From Neustadt (Dosse) to the World
Lorry trailers with swap containers are used for transporting heavy loads; they form the core business of the company Hüffermann Transportsysteme from Neustadt (Dosse), the self-proclaimed market leader in Germany and a strong player in many European and non-European countries. Owing to the fact that Hüffermann offers its clients comprehensive after-sales services of up to 10 years and beyond, the company has to constantly look for spare parts.
Stephan Schwander needs to have excellent multitasking skills. Just now, a co-worker explains construction plans to him; meanwhile, a patent drawing on his desk requires his critical attention, while a sales representative from the Netherlands is impatiently waiting in the foyer to his office. “At an innovative mid-tier company, there’s always a multitude of fields that need improvement and attention – mostly at the same time,” the CEO of Hüffermann Transportsysteme calmly points out. The development of an interactive, web-based spare parts catalogue is just one of such fields.
Spare parts catalogue influences product development
In its final form, the online catalogue is supposed to cover the entire product range from in-house production items to the modification and use of items developed by third parties. Because even though each and every single transport trailer is “to an extent of 100 per cent loaded with added value by Hüffermann”, the company still has to buy certain parts, such as axles, lighting and tyres.
The niche Hüffermann managed to successfully fill despite opposing market trends is called vertical integration. Hüffermann’s clients from the fields of waste removal, recycling, renewable energies and the timber industry really appreciate this philosophy. “What we can do ourselves we will do ourselves.” This implies specialisation and insourcing and a large number of individualised parts.
CEO Schwander hopes that the catalogue will lead to a more effective use of human resources in the fields of maintenance and virtual refurbishing of the spare parts stock. He also hopes for an effect he calls “iteration”. If one specific spare part is needed again and again, a business can modify the construction and prevent a problem from occurring in the first place, which, in turn, means that the spare part in question will not have to be replaced. The interactive spare parts catalogue therefore exerts a positive influence on the innovative capabilities of a business and, in turn, might one day become obsolete itself.
A reliable partner creates prototype
However, before the spare parts catalogue can go online by the end of 2015, as envisioned by the CEO of Hüffermann, comprehensive fundamental work had to be done. It was necessary to find answers to such questions as: “Is such a project at all possible? If so, how should it be approached? What kind of software solutions can be helpful?”
The University of Applied Sciences Brandenburg/Havel entered the ring as a scientific sparring partner. The cooperation between the company and the University had already been rewarded in the past, as it had received an innovation award, and additionally it helped the company to recruit talented new engineers. Thanks to the funds received through the “Grand Innovation Voucher” (“Großer Innovationsgutschein”), the University was able to create an interdisciplinary team consisting of computer scientists, software developers, constructors and business economists.
At the end of their joint activities, they held a meticulously devised prototype in their hands. The prototype required the construction system and the complaint and goodwill databases of Hüffermann to be interlinked in order to create a spare parts catalogue. Furthermore, the prototype defined the software and programming requirements.
Now it is up to Hüffermann Transportsysteme to find an IT service provider for the implementation of the suggestions made by the University of Applied Sciences. Stephan Schwander pointed out that this step would be very costly at first, but that an interactive spare parts catalogue would be an investment that would pay off in the end.