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Opinion: The Parts dilemma – OEM or Pirates?

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An interview with Paul Kohle, Director, Sales and Sales Support, Asset Management Services at Wärtsilä

Keeping up with latest part designs a challenge for non-OEM suppliers

For vessel equipment repairs, there is usually a choice to be made between Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts from the manufacturers and accredited suppliers of the installed machinery, and less costly copied parts from non-OEM suppliers. In these times of reduced profit margins and amid the continuous pressure to reduce costs, owners and operators are often tempted to opt for the less expensive alternative. We asked Paul Kohle, Director, Sales and Sales Support, Asset Management Services at Wärtsilä, the company with the marine industry’s most extensive portfolio of products and systems, to give his company’s viewpoint in this discussion.
DryDock: So what is wrong with a fleet owner deciding to use less expensive parts to repair his assets?
Paul Kohle: We are aware that our customers always have a choice, but can they be sure of getting exactly the right part with the exact quality and reliability needed? Unfortunately, this is seldom the case. If a part is not precisely right, meaning dimension-wise, or to the demanding specifications of modern machinery, or with the correct material quality, it can eventually lead to a component failure. This in turn can cause a major, and very costly breakdown.
DryDock: Are you saying, therefore, that non-OEM parts are in effect dangerous?
Paul Kohle: No, of course not. I am sure that there are many non-OEM parts being supplied with adequate quality. However, it is self-evident that the manufacturer of the installed equipment or a fully authorized OEM supplier, is in the best position to supply the correct parts needed to repair that equipment. At Wärtsilä we are constantly improving and developing our products in our R&D work, and as we gain ongoing operational experience. On top of that, every part we supply has undergone extensive laboratory and field tests to ensure that it precisely complies with the specifications. This ensures that the equipment runs at optimal efficiency, thereby delivering reduced OPEX in areas such as fuel and lubricating oil consumption.
DryDock: And what about warranty? Is that a consideration?
Paul Kohle: Very much so. In 2016 we upgraded our warranty programme for spare parts. Whereas previously the guarantee was for 12 months from the date of delivery, or 6 months from installation, whichever came first, today our parts are guaranteed for 18 months from the delivery date or for 12 months from installation, whichever comes later. This gives the asset owner confidence knowing that we fully back the quality, safety, reliability, and durability of our spare parts.
DryDock: Yes, OK I can see your point. But you must agree that cost management is of major importance in today’s maritime environment. So if cost savings can be made by obtaining copy parts at lower prices, why not go for it, even if there is a slight risk involved?
Paul Kohle: The key word in your question is ‘risk’. The risk is that the less expensive copy part may not be precisely engineered for the application it has to serve. At Wärtsilä, we are continuously working to improve our product offering, which means that we are also continuously upgrading our parts to meet the very latest specifications of our equipment. Plus, we carry inventories of all parts for all generational product designs, and our state-of-the-art Global Logistics Center ensures that the correct parts are delivered wherever and whenever they are needed. The end result is that having the right parts ensures the improved performance and efficiency of the equipment. This should have a greater value than short-term marginal parts cost savings.

Wärtsilä OEM Spare Parts & Service

The importance of maintaining optimal performance has become a key factor in reducing operating costs and maintaining profitability for ship owners and operators everywhere. This means that the onboard machinery and systems must function at maximum efficiency, and that should repairs be necessary, the correct parts must be readily available in order to minimise downtime.

Quality OEM parts and service from suppliers such as Wärtsilä are critical to ensuring that these criteria are met. These OEM parts are manufactured to precise specifications using high quality materials, and are extensively tested before being approved for use. They have 24/7 online availability from large inventories, and will be shipped on receipt of order from modern, highly efficient, logistic centres. Furthermore, Wärtsilä’s OEM parts are backed by a warranty that is valid for 18 months from the date of delivery, or 12 months following installation – whichever comes later.
As equipment is upgraded and improved to deliver better performance with greater cost efficiencies and improved environmental sustainability, so too must the parts be matched to the appropriate equipment generation. OEM parts can be trusted to be exactly right for the equipment to be repaired, while highly skilled and trained service personnel ensure that the overhaul is conducted to the correct standards. For dry docking applications, advance planning with OEM parts suppliers can be made to ensure that the right parts and service personnel are available. Wärtsilä can also offer underwater repairs to avoid dry docking altogether.

The case for OEM parts and service is not hard to make. They deliver peace of mind in knowing that they are expertly designed to the latest specifications to provide the reliability, performance, and efficiency needed in today’s operational environment. By optimising performance, the total cost of ownership is lowered, which represents real customer value that far exceeds possible short-term savings in the cost of individual parts from non-OEM suppliers.

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