Rowenta Irons Out Inventory Challenges

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Tags: Inventory Management, Customer Service, Sustainability

Keith Biondo is the publisher of Inbound Logistics magazine.

Where do I go when it is too painful to watch TV? To my garage workbench. As it happens, my daughter had a project for me. Her pricey Rowenta iron was staining and scorching clothes. I can’t fix what’s going on in the world, but I’ll try my hand at this!

Having broken several appliances while fixing them, I’ve learned to get expert guidance first. I put the iron on my workbench and headed to the Rowenta website looking for the user manual. In addition to irons, Rowenta, a multinational global company, manufactures home appliances including heaters, vacuum cleaners, fans, air purifiers, and humidifiers.

However, my search on Rowenta.com turned up something I was not looking for—insight into Rowenta’s business model and the company’s philosophy of using supply chain management to serve their customers better than all others in the home appliance sector.

As part of an ongoing sustainability initiative, the company has spent the past 10 years developing “eco-intelligent” products, explains Alain Pautrot, vice president of consumer satisfaction for Rowenta.

The front end to that starts with product engineering teams who craft small appliances with longevity and repair-ability in mind. On the back end, they sought to guarantee “that repairs will generally cost less than a new product,” Pautrot says, and that the spare parts will be globally available at their network of repair centers “within a few days—for 10 years after purchase,” he adds.

How can the home appliances Rowenta manufactures last or be quickly repairable for “at least 10 years”? The company backs that goal with an inventory investment and global supply chain operation with a stated mission: to stock a global network of repair stations with spare and repair parts available to support repair for at least one decade after the appliance was first manufactured.

“We realize that our products are deserving of a long life,” Pautrot says. What gives his statement legs? Maintaining a global inventory of nearly six million spare parts in 165,000 square feet of global warehouse space.

It gets better. Rowenta sets aside half of those parts to repair products it no longer manufactures. Finally, the repair life cycle can be “extended indefinitely,” says Pautrot, with the use of additive manufacturing, or 3D printing.

It all adds up. You have sustainable product design, a massive global inventory stock, rapid delivery of repair parts, and 3D printing technology all combining to drive supply chain operations that support an incredible commitment to customer service.

Oh, and that iron is still on my workbench. I’ve got at least 10 years to try and repair it.

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