Insights from industry

The Importance of Dedicated Furnace Aftermarket Support

Purchasing a furnace represents a huge financial investment, and for smaller businesses it can be the most expensive part of their operations. As a result,  properly caring for your furnace is essential, as well as buying from a furnace manufacturer who you can trust to help you take care of your investment.

We spoke to Pete Kerbel, from Ipsen, about the important factors to consider when purchasing a furnace and what sets Ipsen's aftermarket program apart from their competitors.

What are the common questions your customers ask when purchasing a furnace?

It depends, because if someone has bought a heat-treating system before then they’re usually pretty well versed in the process and already have a good idea of what they want.

If they haven’t bought a furnace before, though, then it’s definitely a new experience where they’re learning as they go. They’re determining the right furnace for them with the proper hot zone design, quench pressure, controls, work area, vacuum levels, utility requirements, fixture design, footprint, etc. All of the things that, if you already have a furnace and an established process, might be a familiar conversation that you move through relatively quickly. It’s the difference between a customer who specs out the type of furnace they want and a customer who says, “Here is my product. Please help me find a solution and a furnace that is the right fit.”

So I would say that the questions really vary and evolve as new customers make their way through the evaluation process to buy the right equipment. I have found that what often starts as a “we would like to bring this process in-house and own it” task often changes into helping them find the right furnace that fits their specific needs.

While questions can vary vastly from one customer to another, I would recommend every new buyer know the answers to these five questions before beginning the buying process:

  1. What is your budget? Most companies are looking for a quick return on investment. If you don’t have the work to support a large investment, then it will be difficult to justify the purchase.
  2. What process are you running in the equipment? Knowing this can influence what type of furnace is truly right for you (and your parts).
  3. Do you have the expertise needed to run the equipment and get quality work, or do you plan to train and/or hire someone with the necessary experience?
  4. What is the volume of parts you need to run on a daily, weekly and monthly basis? And what are your largest, smallest and highest volume part numbers?
  5. How much space do you have for a furnace, and what modifications and/or additions will your facility need to support the new furnace?

Why is aftermarket support important for industries that use heat treatment equipment?

To answer this question, I think it’s first important to understand that we build our equipment to last for decades. It’s a large capital investment, and depending on the company’s size, it could be the most expensive piece of equipment they ever buy.

With that in mind, aftermarket support has never been more vital to the companies and industries Ipsen serves. Upkeep on our equipment is essential and something for which all companies have to plan. Whether you have a reactive, proactive or predictive maintenance plan, you need a company that supports your preferred methodology.

This is where Ipsen excels. We have a large and highly qualified group of aftermarket specialists that prides themselves on helping our customers keep their equipment running. I have found that the path to maintaining a long-term relationship that is beneficial to both the customer and supplier involves offering a high-quality product, as well as a supportive Service and Aftermarket Team that is there for them throughout the entire life of the equipment.

What sets Ipsen’s ICS (Ipsen Customer Service) Team apart in the thermal processing industry? What benefits do you deliver to customers?

I think part of what sets our aftermarket team apart is our focus on the customer experience. We don’t just provide parts or basic upgrades, we provide solutions that are tailored to each customer’s specific needs. When we encounter roadblocks, we work hard to find a solution.

As a result, customers benefit from our technical expertise, our focus on maintaining long-term relationships and our belief in doing things the right way. As part of this belief, we continuously strive to improve and refine the quality, fit and finish of our products.

To us, quality isn’t just the materials we use, or how the final product performs. We also measure quality in the range of services we offer, the expertise of the people we hire and the innovative, industry-leading heat treatment solutions we can provide.

How does the ICS Team work with customers to deliver custom solutions for their problems? Are there any examples of which you are especially proud?

As I just mentioned, we take great pride in putting the customer experience first. As part of that, we work tirelessly to support our customers’ complete value chain. This means they can rely on us to give them practical, reliable advice, as well as to supply a spare part, engineered solution or in-depth training that supports their needs.

A recent example of this was a customer that had a unique request to design a hot zone that provided them with a very specific and highly controllable cooling pattern. Whenever a customer comes to us, we believe it should be a collaborative process. So we sat down with them to discuss their process requirements, design goals, timeline, budget and so on.

Throughout these discussions and the project as a whole, we made sure to think about their end goal and the effects any modifications to the equipment could have on it. We want our customers to have a seamless experience, and so we do this for all the projects we work on. It doesn’t matter if we’re working from a blank slate, updating a newer design or just replacing an obsolete component, everything we do is designed around the customer.

