Hans Lingl Anlagenbau und Verfahrenstechnik GmbH & Co. KG

Zi Service Supplier Award 2018: And the winner was…

… Lingl! Zi Brick and Tile Industry International presented the Zi Service Supplier Award for the first time at ceramitec 2018. Based exclusively on the votes cast by Zi readers, awards were presented to three suppliers for offering the best service to their customers. Winner of the Zi Service Supplier Award 2018 was Lingl. We asked Karl Liedel, Sales Unit Manager, and Bernd Braun, Service Unit Manager, what the award means for Lingl and what value is attached to service within the company.

In 2018, Lingl won the first Zi Service Supplier Award. What does this award mean to you? 

K.L.: The award means a great deal to us as it is a vote and honour from your readers and our customers! It has shown us that we’re on the right track in the Service unit.  

B.B.: The vote to Best Service Supplier has spurred us on even more to work tirelessly on the further development of the Service unit.

Is service a guiding principle in your company and tenet of the corporate philosophy? 

K.L.: In several respects, service is anchored in our corporate philosophy and designated as a clear guide value. One of our maxims is that the entire Lingl group stands as a strong, reliable and competent partner for our customers, providing them with innovative and high-quality solutions, products and services.

But especially today, as part of increasing digitalization, our other mainstays, like motivated employees, innovative developments and clear processes in a flexible company, are also very important.

What does customer service mean for your company?

K.L.: For Lingl, customer service means that we maintain close and permanent contact to our customers. We want to identify needs, requirements and wishes to be able to offer our support and the appropriate service. The Service unit used to be “the supplier of replacement parts”. The concept of service, however, has changed. Today, under “service”, we understand a range of services in a much wider sense.  

B.B.: We want to support our customers in being successful and be on hand for them as a trusted and reliable partner.

That means that we offer service around the entire production plant and that for the lifetime of the plant. From traditional replacement and wear part supply, through maintenance, troubleshooting and training, to process analyses and optimization in respect of performance, quality and energy.

And in doing this, we explore new avenues. Amongst other things, we offer those customers with more than one production site cross-site machine and plant checks, which offer the basis for a solid benchmark and reveal the potential for optimization.

Further, medium- to long-term all-in service packages will play an increasingly important role.

The topic of predictive maintenance and servicing is gaining in importance. How do you support your customers?

B.B.: “Predictive maintenance” has developed in recent years from “preventive maintenance” – “Preventive maintenance” has become “predictive maintenance.“

Advancing digitalization, further developed sensors and extensive data analyses, as well as well-trained, customer-focused employees are the basis and precondition for predictive maintenance.

Irrespective of that, an experienced service technician and the close dialogue with the customer are and remain very important factors in successful predictive maintenance. We are always asking ourselves: Where is the benefit for the customer? What is the best solution for the customer?

K.L.: As my colleague has already said, our experienced employees are the important thing. The shortage of skilled employees is now an issue worldwide, for our customers and for us, too. We therefore train our future employees ourselves and have a high trainee ratio, currently with 42 apprentices, that is around 10% of our workforce. This is how we assure ourselves that we have competent employees for the future, too.

Do you offer seminars and training sessions for your customers, too?

B.B.: Yes, we have been offering our customers seminars and training courses for several years. At Lingl, we are especially proud of this service and get very, very positive feedback from our training participants. In 2018 alone, with our seminars on robots, drive and control engineering as well as S7 and TIA control systems, we have provided further training to more customers than ever before in Krumbach. These 3- to 5-day courses convey the learning content in a very practice-oriented way. All training is conducted by experienced specialists, all of whom with several years of experience in commissioning.

Besides our training in Krumbach, we also offer on-site training at our customers‘ premises. For this purpose, we have a mobile robot cell that we take to our customers by lorry or shipping container. On site, extensive training can be performed on the training robot instead of on the actual production robots. This means that production doesn’t have to be interrupted for practising.

K.L.: As a further very interesting service, we actively offer our customers and their employees and service/maintenance staff our “inhouse plant tests”. Here they can familiarize themselves with a future plant even before the first equipment has been delivered.

How do you impart the service concept to your employees?

B.B.: The service concept is conveyed on the one hand by itself as our employees in daily customer contact feel and experience exactly what the needs of the customer are and, on the other hand, by further training our employees not only with regard to content, but also with customer focus.

