Every company in the manufacturing industry faces unique challenges, but one hurdle unites organizations of all shapes and sizes: unplanned downtime. In other fields, downtime is frustrating, inefficient, and financially straining — but in manufacturing, it has the potential to be catastrophic if it interrupts delicate processes or delays complex supply chains.
Your manufacturing customers likely face unplanned downtime every day. To become more than just a vendor, you need to offer solutions that help overcome this challenge, positioning yourself as a valued partner. In this blog, we’ll explore one solution that makes it possible: a customer self-service portal.
The Costs of Unplanned Downtime
Unplanned downtime can impact every part of the manufacturing landscape, from raw materials acquisition to aftersales revenue. It has both direct and indirect costs, which add up to substantial losses for your manufacturing customers.
Here’s a look at the costs associated with unplanned downtime:
- Repairs: Machine failure is a significant cause of unplanned downtime, and resolution often requires repairs. This work takes time and eats into the overall budget.
- Replacement parts: Although spare parts management is an important element of the manufacturing process overall, unplanned downtime interferes with calculations and forces manufacturers to use parts they planned on saving.
- Process interruption: Because much of the manufacturing process is interconnected, unplanned downtime on a single machine can interrupt productivity across the entire plant. Workers may need to stop what they’re doing while repairs are performed, and processes may need to be restarted from scratch due to these interruptions — which, in turn, leads to wasted money.
- Loss of efficiency: Unplanned downtime doesn’t just interrupt physical processes — it also causes workers to lose focus by forcing them to wait for repairs or abruptly switch tasks. This inefficiency is difficult to identify and track but nonetheless has a negative impact on overall manufacturing budgets.
- Data disruption: Manufacturers rely on accurate, realistic data captured from machines and worker tasks. Unplanned downtime disrupts this data, which can lead to inaccurate assumptions and less productive decision-making.
- Business relationships: Although unplanned downtime is a grim reality in manufacturing, that doesn’t mean business partners — especially end customers — can afford to wait while workers perform repairs or other solutions. Unfortunately, the immediacy of the modern market means unplanned downtime can lead to lost business relationships.
How to Help Customers Minimize Manufacturing Downtime
The good news is that you can help your manufacturing customers minimize downtime. The key is to leverage an effective customer self-service portal — a software solution providing one unified touchpoint so customers can make better use of your services.
Here are a few ways a customer portal can help overcome unplanned downtime:
- Organization: Allow customers to keep all their equipment portfolios in one place. This organization helps users quickly track problems and identify the best solutions from your offerings.
- Visibility: Past purchases, service records, and even Internet of Things (IoT) telemetry data can be stored in a customer portal. Users have a clearer picture of their assets, allowing them to interact with your services more efficiently.
- Simplification: Regular maintenance is a key part of minimizing downtime. A customer portal simplifies these tasks by giving manufacturing customers a single source of truth regarding their equipment, schedules, and more. The portal can even provide recurring maintenance reminders to further simplify the process.
- Education: Customer portals can offer built-in knowledge bases for engineers, field technicians, and other workers. This helps provide key information and keeps customers on your site instead of performing external research that could lead to competitors.
- Efficiency: Regardless of how your customers use the portal, the end goal is all about efficiency. For example, customers can choose product bundles to simplify ordering, which reduces costly returns and helps avoid unplanned downtime caused by order mistakes.
Simply put, a customer portal acts as a bridge between you and your customers, creating a shared digital space for interactions, support, and communication. The result is a better experience overall, which leads to benefits like increased customer engagement and profitability.
Becoming a Valued Partner
You can be one of two things when you serve manufacturing customers: a vendor or a valued partner. The difference is in how you think about your clients. If they’re just numbers on a page, you’re likely to see the results of this approach reflected in reduced engagement and minimal loyalty. If, on the other hand, you think critically about their challenges and proactively shape your offerings to help overcome those hurdles, you’ll become a key part of their manufacturing landscape.
To position yourself as a partner instead of just a vendor, it’s imperative that you begin with an optimal digital customer strategy. This doesn’t just guide your acquisition of technological solutions like a customer portal — it also proves to customers that you’re actively analyzing their needs, optimizing their experiences, and working to create value for them.
With a digital strategy as your guide, you’ll create a mutually beneficial relationship. When you identify customer challenges like unplanned downtime and implement solutions that position your offerings to address those challenges, customers can engage with your brand more effectively. That means they’ll see benefits to their own bottom line and will likely take advantage of even more products or services — which, in turn, benefits your bottom line.
Remember, a vendor is passive; a valued partner takes action and works proactively to go above and beyond for their customers.
Implement Your Customer Portal With Liferay
Your manufacturing customers will always face unplanned downtime. To help them minimize this downtime and the associated costs, you need to position your offerings more effectively. A customer portal allows you to do just that, helping users track purchases, simplify ordering processes, receive regular maintenance reminders, and more.
If you’re ready to go beyond vendor status and become a valued partner for your manufacturing customers, you need a customer portal that compliments your offerings. Explore Liferay’s Manufacturing Customer Portals today to see how a single digital solution can make all the difference.
2 Minute Video Summary
Get a 2 minute summary of how customer portals built with Liferay help manufacturers to keep their customers operational and minimize their unplanned downtime by consolidating equipment portfolios, creating powerful knowledge bases, offering renewable subscription contracts and creating compatible product bundles. Check out this video:
Increasing Aftersales with Liferay
With the right tools, manufacturers can make it easy for customers to continue to do business with them. By unifying the relevant systems and information using Liferay, manufacturers can begin to increase customer satisfaction and drive aftersales revenue.