Once our ICS Team and the customer decided on the full scope of the project, we collaborated with them from the design phase all the way through fabrication, testing and acceptance. Even more importantly, the end product met their process, specification, budget and timeline requirements.

What is something that you find people don’t realize the ICS Team does? Is there anything you wish more people were aware of?

I think there are two primary things that most people don’t realize the ICS Team, and Ipsen as a whole, do. The first is that we service and support almost all vacuum or atmosphere furnaces. Second, is that we are not just a furnace manufacturer, but also a solution provider. That means we help with plant layout, material handling and almost any ancillary equipment needed for the furnace.

I would also like to note that our ICS Team has tremendous capabilities and a remarkable wealth of knowledge. This includes tenured people with an extensive background and knowledge base customers can rely on. Our Engineering Team is second-to-none in the industry and thrives on tackling difficult projects from which most others would walk away.  

We’re more than our backgrounds and capabilities, though. We are a hardworking team that cares very much about our customers and doing things the right way.

Are there challenges that your ICS Team face? How do you handle these?

Like any industry or company, there are always challenges to overcome in one form or another. There is product growth and innovation, a whole host of suppliers to work with and a team of people that all bring something different to the table with a diverse mix of personalities and ideas.

Here at Ipsen, in particular, we are seeing a lot of growth. As we continue to grow and advance, one of the challenges we find ourselves faced with is how to find new ways to train and inspire skilled workers. However, we have found some ways to tackle this challenge. One way we do this is by taking the time to pair our new hires with different technical experts so they can receive hands-on training in a structured setting.

Because of our growth and focus on providing the best aftermarket services, we have expanded our global footprint of Field Service Engineers. With strategic global Regional Service Centers, we are better positioned to support our customers’ needs locally. Each location is also equipped with Regional Managers and highly skilled Field Service Engineers, meaning we can provide the immediate, local support customers need – all over the world.

Of course, regardless of your location, our customers all have access to the Aftermarket Support Helpline (1-844-Go-Ipsen). This user-friendly service quickly connects our customers with a team of technical experts so they can receive immediate support.

In the end, I think that because we focus on having a positive culture based around hard work and doing things the right way, we handle the challenges by focusing on our goals. If there is a challenge that comes up, we want the solution to align with our goals: to do things the right way, to take care of our customers, to continue to grow and to be a better company.

What developments/changes do you expect the ICS Team to undergo in the coming years?

I expect that we will see a lot of growth, which to me is very exciting that we still have room to grow, get better and continue to be a leader in the industry. As part of this, I think Ipsen will emphasize a few key areas over the next few years.

The first is our focus on doubling our global service network over the next five years. Even though we have a great team, we truly believe the path to being the best is through aftermarket support. Which is why we are going to focus on bolstering our people and our products so we can provide more custom solutions. As part of this, we are going to increase the investments we’re making in new innovations so we can continue to further differentiate our products and offer more solutions.

And of course, as I mentioned earlier, we are focused on growing the Ipsen Team. What makes this really exciting, though, is we’re not just focused on hiring qualified candidates. We’re also dedicating ourselves to maintaining a winning culture characterized by trust, cooperative leadership, open communication and teamwork.

If there was one piece of advice you could give to customers, what would it be?

Do the little things to keep your equipment running.

I can’t tell you how big of a difference it makes in the long run to be proactive about taking care of your equipment versus reactive.

On top of that, don’t be afraid to rely on and work with Ipsen to support your equipment. If you’re on your own, you have to figure it all out by yourself. But if you partner with us, we have the knowledge and expertise to help. Plus, we pride ourselves on being able to save our customers time and money.

Where can our readers find out more about their options for aftermarket service and support?

For those that prefer to look up information on their own, check out our website at. Otherwise, we would love to chat with you; just give us a call at 1-844-Go-Ipsen.

Finally, I just want to mention again that we are in if for the long haul. If you are looking for someone to partner with – Ipsen is the right choice. I encourage any one of you to find another furnace manufacturer that offers the range of support and services that Ipsen does.

About Pete Kerbel

As Vice President of Sales for Ipsen USA, Pete Kerbel’s primary focus is providing unique insight into customer needs, as well as solutions that continue to enhance the customer experience. Pete joined Ipsen in 2008 as a Sales Engineer, and during that time, he gained valuable experience with furnace function, design and process, as well as troubleshooting and providing aftermarket solutions for hot zones, controls and upgrades.

His subsequent roles as Midwest Sales Manager, Manager of the Engineered Components Group and Director of Aftermarket Sales contributed to his technical background and allowed him to develop strong working relationships both internally and with customers across multiple industries.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Ask A Question

Do you have a question you'd like to ask regarding this article?

Leave your feedback
Submit