MRO Magazine

Beyond The Part Number

During the 50 years that RotoPrecision Inc. has been providing its services and precision products to Canadian manufacturers and industrial distributors, the role of the part number has changed, influ...

September 1, 2008 | By MRO Magazine

During the 50 years that RotoPrecision Inc. has been providing its services and precision products to Canadian manufacturers and industrial distributors, the role of the part number has changed, influenced by evolving conditions in the marketplace, including globalization and advances in technology and communication.

When RotoPrecision (originally known as Philip French Sales) first opened its doors in Montreal back in 1958, it understood from the outset that the part number was not only the initial starting point when it came to understanding the customer’s order specification, but also it was limited in its ability to tell the full story of the customer’s complete requirement.

What lies ‘beyond the part number’ is the difference between doing a passable job of specifying a replacement product versus being an active participant in helping the customer to design the best solution — while taking into account a combination of product and technical information.

RotoPrecision’s initial product was a line of high-precision miniature and instrument bearings supplied primarily for the growing Canadian aerospace industry and manufactured by the Barden Corporation. Although part numbers were very important at the time in helping to define the customer’s existing specification, it was only through a full understanding of what the customer was trying to achieve — and then integrating that need with an equally thorough understanding of its manufacturing capabilities — that truly defined RotoPrecision’s application-focused sales efforts.


Even though the term ‘application support’ was not yet used in the organization to define precisely what it was that the technical staff were providing in these interactions with customers, the basic principle was clear: to be a great service provider, one must understand customer’s needs better than even the customers themselves, and then deliver that level of service each and every time the customer comes into contact with the organization.

Through the 1960s and 1970s, it was critical for RotoPrecision to continue developing this customer-driven application support directly at the customer’s facility. With limited sources of product at the time and a lack of readily-available technical information, in conjunction with slow and expensive communication methods, it was the sales engineers who were the first and sometimes the only source of application assistance to distributors, engineers and designers.

In order to provide the required technical support directly at the customer’s location, RotoPrecision expanded its physical presence to Toronto in 1964, eventually moving its head office to nearby Rexdale in 1971 and further expanding to the Vancouver area in 1972. Its head office is now located in Mississauga, ON, with branch operations in Dorval, QC, and Coquitlam, BC. The company officially changed its name from Philip French Sales to RotoPrecision Inc. on March 1, 1980.

As the company expanded its physical presence, it also became increasingly sophisticated in providing logistics, marketing, technical representation and application support in the Canadian market for a range of additional precision products and suppliers. Among these are Anderton retaining rings (now Cirteq Ltd.); Smalley spiral retaining rings, snap rings and wave springs; Alinabal rod ends; NB linear motion products; SNFA super precision machine tool bearings; and more recently Motovario speed reducers.

In addition to new products, the company launched a series of ongoing investments in advancing technology and increasingly sophisticated information systems to ensure that service capabilities remained at the leading edge of world standards, leveraging technology and effective process design as the tools for continually improving the ability of the company to satisfy the needs of customers for product, technical information and application support.

Over the decades, RotoPrecision continued to enhance the service model developed by its founders. In the late 1990s, the company incorporated it more formally into its mission statement to ‘provide the perfect customer experience in the markets it serves’.

Beyond providing part numbers, and even beyond application support, the mission statement encompassed the total interaction of the customer with every aspect of the organization, from order acceptance through to order fulfillment. By anticipating all aspects of the customer’s interaction, it allowed the organization to deliver a much richer experience to customers along every aspect of the order specification — beyond the part number — and to all business functions, including the purchasing department, to ensure that the right products are always available, and even to the accounting department in order to prepare accurate invoices with the right price and the right information captured correctly every single time.

In 1995, the company registered to the ISO Quality Standard as tangible sign of its dedication to providing perfect customer experiences through quality products and services. The following year, it formally divided into two distinct operating divisions according to its major customer segments: OEM Services and Distribution Services. Each division recognized there were increasingly specific needs within each segment, and that translated into different skill sets when capturing the order specification. It also meant centralizing the role of product and technical information as a resource to both divisions by creating a new group within the organization: Application Support Services.

With more recent advancements in the rapidly increasing amount of product and technical information in the industry resulting from influences including global commerce and the evolution of the Internet, Application Support began to serve an increasingly central role in delivering the ‘perfect customer experience.’ It became a touchstone for customers to sort through the reality of information overload in the market by providing answers for more and more complicated questions.

RotoPrecision transferred its service model to international manufacturing with the acquisition of Strongbar Limited in 1998, a U. K.-based manufacturing company of high precision casehardened linear shafting. In 2003, the company further expanded through the acquisition of WIB Bearings, a Swiss manufacturer of specialty miniature and instrument precision bearings.

As RotoPrecision celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2008, it continues to develop a service design model that looks beyond the basic information conveyed in a part number and strives to provide the most current information to its customers via websites, highly trained customer service and account administration personnel, application support engineers and experienced technical sales representatives.

It is important for organizations to understand that, despite the critical role part numbers play in capturing a customer’s order specification, service organizations must go beyond the life of the part number and focus on the real opportunity: solving customer problems by becoming fully engaged in customer applications.

RotoPrecision Inc. is a Canadian-based supplier of precision products with branch offices and stocking locations in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, as well as manufacturing facilities in the United Kingdom and Switzerland. For more information, visit the website at

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