Parts of the Solution

Ipsen USA’s Parts Manager, Christina Connelly, gives an update on the reformation of the Ipsen Customer Service Parts Team.

Imagine joining the parts department of a 75-year-old company that’s growing. The demand for consumable and replacement parts is up among customers that are represented on a global scale. Decades old machines continue to operate alongside newly shipped furnaces. Every machine is responsible for producing a steady stream of heat-treated metal to meet an exacting schedule of downstream customers. In a world that has grown accustomed to immediate feedback and prompt delivery, Ipsen’s Parts Department is pushing to meet these expectations.

Christina Connelly came to Ipsen USA from another demanding job – serving in operations for a major defense contractor for 22 years. The pressure from the federal government as well as the end users meant that her systems needed to be impeccable – both efficient and accurate – for the contractor to be profitable on the thinnest of margins.

Having an eye for building efficient systems, Connelly and the expanding parts team took a significant step towards what has become, over the past two years, a continuous improvement plan, including embracing the Kaizen philosophy of change.

“We had outgrown our existing structure as the organization had grown and evolved. We had to figure out operationally what a successful parts team looked like,” Connelly explained. “We had to answer the questions ‘What do we have to do to turn around a quote to a customer efficiently’ as well as ‘What don’t we need to be doing?’ ‘What can we control and fix?’ and ‘What are the major challenges that come with change?’”

Christina  Connelly, Ipsen Customer Service Parts Manager
Christina Connelly, Ipsen Customer Service Parts Manager
Ipsen vacuum furnace with spare parts toolbox

Adding Technology to the Toolbox

Two of the ways Ipsen’s Parts Team looked to streamline the turnaround from customer first contact to delivery was to ask better questions, and to better spread the service work across a growing team.

Connelly talked about how the department heads knew that it was important to be asking the right questions of the client from the first contact. “Filling out the request form is the most valuable information for us to have. We needed to consider our audience – are they comfortable filling out an online request form? How do we get the word out to our customers about the importance of collecting this information?”

The parts team has been rolling out this new request form across a small group of customers as a beta test – getting client feedback and implementing changes that help make the process work best under real-world conditions.

Spreading out the work across a growing team has been its own challenge. “We have a lot of longevity on our team,” Connelly shared, “but we had some of our staff retire, including one member who had over 40 years of service. New sales specialists aren’t going to immediately replace that sort of experience.” The parts team started collaborating about how to better share information, divide the workload, and be more effective at creating a quicker turnaround and response time.

“We needed to better automate inbound requests,” Connelly said. “Now, with our email system, customers can send their parts orders to and expect to get an immediate response that the request has been received, and that their order is automatically assigned to a sales specialist and tracked by our team.”

Order tracking is another way that technology is helping Ipsen customers see immediate improvements, as the Transportation Management System has been integrated. “When a shipment leaves our facility, the customer receives an email with a PO number, tracking number, and a shipping notice.” TMS eliminates customer uncertainty and gives them confidence about when to expect their shipment, allows them to plan for the parts installation, and helps their operations team get a better sense of when the furnace will be back online.

The Trend is Your Friend

Embracing and improving order tracking technology will help Ipsen better pre-stock frequently ordered parts. Ipsen is working towards automation strategies that will also help customers look at parts that they’ve ordered, with an eye on helping them build their own parts inventory for repetitive purchase to avoid down time. Order tracking systems can also help customers avoid the time loss of requiring a requote on frequently purchased parts, allowing them to simply check the price and place the reorder.

But it’s not the technology alone that will keep up with the demands of Ipsen furnace operators, finding the right candidates to grow the parts team is a priority for Ipsen. In the last year, Ipsen has added specialized roles to the team including a parts administrator, pricing analyst and a parts engineer. While the department is significantly larger than when Connelly arrived, continuing to grow the team will help to meet the current demand.

“We’re looking for two experienced sales specialists to add to our team. Once we hire them, customers will experience an immediate increase in responsiveness,” Connelly said.

“As we continue to clean up documentation, and implement new systems, we’ve seen process improvements over the past two years. With staff growth and continuous improvement, we’ve got a lot of things in the hopper.”

One of the biggest impacts on the future of the Parts Department is the growth of Ipsen Connect, Ipsen’s online customer portal. As more customers sign up for the service, requesting parts quotes and tracking order status of parts becomes more transparent. Participating companies are already seeing the advantage of finding schematics and part numbers easier, placing a repeat order for frequently replaced parts, and checking the shipping status and tracking number of open orders directly from the platform.

“Ipsen is looking at ways to continue to support our customers and be better partners,” Connelly assured. “There’s no shortage of work behind the scenes to search for improvements and ways to be a better resource for our customers.”