The Uptime Blog
For software vendors like Enigma, doing business in the aviation industry – with OEMs, airlines and MROs – almost always means answering RFPs (Requests for Proposal).
The scenario is a familiar one. Business and IT managers decide it is time to check what is the “latest and greatest” out there. They sit down (or pay a consultant to sit down for them) and fill out dozens of Word pages and Excel spreadsheets specifying all the requirements and features they would like – real and imagined. They send the RFP to several companies, usually a mix of loosely connected software vendors and systems integrators. Even though the process of writing the RFP will take them months to complete, they will invariably ask the RFP recipients to submit their responses within a ridiculously short time frame, say two weeks. The process then typically entails on-site workshops with shortlisted vendors, followed by several months of back-and-forth discussions about requirements, scope, commercials, terms and conditions, etc. A year or so down the road, assuming internal budgets are approved the two exhausted parties – customer and vendor – finally sign a contract and kick off the project. By this time, strong imaginative acumen is necessary if one is to find strong resemblances between the original RFP requirements and the project SOW (Scope of Work) document.
Can things be done differently? This article, recently published in Inc. Magazine, suggests a radical approach for vendors who receive an RFP: just say no. The article lists seven reasons why companies should walk away from RFPs, the more salient ones being:
- Diluted differentiation. Because the RFP goes out to vendors whose solutions and value-adds differ widely from each other, the result is an “apples vs. oranges” comparison that is doomed to fail. By responding to the RFP, vendors are thus agreeing to be judged almost exclusively on price.
- Playing by the customer rules. Yes, the customer is king. But does the king always know best? Most of the requirements and features are, at best, “nice to have” and in many cases totally unnecessary. To get to the short list, vendors answer “yes” to essentially all of the requirements, knowing they will find a way down the road to eliminate or modify them.
- Most RFPs are rigged. This might sound a little harsh, but even if they are not rigged, in many cases a vendor close to the customer lent a “helping hand” in shaping the RFP requirements and conditions to favor its own solution. This requires the other “competitors” to jump through hoops just to qualify through to the next stage.
So what is the alternative to answering the RFP? The article suggests sending a short, polite letter to the customer extolling your solution’s value and proposing a direct discussion. Chances are, concludes the article customers will circle back to you after failing to implement the cheap solution they selected in the RFP process.
Can this approach work in the aviation industry? Can software vendors ignore RFPs from OEMs and airlines, placing their faith solely in the merits of their solutions? A colleague of mine pointed out that this approach is wishful thinking when it comes to the conservative aviation industry. Innovation is slow, regulation is binding and procurement rules mandate the issuance of an RFP. For a vendor to win business in this industry, RFPs are the only way in.
I agree. It is indeed almost impossible to do business in the aviation industry without answering RFPs. But after many years of selling into the aviation industry (and countless hours working on RFP answers), I believe vendors should adopt a more sober approach to RFPs. Gone are the days when customers would issue an RFP for an IT system and expect software vendors to jump to attention and do their bidding, costs be damned. In these harsh economic times, when customers expect heavy discounts and concessions from vendors, the “my way or the highway” approach no longer works. Vendors simply cannot afford it. Too many vendors have been driven out of business because they had no choice but to play by the rules dictated by the RFP processes. No more.
A sober approach to answering RFPs means qualifying directly with the relevant stakeholders if this is a real opportunity or just an exercise in knowledge gathering or idea fishing. It means stating clearly in the RFP answer which requirements are nothing but fantasies that will cost a lot to implement but will deliver precious little benefit. It means scheduling more online demos and conference calls and fewer on-site visits. It means not caving in to terms and conditions that guarantee financial loss in project implementation. And, most importantly, it means knowing when to walk away from an RFP and nurture direct relationships instead, thus foregoing the immediate (and probably imaginary) opportunity for a future (and more real) opportunity.
I know; easier said than done. As writing and receiving RFPs remain an inevitable part of aviation maintenance business, I urge you to download our free RFP sample, here: MRO: Requirements for Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul, to make the task less formidable.
