Fleet Management

The big machine behind the small parts

By Gian Schiava

November 2018

Efficient parts supply is essential to keeping lift trucks in action and maximising productivity. With guidance from a parts specialist, Gian Schiava finds out what it involves and how it helps the customer.

Machine uptime is a primary requirement in modern materials handling. Lift truck suppliers understand that necessity very well, which is why they offer customers tailor-made warranty and maintenance programmes. Eureka has written several times previously on fleet management and similar topics, but this time we would like to focus on another vital support activity: getting the right part to the right place!

To discover the world of the parts business, Gian drives to the European headquarters of Cat® Lift Trucks in Almere, the Netherlands, to meet up with Arno Luyten, General Manager Parts. Arno has extensive experience in the forklift industry, but also in sectors like automotive and logistics. In addition, he has had the opportunity to work both in sales and service management, and therefore understands both worlds.

We are particularly interested in what it takes to support dealers across Europe, the Middle East, CIS and Africa, and to help them deliver the legendary Cat Lift Trucks back-up.

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Cat® parts ordered today can be delivered in a service van by 7 am the next day.

Parts fulfilment

Arno opens with a clear statement. “Parts is all about availability, then quality, and finally price. However, there are so many suppliers out there (also online), and unfortunately this fierce competition often shifts the focus to pricing. Despite that pressure, we prioritise machine uptime, and the most important way of achieving that is by making sure the parts availability is market-leading.”

In fact, the Cat Lift Trucks distribution centre at Puurs (in Belgium, near Antwerp) has an impressive pedigree in this respect. It delivers a 97% parts availability, and this becomes almost incredible when you understand the criteria are ‘full line, first pick’.

This means that even if an order contains 37 parts in various quantities, and only one item is missing in stock, this would be marked by the manufacturer as a failure. Even if that one item is certain to arrive the next day.

In short, the facility delivers practically every order. The building has around 10,000 m2 of storage space and the stock consists of 45,000 SKUs (stock keeping units). As you may expect, the facility works to the highest safety standards and the employees are continuously trained.

Being close to the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam, and various airports, it is no surprise that lift truck parts ordered today can be delivered in a service van before 7 am the next morning.

As Cat Lift Trucks is a global brand, it has been decided to integrate the parts operation into a global system. The integration will be finalised this year and will result in even better performance. All dealers have online access to the Global Dealer Net portal, through which all parts distribution centres in the USA, Europe, Singapore and Japan are connected.

Parts is all about availability, then quality, and finally price.

The real deal: genuine parts

There’s another ‘part’ of the story Arno would like to emphasise: “Do not underestimate the importance of genuine parts. After all, the whole lift truck has been developed with only approved parts and is designed to work and wear as a complete system. They were picked for their longevity and quality. By continuously adding or using other parts during the truck’s life, performance can be affected negatively. Or even worse, it may lead to unexpected failures.

“Obviously, we train our dealers’ engineers to deliver only the best service and we understand the temptation to use cheaper parts. But those parts may break down sooner, or they may just fit slightly less well. In the end, it can only hurt the customer’s business, and that is why we take no risks.”

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The Cat® distribution centre at Puurs delivers market-leading parts availability.

Modern tools and market trends

High parts availability depends not only on advanced warehouse management and logistics but on supporting dealers at the receiving end to ensure timely delivery.

Cat Lift Trucks grants access to various ordering portals, but those are also packed with information. Arno continues: “In order to give full insight, our Global Dealer Net portal also contains support manuals, schemes, instructions and complete part lists for every truck model we produce. Even information on old models is available.

“Everything is there for dealers to run their own parts operations properly and to determine how they can keep a low inventory. From that point of view, we also help them in saving costs without compromising on quality or speed.”

Support can always be improved, and today Arno gives Eureka some great news. “We have decided to extend our supply beyond our dealers or importers. As they often work with smaller, more local forklift dealers, we will be introducing something called ‘nGauge’. This is a special customisable platform which facilitates and speeds up the delivery process for both dealer and sub-dealer by giving the latter access to our international ordering systems. In fact, we are also able to deliver parts from other brands, as customers often tend to have mixed fleets. By doing that, we enable our dealers to become full-service providers.”

Of course, the expertise is available offline as well. Cat Lift Trucks also provides local training, marketing assistance and advice on how to design maintenance programmes.

When we ask about trends in the lift truck aftermarket, Arno sees two clear developments. “First, due to an increased focus on the ‘circular economy’, it turns out that it’s profitable to refurbish machinery for a ‘second life’. We supply parts to many countries where customers are served with refurbished machines. By using genuine parts, the dealer is able to offer the customer a quality alternative to a new machine.

“The second trend is the increased importance of information. IoT (Internet of Things) and telematics solutions will be key to managing your operation and reducing costs.”

Arno concludes: “I started by saying parts availability is key in our business. But let me conclude by saying that we work hard every day to help our dealers to deliver maximum uptime for their customers. That’s the real goal.”

Next time you receive a lift truck part, you’ll know how many people have been involved in getting it to you so fast!

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