Read here the October issue of Transformers Magazine! LAE presents its 360° customer-supplier 360° relationship, from the pre-sales to the after-sales phase
L.A.E.’s customer-supplier 360° relationship is a long-term approach which focuses on developing a rounded relationship that will enable us to have a happy customer tomorrow
L.A.E. customer-supplier long-term 360° relationship
What is a 360° customer-supplier approach
L.A.E.’s customer-supplier 360° relationship is a long-term approach which focuses not only on making the sale today, but also on developing a relationship that will enable us to have a happy customer tomorrow. While simply selling some equipment, regardless of whether it meets the customer requirements, might create some turnover today, this is not the best investment in the future. L.A.E. was founded 40 years ago and since its beginnings it has been looking towards the future and focusing on happy and returning customers.
Our 360° approach comprises three phases: pre-sales, sales and after-sales.
In the pre-sales phase, we consult with our customer in order to understand what requirements they have not only at the equipment level, but also at the process level. For example, if the customer is interested in a winding machine, then we find it important to know more about their production process and how they produce the winding. How will they be using the machine? Where will it be placed in the plant? All these important questions give us a better understanding of the customer needs. There are cases when the customer requests a fully equipped and a very flexible machine, but then we realize that in fact their focus is on productivity. So, we direct their attention to a different machine from the one they initially wanted, to the machine with the features that they need, even if it is cheaper. We prefer having a happy customer to selling a more expensive machine.
To give an example, L.A.E.’s team has recently visited our customer who asked for an upgrade for the old machine. When the team analysed the problems at hand, it was discovered that such upgrade would not be able to solve their major issues. Therefore, we recommended the customer not to take the upgrade, but rather to save money today for a better investment in a new generation machine tomorrow. So, at this stage we want to understand the customer’s needs and try to advise them about the best solution.
This is also one of the reasons why we formed the Trafogrid alliance with other companies using complementary equipment. Through such setup we can better understand the context of the manufacturing process, and we can use the combined knowledge to advise our customers better. For example, we have a customer looking for a way to automate the moving of the windings, which is not our core business. But paying attention to their needs, we will try to find a solution for them. So, listening to customers is the focus of the pre-sales phase because it not only helps us understand their requirements, but also it helps us improve our products and offer some complementary equipment that will help them advance their processes.
Another step that we do during this stage is that we involve an external, independent consultant in the discussions with the customer. We have a customer wanting to shift from round to oval shape of the winding in order to optimize the winding, and thus optimize the transformer in terms of the costs and material saving. So, we have engaged an independent and competent consultant, and if the customer decides to continue cooperating with this consultant, then they can do this independently. This is sometimes a huge benefit for our customers if they don’t know which consultant can help them solve their problems, because the most important part is to select the right and most competent person. In this respect, the support that we have from our managing director Mr. Ales Bertuzzi is very important. His experience in the industry that spans over 30 years across different factories has given him the competence to provide advice to customers and select the right consultant for them. So, we believe that a happy customer will come back to us, and will not just look at prices. We are aware that we have some very cheap competitors, especially in the winding machine sector, but being able to fully support our customers and help them solve their major problems is a big differentiation that they recognize and appreciate.
Another one of our activities that we do constantly, not only upon request, is that we continuously communicate to our customers the improvements and innovations which are relevant for their operations. If we know their focus is on productivity, for example, and we have developed a solution that improves productivity, then we inform our customers about it. Or, if we have a special machine under construction and we know it may be of interest to our customers, then we invite them to visit our plant and get informed about the new machine.
In a case of bigger developments, such as those we have had in core cutting lines, we organize an event at L.A.E. and invite our customers to share information with them.
Apart from organizing events and inviting our customers, we may also inform them through articles that we publish in publications such as Transformers Magazine, where we already informed our customers and the wider audience about our new generation of winding machines and the benefits they can experience with our recent innovations. So, what we want to have is a rounded long-term relationship with our customers.
