The globally operating company ESAB can look back on a success story spanning more than 100 years and, with its innovative solutions, has become the world market leader in the production of welding consumables and equipment for welding and cutting processes. For more than 15 years, the company has relied on Innosoft GmbH software solutions for its customer service. More and more the trend goes to the web.
As recommended by the Dortmund software house in most cases, ESAB also built up the IT environment for controlling the service processes step by step, the modular structure of the Innosoft Service Management System favors this approach. The central program Resource Planning — at that time still in the classic desktop version — was introduced in 2003 at ESAB Welding & Cutting GmbH in Karben, Hessen. Five years later, the system was expanded with the Customer Management and Statistics module, followed by Document Management in 2011.
In the following years, additional extensions were gradually implemented, including the Report Generator, with which own report forms can be easily created, adapted or extended, as well as the route optimization tool GeoMap and Maintenance Management in 2013. In 2015, when the numerous authorized dealers were connected to the Service Management System via the Customer Ticket System and the company’s internal service technicians, who carry out installations, repairs or maintenance work on site at the customers, with the Mobile Field Service, the circle was complete. From the planning of activities at the customer’s premises to the transfer of reports to the billing department, the service processes at ESAB could now be seamlessly covered with Innosoft.
The Internet makes transatlantic and intra-European communication easier
And this did not only apply to ESAB Welding & Cutting GmbH at the Karben or Langenfeld locations; in 2015, the international rollout of the service software solutions was also driven forward. “Since 2015, we have been working with Innosoft throughout Europe and to some extent already in the USA,” reports Christoph Krebs, who works at ESAB in Karben as Controller Field Service and Customer Support and “incidentally” took over the administration for the Innosoft Service Management System.
The advantages of transatlantic and intra-European networking are obvious. While many multinational companies experience problems with cross-border data exchange within the company because each country uses different IT support, ESAB’s experience and evaluations can be exchanged and compared across continents. “Yes, that is quite an advantage,” confirms Christoph Krebs. “Due to the identical processes, not only can reports be generated much more easily, but also all machine data, documents and tickets can be accessed and processed worldwide.”
For cross-border cooperation, it is obvious to use the Internet as a connecting element. In 2016, the conversion of the ‘big’ Windows installations of the Resource Planning and other modules of the Innosoft Service Management System to the slimmer web version was further advanced. This allows simpler and comparatively faster access via a conventional browser without having to install program software on the user’s devices. “In the meantime, ESAB’s service departments almost exclusively work on the Web,” says Mr. Krebs. Only in the design and production departments the desktop version of Resource Planning with its wide range of functions is still used, and the creation and administration of maintenance contracts with the Maintenance Management and the administration of settings with the Admin Tool are also still carried out offline.
Standardized service process in 22 countries
In total, a good 250 users in 22 countries in Europe and the USA work with Innosoft solutions at ESAB. “The service process has been standardized and is now the same at all locations, whereas previously each country had its own process and different forms,” says Christoph Krebs. In Europe, more than 450 authorized dealers of ESAB products are also connected to the Customer Ticket System, which was also introduced in 2015. They can use the system as a machine and address database and add a machine to their ticket by clicking on the corresponding button. “Almost the entire warranty process from the dealer’s application is then handled in Innosoft,” explains Mr. Krebs.
The procedure is as follows: “The request, i.e. the ticket, is automatically sent to the responsible helpdesk after the merchant has entered the information. The latter can then approve it in advance, for example to release the parts needed for the repair. The dealer can then repair the system and re-submit the required working hours, i.e. the costs incurred, in the ticket, and in the end it must be finally approved by us via the helpdesk. All this information is then sent to our QM system, and the dealer also issues the invoice after our approval”. But this invoice will be processed in another system, the amount in the end will only be compared with the amount approved in Innosoft. For the whole process handled in Innosoft the current status is tracked at any time.
Convenient working due to high flexibility
Among the advantages of the Web, Christoph Krebs also counts the ” increased user-friendliness” and the fairly uncomplicated configuration options of the solution. With a little effort, the views can be tailored to the needs of the user and reduced to what is essential for him. Christoph Krebs has adapted reports or views himself to the current requirements of ESAB, but even for users who are less well versed in IT issues, the flexibility of the solutions means that the Innosoft project managers are happy to assist customers.
Mr. Krebs also points out that the additional data that was previously available separately is now always visible at a glance, and he particularly emphasizes the elimination of many manual entries: “Whereas before, every technician had to fill in various forms by hand, for example service reports, time reports or travel reports, and all times were then checked manually in the back office and transferred to the Resource Planning for further treatment, today an ESAB technician only has to enter each time into the system once, and the information is then automatically used for all reports and for the customer service accounting. The times already checked by the system and released by the back office flow directly into the time recording system for payment.
Quotations and maintenance contracts at the push of a button
In addition to the times, other data generated by the service technicians via the Mobile Field Service, such as the activities performed or the materials consumed, are immediately available to all dispatchers in the Resource Planning. Furthermore, it is no longer necessary to write an e‑mail to the technician for each assignment. Moreover, the scheduling function in the Web SMS enables a quotation to be generated with a simple mouse click directly from an assignment.
The maintenance mode also allows additional machines to be quickly and conveniently integrated into existing maintenance agreements at the push of a button and even to generate a completely new maintenance contract, “including the actual contract, the machine checklist and the customer letter directly from Innosoft,” as Mr. Krebs continues. “Innosoft calculates the total price for the customer on the basis of a few entries such as machine number, customer number and a few options such as whether the maintenance should be carried out with or without cooling water change and then provides the corresponding PDFs. And the checklist is immediately generated to suit the respective machine configuration. Statistical evaluations such as KPI reports, which previously had to be generated manually in a cumbersome manner, can now be created with three simple clicks.
ESAB is currently working on integrating the returns process, including e‑mail handling, into Innosoft, and plans to transfer the Maintenance Management, currently still used as a classic module, to the web in the near future. It is also advantageous to use the web as a medium for licence acquisition, because thanks to the concurrent-user principle, where only one licence is blocked for each user currently logged in, employees working in different time zones can use the same licence. And since no installation on the end device is necessary, virtually unlimited users can be set up for the Web modules. Therefore, it is often interesting for customers who want to continue using their existing licences of the desktop modules to purchase some additional licences for the Web in order to increase personnel flexibility.