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Keeping machines running

An interactive portal for spare parts: Experts from the Körber Business Areas Digital and Pharma explain how Obsoletely works and helps customers to prevent machine downtime.


The Körber Business Area Pharma builds inspection machines for the pharmaceutical industry, among other products. What happens if something breaks down at one of your customers’ production sites?
Lukas Jakob: The company may have to halt production — and for our customers, that can get very expensive very fast. That’s why our customers expect us to provide spare parts very quickly.

That should be doable, shouldn’t it?
Lukas Jakob: It should be, yes. Often, though, it’s just when a spare part is needed that the suppliers will tell us that this or that spare part isn’t available.

And what do you do then? Offer an alternative to the component that’s out of stock?
Lukas Jakob: That sounds good, but then the machine would have to be down for a while, because it would have to be modified. That’s a lot of lost time.

spare parts

are registered in the Obsoletely database.

And then some colleagues from the Körber Business Area Digital got involved?
Nizar Manzli: Yes, exactly. We thought about how we could make spare parts management more effective. We talked to many of our colleagues and to experts from all of our Business Areas, and we quickly saw that almost all companies face these same challenges. And so it seemed logical to turn this into a joint project.

Which then became Obsoletely. What does the project involve?
Nizar Manzli: Obsoletely is like a Wikipedia of spare parts — a portal where you can find out everything you want to know about spare parts. It allows everyone — our customers, our suppliers and ourselves — to find everything we need through this one interface. 

Have all components in view: Lukas Jakob (l.) is responsible for Obsoletely in the Business Area Pharma at the site Markt Schwaben near Munich. Nizar Manzli from the Business Area Digital manages the project in Berlin.
Calculation example: With the data from Obsoletely it is easier to decide whether it is worthwhile for customers to buy spare parts.

You’re describing it as an interface. Does that mean the information flows in both directions? 
Nizar Manzli: Exactly. Our customers upload all the components of their machines, and then our system automatically checks the current status of those parts at the manufacturers. That way we’re kept informed of any irregularities that could occur in the future. Using this information, we generate documents that include information such as the expected service life of individual components. This allows us to keep information on all the parts up to date. And here’s the best thing: All it takes is a click for our customers to call up the information.

Lukas Jakob: Since we and our customers keep an eye on the life expectancy of individual parts, we can make sure new supplies become available in good time. As a result, our customers are better prepared for a possible replacement. Obsoletely greatly helps to prevent machine downtimes caused by discontinued components. And in certain situations, we’ll tell our customers whether it would make sense to make a last time buy or order a retrofit. For example, if we know that certain components will not be manufactured much longer.

lOur customers expect us to provide spare parts very quickly.r

Lukas Jakob, Körber Business Area Pharma

But at some point, the spare parts aren’t going to be available at all. What happens then?

Lukas Jakob: That’s an opportunity for us, too. If parts are no longer available, we can modify the customer’s machine. In other words, we can modify it so it can accept the next generation of the spare part.

Nizar Manzli: We also want to be able to predict the life expectancy of individual parts, technically and organizationally. If a spare part from company X is only kept in stock for 15 years before production is halted, then we’ll know that and we inform our customers.

Lukas Jakob: We had a case like this with industrial cameras, which are numerously installed in some machines. The manufacturer had informed us at short notice that it was dropping the cameras from its lineup. Then, when precisely these cameras broke down at one of our customers’ facilities, we had already stocked up, and we were able to provide replacements right away.

When things are always moving so fast, this must increase the effectiveness of the machines too.
Nizar Manzli: It does. Our objective is to increase equipment effectiveness by up to 30 percent by reducing machine downtime. And we’re on the right track.

lObsoletely is like a Wikipedia of spare parts — a portal where you can find out everything you want to know about spare parts.r

Nizar Manzli, Körber Business Area Digital

Wikipedia is getting larger and larger. How do things look at Obsoletely?
Nizar Manzli: Similar. We started with Obsoletely in mid-2019. At the beginning, it was very helpful to be able to point to our huge network in the Körber Group. And of course the more customers we have, the better the prices we can get, and thanks to that and our greater visibility in the market, we convince still more customers. With every customer that uploads its components, the system is growing all the time, and that benefits everyone: There are more manufacturers for our customers, and more customers for the manufacturers.

How many parts does Obsoletely have information on?
Nizar Manzli: At the beginning, it was a few thousand. Now, it’s already more than a million components. Whenever new ones appear on the market, we’re informed of this automatically via the websites of the manufacturers and suppliers. A bot — a computer program — is constantly collecting this information with its algorithm. Every day, all day long, and all night long, it’s busy working for our customers and suppliers.

of all companies worldwide

who were surveyed in the Allianz Risk Barometer of 2020 stated that business interruption is the second greatest business risk. Obsoletely addresses this problem by making it possible to identify in advance when spare parts are needed and where they can be obtained.

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