Aberdeen Group, in its Field Service 2013: Workforce Management Guide, reports that “financially, leading [field service] organizations experienced a 9.6% year-over-year increase in revenue, ahead of the 6.6% increase driven by all other organizations.” That’s pretty impressive and shows significant profit.
The companies achieving that success have done so by becoming best-in-class organizations employing best-in-class strategies. Those strategies involve planning, executing the plan, and then re-evaluating the plan in a continuous improvement loop –a process that Aberdeen identifies as “performance management.” Aberdeen has found that performance management “plays a central role in enabling better plans and the strategies required to execute those plans.” And best-in-class companies, those earning higher year-over-year revenue than others, consider it a key area of investment for 2013.
The report goes on to identify five strategic actions that top performing field service organizations take to reach that revenue grabbing, best-in-class status.
What caught our attention about these strategic actions is how closely they align with the functions and features of a best-in-class electronic parts catalog, in particular Enigma’s own InService EPC, which helps service organizations realize success.
There are three ways InService EPC helps companies become best-in-class service organizations, which leads to higher year-over-year revenue. In essence, we help them make money on field service. Let’s take a closer look at each of the three points to see how.
1. Investment in mobile tools to provide technicians with better access to information in the field.
By its very nature, an electronics parts catalog (also known as an illustrated or integrated parts catalog) puts critical parts information at the fingertips of service technicians, wherever they may be working. InService EPC improves on that functionality in several ways.
First, it delivers all service information so technicians have installation, repair and replacement instructions for those not-so-familiar or less frequently performed procedures. This extends the experience of your staff, shares knowledge across all skill levels, and allows management to more effectively schedule work schedules since the entire team has access to the same service knowledge base, not just specialized staff.
Second, InService EPC ensures that service technicians not only have parts and service information they need readily available, but that it is the most accurate and current information that engineering and tech pubs can provide. Using the incremental updates feature allows new or modified materials to be updated in smaller batches, rather than the whole database of information, which results in faster distribution of the latest information to the field service teams. This helps reduce parts mis-orders by eliminating outdated or obsolete parts and service information.
Third, InService EPC was designed with flexibility for field mobility rollout in mind. Multiple devices and operating systems are supported, including laptop and tablets, from privately hosted or cloud hosted SaaS. Users can access InService EPC via web (online) or wireless, or run as standalone units offline in environments with no connectivity or with limited connectivity such as hospitals and high-security environments. Print distribution is available to output hardcopy of specific parts, assemblies or sections or whole service updates.
2. Make captured service information available across the enterprise.
Enigma InService EPC has two key features that support system-wide communication. Enigma InService EPC is based on an open architecture Enigma 3C platform, enabling integration with back office applications such as warranty, diagnostics, inventory and ERP systems. It easily integrates with the information systems that are critical to field service operation. Also built into InService EPC is an e-notes feature for on-the-job creation and viewing of collaborative information for maintenance and feedback associated with parts, assemblies, or manual sections.
3. Improve forecasting of and planning for future service demand.
In order for performance management to be effective, a means of measurement needs to be in place that provides insight and information to the executive team. Enigma’s Dashboard reporting feature provides that measurement. The InService EPC Dashboard is a newly created executive management tool that captures and displays EPC activities and purchases, presenting them as easy-to-read charts, highlighting pre-defined key performance indicators (KPIs). Insights gained from the Dashboard can be used to optimize aftermarket service and parts processes—those recurring activities that drive the most profitable part of the business.
Contributing so much to a field service company’s best-in-class status seems like a lot to ask of a humble parts catalog. But Enigma’s InService EPC boasts of advanced capabilities that play a significant role in improving the service revenue through performance management.
Field service isn’t what it used to be. While it may have taken a back seat to new product sales in the past, recently it has become a more vital part of ongoing profitability for complex equipment manufacturers (OEMs). More complicated equipment, high demands on uptime, advancements in technology, and improvements in communication and information sharing have demanded that field service not only support new product sales, but become an active contributor to overall company success.
