Suppliers, top up the policy piggy bank

WHEN the unthinkable occurs and a supplier's equipment breaks down, falls apart or fails to do the job, the response is vital. Crosscut Clyde continues his review of what it takes to be a winner on the supply side.

Staff Reporter

Normally that means being able to stretch to provide what the market demands - and, my word suppliers, we have seen that in spades over the past few years. But it also means being prepared for when the stretch becomes a shrink, commonly known as the trough.

Today, let's delve into some internal issues that can unseat, upset and possibly upend a good supplier. One of the key issues is warranty and policy, and it can be the bane of any supplier, product provider or manufacturer.

I reckon everyone worth his or her salt, when purchasing an item of reasonable value for themselves or their family - I don't mean toasters because if I had claimed warranty on every one I have ever bought then I would never have time to cook toast - makes sure they fill out the warranty card.

In fact, nowadays with online registration, I bet more warranty cards are being lodged than ever.

Whether it makes for a favourable claim acceptance is another thing, but at least they are always in the box to make you feel more comfortable.

Back to our mining products.

Warranty is a simple concept - it guarantees a supplier or manufacturer's responsibility against faulty parts and workmanship, nothing more, nothing less.

But how do we measure what causes what, and what takes out another part, and what - or who - caused what to fail?

Was it the operator, the system, the lubricant or lack thereof? Was it an ingress of foreign material, pressure, temperature, altitude, moisture or dryness? Was it overload or underload, rough or smooth, fair or foul?

Luckily, these days no one unscrupulous is going to pull the wool over too many eyes with computer monitoring of just about everything.

So if a bit of kit is still in the warranty period, and all is fair and above board, then everyone should just get on with it and make all well again.

If it happens again however and becomes a repeatable issue, then there are avenues to travel such as product updates, product improvements or, dare one say it, replacement.

And this folks is where our supplier has to stand up to the plate - so to speak - and deliver a fix, repair, redesign or replace. Without making a fuss.

Now this is where things can get a little tricky, very quickly, if the maker or supplier is not prepared.

Industry for years has been burnt by suppliers not delivering, and industry has a long memory if the problem is not solved.

Suppliers who are prepared, who have kept a little of their profits in a separate piggy bank for the unwanted but inevitable day, find it easier to deal with such situations than those who assumed nothing would go wrong.

So the motto is, be prepared and make that allowance for warranty.

Now comes the ever-dreaded policy.

The thingamabob that has surpassed its warranty period doesn't have a timepiece wired into it and so it decides to falter, fail and fall apart.

Oh woe is me, who is going to cover this? Will it be the user, the supplier or the maker?

What's more, which department of the supplier or maker will suffer the cost? Will it be product development, will it be sales and marketing, or will it need a dip into the old warranty bucket?

The answer is clear if not simple - suppliers must ask themselves how will it affect customer relations, what will be the fall-out of a particular course of action, and what will the future hold with repeat business?

Usually such a risk analysis does not take long to assess - fix it with decorum, aplomb, professionalism and open and transparent customer dialogue. And the issue, my friends, will go away.

Whatever the outcome the supplier must have its own piggy bank called "policy". It's usually spearheaded by sales and marketing who, once official warranty has ceased, the customer calls on when something goes wrong.

And again, policy needs to be clear and reasonable, or suppliers can end up in a mess when things go wrong. And they will go wrong.

The message is simple. If you want to be in the game for the long term then make sure you have strong warranty guidelines and an even stronger allegiance to your policy ideals.

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