ZF Services ensures that ZF systems expertise is carried forward consistently into the aftermarket – and thus takes its place in a tradition that stretches back over decades. With integrated solutions for the entire driveline and chassis system as well as the complete ZF product portfolio, the business unit guarantees the performance and efficiency of vehicles and equipment throughout their life cycle. The preparations for the networked workshop of the future mark the next strategic step in the parent group's anniversary year.
The business unit has been trading under the name ZF Services since 2008. However, service tailored to requirements has been extremely important for many years at ZF: In 1938, the first customer service center was opened in Dortmund. The inauguration of the Group's first international production facility in Brazil in 1958 also paved the way for a separate service location in the country. From the early 1970s, the network was continually expanded, in Europe initially, by which point the service outlets worldwide contributed actively to the development of mobility. These outlets have always acted as the bridgehead of ZF Friedrichshafen AG, which sees a strategic benefit in its overall expertise that encompasses development, production, and all aftersales services.
ZF's overall globalization strategy therefore unreservedly included establishing its own service locations around the globe and setting up a network that now comprises 650 service partners. The service portfolio of these service locations encompasses preventive overhauls, conversions and retrofits aimed at improving efficiency, comfort, and safety, repair of ZF transmissions, an extensive range of ZF replacement units for reduced downtimes, and variable service packages for fleet operators.
Portfolio being continuously further developed
Setting up of a professional spare parts business went hand in hand with increasing motorization in the 1950s and 1960s. The automotive manufacturers focused on marketing the vehicles they produced, while their suppliers set up organizations to sell spare parts. The product brands were and remain crucially important in this business. It is for that reason that ZF maintains the product brands of the companies that it has acquired over the past few decades. Even though the company Fichtel & Sachs no longer exists, shock absorbers and clutches are still sold under the Sachs brand. The Lemförder brand covers the sectors of chassis, steering, and rubber-to-metal components, while steering gears and steering pumps are sold under ZF Lenksysteme, and the ZF Parts brand markets oil change kits. Plant representatives were supplied in the first instance, who passed products onto wholesalers, and they in turn then supplied the workshops. A three-stage distribution channel which has changed slowly, but substantially. Plant representatives have become wholesalers, while nonetheless still retaining a close link with “their” brand.
Initially devised as a customer retention concept aimed at workshops, Fichtel & Sachs developed the “Sachs Original Partner Program” back in 1984, a precursor of the first product-oriented workshop concept for manufacturer-independent vehicle service outlets, the “Original Sachs Service” (OSS). They started by offering purely technical information for workshops before recognizing the demand for marketing support from these workshops and developed compelling campaign packages for professional customer targeting. A vacation check has been part of the workshop standard offering ever since – and not only in Germany. ZF Services has always thought about how to adapt activities and concepts internationally.
When ZF Services replaced OSS with [pro]Tech in 2012, a workshop concept which encompasses all of the ZF Group's product brands, 28,000 workshops worldwide were still using it. As part of the “Alltrucks” joint venture, ZF Services teamed up with Bosch and Knorr-Bremse in 2013 to offer the first full-service concept for commercial vehicle workshops. These concepts are currently being rolled out internationally.
Commitment to the industry
Any company that wants to provide impetus for the future in its industry must understand the market and its influencing factors. For that reason, ZF Services has always been involved in numerous initiatives – both at German (German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA)) and European level (European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA), European federation and political representative in Brussels of the independent wholesalers and retailers of automotive replacement parts and their associated repair chains (FIGIEFA)). As founding member of the Independent Aftermarket Association (VREI e.V.) set up in 2002 or the “Quality is Added Value” initiative, ZF Services promotes knowledge sharing within the industry and encourages the adoption of uncompromising quality awareness. Helmut Ernst Chairman of the Board of Directors of ZF Services stresses: “Only a strong industry can successfully rise to the challenges that the future holds in store. Trends such as e-mobility or the Internet of Things will also bring about changes in the aftermarket.”
Networked with the future
The transformation is getting underway today at ZF Services: With Openmatics, the independent telematics platform or training courses relating to high-voltage systems, ZF Services offers its customers and partners a service portfolio tailored to the future. “The connection between workshop and vehicle is also part of the Internet of Things,” explains Helmut Ernst. “For that reason we intend to develop solutions for this area. The vehicle is communicating and we will ensure that it is also understood in the independent workshops.”
ZF Services is currently present worldwide with more than 4 200 employees at 77 locations and 650 service partners. They ensure rapid availability and maximum service quality. The customer base not only includes wholesalers, but also vehicle manufacturers, forwarding companies, public transport authorities, mechanical engineering companies, wind power plant operators, shipping companies, and, ultimately, car drivers themselves.