Mobility and Integration Will Drive Field Service
As VP and principal analyst for service management of the Aberdeen Group, Sumair Dutta has studied the field service industry. He understands more than most what makes best-in-class service providers valuable contributors to the viability and profitability of their business organization. In this short field service video, Dutta identifies what he sees as the top two trends in today’s field service organizations. We’ve expanded on his brief points and added Engima’s perspective on the topic.
Investment in mobility for field worker empowerment. Businesses are realizing that mobile technology – both hardware and software – can give their field service technicians a tremendous competitive advantage. In 2013, manufacturers are planning on improving the quality and timeliness of information provided to field workers so they can get their work done efficiently, on time, and within the first visit to the customer site.
Integration between field service and other elements of service business. Field service no longer operates in isolation but is an active part of the overall business environment. One area of particular importance is parts catalog software that extends the reach of the field service technician so they have access to the same resources as the rest of the service team. Enigma’s InService EPC does just that.
InService EPC is an electronic parts catalog that integrates with back end software systems such as field service management (FSM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and product lifecycle management (PLM) to broaden the level of information available in the field. Having direct access to inventory, pricing, service notes for installation or repair, as well as the ability to directly order parts from the field goes a long way toward improving first-time fix rates.
More detailed information on the field service topic can be found in Dutta’s Field Service 2013 Workforce Management Guide. In it he concludes “improved efficiency and productivity continues to be a top goal for field service organizations in 2013.”
Mobility a Field Service Change Agent
David Krebs, VP of mobile and wireless for VDC Research, in the Field Mobility 2013 Analyst Outlook also considers mobility to be a field service change agent. In the report he writes:
“In terms of mobile technology, we are in the midst of a perfect storm with a combination of a rapidly declining cost of mobile adoption, advancing mobile processing capabilities, and expansive wireless network coverage.”
Krebs confirms that mobile and wireless solutions to automate processes improve field service operations. He goes on to say that the “real benefits realized by mobile solutions among field service leaders include:
• 18% increase in field service visits per technician
• 25% reduction in service calls per ticket
• 40% increase in service revenue contribution per technician
• 30% reduction in logistics costs (as a percent of operational costs)”
Those are impressive statistics on how integrated mobile field service tactics can contribute to a company’s profitability. As more field service organizations realize their potential, the more concerted effort will be to improve the overall service experience.
As Dutta concludes in his video, customer service and field service in particular are becoming a more integral part of the overall business success and profitability. Companies are beginning to fully understand the financial impact of satisfied and retained customers. They’re making the connection that customer satisfaction leads to customer retention, which in turn leads to higher revenue margins.
It’s not pretty. It’s bad for business, painful to work with, and costly to maintain. It damages customer loyalty. So what is it?
Dirty data – and it is slowly clogging up revenue streams and shrinking profits for countless unaware or indifferent U.S. companies. It’s costing over $3.1 trillion of lost revenue every year, according to industry expert Hollis Tibbets who notes, “that’s twice the size of the Federal deficit.”
What is Dirty Data?
Techopedia says that dirty data refers to data that contains erroneous information. It may be misleading, incorrect, inaccurate, duplicate or non-integrated data. It could violate business rules, be outdated, incomplete, contain spelling or punctuation errors, or be unstructured without generalized formatting. In some cases hard copy data can also be construed as dirty since its non-digitized formatting cannot be easily accessed and shared. And although some businesses pay attention to keeping their data as clean as possible, their work is never done. New products, new parts, new service information, changing part specifications, updated service instructions, manual data entry, and countless other reasons can all muddy the water.
Dirty Data in the Field
To support the aftermarket maintenance of complex machines and equipment, manufacturers (OEMs) publish and distribute large quantities of technical information for themselves (service and field service maintenance technicians), their networks (usually dealers and distributors), and even their end users (customers or third-party vendors such as authorized service providers).
