Home » Beyond Lubrication: How Industrial Suppliers Offer Value-Added Services to Manufacturers

Beyond Lubrication: How Industrial Suppliers Offer Value-Added Services to Manufacturers

by john Melton

Manufacturing facilities rely on a vast network of suppliers to keep operations running smoothly. While many suppliers simply provide parts or raw materials, some go above and beyond to add value through supplementary services. This is especially true of industrial lubricant suppliers, who leverage their expertise to help manufacturers enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and improve sustainability.

Lubricant suppliers have a unique vantage point within manufacturers’ operations. By regularly servicing equipment and machinery, they gain first-hand insights into pain points and opportunities. Progressive suppliers are turning these insights into value-adds that cement strategic partnerships with manufacturers. Here are some of the ways they create additional value:

Optimizing Lubrication Programs

While lubricants are essential for proper functioning, over-lubrication leads to wasted product and contamination. Lubricant Suppliers can conduct comprehensive assessments to right-size lubrication frequencies, improve scheduling and routing, identify optimization opportunities, and implement cost-tracking. This helps manufacturers cut lubricant consumption, waste, and costs. Suppliers may provide training to ensure lubrication best practices are sustained.

Enhancing Equipment Reliability

Unplanned downtime is tremendously expensive for manufacturers. Suppliers help maximize equipment reliability through lubrication program optimization, detecting early signs of wear, analysis of lubricants/equipment condition, and recommendations for proactive maintenance. This predictive maintenance approach, anchored in the supplier’s tribology expertise, allows manufacturers to address minor issues before they become major equipment failures.

Improving Energy Efficiency

Given the large energy expenditures in manufacturing, minimizing consumption is paramount. Suppliers can help facilities improve energy efficiency by optimizing lubricant viscosities, switching to synthetic lubricants, and ensuring proper lubrication to reduce friction on moving parts. Upgrading to premium lubricants often provides quick payback through energy savings.

Supporting Sustainability Initiatives

Sustainability is an increasing priority for manufacturers, and lubricants present many opportunities. Suppliers help facilities switch to more environmentally-friendly lubricants, recycle used products, and minimize hazardous waste. They also track lubricant consumption/loss and advise strategies to eliminate wasteful leaks and practices. These improvements help manufacturers meet sustainability goals and maintain regulatory compliance.

Offering Fluid Analysis

Used lubricant analysis provides invaluable insights into equipment health and lubricant condition. Suppliers offer testing services to identify contaminants, detect early wear, and determine optimal change-out intervals. This predictive maintenance enables manufacturers to avoid unanticipated failures, enhance equipment lifespan, and maximize lubricant usefulness. Suppliers provide fluid analysis along with expert consultation on corrective actions.

Providing Technical Training

Lubricant suppliers have extensive expertise from working with diverse manufacturing operations. Offering training and coaching helps facilities develop lubrication best practices, identify optimization opportunities, implement reliability programs, and sustain improvements. Suppliers educate maintenance teams on lubrication fundamentals, equipment-specific procedures, contamination control, and safety. This knowledge transfer empowers in-house teams.

Stocking & Supplying Accessories

Beyond lubricants, suppliers can provide filtration products, oil analysis equipment, transfer containers, funnels, nozzles, and other accessories that support proper lubrication. Maintaining these items in inventory enables suppliers to be one-stop shops that reliably meet manufacturers’ needs. Quick access to essential accessories keeps equipment running optimally.

Benefits that manufacturers can experience

These value-added services require suppliers to develop deeper strategic relationships with manufacturers. Transactional interactions must become collaborative partnerships where suppliers understand the customer’s operations, goals, and pain points. This enables suppliers to customize service offerings that provide solutions and drive mutual value.

From the manufacturer’s perspective, the benefits of embracing an expanded relationship with trusted suppliers are tremendous. Manufacturers gain expert guidance in areas outside their traditional core competencies. This allows them to enhance operational performance, free up internal resources, and focus their efforts on strategic initiatives that deliver competitive advantages.

However, manufacturers must be discerning about which suppliers to engage at this advanced level. Building strategic partnerships requires significant investment, so suppliers should be evaluated on their technical capabilities, service quality, continuous improvement philosophy and cultural fit. Manufacturers should focus on developing long-term, high-trust relationships where both parties are equally committed to driving improvements.

As manufacturers face increasing pressure to optimize every facet of operations, collaborative relationships with value-focused suppliers will become even more crucial. Companies that cultivate the right partnerships will gain invaluable expertise and support that enables them to concentrate on their core business. With synergistic teams working closely across organizations, manufacturers will be well positioned to maximize efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and competitiveness.

How to build value-added partnerships?

For industrial suppliers looking to evolve beyond transactional interactions, there are several important steps to building value-added partnerships:

  • Invest in technical capabilities and expertise related to customers’ operations, equipment and challenges. Domain expertise is the foundation.
  • Understand each customer’s unique pain points, objectives and culture through active listening and observation. Customize service offerings accordingly.
  • Implement processes for tracking relevant data (lubricant consumption, equipment runtimes, etc) that provide insights into optimization opportunities. Share insights proactively.
  • Develop proactive maintenance programs like fluid analysis, condition monitoring, and predictive lubrication that improve asset reliability. Execute programs diligently.
  • Set improvement goals collaboratively with customers. Continually monitor progress and celebrate shared achievements.
  • Propose optimizations but allow customers to approve recommended changes – don’t overstep bounds of partnership.
  • Handle logistics seamlessly so customers need not worry about stockouts, delivery delays or complicated ordering.
  • Provide training to customers’ teams on technical best practices for lubrication, contamination control, etc. Transfer knowledge.
  • Explore sustainability initiatives that align with customers’ environmental goals and generate cost savings.
  • Offer suggestions even on issues beyond lubrication – suppliers often identify adjacent improvement opportunities.
  • Differentiate through services and expertise so customers value the relationship beyond just cost-competitiveness.

By taking a strategic approach that puts customers’ needs first, industrial suppliers can transition from vendor to value-adding partner. This evolution requires diligent, long-term effort but enables suppliers to become deeply embedded within customers’ operations. The result is a symbiotic relationship where both parties work collaboratively to drive shared value over time.

Final words

With their unique vantage point and expertise, progressive industrial suppliers are delivering tremendous value beyond simply supplying products. Lubricant suppliers in particular are leveraging their strengths to help manufacturers improve asset reliability, efficiency, sustainability, and cost-competitiveness. By making lubrication management a strategic function rather than an operational afterthought, they are cementing partnerships across the manufacturing sector.

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