At our headquarters in Krumbach, we have a Service unit with over 30 employees. This unit covers the entire spectrum of work for processing services – from technical customer support consultants, mechanical and electric design, work planning and service manufacturing to shipping and, naturally, the service technicians.

This enables lean and fast processing, which only works with this customer-focussed service concept. 

K.L.: This service concept is not only in the Service unit here in Krumbach, but naturally in the worldwide service branches. One can say that it is lived “Lingl-wide” – be that in the plants and project business, in the technical departments or in assembly and commissioning.

What do you understand under after-sales service? After the installation of a plant, optimization is often needed in the factory. Do you support your customers with this?

B.B.: “After-sales service” sounds as if it is just a follow-up service for a machine or plant order. For us, customer service is far more than “after-sales service”. The first contact with the new customer is often made through the Service unit as, of course, we also optimize non-Lingl plants and carry out machine and plant checks.

The service from Lingl should be regarded as holistic, and naturally includes optimization and modernization of existing plants, regardless of age and manufacturer. All technical new developments are also checked by us to determine how far these can be integrated in existing plants. And these are then further optimized in respect of increasing capacity, quality improvement and production safety.

K.L.: Special focus here is on the process engineering side where, with our detailed process analyses, we optimize our customers’ dryers and kilns. We are assisted here by our two mobile laboratory dryers, our two test kilns in Krumbach and detailed material analyses from our inhouse laboratory.

How quickly do you respond when one of your plants causes a problem at a customer‘s facility?

B.B.: We offer a 24h service, which can be reached 365 days a year. This enables round-the-clock access to replacement and wear parts from our extensive central warehouse. We have stocked up there to be well equipped in emergencies and to respond quickly. The service comprises, however, technical support in the event of faults, which is provided by our specialists, by telephone or remote service.

K.L.: And, with our service branches in the USA, the UK, Russia and Algeria, as well as with our representative offices worldwide, we are very close to our customers.

Can you give me an example in which you were proud of the service that you offered a customer?

B.B.: Shortly before Christmas, we were contacted by a brick manufacturer who operates a plant supplied by a competitor and whose factory had ground to a standstill because of a serious fault. Via remote service and telephone support of the customer’s electrician, our team of technicians was able to get the plant up and running again within a short time.

Here, we are especially proud of our employees, without whose dedication and ambition such troubleshooting would not have been possible. You asked earlier about the service concept at Lingl. This is shown precisely in such situations.

Have you ever received negative service feedback from a customer? How did you deal with it?

K.L.: Negative customer feedback begins with a complaint. Regardless of whether the complaint concerns a service, a component, a machine or a plant. However, if you deal with a complaint straightaway, consistently and seriously, even such a negative starting situation offers the opportunity to deliver customer satisfaction with a quick and unbureaucratic response.

With a complaint handled to the satisfaction of the customer, customer loyalty is strengthened.

Do you measure customer satisfaction? If yes, how?

K.L.: We measure customer satisfaction specifically for certain services, like, for example, with all participants in our seminars and training courses. Moreover, we conduct corresponding customer surveys.

How do you want to make service even better in future?

B.B.: Digitalization has, of course, a very big influence on services and the related processes. Besides the benefit of digitalization in predictive maintenance mentioned earlier, it also has a strong influence on enhancing performance, improving quality and saving energy in plants and machinery.

The expansion and the productive use of appropriate services has a very high priority for us. But speed and availability are also key topics that we are constantly pushing ahead.

K.L.: Especially in digitalization we are moving in a tense area between data protection and data sharing by the customer. Here it is absolutely crucial that the customer can also trust us as a plant supplier.

Service, however, should not be regarded as singular and detached, but always in combination with the entire value creation chain of the company. One doesn’t work without the other. Without the provision of reliable and valuable service, sustainable plant engineering business and a partnership- and trust-based as well as robust customer relationship would not be feasible.

Even better service means even better customer focus!

Many thanks for this informative talk, Mr Liedel and Mr Braun. We’ll cross our fingers for you in the next Zi Service Supplier contest!

The interview was conducted by Zi editor Anett Fischer.

Hans Lingl Anlagenbau und Verfahrenstechnik GmbH & Co. KG

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