Often the data used in the field includes parts catalogs, maintenance manuals, troubleshooting guides, service bulletins, installation guides, schematics and marketing collateral. This technical documentation is at the heart of an OEM’s long-term success, because it enables effective customer support, which is a key driver of cross-selling, up-selling and brand loyalty.
Dirty data in the field wreaks havoc on aftermarket support. Distributing erroneous part information and service instruction to service technicians unnecessarily extends equipment downtime. It lengthens the time needed to perform a repair and adds excessive cost for the customer leading to frustration and lack of loyalty. It leads to second guessing by field service, resulting in needless calls to the help desk on routine matters and hidden inventories of unreturned alternate parts and “trunk spares.” Clean data, on the other hand, enables technicians to provide fast and accurate aftermarket support with confidence, ensuring high levels of customer satisfaction.
Customers expect to find OEM parts and service information online, rather than in DVDs or paper catalogs, and they expect it to be accurate and well organized, in the form of an electronic parts catalog (EPC). Customers will take their business elsewhere if the OEM doesn’t make it easy for them to figure out what’s wrong with a machine and find and purchase the necessary parts. The OEM’s goal should be to ensure that customers can quickly find and order the right part, procedure or service bulletin online. An electronic parts catalog with a centralized knowledge library like InService EPC makes that possible.
Clean Data for Aftermarket Profit
The importance of clean data in the aftermarket can’t be overstated. Aftermarket parts and service is a significant source of revenue for companies that manufacture complex equipment and machines. Morris A. Cohen, Professor of Manufacturing and Logistics at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and Chair, MCA Solutions Inc., writes about aftermarket profitability and predictable revenue:
“The sale of parts and services to provide aftermarket support represents a significant portion of a firm’s business (25% to 50% in most industries). Typically, these sales have some of the highest margins, providing, on average, 45% of profit. At the same time, the market share of the lucrative aftermarket business is low for many companies. A Deloitte benchmarking survey found an average 40% share for services and a 70% share for parts sales. Capturing service revenue is important as it generates a recurring revenue stream, which is much more predictable than the uncertain revenue from new product sales. The design and delivery of new “service support products” represents an opportunity to increase both revenue and profit on a consistent basis.”
Clean Data Makes for Clean Business
Real-world parts and service information is constantly changing, which makes consistent formats, presentation styles and navigation hierarchy critically important. Adjusting to structured data standards may take some getting used to but is the only proven path to success to ensure that aftermarket data is clean, scalable and profitable.
Some companies are able to take on the task of prepping data for integration into an electronic parts catalog. They are organized, structured and persistent enough to make it happen. But most gratefully accept the help of knowledgeable professionals like Enigma who are skilled in database integration and electronic parts catalog software. Together with our data conversion partner, DCL, we collect, map, format and prepare all sorts of technical documents such as paper, scanned paper PDF, textual PDF, Word, CSV, XML and SGML so it is all available and searchable.
And—more good news—companies can start small in prepping their data. Preparing and testing data on a limited scale, such as a few selected product lines or a single region teaches valuable lessons in data management that can be useful for a fuller rollout. It illustrates immediate ROI benefits and allows for more efficient inclusion of other products and regions, in greater detail, later on.
Getting Squeaky Clean and Polished
With over $3.1 trillion of lost revenue every year attributed to dirty data, there’s plenty of room to tidy up. Enigma has prepared a white paper – Seven Steps to Put Parts and Service Information Online – to get you started. Not surprisingly, it concentrates on cleaning up the dirty data so you can deliver the right information to the right person at the right time through the right electronic parts catalog. It’s no secret that cleaning up data and streamlining its distribution to maintenance and support staff will help aftermarket revenue flow more freely and companies find their lost profits.
Finally, the automotive industry is on the rebound. Unit sales, exports, and even motor vehicle employment have made significant gains since their landmark free-fall that began in late 2007. The U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration reported that “the U.S. motor vehicle industry has made a remarkable comeback after experiencing an incredibly deep decline during the most recent recession.”
