People, Parts, Performance

Sales Manager Kelly Oberhardt (center) finds the modern cubicle arrangement in the KONE Spares office allows for impromptu conferences when the need arises.

KONE Spares has refined its practices over time, but its priorities have remained the same.

Situated on the banks of the Mississippi River in Moline, Illinois, the KONE Spares office and its location present a dichotomy of sorts. The modern eight-story office tower was the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building in the state and features elevators with destination control; a progressive, egalitarian cubicle setup; and wall-to-wall windows facing the river. It is set adjacent to the gentle, lapping muddy waters of the Mississippi, where eagles fly overhead throughout the winter and crew teams have their early morning practices. It is the natural versus the manmade, the rugged versus the sleek, the old versus the new, existing in perfect harmony. This seems especially fitting for a company that stores and sells some of the oldest elevator and escalator parts in the country, while at the same time researching and reengineering those parts, improving them to better serve today’s needs.

“We not only sell the parts, but we improve the parts.”
— Mario Jones, manager, Life Cycle Management and Product Reliability

In 2000, KONE made a shift that proved significant: it centralized its service center, creating one location in the U.S. to handle its service business needs, while broadening the spare parts division. This would allow all the materials, personnel and processes for service business to be based in Moline for North America. KONE Spares joined the 21st century with advances in technology that allowed the company to “become not only integrated with our branches but also globally aligned,” explained Mary Lewis, offerings manager, Package Service Repairs:

“We were transitioning to SAP’s software at that time, and it allowed us to see all of our service centers and data from all over the globe. We had 2,000 back orders every day and four people in purchasing. When we decided to centralize, our leadership said, ‘If we’re going to do this, we’re going to be the best at it.’”

Today, KONE Spares offers a 15-person, streamlined, expansive centralized purchasing and stock procurement department, along with other services supported by the 54 team members who make up the total KONE Spares group. From the warehouse/logistics operation to the accounting, sales, business processes excellence and engineering departments, KONE Spares rigorously trains its employees, making sure they are knowledgeable, safety conscious and service oriented. “We hire for the right attitude, and we promote from within. I know if people care, it makes all the difference,” explained Lewis, who has been with Spares since 2000, held multiple titles, and is described as “the heart and soul” of the operation. “Over the years, we have refined our processes and created good practices. Customer satisfaction is our feedback.”

Those practices include “providing the right part at the right time at the right price,” according to Wayne Dowty, director, KONE Spares – Americas and a 31-year veteran of the company. KONE Spares has access to an inventory of hundreds of thousands of different parts valued at more than US$116.5 million for both KONE and non-KONE (other OEM) equipment. KONE Spares maintains agreements with strategic supply partners, creating offsite inventory and drop shipping locations that help minimize equipment downtime and increase efficiency. According to Dowty:

“We know efficiency is important. We are always asking, ‘How can we grow and improve?’ Over time, we have made it easy. We’ve created ‘next-level’ solutions with our new packaged service repair offerings. In our warehouse, we are ready with everything you’ll need to replace a particular part, or any associated parts the equipment requires for an efficient repair.”

Customers can more quickly identify their needed part and determine if KONE Spares sells it by using the KONE PartsView® online parts catalog and parts identification tool. Numbers for more than 100,000 parts are loaded into the catalog, with full pictures, assembly drawings and additional cross-reference numbers to help with accurate parts identification. 

The KONE Spares’ face to the industry is its eight-person Sales Department. The team has all original job listings dating back over 100 years, digitized and searchable electronically, and can tell customers what is found and replaceable within their equipment. According to KONE Spares Sales Manager Kelly Oberhardt, who has risen through the ranks of various customer service positions, “Our team is dedicated to finding the best solutions with the most fulsome support in the industry. We work closely with our customers to ensure their satisfaction and success for their projects.”

Mario Jones, manager, Life Cycle Management & Product Reliability, and his engineering team have taken up the mantle of ‘next-level’ solutions by creating innovative obsolescence solutions to prolong equipment life, lessen equipment downtime and improve efficiencies in maintaining all types of OEM equipment. The team manages and coordinates hardware and software information and tasks associated with specific equipment lifecycles. These efforts allow the team to provide customers with support and technical assistance as their vertical-transportation equipment travels through its operational lifecycle.

“Over the years, we have refined our processes and created good practices. Customer satisfaction is our feedback.”
— Mary Lewis, offerings manager, Package Service Repairs

“We not only sell the parts, but we improve the parts,” stressed Jones, whose engineering team spends time creating “upgrades” to older parts that need new solutions. According to Jones, a 37-year KONE veteran, the team has spent seven years developing a differential handrail drive, solving a long-term problem. Other “upgrades” include new cast step replacements designed to keep escalators looking new; service tools designed to aid technicians in diagnostics and adjustments; escalator safety upgrades and refurbishment packages; replacement upgrades for control systems and various safety upgrades. “We feel an obligation to the industry,” Jones explained. “And, in the engineering department, we look back, but we also look forward. We see what’s coming, and that is exciting.”

With 66 KONE branches in the U.S. and 14 in Canada, KONE Spares stocks 37% KONE parts and 63% non-KONE equipment. According to Lewis:

“Over time, by listening to our customers and learning their needs, we’ve refined our warehouse processes, and we now have over 12,000 standing parts and 250,000 parts we need knowledge of. We have 500 suppliers, which is low, considering in 2000, we had 1,800. Twenty of our suppliers get 80% of our business. And, there is not a better or best sold; it’s only the best. We have internal and external purchasing teams, and we understand all critical field requirements. Over time, as customer feedback challenged us that prices were too high, we began a market-based evaluation for every part and have adjusted when off the mark. Today, things are going very well, and our business continues to grow. Most importantly to our customers, our end goal is reduction of call backs and labor spend. That is where the real savings and efficiencies lie.”

It’s been 18 years since KONE took a chance and changed its service model, creating KONE Spares. Today, the company prides itself on its “customer-centric thinking.” According to Dowty, “people, parts and performance” are the center of the KONE Spares story. Lewis agrees, adding, “And, we’re a lot of fun to deal with. Our customers like that. We have friends at all levels; we’ve developed long relationships, and real partnerships with both customers and suppliers. And, at the end of the day, we do what we say we’re going to do.”

Elevator World Editor / VP of Editorial

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