We Need to Talk… about Spares
In this digital age, dialling a number and putting a phone to your ear can seem antiquated. Why talk, when the internet has all the answers, right? But, David Lenehan of global spare parts and repairs provider Northern Industrial argues, sometimes Google is not all-knowing – especially in a complex breakdown situation.
When you’ve had a breakdown, chances are you’re super stressed. The downtime money clock is ticking. You think you’ve worked out the spare part that you need, but you don’t have one in stock. Worse still your kit has been declared obsolete by the OEM. You type the part number into Google and cross your fingers. The dots spin on the screen. You wait a few more painful milliseconds. Google says “no”. And the world stops. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.
Alternatively, Google says “yes”. But also reveals that everyone else on the planet who owns the same machine as you has already been onto Google about this self-same part. Meaning it has effectively become gold dust. The downtime money clock keeps ticking. You weigh up your single option. Click. Buy. Ouch.
Somewhere in the multiverse, another version of you has the exact same problem. In his universe though, there is no Google. So he picks up the phone and calls a trusted spare parts supplier. They talk briefly about the weather and the stresses of downtime. Then the supplier asks him a few questions back.
Can you describe the fault? What is the machine? What is the issue? What make and model of PLC or drive is showing the fault?
The multiverse you does not mutter about wasted time and demand an engineer be despatched immediately because every second of downtime is costing him money. He patiently goes away to find the details, in the full understanding that finding this information now means the engineer can come to site with the correct equipment, the correct manuals, the correct laptop if necessary, with the correct software and cables, perhaps a replacement unit if it is appropriate. Spending five minutes getting accurate information now could save hours of downtime through driving back and forth or unnecessary fault finding.
The multi-universe you also takes the same attitude to purchasing spare parts. With no Google to consult, he has learnt not only to call with his requirements, but also not just to ‘check stock on an item’. Instead he explains what machine he needs to keep running. He may have an item in mind, but he is open to options. He has found taking five minutes to have a chat about the problem, or potential problem, can save a huge amount of time, and money, when problems strike.
The supplier explains to him that, with over 30 years’ experience finding solutions to breakdown problems, there is not much they haven’t seen. And, although their website can suggest replacement products for obsolete equipment, it is no substitute for talking a problem through to find the solution.
Inverter faulty? He says. We may not have the exact model number but maybe we have a higher kw rating in the same frame size. PLC problem? Maybe we have the exact CPU or maybe we have one with more memory. Maybe we have your exact HMI but it is under a different part number because it has a different colour bezel or has a plain membrane instead of a branded one.
All of these are drop-in solutions, not complicated retrofits. They are all things they come across on a regular basis, and they are all things a website cannot tell you, because the scenario planning would just to be too vast to make it functional. It is easy to rely on the speed at which technology can give us an absolute answer, but from time to time, having a conversation with someone who knows a guy who knows a guy can be the quickest or even the only way to solve a problem.
So, even in a Google universe, breaking the norm and picking up the phone and taking a few minutes to talk, will actually get the job done faster.