How CPQ Brings Speed And Accuracy To Your Parts Business

February 11, 2015 Russ Chadinha

The refrigeration unit you supplied to a customer has broken down. When they call you about the problem, they have a truck full of frozen pizzas that’s slowly but steadily starting to thaw. You need to replace the faulty parts and get the unit repaired in a short timeframe, before those pizzas go bad and your customer is looking for a new provider of refrigeration units.

Many organizations are using configure, price, quote (CPQ) technology with mobile capabilities to streamline their parts business and manage complex processes.

Consider this scenario: When your customer calls about the refrigeration unit, you first need to correctly identify the necessary parts for that particular unit. Next, you have to accurately convey that information to the third-party contractor that handles the field service. If the contractor shows up with the wrong parts or the wrong information, you could miss your window to solve the problem.

Any time you create a product with parts that wear out, you have the opportunity to run a parts business. That’s true whether you’re manufacturing refrigeration units, agricultural equipment, large pumps and filter systems used in oil wells — anything with multiple components. Your parts business generally falls into two categories:

1) In-warranty repair: If a customer buys your product and it breaks while under warranty, you need a parts and service business to support that product.

2) Post-warranty parts: If your product breaks after the warranty period, you provide an avenue for customers to obtain the necessary parts. In the auto industry, for example, companies provide aftermarket replacement and upgrade parts.

In both cases, the delivery mechanism may vary. Are you delivering the service yourself (direct support) or through partners and independent contractors (outsourced support)? Both paths have challenges and complexities that are difficult to manage.

1) Identifying the right parts: You have to assess, triage and diagnose the problem to identify the right parts. This task becomes difficult over time, as you try to maintain your organizational knowledge and find alternate solutions for parts you no longer manufacture. A spreadsheet is useless when you need to capture and present information of this complexity.

With CPQ tools, however, you’re able to consolidate your catalog of base models and supporting parts, and present it in a visual, interactive manner. It serves as a visual reference that shows the customer and sales rep the base unit, the sub-assembly and components, allowing them to be efficient and accurate in selecting the right parts.

With a large tractor, for example, you have areas like the cab, the front loader and engine. Starting with an image of the whole tractor, you’re able to pull up additional graphics that show the components in every area, each with an identifying number. When that number is linked to the actual part number, you just click on the interactive diagram to select, quote and order the correct part.

2) Extending parts information to partners: When you’re providing service through partners or contractors who might not be as familiar with your product, you need to help them make the right choices at the point of engagement. In the refrigeration unit example, you need to quickly replace a part and get the truck back on the road.

The solution is to extend your CPQ tools with mobile capabilities. This allows a service technician in the field to quickly assess and solve the problem using a tablet. The visual references and diagrams help them to identify the necessary parts and automatically check to see if the parts are already on the repair truck and ready to install. If the technician doesn’t have a part, the CPQ tablet helps them quickly locate the part and make arrangements to get the closest one.

When you use mobile technology to deliver CPQ’s interactive graphics at the point of engagement, it greatly increases efficiency and effectiveness. It’s especially helpful when providing parts and service to massive, complex machines like agricultural equipment.

To run an effective parts business, you need the ability to manage a complex portfolio with accuracy and speed, and to communicate effectively with technicians in the field. CPQ tools reduce errors and speed up the entire process, resulting in an excellent experience for your customers.

The technology is only getting better. Right now, it’s possible to use serial numbers to choose the right parts. Soon, we’re likely to see OCR and photo recognition capabilities that make the process even faster and easier: Take a photo of what you need and parts business software such as CPQ will help connect the image to the part number. That’s the kind of speed and accuracy where no man has gone before.

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