No matter how advanced the product offering, timely accessibility to spare parts remains the key to sustained customer satisfaction

Posted on May 12, 2011


It’s interesting how we can and often do get caught up in the latest and greatest technology.

For me, a guy who never really figured out how to program his own DVD, my excitement surrounding the recent installation of a PVR or Personal Video Recorder was tantamount to the invention of electricity.  Well, maybe not quite that dramatic, but nonetheless pretty darn cool . . . did you know that you can even pause a live broadcast!  But this new found functional wizardry is a story for another day.

The reason I used my DVD experience as a reference for today’s post is that I can recall being one of the first to purchase the multi-disc DVD players in which you could load up to 5 DVDs or CDs  that enabled you to watch hours of your favorite movies without having to change discs or listen to several albums without breaking the ambiance of an intimate dinner.

Now I have to tell you that when this device worked is was great, however the operative word here is “when.”  Unfortunately, and because it was the latest and greatest technology that attempted to introduce multi-disc operation into a DVD player for the first time, there were annoying problems that would inevitably come up and would be made worse by the paucity of parts that would be available to resolve the situation.  Similar to Toyota in its early North American days.

This is one of the reasons why I have always considered indirect material procurement and in particular the provisioning of spare parts as being one of the more fascinating areas of purchasing and supply chain management.

It is also one of the reasons why I follow with great interest the progress of Baxter Planning Systems.  (Note: To learn more about Baxter, use the following link to tune into my August 26th, 2010 interview “PI News Flash: With Baxter Kawasaki Let’s The Good Times Roll” with VP Mark Anderson.)

It seems that the Austin, Texas company has just notched another impressive contract win, but this time with Bloom Energy Corporation.  For those who are not yet familiar with Bloom,  they are a provider of breakthrough solid oxide fuel cell technology that generates clean, highly efficient power onsite from virtually any fuel source.  Talk about a 5 disc DVD-type of latest and greatest technology!

Now I will leave it to you to read the press release in terms of the contract specifics, but is seems to me that the underlying story here is that no matter how advanced and exciting the newest technologies might be, the linchpin to ongoing or sustained customer satisfaction is intrinsically linked to timely accessibility to a reliable spare parts supply process.

Similar to the For the want of a nail nursery rhyme, I cannot help but wonder how many organizations in today’s global marketplace in which there is increasing pressure on companies to deliver high after-sale service for their products, actually have their eye on this important ball (or nail as the case may be)?

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

It is a fair question given the fact that when it comes to general supply chain risks, an Aberdeen 2007 study found that while more than 90% of all respondents to their survey indicated that they had experienced an interruption in their supply chain, only 23% of the same executive group expressed the belief that their company had taken adequate measures to address said risks in the future.  This is a major disconnect!

It also brings us back to why I will always have a special interest in service parts management and companies like Baxter.  What about you?


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