Smooth Operators: How Linde is upping its customer service game

The LINDE PLANTSERV™ portal – offering customers a digital marketplace for ease and expertise.

When your shopping list is as varied as: smart TV, film for camera, “French grammar” book, groceries and insect repellent, there’s only one thing for it: Amazon…or indeed any other digital marketplace. It’s clicks on the screen rather than clicks in the car as you go from shop to shop. And think of the time savings – next day delivery usually! But do you pay a price for ease of use? At the end of the day, going shop to shop means you speak to experts and get the reassurance that what you’re getting really is what you want. Linde has recently come up with a marketplace of its own for industrial gas customers – one that can provide both ease of use and the reassurance of expertise. It’s part of the LINDE PLANTSERV™ portal and it illustrates how the company is constantly striving to enhance customer experience.

The background picture of LINDE PLANTSERV. The plant in Mirfa, Abu Dhabi is depicted.
LINDE PLANTSERV™: doubling down on digitalisation to better serve customers
On this picture you can see the managing director of LINDE PLANTSERV Dr Ferdinand Kuehner(portrait)
Keeping the customers satisfied: Dr Ferdinand Kühner, Director, LINDE PLANTSERV™

A cure for the spare part headache

Industrial gas plants – arguably some of the most complex engineering structures in the world – are not exempt from requiring aftersales care. Indeed, it is the case that over time, worn and defective valves, seals and compressors need to be replaced, but it is all too often reported as a common pain point for customers. As engineers, it’s not really their job, it takes up too much time – many phonecalls and back and forths to find the right suppliers and even then, quality couldn’t be guaranteed. Now, thanks to LINDE PLANTSERV™ portal, all of this can be done online with ease.

“We developed an e-marketplace where customers can identify spare parts and immediately see prices or automatically get multiple quotes,” explains Dr Ferdinand Kühner, Managing Director, LINDE PLANTSERV™. “As a result, customers are spending 90% less effort to identify parts and 30% less effort to obtain competitive offers for those parts.”

So how does it work? Firstly, the customer can click on any part on its own personalised clickable plant diagram: a digital double if you will. The customer then gets all the relevant information relating to that replacement part. So that’s the ease of use covered – but what about the quality assurance? Well that’s the real winner.

At this point, Linde Engineering checks the part according to any safety or regulation directives. Linde then sends the requirements to several vendors who provide quotes directly to the customer via a user-friendly interface. One such customer is Wacker Chemie AG who had only good things to say about the dual benefit of speed and verification:

“The Linde PLANTSERV™ portal takes the guesswork out of ordering spare parts, and the transparent offer overview is a great help to our procurement team,” says Martin Maier, Teamlead Operations, Wacker Chemie AG. His colleague, Klaus Messmann, Operations Manager echoes the sentiments: “Thanks to Linde’s verification service, we are always sure we get the right parts, when we need them and at a competitive price,” he adds.

Digitalisation: The key enabler

Linde’s aftersales services portfolio was recently rebranded under LINDE PLANTSERV: a comprehensive, one-stop shop aiming to further enhance the customer experience. The PLANTSERV team, led by Kühner, consists of 60 dedicated employees in Munich with a further 40 world-wide and a engineering team within the matrix organization – each with in-depth technological expertise and a wealth of experience across all four of Linde Engineering’s major products: air separation units, natural gas plants, petrochemical plants and hydrogen and synthesis gas plants. As engineers, they know the plants better than anyone else – they did design and build them after all.

As well as spare part management, PLANTSERV covers plant modifications and revamps, maintenance and repair, training and operational support: all necessary elements for cost-efficient and safe plant operation. But increasingly so, digitalisation is the key enabler for the enhanced services offering.

“It’s all about scaling the expertise,” explains Kühner, “When you’re looking at how you can optimise services for customers without bringing extra costs to the table, you immediately start to think of ways in which you can benefit from digitalisation,” he adds.

Indeed, the suite of digital services is growing: it’s a journey that Linde started and is set to continue. As well as the portal, LINDE PLANTSERV offers remote monitoring, predictive maintenance, virtual trainings and augmented reality (AR) based repairs via LindeGO.

“Since Linde Gas operates most of its plants through Remote Operating Centres (ROCs), we are in the unique position where we can combine our domain know-how with the huge data sets collected on these servers,” explains Kühner.  “We can use this data to see how efficiently and reliably facilities are operating as well as for predictive maintenance.”

The portal – and indeed many of the digital services available – was developed by Linde Engineering in close collaboration with the digitalisation team based at the Digital Base Camp in Pullach. It is this team that is currently leveraging the vast streams of historical data relating to plant operations that Linde has at its fingertips. And it seems it is just getting started.

“Right now, we are focusing on the core. But there will be extensions to come,” says Kühner, “spare part tracking via QR codes, spare part exchange between customers…we have over 50 ideas!”

Symbolic picture to illustrate the LINDE PLANTSERV (TM) Portal for industrial plant operators. It provides rapid identification and ordering of spare parts. Picture shows a computer monitor displaying clickable plant diagrams.
Spare parts in a matter of clicks: LINDE PLANTSERV™ portal is based on clickable plant diagrams.