Part 1: An Interactive Spare Parts Catalog – The Most Important Facts

Published: 2022-02-18 Updated: 2023-12-12
Subject: Identifying spare parts Selling spare parts Creating spare parts catalogs Ordering spare parts Tools and technology

An interactive spare parts catalog is an innovative tool that replaces a conventional catalog that is printed on paper. In this blog article, you’ll find out the most important facts, applications, and benefits for your company.

What is an interactive spare parts catalog?

An interactive spare parts catalog is the digital update of binders and manuals that weigh kilos. Instead of being printed on paper, the catalog is generated digitally and is then available via data carriers such as CDs, DVDs, USB sticks or via intranet and Internet.

An interactive spare parts catalog basically contains the same information as a paper or PDF catalog — but the difference is that the data is always up to date and is linked bidirectionally with parts lists and other information.

All of the data that is relevant for identifying and ordering spare parts is thus available in a linked form. This data includes pictorial representations such as exploded views, photos, 2D drawings, and 3D models, for example.

For whom is an interactive spare parts catalog relevant?

When it comes to handling their spare parts, many companies today are facing major challenges:

  • information about spare parts and service is scattered throughout the company
  • lack of access to the expertise of employees
  • the distribution and updating of information requires great effort
  • data that is not bundled in ERP or PDM must be maintained manually
  • identifying spare parts and relevant information is a lengthy process
  • lack of possibilities for optimizing spare parts logistics

Many of these challenges have the same root cause: There is no central pool for service-relevant data that can be controlled by means of a single tool. Instead, companies use different tools and programs for all the steps of their aftersales service. As a result, much of the data is outdated or hard to find.

An interactive spare parts catalog is relevant for all manufacturers who face these challenges and want to digitalize their aftersales service. It enables them to support their customers, service technicians, support staff, and trading partners by means of an intelligent digital platform. This provides all the information that office and field service employees need for their work. In addition, operators benefit from the advantages of digital spare parts catalogs for their maintenance processes.

Spare parts catalog for manufacturers

For manufacturers of machines, plants, equipment, vehicles, and components, spare parts are one of the biggest revenue drivers of all in the area of service. An interactive spare parts catalog is the basis that enables these companies to support their customers and employees with modern and efficient service solutions.

Spare parts catalog for operators

Today the operators of machines, plants, and vehicle fleets are often under cost pressure and are struggling with mega-issues such as digitalization and a shortage of skilled workers. In day-to-day business, their top priority is the uninterrupted operation and effortless maintenance of their machinery and equipment. A digital spare parts catalog helps these companies to quickly identify and order spare parts and thus reduce failures and downtime to a minimum.

Value added by digital aftersales service: Machine builders and operators benefit in multiple ways

For companies in the plant engineering and mechanical engineering sectors, the spare parts business is an integral part of their corporate strategy. That's why representatives of these industries rank digital spare parts catalogs and web stores among their top five planned IT investments.

An intelligent digital service information system with a web store connection enables these companies to implement their strategy successfully. This means that all of their important data is available at all times and bundled together in one system. This speeds up the processing of spare parts orders and brings numerous benefits for manufacturers and operators alike:

Benefits for manufactures

  • Noticeable relief for the service team — on average, 30% fewer calls end up in the ordering hotline.
  • Increased sales: Because ordering spare parts becomes simple and convenient, delivery times can be accelerated and incorrect orders can be avoided, resulting in greater customer loyalty and more sales.
  • Transparency: The interactive spare parts catalog can be linked to enterprise resource planning, design, logistics, and more to ensure that up-to-date data is always used consistently and transparently.
  • Efficiency: The spare parts catalog brings order to service information and enables companies, their employees, and their customers to work faster and more efficiently.
  • Time savings: Spare parts catalogs can be generated at the push of a button and updated and distributed much more easily than printed catalogs.

Benefits for operators

  • With the spare parts catalog, operators can find and order relevant spare parts in a short time, thanks to intuitive navigation.
  • Interactive spare parts catalogs are user-friendly and always contain complete and up-to-date information about spare parts and service.
  • A digital catalog reduces the effort required for identifying parts and thus for preparing maintenance measures.
  • Required service and spare parts information is available anytime and anywhere. 

How does an interavtive spare parts catalog work?

In an interactive spare parts catalog, all of the visual elements and information are linked in the background via hotspots with the information in the parts lists. The data transfer is bidirectional.

If a service technician or support staff member clicks on the parts of a drawing, he immediately sees the associated parts list information. This works in the same way in the opposite direction: If the catalog user is in the parts list and clicks on an item, the associated part is immediately highlighted in the drawing.

An interactive spare parts catalog provides smart information — data that makes processes such as maintenance and the identification of assemblies and spare parts intelligent and efficient. Linking information and smart structuring makes it easy to navigate through the spare parts catalog.

Multiple search functions and navigation via clicks quickly bring the user to the target without any detours. Users can navigate throughout the catalog either via a structure tree or by clicking on the graphic representations. The search can also be simplified by entering data or using the filter functions.

If the spare parts catalog is also equipped with an ordering function, users can save even more time when procuring spare parts.

Creating your spare parts catalog in 4 steps

Once you have decided to digitize your after-sales, create your spare parts catalog and set up your service information system in just four steps:

  • Step 1 - Data import: If you are working with heterogeneous data from different systems, this is not a problem - a comprehensive tool set supports you in normalizing, structuring and preparing your data.
  • Step 2 - Data processing: You can import your data manually into the standard template and then post-process or add to it. In the automated variant, the system takes over the catalog creation.
  • Step 3 - Quality assurance: Thanks to various mechanisms such as the catalog preview based on the WYSIWYG principle, quality assurance of your catalog is effortless. Adjust it until it exactly meets your requirements.
  • Step 4 - Publication: Now you are ready to publish your spare parts catalog. Choose the publication you want: online, offline (USB/CD) or on paper. Your data will be published in any medium - without any extra effort for you.