Theerapong28 | Dreamstime
Virtual field services make it possible to create “cases” that contain documents, pictures, and video content, so teams can coordinate and collaborate.

A New Option for Fast, Efficient Customer Service

Sept. 1, 2022
Where face-to-face consultation may not be required, on-call experts are available to metalcasters who cannot wait to improve performance and compete more effectively.

Q: Everyone seems stretched these days and it is hard to find help, but it’s even harder to find timely help. I lean heavily on my suppliers for support – but now I am waiting weeks to schedule service. Is there a better option out there? Zoom meetings seem quick and easy. Is this possible, or something similar, in case we need support on the shop floor?

A: Tonnage poured, a primary indicator of productivity in the metalcasting industry – specifically sand casting – has been in decline for several decades due to several factors (e.g., lightweight automotive designs, including for electric vehicles.)

Furthermore, the industry has a diminished appeal today, impacting labor supply due to environmental concerns (e.g., VOCs), dangerous working conditions, and poor wages. Understandably, in the past few decades many OEMs have repositioned their operations to lower-cost emerging markets (e.g., China, Mexico, Turkey, etc.) Those manufacturers who are unable, or unwilling, to follow suit have borne these burdens, aided in-part by value-added services offered by their suppliers/partners.

Labor shortages should be re-emphasized as a serious impediment to the metalcasting industry and its overall vitality. Relatively recently, manufacturers in well-established regions (e.g., U.S., Germany) have been forced to operate ‘lean’ in order to remain competitive with operators in emerging markets.

Likewise, major foundry consumable providers have been forced to scale-back their service offerings, such as dedicated bulk tank applications with fully equipped telemetry equipment for volume tracking of supplies. Even technical expertise is harder to come by as experienced technicians and metallurgists retire from the industry, with fewer experts ready to take up their work and responsibilities.

Amidst these latter challenges stands the on-going global pandemic. In 2020, particularly, we noticed the increased need for technical support, as foundry doors remained closed to suppliers to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Virtual field services, a widely unknown term until then, was primarily operating within ad hoc Apple Facetime calls that proved beneficial in the right circumstances (e.g., quality cellular connection / Wi-Fi). Unfortunately, however, many of our customers either suffered from poor connectivity, or needed greater instruction and documentation than a mere visual aid. With this in mind, ASK Chemicals has developed a new virtual service concept, as a supplement to the well-known on-site technical service.

ASKNow – virtual field services – makes it possible to create “cases” that contain documents, pictures, and video content. Customer and ASK Chemicals teams are using annotation and pointing tools to better collaborate on their cases. What sets the service offering apart are unique features believed to be beneficial to the foundry industry, in particular:
  Low-bandwidth video/audio options for remote site locations;
  Quick and easy annotation (pictures/videos);
  Ability to record video and connect to third-party live-streaming headsets;
  Cloud-based collaboration of annotated files, for seamless transfer of information; and,

ASKNow virtual field services is a service option to our customer-base as a fast and efficient alternative service experience, where traditional face-to-face consultations may not be required. With the launch of ASKNow, we have been able to support our customers in the shortest possible time. Long waiting times and, in the worst case, production downtimes are definitely a distant reality with ASKNow.

To learn more about ASKNow join our webinar on September 22 at 10 am EST.

Join the Conversation. Email Your Questions for ASK Chemicals Share your insights, opinions, and elaborate on the questions and the experts' answer(s). You must be logged in to the website in order to post your comments.