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September 14, 2023 | 14 Mins Read

3 Pillars of GEA’s Service Transformation

September 14, 2023 | 14 Mins Read

3 Pillars of GEA’s Service Transformation


In a session from the Future of Field Service Live Tour in Paris, Sarah talks with Sebastien Garric, Director Service Liquid and Powder Technologies, France and Maghreb at GEA Group, about the company’s focus on mindset, customer experience, and operational efficiency.

Sebastien Garric: Sarah.

Sarah Nicastro: Come on up. Thanks for being here.

Sebastien Garric: Brilliant.

Sarah Nicastro: Go ahead and make yourself comfortable. I will try and do the same.

Sebastien Garric: Thanks.

Sarah Nicastro: I'm always nervous with a tall chair. I'll fall off in front of everyone. Let's hope not.

Sebastien Garric: I will take care of you. Don't worry.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay, thank you. That's good service. Okay, so what we're going to be talking about with Sebastien is GEA's transformation and some of the factors that are most important in that transformation, specifically mindset, customer centricity, and operational efficiency. Before we get into that, Sebastien, can you tell everyone a bit about yourself?

Sebastien Garric: Yeah. Thank you for being here. It's a pleasure and also to be here with all of you. Thank you. So my name is Sebastien Garric. I'm 45. I'm married with three kids, nice kids that I really appreciate. I started my career in a very small company. Its name is Coca-Cola. During 10 years where I'm at different roles, starting from logistics and then moved to production and project management in different plants. So, I had the chance to know a lot about transformation, organization, production efficiency, and what agility means.

So then I started in GEA almost nine years ago, and I'm pretty sure that we have to explain what GEA is doing.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Sebastien Garric: So we are a technical company, and we are also producing a line for our customers. What does that mean? Is that we are producing equipment and also solution engineering just to create some production lines for different applications such as in dairy, food, chemical, pharma, and so on. So we've got a diverse customer.

So today, I'm service director for GEA France and also some activity worldwide. Just to understand what we are doing in GEA, I think that we have to think about not doing only equipment for equipment or solution for solution, but we've got a social challenge. We are there to support our industry, to feed people, to heal people, and to make part of the transition in ecology, such as moving to some transformation and the lithium generation and production. So we are part of this sustainability development.

Sarah Nicastro: Great. So, I had the opportunity to attend GEA's Global Services Kickoff in Copenhagen in February, and they invited me to speak. When the gentleman Lucas, who reached out to me to speak there, sort of talked to me about why he wanted me to come, it was this idea that the legacy of the company is very much manufacturing and how he's really passionate about bringing service into the identity of the business. This is a really big challenge for organizations that are trying to embrace the potential of service because when you have this deep, rich legacy as a product manufacturer that's rooted in every aspect of the business, you're asking people to really change the way they think and also operate. So, let's talk a little bit before we get into what that means. Talk about how you would describe the opportunity that you see for GEA around service.

Sebastien Garric: You have to know that into our development items, service is central. We do expect that service roles will increase as high as new sales development. We do see service as a full potential for our customers because we are producing lines, and we are not on the B2B business. We're on B2C business. So that means that we are following our customer, not only as service provider, we are there as a contributor for them. We're there as trainer. We do, and they are doing. They expect to have some improvement opportunity from us, so our production line is made to have a lifetime of more than 17 years. So, that means that we need to contribute and collaborate. This is more a partnership business, and the service is key just to follow our customer production all over those years.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So, can you talk about that fundamental piece, which is the shift in mindset for so many people within the business?

Sebastien Garric: Yeah. So, I have the chance to have one experience from Coca-Cola to be on the customer side. This is really important for me because I know how difficult it is when you are under production just to manage what will happen in the next four hours, eight hours, one day, or even one week. So this is really a stretch on time, and you need to focus. The point is that when you are in an engineering company, then you have to think about what will happen in the next 15 years with your equipment. How do you put in place the key points or the key support that will enable your customer just to find a solution for the next 15 years? And you have to mitigate and combine both needs, and it's all about understanding what the customer is requiring.

So you need to be in really close contact with your customer, knowing more their requirements and the technologies in-house, and we'll not change our DNA completely as an engineering company. This is not what we're willing to do. But we have to understand how to support and give the support all along the lifetime of the production line. In terms of change, you have to make people understand what are the challenges of your customer in terms of quality, in terms of safety, in terms of production, in terms of yield, in terms of cost, and to adapt yourself. This is really key just to be able to think about what are your expectations. How, from my experience and my knowledge, can I support you as well, and how do I need to improve?

