(Marchtrenk, 16 January 2023) More and more companies are playing it safe and entrusting the technical maintenance of their highly-automated warehouses to intralogistics specialists either in whole or in part. For they have realised that performance availability is crucial for their overall success. The TGW Logistics Group demonstrates how on-site services can be tailored to each customer's needs.
In order to help supply chain managers sleep soundly every night (and especially during peak season), manufacturers of highly-automated systems are offering on-site technical operation services. TGW offers a range of On-Site Services: from Ramp-Up Services to Maintenance and Support Services to Technical Cleaning. 400 experienced specialists ensure that distribution centres run smoothly, whether they be located in China, Europe or the U.S.
TGW has already implemented more than 1,000 systems around the world and has gained valuable experience not only in planning and production but also in technical operation. System operators are certainly free to hire their own specialists to keep the equipment running smoothly. "But even experienced professionals often don't have the TGW-specific knowledge that our experts have, nor can they tap into the company's worldwide network," says Georg Katzlinger-Söllradl, Director of Global Lifetime Services at TGW.
The big question is: what service makes sense for my company? As Katzlinger-Söllradl points out: "There is no one simple answer to that question. The scope of services depends on various factors, including the customer's size, business focus and knowledge."
The basis for all decision-making is a responsibility matrix. The operator decides whether they themselves or outside experts are responsible for each point listed. The matrix makes it clear who bears which risks. The less willing the operator is to take risks, the more services and manpower he can engage externally. "There is a very clear trend toward allocating full responsibility to TGW," says Katzlinger-Söllradl. Generally there are at least two TGW experts on-site, and in the case of large systems, that number can reach 50 or more.
Whatever the customer's decision: the arrangements made at the beginning of the project are not set in stone and the responsibility matrix may be adapted as needed. Often, quantitative or qualitative adjustments, such as to the number of tasks or availability, have to be made to reach an optimal agreement.
Katzlinger-Söllradl advises companies to start thinking about technical operation and on-site services as early as the purchase decision stage, i.e. long before a fulfillment center goes live: "If our experts are already on-site during construction, they can share their experience and participate in making important decisions such as the placement of platforms and spare parts storage." This can save hundreds of hours during operation. "Long distances or poor accessibility are major shortcomings during maintenance activities or in case of a malfunction."
Other advantages include the expertise that TGW employees have gained over the years, as well as the global network that they can fall back on. Generally speaking, the technical control of a system requires significantly fewer outside employees than it would in-house employees. This means that cost efficiency is also higher for outsourcing projects. Additionally, TGW offers a price commitment of up to ten years, making it an industry trailblazer.
One of the services in highest demand is the Ramp-Up Service. The TGW technicians collaborate with both the project team and the TGW Lifetime Services organisation and also handle the training of the customer's employees.
Even after the ramp-up phase, many companies count on comprehensive service and leave as much risk as possible to the manufacturer. Through comprehensive worry-free packages, TGW assumes responsibility not only for the operational servicing of the system but also all maintenance, repair and inspection tasks. What's more, the technicians improve operation and keep an eye on the total cost of ownership (TCO).
An experienced on-site team is one side of the coin, the other is modern IT tools. TGW employs state-of-the-art software for both Remote Services and On-Site Services. On-Site Maintenance Services, for example, use the Computerised Maintenance Management System (CMMS), a software that ensures consistent efficiency. This tool covers the prediction, planning and evaluation of all maintenance tasks.
In addition to permanent services available up to 365 days a year, temporary services can also be arranged. In order to guard against bottlenecks and shortfalls during peak season or sale days, TGW offers so-called Peak Support. In the run-up to promotional activities, experts can tweak various aspects. For one thing, extra technicians can be sent, and for another, routine maintenance activities can be brought forward. With a few weeks' advance notice, it is also possible to make small changes to the material flow and increase the throughput. One example would be adding an extra workstation for unloading packages from the conveyor system.
TGW has gained a great deal of experience over the course of more than half a century. One particularly important insight has been: the complexity of automated systems is underestimated all too often. Companies handling the technical maintenance themselves often only save costs in the early stages. Clearly laying out the responsibility matrix is a great start and often a huge help when it comes to avoiding such mistakes.
At a glance: the four TGW On-Site Services