Magazine Article | October 23, 2006

Part Proximity Services: A New Weapon In Your Field Service Arsenal

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Changing the way you distribute parts can improve your field service efficiency.

Integrated Solutions, November 2006

Every field service organization struggles with putting parts in the hands of their technicians as efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, the available options in the United States have not changed much over the last 30 years: Either the technician collects parts from a warehouse or branch office, the part is sent to a customer’s premise, or the part is sent to the technician’s home.

The problem with the first approach is that it wastes the technician’s time on nonessential work. The second approach usually costs more. Sending the parts to the technician usually solves the first two problems, but introduces new ones: Technicians are waiting at home for parts – but what happens when you need to send a different technician, who doesn’t have the parts?


Now, a new approach that so far has only been available in Europe is becoming available to U.S. field service managers: part proximity services. These new services have proven very successful in increasing the flexibility of technicians and improving service and productivity. Part proximity services incorporate a fundamental premise of putting the part as close to the end customer as possible, independent of the technician that will do the service work. By using these services, you enable much more flexibility in the dispatching of technicians and better visibility of where the part is. The added flexibility and visibility reduces travel time and improves service response times.

The fundamental cornerstone of part proximity services is a very dense network of locations for technicians to collect and return parts. The density has to be such that a technician would have to drive less than 10 minutes from a location to the customer site.

Instead of the technician going to a warehouse to collect the part or waiting at home for the part to be delivered, he goes to the location where the part has been dispatched. These technicians would have received a text message and/or e-mail informing them that the parts had arrived and were ready for collection. Likewise, the dispatch operation would have received this confirmation. Once the technician collects the part, the time, date, and signature are obtained, and this information is available immediately online. Returns can be put into the system using the same locations and at the same time collections are made. One stop accomplishes both transactions.

Part proximity services providers work closely with the 3PL (third party logistics) service providers to ensure that everything works together smoothly. In Europe, UPS, DHL and TNT all partner with such companies in delivering these new services. Typical features of a part proximity service are 24/7 access, proactive notification when the parts arrive and are collected (via text message or e-mail), online visibility, and night delivery (available by 8 a.m.).

The popularity of part proximity services can be attributed to the improved service and reduced cost these services deliver. A reduction in drive time, increased flexibility in dispatching, one-stop shopping for part collections and returns, visibility of all transactions, and closer workforce management capabilities all contribute to their success. These benefits have been proven over the last couple of years, and part proximity services are now part of the base requirements for parts logistics solutions in Europe. This is now emerging in the United States, and one would expect similar results as they get implemented.