I believe the customers appreciate when you listen to their needs and their productive requirements, and they appreciate receiving advice that is in line with what they actually need. This is the key to acquiring new customers, like we have recently done. It is not only about responding to a request for quotation, but trying to understand why they need the offer, all the reasons behind why they want to buy new equipment – whether it is for productivity or quality reasons. This all helps us select the right equipment for them.
With equipment price levels being quite close, it is the pre-sales and after-sales that make the difference
Technical Seminar presentation
The second phase is the sales phase, where the customer decides to purchase some equipment. In this phase we also try to check the placement position of the equipment in the plant and double-check if the equipment that is being sold is actually meeting the customer’s expectations and needs. This is a role of our product managers who have many years of experience in this field and have worked with many manufacturers. They have the competence to understand whether the offered equipment is really matching the needs of the customer. Through this double-check we want to avoid any surprises for the customer and, again, to ensure that we have a happy customer.
In the sales phase we offer training to the customer’s operators, which is done as we install the machine. Our user manuals have also been improved, using for instance new interactive supports. They provide all the necessary information which the customer can go back to later, after our technicians have left their company. Training is very important when it comes to automation and working with machines that require technical knowledge.
Customers attending our Core Event Presentation
Once the machine is sold, the process does not stop there. The customer needs to be supported after the sale, especially after the sale. The sale of the machine, from the point when the customer requests a solution to the point when they make the decision to actually buy the equipment, usually takes some six months to one year, but the machine itself lasts for some 20 years or longer. Some of our machines were first installed a very long time ago. So, the after-sales phase is a key phase of our 360°approach.
It is in this phase that the customer will have more contact with our after-sales team than our sales team. So, the relationship between the customer and our after-sales team is a much longer one than with the sales team, and having this in mind, we are implementing local service centres. For example, we have a very efficient local service centre operating in India serving not only India but the nearby countries as well.
One of our customers in South East Asia, has recently asked for scheduled maintenance of the equipment and would like our technicians to visit their plant and inspect the equipment for the purpose of preventive maintenance. This is an offer that we have developed because machine availability is very important. Some customers call us only when the machine is already down, which is normal to happen after the equipment has been in service for a few years, and especially if it had no maintenance. Our purpose is to prevent this as we don’t want our customers to have a machine which is down and not productive, but we might not be able to visit the customer immediately because of our schedules and the availability of our staff.
So, customers like this one are aware of the importance of preventive maintenance and this is why they asked us to offer such service. In their plant, they have our core-cutting line and our fin-folding line, which are two sophisticated and automated pieces of equipment needing maintenance and trained personnel. Winding machines are sometimes easier to maintain and operate. So, this customer is aware of their highly valuable equipment and the importance of preventive maintenance of such equipment.
LAE Core Event
Distinction in all phases
Nowadays, even for high-quality equipment like ours, there are different providers, who are our competitors. The price levels are often quite close, so the difference can be made by the service that you offer. Sometimes it is the after-sales services, or the consultancy that we offer in the pre-sales phase. So, it is the pre-sales and after-sales that make the difference. New customers want to be sure that they will be supported after they make the purchase. Sometimes, they ask for a longer warranty period, for example. Because of the experiences they have had before with some other suppliers, now they want to be sure that they will not be left alone. This is something that our existing customers already rely on, but for new customers the fact that we listen to them and show concern for their actual needs before we make the sale is also a confirmation that we will be with them afterwards.
It is also important to note that listening to our customers also makes us improve our own machines, so it is a winning point for us as well. For example, we would never have developed a robot stacking system if we hadn’t understood that the bottleneck for that production phase was the assembly of the cores, not the cutting itself. When done manually, stacking takes longer than the cutting phase, but it also creates more scrap material. Measuring the core height with robots, you don’t have to cut more laminations than necessary. So, understanding our customer needs can lead to development of innovative solutions.
Based on the 360° long-term relationship we expect mutual growth with our customers, especially considering how much the leading manufacturing companies are concerned with quality today. This can drive mutual growth and building long-term relationships. Rather than thinking only of selling the machine today, we focus on long-term relations. We will be continually improving these concepts across the board in all aspects of our company.
Based on the 360° long-term relationship we expect mutual growth with our customers, especially considering how much they are concerned with quality today