How the mechanical and plant engineering industry benefits from Service 4.0

Published: 2020-05-26 Updated: 2023-11-16
Subject: Tools and technology Networking service information Increase efficiency in service

In many areas of life, the advantages of digitization are obvious. However, the customer service of machine and plant manufacturers often lacks the right solutions and the willingness to benefit from greater efficiency and networked processes. Find out why upgrading your after-sales to Service 4.0 is worthwhile.

The past few years have shown: Digitized technologies have become indispensable in all areas of life. Especially in the workplace - whether in the home office or in factory or production facilities.  

In the wake of the Covid-19 production shutdown, strained supply chains and rising energy costs, many manufacturers and operators have realized that their manufacturing business and the sale of machinery and equipment are no longer sufficient as sole sources of revenue. They need to find new ways to generate additional sales, revise processes and expand their business with services. 

According to surveys by the Fraunhofer Institute and the VDMA, customer service in the after-sales business, which has been greatly underestimated to date, is responsible for 20% of total sales for many machine and plant manufacturers. Both the potential for expansion and the potential for growth are great: Working closely with marketing and sales, technical service can identify various cross-selling and upselling opportunities with existing customers and increase loyalty among new and existing customers in the future by providing first-class service. 

Challenges for digitized service in industry 

Especially in service and after-sales management, many companies still lack clear signs of digitization. This is because in companies in all industries, digitization requires a change of mindset. 

As an after-sales manager, it's better to take the initiative sooner rather than later: lead your service technicians away from paper catalogs and handwritten notes and toward digital online and offline solutions.  

In this way, you make everyday work easier not only for your employees, but also for neighboring departments and customers: digital services mean that your employees and customers no longer have to spend hours leafing through paper spare parts catalogs during maintenance, servicing and repairs.  

Cumbersome orders by phone or fax are a thing of the past. Circuit diagrams and technical documentation no longer have to be searched for in separate folders, but are components of an interactive information system - this forms the basis for your Service 4.0. 

A service based on digital spare parts catalogs offers three important advantages: 

  • Elimination of media discontinuities 
  • Fast, effective finding and ordering of spare parts for service technicians and customers 
  • Efficient processing of maintenance cases and thus more time in the daily work routine 

How to digitize your customer service 

Digitizing your service is easier than you think. All you have to do is turn a few screws to  

  • optimize your processes,  
  • increase your sales and  
  • delight your customers 

The magic word is Service 4.0: Based on Industry 4.0, the highest evolutionary stage of service deals with the further development of the classic service business through forward-looking technical solutions. 

Digitization and networking open up new possibilities for your service - away from time-consuming, expensive and inefficient on-site customer service, toward perfect, individual customer care and intelligent spare parts management.  

Driven by customer needs, the focus of after-sales is shifting. The old supply-oriented approach is giving way to demand-oriented workflows and new business models. The focus of Service 4.0 is no longer on feasibility and practicability by technology or the manufacturer, but on acute customer needs. 

Focusing on the wishes of customers while at the same time individualizing the service offering are key topics for the coming years. They will make their way into service with giant strides. Digitization opens up enormous opportunities for your company and - in addition to massive efficiency gains - offers a major competitive advantage: customer satisfaction. 

Improve your service efficiency with these solutions  

The digital networking of company processes and the increase in resource efficiency should not only be introduced in production, but also in maintenance, repair, and spare parts management. Paperwork, manual scheduling, lack of overview of materials, paper-based repair guides, etc. lead to media disruptions, wasted time and resources for service and ultimately for your customers. 

These traditional procedures have long since become outdated, extremely error-prone and inefficient. Increasing competitive and cost pressures make it necessary to digitize technical service in addition to production. The following examples show what Service 4.0 looks like in practice: 


Predictive Service 

"Reactive services" are increasingly giving way to "preventive services" and are evolving into "predictive services" in the long term. Predictive service, such as predictive maintenance, uses the advantages of preventive service and supplements them with artificial intelligence and data from operations. For example, it becomes possible to predict shutdowns based on the local influences of plant components and to plan maintenance precisely with the customer. This significantly reduces downtimes for maintenance work, which can be carried out at favorable times. 

Remote Services 

To enable producers to continue working without interruption in the event of an impending defect, the machine itself triggers a service ticket. The service technician connects to the machine remotely and rectifies the fault within a very short time. This saves valuable time and avoids unnecessary downtime and consequential damage.  

Customer Portals 

More and more B2B customers want similar service experiences in their everyday working lives as they do in their private lives. Service 4.0 enables you to meet this desire with modern customer portals. Portals increase your service quality and customer satisfaction. However, this does not mean additional work for you - on the contrary: self-service options give your customers more freedom, for example when ordering spare parts, and relieve the burden on your customer service.  

Take the next step toward Service 4.0 

Are you ready for the benefits of Service 4.0? The easiest way to get started in the future of technical service is to gradually digitize your after-sales processes. The starting point is a spare parts catalog system: With it, you digitize your spare parts and service information without having to train your employees at great expense.