Services“Our work keeps our customers´machines running”

John Deere’s Euro­pean Parts Distri­b­u­tion Centre (EPDC) supplies Customers throughout Europe with spare parts quickly and reli­ably. Managing Director Matthias Steiner explains how people and tech­nology ensure satis­fied customers and how logis­tics are becoming more effi­cient and sustain­able.

Mr Steiner, how do the people at EPDC ensure customer satis­fac­tion?

It’s quite simple really. We know that our spare parts avail­ability, combined with the service exper­tise of our sales part­ners, is the key to customer satis­fac­tion. This is partic­u­larly notice­able during harvest time, when time is of the essence because a storm may be on the horizon. Our team is aware that our customers (farmers and contrac­tors) cannot work prop­erly without a fast and reli­able supply of spare parts. That’s why we work here 363 days a year to ensure that all spare parts can be deliv­ered as quickly as possible.

Matthias Steiner has led the EPDC since autumn 2023.

How do you ensure the avail­ability of spare parts is fast and reli­able?

During harvest, for example, machine break­down orders play a special role. We can order the required parts and prepare them for dispatch within 45 minutes. A sophis­ti­cated data flow that links auto­mated ware­housing and trans­porta­tion systems with human jobs makes this possible. In this context, I often speak of a harmony between people and tech­nology.

Not every order has to be deliv­ered imme­di­ately. Never­the­less, we are contin­u­ously working on improving our internal processes, from receiving parts to storage and delivery. Data analysis help us to find the optimum storage loca­tion for each part. In addi­tion, the tried-and-tested inter­ac­tion between people and tech­nology is being contin­u­ously improved in order to move the parts through the ware­house more effi­ciently.

We can handle parts that are to be sent by air freight in a sepa­rate area. This saves valu­able delivery time for the customer. The fact that we keep spare parts in stock for at least 15 years after a series is discon­tinued makes owners of older machines feel even more secure.

In the incoming goods depart­ment, ship­ments from 45 trucks are processed every day.

Around 350,000 different parts are stored in the EPDC. How do you plan how many parts of a certain type need to be in stock?

We use tech­nology and data analysis here too – for example, through the intel­li­gent use of telemetry data from our networked machines. The knowl­edge of the machine popu­la­tion, on top of statis­tical eval­u­a­tions, enables us to make even more accu­rate demand fore­casts. This allows us to ensure that the right parts are stored at the EPDC – and this also applies in prin­ciple to our sales part­ners’ stocks. This proac­tive approach is a unique selling point in our industry and should ensure that a required spare part is avail­able from the sales partner and can be picked up directly by the customer from there.

What current chal­lenges in the logis­tics sector do you encounter in the EPDC and how do you deal with them?

We are strug­gling with the shortage of skilled workers. We are working on offering even more appealing work­places, for example by improving ergonomics for employees and offering more part-time posi­tions. In partic­ular, we want to encourage more women to work at the EPDC. We are also trying to counter the rise in logis­tics costs – from customs and diesel prices to pack­aging prices. Thanks to good plan­ning, we are now able to consol­i­date 96% of our retailers’ orders so that we only need one delivery instead of three, for example. This saves costs and CO2, so it also contributes to sustain­ability.

In the high-frequency zone, employees put together many small parts for ship­ping.

Parts that are shipped by air freight are handled in a sepa­rate area.

That’s a key word, sustain­ability: What is the EPDC doing here to contribute?

We are one of the first John Deere sites to have a large photo­voltaic system on the roof here at Bruchsal and have had it for 10 years now. This covers 12% of our onsite energy consump­tion. In addi­tion, we generate a further 18% of elec­tricity and all the heat for our produc­tion processes and heating systems from renew­able sources at the site.

We are reducing the amount of plastic pack­aging in the filling mate­rial for our ship­ments and instead use paper, which is processed in special machines as trans­port protec­tion. We have also intro­duced pack­aging with 30% grass content for smaller deliv­eries. They use less water and energy in produc­tion, which means they have a signif­i­cantly better carbon foot­print.

In addi­tion to the activ­i­ties at the site, we can also posi­tively influ­ence the supply chain through good plan­ning. This allows us to reduce short-term deliv­eries through better fore­casting. This means fewer deliv­eries by air and there­fore lower emis­sions for each delivery.

The EPDC in figures

99.7 %
is the delivery reli­a­bility of the EPDC. Even at the height of the coro­n­avirus pandemic, this figure never fall below 99 %.

If neces­sary, it can take as little as 45 minutes
until the parts for a broken-down machine order are picked and ready for dispatch.

different types of parts are stored in the EPDC.

You have been managing the EPDC since autumn 2023. What were your first impres­sions?

In my last John Deere role as customer service manager, I had already come into contact with the EPDC. In this respect, I was already quite familiar with some of the topics here and knew how well we were posi­tioned.

What impressed me were the complexity of the processes, the high degree of automa­tion we have and how the many small cogs inter­lock. I also imme­di­ately noticed the good atmos­phere in the work­force of over 650 employees. The co-oper­a­tion is marked by a pronounced focus on the customer, very respectful inter­ac­tions with one another and a high level of profes­sion­alism and expe­ri­ence in completing the tasks. In this context, the Works Council always speaks of the Bruchsal spirit. It describes the family atmos­phere at the loca­tion very well.