Sarah Nicastro: So, you mentioned it as what you're working on is combining your culture with the one that's required for your customer's needs.

Sebastien Garric: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: So, what do you mean by that?

Sebastien Garric: Customer need, one more time, is really we need to understand and be on the customer side to understand. Understand this is the main point. And to adapt our internal process, doing better every day. Try to develop the according service product that has also enabled us to develop their business. And one more time, this is key about collaboration. We do have to think about what are the goals of our customer, and we need to fix it, support them, and provide the right key service product that is enabling to be much more efficient. Can I just give one?

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, go ahead.

Sebastien Garric: We are wondering if it makes sense, for example, just to send one field service engineer across France with one day travel to fix one issue during one day on one equipment and then to go back. Does it make sense in terms of cost efficiency? Does the customer have also the right experience, the right knowledge to do it by himself, or do we need to support? And how do we need to support? Do we need to stay, as you mentioned, on the standard service level, such as traveling by car, fixing screws, and so on, or could we move to a new remote support service? And this is where we are and what we are doing, and maybe premier info for you is that in our contract in France, we also integrate this remote support into our next contract in the coming days. So really experience and really willing to share with our customer just to propose the best experience and what is the best cost-driven solution.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. That makes sense. There was something I was thinking about when you mentioned understanding your customer's overall objectives, and you mentioned kind of taking a look at the entire customer lifecycle. So there was a gentleman I had on the podcast from Dell, and he gave a really good analogy that, hopefully, I can explain. So he oversees service, but historically, the different functions of service, the call center, field service, were all very siloed. And so what happened is you could have one doing a fantastic job, but from a customer experience standpoint, they were having a poor experience because one silo was succeeding, but it wasn't connected to the others.

So, he used the analogy of think rings, not trophies. If you think about, because this is a sports analogy. If you have a most valuable player, they get a trophy for being the best player in the game. When you have a team that wins together. So, in the US, we have the Super Bowl, we have the World Series, the whole team gets a ring. So his point is we need to stop focusing on being the best in our particular function or our silo and look more at how are we playing together as a team because that's what affects the customer experience.

Sebastien Garric: Sure.

Sarah Nicastro: And I think that's where your point about how much can we do or should we do remotely are the questions a lot of organizations are asking themselves right now. So we know again that the capabilities to do that exist, but how does that fit into your operation? How does that meet the needs of your customers? How willing are they to accept that transformation right now? All of those things are questions that I think a lot of people are sorting through.

Sebastien Garric: Okay. So we are already quite mature in terms of service. We do have some sales engineers dedicated for service splitted in our market areas, and they're already visiting the customer. That's why it's really key as you get the customer voice just to understand expectation. One more time, different type of industry and different type of application, and different type of customer are not expecting the same one or the same needs. Some of them are cost-driven. Some of them are performance-driven. And then we need to understand them, thanks to our sales team, and then provide the according service potential.

So, the key players are the people that are on the ground. Really, this is key just to understand what they're living every day. What are the experiences of the field service engineer? Also, to support them to be a provider of future service as a voice and what the customer is looking at. Being as well-trained as we could to be able to answer to them and make the transition and make them understand what's the customer requirement.

Sarah Nicastro: So, one of the other challenges you and I spoke about is the difference between selling products, which are tangible, and selling service, which is intangible. So what have you found related to that, and how are you enabling your teams to be able to articulate that intangible value?

Sebastien Garric: One more time, this is all about understanding what we could offer from our side. When you are offering one complete installation, for sure, you've got some KPIs to achieve, and then the production is running, and you are not part of the journey from the customer side. What we are willing to change into our mind is to be there on the prefilled sales because being at the pre-sales is enabling to follow the customer journey into their production. And this is also creating a changed mindset into our internal organization. Not being only provider for new installation and then preventive maintenance, corrective maintenance, spare part, and so on, but being there to support.

One more time, this is all about collaboration, understanding, and making the switch to sell the intangible. That means that we will be upfront to the customer and explaining to him just to be confident on us and use advanced service product as we could have such as remote support, but also our technical knowledge. This will be kept into our DNA. We'll not change it, but we will use it to better support and use the right tools and advanced tools to be more efficient.

