How to get the most from your service agreements and providers

Bosch Rexroth provides a comprehensive support structure to help extend the useful equipment life, including help desk and spare parts services, field-repair service, retrofits, modernization, training programs, and service agreements.


Bosch Rexroth provides a comprehensive support structure to help extend the useful equipment life, including help desk and spare parts services, field-repair service, retrofits, modernization, training programs, and service agreements. Service agreements are a common part of buying a home computer or a DVD player. But service agreements are important in manufacturing as well. Establishing the best service arrangements for your company and its machines can make a difference.

Service saves more than it costs: It may seem an obvious point, but regularly scheduled maintenance is the most economical, effective method to reduce the expense of downtime. Many service agreements result from product failures due to age and constant use. Since new equipment usually includes a warranty, it usually isn't until a machine breaks that ongoing service is considered. After years of heavy use, especially when the electronics have endured constant exposure to a manufacturing environment, almost any machine will be more prone to breakdown. Discussing a service agreement three to four months before an initial warranty period expires makes sense. Be sure that companies under consideration for a service agreement ask detailed questions about previous repairs, maintenance, and operating environments.

Taking a proactive approach to a service agreement is usually preferable to paying emergency repair rates and dealing with the unexpected downtime of a catastrophic failure. Many service providers are flexible when it comes to payment and can offer reduced rates in exchange for a long-term commitment. It's an obvious point, but rates for mature or legacy machinery will be higher than rates for more current hardware. Replacement parts may also be harder to obtain. An additional step in proactively managing your service needs is to use equipment with built-in predictive maintenance features. For example, Bosch Rexroth IndraDrive components have a firmware-based "early warning system” that detects weak points within the entire system even before a fault occurs. This allows users to schedule service in advance only when it’s necessary or convenient, preventing unexpected machine breakdowns and over-maintenance. Ensure service providers are equally proactive. They should regularly address potential trouble spots before they become emergencies. Since frozen corporate budgets or the notorious “off-hours” equipment failure may limit access to immediate service, be sure to find a provider that accepts corporate credit cards rather than the more traditional purchase order. Also note that a credit card can be used for products or training, as well as service.

Go to the source: Many suppliers are often the sole source of critical proprietary parts. This point is important when considering smaller, privately owned providers. Remember that suppliers, working through distributors, are also more likely to be current on service bulletins. Although third-party service providers can be less expensive than manufacturers, they may not go beyond the most basic of repairs and maintenance. Additionally, they will rarely provide on-site service due to liability issues. This shortcoming can add time and cost to a repair.

Importance of training as part of a service agreement cannot be overemphasized. Skilled trades-persons frequently filter into different parts of a plant during their careers. Retirements and new hires can also create gaps in troubleshooting skills, as can simply working an afternoon or midnight shift. Some companies provide shop-floor training based on a provider-assembled course outline and curriculum that includes preventive maintenance, diagnostics usage, and other advanced skills to keep machinery running at peak performance.

—David Wampfler, Bosch Rexroth , national sales manager for service products.

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