The depth of the fall was remarkable. Motor vehicle unit sales, which had been hovering around the 16 million mark from 2006 – 2008, plunged well below 10 million within the span of a year, hitting bottom in the first quarter of 2009. Since then, it has taken three years to climb back to 15 million units per year, a sales level that hasn’t been seen since the second quarter of 2008.
A Rocky Road
The rocky road to recovery, however, has been filled with pot holes leaving lasting marks on the automotive industry while redefining business relationships, dealer networks, and customer expectations.
Dealer Consolidations – As the number of new car and truck sales dramatically fell throughout the recession, auto dealerships felt the pressure. Dealers, fighting for more sales from fewer customers experienced savage competition and high promotional discounting, forcing many struggling dealerships to shutter their doors. According to a Wall Street Journal report, auto makers also cut hundreds of dealers during bankruptcy reorganization with Chrysler closing more than 780 and GM closing 1,650 dealerships.
OEM Misalignment – While production was bottoming out, consumer preference of car types was changing. Electric cars, hybrids, and compact vehicles with better gas mileage gained in popularity as drivers struggled to battle rising fuel prices. OEMs eager to capitalize on the frugality trend were out-positioned by imports that were already well established in the compact, sub-compact and mileage friendly models.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Despite substantial changes, the automotive industry is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. According to Edmonds, an online resource for automotive information, in their Auto Industry Trends for 2013 report, “The U.S. auto industry has shown sustained momentum the past few years, making solid progress toward recovery of pre-recession sales levels. Momentum will slow in 2013 but growth will continue.”
Stronger Dealerships – The same Wall Street Journal article confirms the trend toward stronger dealerships saying “wrenching consolidations behind them, surviving new car retailers enjoy higher sales and profits.” Automotive dealerships and dealer networks are stronger, more profitable with less competition. The same article reports that “the nation's 17,659 surviving outlets posted dramatic profit gains last year, according to a survey by consultant Urban Science. Its survey shows dealer earnings individually climbed by between 38% and 129% over 2009.”
New Technology and New Models – Automakers, responding to customer preferences, have introduced more new models and redesigns than ever before hoping to recapture lost market share. On their website, Enigma customer Ford declares, “No One Has More Cars with 40 MPG.” In a recent blog post, industry analyst Polk, reports that “GM is Relying on New Product Blitz to Halt Share Decline.” They say that “[t]he next 18 months are important for all OEMs, but perhaps more so for GM than for any of its rivals. From mid-2012 through mid-2014, GM will unveil the greatest array of all-new or re-designed vehicles in recent memory, if not in the company's history.”
While news about the state of the automotive industry is mostly optimistic, there are still some potential speed bumps on the road to recovery.
Continued OEM/Dealer Tension – Dealer consolidation culled the weaker dealerships from the network leaving stronger dealers less tolerant of strict OEM franchise demands. In a recent Forbes article, “Auto dealers push back on required renovations,” we see that, in particular, dealerships are resisting the edict to undergo costly facility updates citing thin margins and questionable ROI.
Dealers are also grading OEMs more harshly on their relationship skills. According to DealerNews.com’s 2012 OEM Report Card, “The marriage between franchised dealers and their vehicle manufacturers is a bit worse for wear…”. In particular “…dealers [were] critical of advertising co-op, Service department and merchandising programs, and in some cases OEM rep support”.
OEM Concerns – Gauging consumer preferences and expectations will continue to be a tricky endeavor. Americans are choosy when it comes to automobiles. Just as economy models are rolling off production lines, consumers are upping the ante and demanding more luxury options in those economy vehicles.
Additionally, the explosion of new models and options combined with new technological complexity of the vehicles themselves may take a toll on aftermarket parts and service profits. Producing, distributing, and maintaining updated service information and parts details will become even more exacting and challenging.
Those with nimble, updateable parts catalogs in place (such as Ford, which uses Enigma InService EPC) may fare better as car and truck redesigns continue to respond to fickle consumer preferences.