Sarah Nicastro: We had an interesting conversation at the event in the UK last week. When we talk about the move to delivering outcomes, I mentioned in the introduction customers want peace of mind, and a lot of times, we think about that as the combination of the product and the service to make sure that we're delivering what we say we will, whether that's uptime, what have you. But what we talked about last week is there's a third component to this that I think some people are missing, which is what gives customers that confidence, builds that trust, which is the insight. So customers don't just want what you say will happen to happen when you say it will happen. They also want the visibility to know that it is happening. So, they don't want the intervention. They don't want to have to ask for the service, but they want the insight of what's happening and when.

So I think that's a piece that sometimes companies are missing, and it also helps make that intangible more tangible, in the sense of your showcasing, we may not have been on site, but here is everything that we've avoided, or here are the things that we did remotely, so sort of almost like a business review type of thing. Along with, in particular situations, sometimes the data that you're collecting also has use for them as a business, so you can incorporate that as well. So I think that's an interesting distinction.

So, you mentioned that you were formerly with Coca-Cola. What would you say you learned in that role that's helping you in this role?

Sebastien Garric: One more time, I've been in production for a long time, and what is key is also really true to understand how it is working. Because in Coca-Cola, we are using some gas equipment, so this is part of the bridge. I'm still in touch with some of my colleagues, that I really appreciate because we are really creating links in production, and this is the key point and create the link in between what is your experience and what is my own experience. I've lived during my career just to understand how it is running on the ground in detail. What is the focus? What is the expectation? What is the challenging, every day challenging? And then this B two B business in Coca-Cola it requires really strong agility, a really strong capacity to react really fast, being a quick decision maker, and one more time, taking decisions and risks, but also supporting the teams.

In my actual role, I do think this is really important for me to keep in mind how it is running on a plant, and every day, I'm wondering how do me and my team is serving our customer in the same manner. How do we need to react fast when there is a production stop in between us and the customer? We need to be there for them, find some solution, being a problem solver, trying to find the right people to understand this is how to support. And finding the right way, also sending one engineer or doing by remote.

There is a way, and this is a journey, meaning that from my experience from the customer and providing this experience to my team and my organization is really key. Because we know, when I started in GEA and starting to talk about meantime between failure, this is key standard in the production industry. Nobody was knowing what was that. And for me, it was really important just to make this transition and to change mindset in GEA. Just to understand and make my people understand, okay, you need to know how you support and service your customer, not only going on-site, fixing, going back. No, we need to be there and to know what is happening. After running intervention, call, "Is everything fine?" Collaborating, how to support, what could we propose? Okay, we are a technical company so our customer are expecting from us some technical solutions. So we need to be there on that.

Sarah Nicastro: Makes sense. Okay. So, if you think about some of the trends I mentioned in the beginning and the journey that you're on, where do you see GEA's business going over the next three or so years?

Sebastien Garric: There will be a lot of challenges into this transformation because we are not as mature as we are in all the countries, but we have a really good chance because we've got a full network that is existing, and we've got full of talented people everywhere. And a network is key to work as an ecosystem internally and externally just to ensure that we're providing the solution for the future.

Last week, I was in New Zealand just to collaborate with my peers in New Zealand just to see, okay, how could we combine strengths? And by doing that, then we will move to another step that will go into digitalization, advanced service product such as predictive maintenance. That will be the next step. And one more time, also, in other tools such as moving to what we are calling the GEA-verse by being able to use the digitalization to support our customer on their plant and explaining to them what they have to fix really in details and what and where.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. A lot of challenges but a lot of opportunity. Right?

Sebastien Garric: Exactly. Exactly. Full of opportunity.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And last question is, what would you say is the biggest lesson you've learned in your time as a leader at GEA?

Sebastien Garric: It is not only in GEA, but I will say that I think that for the service, we shall enjoy to solve problems every day with passion. I have a former boss that says, "Okay, you have to think into production. Welcome to problem." And this mindset is really key. Welcome to problem, is enabling you to solve problems every day. So you have to support and serve your customer, but you're also learning for you and make the change on your mindset. And one more time, we are more than a supplier. We are a partner. We are a partner. We are there to train. We are there to improve. We are there to fix, and we are there to support our customer into their journey. So, welcome to problem.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I like that. I think that when we think about leaders or companies that are succeeding most at innovation, it's that they see those problems as potential. So they kind of get past the problem solving, which is the more immediate need, but then look at that problem as an opportunity for how can we change beyond addressing this in the near term, and how can that lead to innovation. So I think that's really interesting. Welcome to problem. I like it. All right, Sebastien, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Sebastien Garric: Thank you, Sarah.