Dutch model

Aviation expertise for the wind industry

The Dutch online platform Spares in Motion uses expertise from the aviation industry to tap into the growing global market for wind turbine maintenance and repairs.

Just over two years ago, Dutchmen Jochem Sauer and Marc Huyzer launched Spares in Motion, said by its founders to be the world’s first e-business platform for the wind energy market. Whether it’s spare parts, repair and maintenance services or whole used turbines, wind farm operators, service providers and other potential customers are likely to find what they’re looking for on Spares in Motion, and if not they can submit requests – free of charge and without a middleman. Sellers and service providers, who are charged a monthly subscription fee, also benefit from this centralised marketplace, where over 17,000 buyers have already registered.

Joining the wind industry was certainly a lateral move for Sauer and Huyzer, although you could say air and wind have been consistent themes throughout their careers. Sauer, an industrial engineer, and Huyzer, a management expert, got to know each other at Dutch aerospace company Fokker, where Sauer was a director in logistics management.

Huyzer was at Fokker’s parent company, Stork Aerospace, for ten years, where he held positions in supply chain management, procurement, marketing and sales. There was certainly no connection between their previous activities and the wind industry. “We started from scratch, but we were convinced that our idea was good,” says Huyzer. “When we set out three years ago, we didn’t know anyone in the wind industry.” Things look very different now. When the platform was first launched, its paying client base consisted of only three companies – this has now ballooned to around 75.

The first three clients – Dutch service and maintenance companies Total Wind, Green Energy Services and Hoekstra Suwald – helped the wind industry novices Sauer and Huyzer with the development of their web platform. But the considerations that led the pair to found Spares in Motion are based on their experiences in logistics and supply chain management within the aviation industry.

Faced with a pressure to cut costs, the aviation industry saw the emergence of online marketplaces around 15 years ago, enabling the simple and transparent trade of services and, in particular, spare parts for the aircraft maintenance sector. Airlines cannot earn any money from aeroplanes that have to stay grounded because of technical problems.

It is a sector where it is essential for spare parts and repair services to be found quickly. This is also true for the wind industry. “You can only earn money from planes when they’re in the air. And wind turbines only generate income when their rotors are turning,” explains Huyzer, highlighting the parallels between the two sectors. “Plus, both sectors rely heavily on capital-intensive products.”    

Nevertheless, he says, there are fundamental differences – for example, when it comes to the standardisation of spare parts: “In the aviation industry, everyone uses product numbers to search for spare parts, while in the wind industry customers still use product names or categories.” The creators of Spares in Motion have taken this difference into account when developing the site’s search function.

At first sight, it is the website’s clarity that makes the biggest impression. Potential buyers can register free of charge, while providers of spare parts, services and used turbines can choose between a basic, standard or premium account. The monthly fee varies from EUR 99 to EUR 749, depending on how many publications the client wants to make on the site each month.

Buyers and sellers find each other through the categories “Parts and Supplies”, “Component Repairs”, “Wind Turbines” and “Services”. The site’s streamlined design is strategic – after all, time-saving is a key selling point of the marketplace. “Of course, a buyer could contact 20 manufacturers and other sellers to track down a particular part,” says Huyzer. “But instead they can use Spares in Motion to get a quick and easy overview of the parts that are available and save lots of time.” Since August, users also have the option of sending a direct request to registered sellers and service providers. 

Sauer and Huyzer also make a point of providing additional services to sellers, seeking to make the site as useful and attractive for their clients as they can. Companies can use a free plug-in to present a Spares in Motion overview of their products and services on their own websites. For an extra charge, the plug-in can be adapted to a company’s own corporate design.

Huyzer says that the plug-in, which can be incorporated into sites in a few days, is particularly popular with small and medium-sized companies. “We offer our clients an on-site service,” he adds, “where we take care of entering the available stock and photographing the parts for sale.” The comprehensive range of services and support they offer is not all that sets them apart from other spare parts trading platforms: Spares in Motion is a one hundred percent peer-to-peer service. “Our customers appreciate that we are not involved in the transactions,” says Huyzer. “Unlike some of our competitors, we do not operate as sellers ourselves. We believe that would lead to a conflict of interest.”

Since launching the platform in September 2012, the company has successfully established itself in the market. Its client base now includes a great number of firms from the servicing and maintenance sector as well as wind industry giants such as Gamesa and Nordex. According to Huyzer, discussions are also underway with other high profile manufacturers.

The swift growth of the online marketplace is due in part to its international appeal, with the option to view the site in English, German, French and Spanish. Spares in Motion also employs sales experts in Spain and the US to help tap into these markets.

This cross-border approach is paying off and contributing to the rising popularity of the platform. “A few weeks ago, a Danish firm was able to sell five gearboxes to companies in Morocco,” reports Huyzer. “If they hadn’t published their range on our site, this sale probably would never have happened.” It has been a successful first two years, but Sauer and Huyzer have even bigger plans: “We see great further potential in the market. There are lots of firms still not on our platform. Our aim is to become the global number one market place in the maintenance sector,” says Huyzer with a confident air.

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