes fail to give complete visibility into a product’s performance and the consumer’s experience with the product. OEMs are also unable to accurately manage parts inventory due to lack of visibility.
Such challenges have caused delays in replacing defective parts, which further extends repair time, causing the customer to explore other brands. To ensure accurate goods tracking and management, companies will need to modernize their repair services management. After all, the key imperative of customer retention is to minimize the delay through process streamlining and systems integration. Enhancing efficiency and improving visibility into the supply chains is vital for accelerating turnaround times and optimizing costs.
THE NEXT-GEN REPAIR SERVICE MANAGEMENT
Forward-focused businesses have found improvement in repair services by leveraging solutions that optimize supply chain operations. These solutions use technologies such as cloud, data integration and analysis, AR/VR, and automation to streamline repair processes. A company, for instance, used cloud to ensure visibility into its inventory, assets, and workforce. Data integration brought all the information in one place for improved communication between the customer, agent, and technician. Automation simplified work order management, execution, invoicing, and reporting. AR/VR technologies allowed improved repair accuracy.
Integrated software platforms for supply chain management use these technologies to enable seamless execution of multiple tasks – from global parts tracking and goods management to management of all the reverse logistics processes, including return material authorizations (RMA) for exchanging the parts and repairing the product. Repair servicing technicians are also able to receive, route, conduct the repair, pack, ship, and bill the customer for the parts replaced through the same platform.
Building a resilient system for repairing services will require businesses to think of the future of product development and sustenance. With increased focus on enhancing product’s lifespans and reducing e-waste by the current government-mandated order, companies will need to prioritize efficiency enhancement at reduced cost. Solutions that facilitate information sharing between teams and automate routine tasks can help reduce the repairing time and ensure accuracy in data for future engagements with the customer/product, thereby optimizing their spend on correcting data redundancies.
FUTURE PERSPECTIVE IN REPAIR SERVICES
Repair service providers must look deeper into the future to meet the growing customer expectations. With new appliances and electronics being embedded with IoT capabilities, providers can use condition-based monitoring and machine learning capabilities to conduct predictive and prescriptive maintenance to repair the product before it reaches complete breakdown. This will not only help reduce e-waste, customers will be able to use the products for longer spans. Such a repair management solution will be able to elevate brand value, thereby ensuring customer retention and loyalty in the long term.