By: Paul Kundinger

This article was originally published in The Business News on March 29, 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to adapt at a rate not seen in many years. It changed the way many businesses operate, and those changes may mean businesses do not revert to the old ways of doing things. While our society has changed the way it works, the way it has gone about adopting those changes is very similar to how we adapt to new technological advances every year.

What do I mean by this?

For example, look at life before the cell phone versus after it, or who remembers life before the internet? Something as simple as buying movies is now almost obsolete because of streaming services that put all our movies, TV shows, music, even voice calls all at the click of a remote.

Technology is constantly changing, and companies need to keep up. For many manufacturing and large-equipment suppliers in the area, the cost to keep up with these technological advances is nearly impossible. That is why companies that specialize in aftermarket products and services are particularly relevant. These companies serve as the go-between for older, outdated plant floor machines and up-and-coming technology.

By definition, according to the MerriamWebster dictionary, the term aftermarket is the market for parts and accessories used in the repair or enhancement of a product.

Aftermarket solutions are many times a direct result of a third-party vendor who has uncovered a problem with a product or machine and created a solution to help companies fix the issue.

Following is an example of how aftermarket solutions made a difference for one local lawn and garden manufacturing company.

A machine went down for the company and they were told that the replacement parts they needed would take eight weeks to come in.

As anyone who knows how business works in manufacturing, eight weeks of downtime would have had a detrimental impact on the company and cost them thousands of dollars.

That one machine would also cause a ripple effect in the entire production line, leading to more lost revenue.

In this instance, a third-party engineer was able to come in, review the situation and offer a solution to get the machine up and working again by repairing the part. The part was repaired in a fraction of the time, at a fraction of the cost and eventually, that part was replaced with newer technology.

However, that replacement came at a time when the company could plan and budget for that machine to be replaced instead of having to shut it down unannounced due to a broken part. All in all, the company saved money by using an aftermarket solution to keep production running.

Evolving with the market can be critical. Aftermarket technology is the key.

Technology has also helped retrofit older legacy machinery with aftermarket products that provide more connectivity to the plant floor and therefore, more insights into productivity.

These aftermarket advances help products like pumps connect to the Internet of Things (IoT) which then classifies them as “smart products.”

Although this technology is still new, it intricately impacts the pump industry and gives manufacturers and machine operators the ability to improve processes, eliminate downtime and even get ahead of preventative maintenance.

Smart pumps provide the type of connectivity needed to document every detail about how the pump works using operational sensors and a fully connected, predictive analysis engine.

This allows the plant floor engineers to know how the pump is performing at day one, on day 365, or five years after it was installed.

One can imagine if an entire plant floor was retrofitted with technology like this. It would help predict potential issues before they happen. This would allow the plant to schedule downtime for maintenance when it least impacts the production line.

How do these IoT-fitted pumps and devices work together? The process involves both wireless connectivity through Bluetooth and Wi-Fi as well as wired connectivity through cabling such as Ethernet.

Using all these technologies together, machines and entire plant floors can be accessed from virtually anywhere. Technicians can monitor the machinery from an iPad a hundred miles away and schedule maintenance from the comfort of their home if needed.

These examples showcase just how important it is for manufacturers to partner with aftermarket companies. These third-party vendors have broad networks of vendors allowing them access to different aftermarket repair parts. By partnering with a third-party vendor, companies have access to these parts and solutions. The more access a company has, the faster it can get back up and running.

Technology and the world we are living in today are constantly changing. The people and companies that learn to adapt will continue to come out the strongest. Companies that are a part of the aftermarket industry are experts in change and will continue to provide solutions to help companies adapt to the new connected age.