Everything is well in hand From commissioning right through to maintenance

Expert service plays an important part in welding technology. A well-planned service package ensures that customers can depend on being able to make the most of the benefits offered by their welding systems over a long period, and free from problems, faults or application errors. The manufacturer continues to work on the customer's behalf throughout the product's lifecycle with prepurchase advice, maintenance of equipment, modifications and enhancements. ROLAND HAIDINGER, Services Management at Fronius International, explains in an interview the services Fronius offers and the trends he is expecting to see in the future.

Mr Haidinger, please could you tell us about the services Fronius offers?

The range of services we offer is wide, and can be subdivided according to the different phases. Our “Introducing Services” give customers the opportunity of familiarising themselves with Fronius products with the help of demonstrations, or the option of testing equipment for up to two weeks free of charge. Our “Starting Services” package provides specific support with the commissioning of different systems. These services also include specific training and tutorials to allow personnel to learn the correct way to use the new equipment and technologies. In the event of a malfunction or other problems with the routine deployment of the welding systems, that is where the services we call “Assisting Services” come into play. These include repairs as well as modifications to systems in the event of changed production requirements. Important factors here are safety, transparent costing and availability. This is where our “Securing Services” come into their own. Amongst other things, these enable a customer to purchase extended warranties to cover several years. The comprehensive package means that they are fully protected for the next five years and secure in the knowledge that there can be no additional costs. Furthermore, there are maintenance contracts based on a flexible modular system. These ensure an extremely high level of availability for the system. Our “Consulting Services” provide customers with advice on all aspects of our products. In this way we can help them improve their systems or even produce characteristic curves so that they can get the very best from their products. Through these services we can provide outstanding support to our customers throughout the service life of their products, and all the way through from planning and implementation to system modifications and upgrades.

 

Which services are most in demand by customers at present?

At the moment it is our “Start Assistance” package from the “Introducing Services” set that is especially in demand. With “Start Assistance”, we help users with the commissioning of their welding equipment and provide targeted expert training. Many of our customers are also keen to receive help with calibration as well as safety inspections, which are recommended on an annual basis. Many customers like to order our products ready-assembled and tested. This saves users assembly time and allows them to work productively from day one.

 

How exactly do the “Introducing Services” work?

We check out our customers' welding tasks in detail and work with the customer, trying to devise a system that fits in precisely with their requirements. We do this primarily by conducting comprehensive analyses of existing production systems and the associated equipment. This then provides a basis for our service technicians to identify potential improvements that enable systems to become even more efficient. If a customer decides on a Fronius device or system, they may test that device or system for up to two weeks. What's more, they also have the option of hiring the equipment. This brings the obvious advantage that they can return the equipment at any time or extend the hire period flexibly as required.

 

Is the voucher that was printed in the trade fair newspaper also validfor this category of service?

Yes indeed, our aim here is to bring home to our existing or future customers the outstanding products and services that Fronius offers. The voucher entitles you to have one of our experts analyse your system free of charge. We use checklists to evaluate the current status of your system, the operational environment and the power requirement, plus much more besides. The concluding evaluation sets out any remaining potentials that have not yet been fully exploited.

 

How, in practice, does Fronius customer support work – especially in the case of users who are based in countries other than Austria or Germany?

Systems analyses and other Fronius services are provided by technicians from our sales and service teams. We have a total of 87 such teams around the world, so we can provide on-site support to all customers at very short notice. Our partner network also helps us to maintain our high standard of service provision all over the world. Fronius also has 28 international subsidiaries that further strengthen our global presence. We can offer our customers in Brazil exactly the same quality that our customers in Austria or Germany enjoy. This leads to an additional advantage: when a customer operating on a production site in Germany is happy with the maintenance we carry out on their equipment, they can also be confident of receiving the same quality of service at their production site in China. Technicians there will be using exactly the same checklists, offering an identical range of services, and their level of expertise will also be the same. In the event that a customer has questions that are too specialised for the sales and service team to deal with, then our technical support department will step in. Representatives of this department are present in each country, so when customers run into complex or highly specialised problems, they will be offered assistance in their native language.

 

Are there any other specific plus points to Fronius's service packages other than a global presence and close relationship with customers?

Our services are designed to be modular, such that they can be tailored exactly to our customers' requirements and preferences. This works for every customer from the largest car manufacturer to the smallest workshop. Take maintenance contracts for example: while one customer may need a comprehensive service package, another may take care of most aspects for themselves and only want us to take responsibility for one small area. Our modular service offering means that we can give both these customers what they want, and they will not be paying for anything that they don't actually need. This means that the customer benefits from total transparency and cost certainty. We also believe that it is important to provide customers with certain services free of charge; services including demonstrations of equipment and a trial period of up to two weeks. We use these as ways of introducing ourselves and getting to know potential users and their wishes and needs better. We view our services as a means to strengthen our relationship with our customers; a relationship based on mutual trust and communication.

 

Which services do you see as being particularly relevant in the future?

One area that will continue to gain in importance in the future is the continuous improvement of the welding parameters and ultimately of our products. Maintenance and maintenance contracts will also become more important. The latest buzzword is predictive maintenance. The internet of things and intelligent machines will make it possible to identify and resolve problems even before they present themselves. This will enable unscheduled production stoppages to be prevented and the availability of the entire system to be improved. I also believe that the rental-based business model offers huge potential for the future. The new generation of decision makers is already increasingly embracing a philosophy of “use rather than own”. A good example of this trend is formed by the car-sharing platforms in the car industry. This principle will come to the fore in other sectors too, and will take on a relevance for the production environment. Fronius is already in the process of developing new business models that accommodate this need. These include, for instance, pay-per-use models whereby customers pay only for the output they actually require.

 

How do Industry 4.0 and smart factories influence the field of service?

The key issue in the future is going to be generating added value for customers from the data that is collected – including data on products, welding parameters or maintenance statistics. We are already working on this area and evaluating ways of making better use of the available information. Improved availability of data can enhance the quality and efficiency of entire process chains, even in respect of services. At present, however, there are still a few obstacles around the disclosure and protection of data. However, we are confident that there will soon be major changes in these areas. One thing is certain: benefit to customers in the form of cost optimisation and a relationship based on trust will in future be seen as even more essential than they are today. There is also plenty of potential in developing new maintenance packages. Remote service is the buzzword here. Remote maintenance will enable any weaknesses or problems with the equipment to be discovered and rectified even more quickly.

Bespoke service to guarantee your success

You can rely on Fronius – and not just as a supplier of high-quality welding technology, but also as a competent partner. With our sound advice and support, you will be able to get the most out of your power sources and welding systems for as long as possible. Working together with you, we develop solutions that are specifically tailored to your production processes, objectives and needs. Whether it’s special characteristics, process optimisation, maintenance, safety inspections or staff training, our portfolio includes over 20 services tailored to your needs that we can provide throughout the entire service life of your products. This means you enjoy the highest levels of productivity and efficiency possible while benefitting from minimal operating costs.

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