The U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration reports that “[w]hile both car and light truck sales have risen in the first quarter, car sales grew faster. In fact, sales of new cars made up 53 percent of all motor vehicle sales in the first quarter, the highest share since the third quarter of 2009. Higher gas prices have played a role here, as rising gasoline prices tend to shift sales toward more energy-efficient autos and away from light trucks.” Something that’s encouraging to auto both manufacturers and drivers alike.
Tags: aftermarket, parts and service, parts catalog, Illustrated Parts Catalogs (IPC), Ford, dealer support, InService EPC, dvautier, diane vautier, electronic parts catalog, complex equipment
If you’re an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or a fan of the movie Forrest Gump, you may intuitively understand the connection we’re talking about. If not, you may want to read on while dreaming about the perfect combination of any two items: peanut butter and jelly, baseball and hotdogs, chicken wings and the Super Bowl, beer and… well, that last one was a trick – beer goes with everything.
The point is this. Complex equipment and aftermarket support are the perfect complement to each other – just like peas and carrots.
First consider complex equipment – it’s pretty amazing. It has hundreds or thousands of detailed parts that require high levels of training to maintain, repair or operate. It performs complicated diagnostic tasks, enables production to the nth factor, or completes tasks that sheer manpower alone cannot achieve. Complex equipment also comes with a hefty price tag and an extended product life cycle that could last years or even decades. These are definitely not disposable or consumable types of equipment, but durable long-lasting investments that add capability and value to any business venture. Think medical imaging machines, cars and trucks, or masonry forklifts.
The sophistication of complex equipment, however, means that support extends well beyond the initial design and manufacture of the piece of equipment. It encompasses the entire product life cycle including warranty, post warranty service, and sometimes even remanufacture or deconstruction at obsolescence.
For these reasons, aftermarket support is like the hand in glove to complex equipment. We’re talking the serious business of parts, maintenance and service support to keep these highly valuable pieces of equipment functioning at peak performance with minimal downtime. It’s making sure the ultrasound machine detects the baby’s heart beat, the mechanic has the part and know-how to fix the transmission on your Camaro restoration, and the skid steer loader still turns on a dime while lifting a bucketful of gravel. Aftermarket support keeps life and business humming.
The Pairing and the Challenge
While complex equipment and aftermarket may exist independently, their pairing results in a delightful combination of minimal equipment downtime, higher customer satisfaction rates and exceptional brand loyalty. OEMs that understand this vital connection and actively blend efforts on new sales along with aftermarket support have the biggest potential for long-term gains.
What seems like a natural recipe for success though can be a challenge to achieve. With boatloads of advancing technology, keeping the maintenance and repair of complex equipment simple is becoming more difficult. This is especially true in scenarios like automotive manufacturing, which works with a network of dealerships for new car sales and service. OEMs are taking on more responsibility for helping their dealers understand the new technologies by providing better parts identification, easier access to service information, and new diagnostic tools.
Recipe for Success
A great example of a successful pairing of complex equipment and aftermarket support is Ford with their Ford Parts Advantage program. Their challenge was to deliver accurate service and parts information, and simplify parts look-up for their dealers. They chose Enigma InService EPC software system to streamline the parts identification and ordering process through a user-friendly interface. The system integrated with their key business systems (EPC, SCM, DMS and PLM) so the information was as current and accurate as possible. The deep integration allowed Ford dealerships to up-sell and cross-sell more by prompting staff with related parts and recommended service activities.
The Ford Parts Advantage was a huge achievement. They successfully combined the manufacture of their vehicles (the complex equipment) with an aftermarket support system (Ford Parts Advantage) that reached far into the extended product lifecycle making it easier for dealers to properly service and maintain the vehicles for car owners. Ultimately this gave Ford a competitive advantage by securing higher customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
Manufacturers looking to recreate the achievement of Ford can find similar recipes for success by considering electronic parts catalogs that can help their own service staff or those of their dealers better maintain and support the equipment for the life of the equipment. After all, without the peas, would we ever eat the carrots?
Norwegian Defence, the Nordic country’s armed forces has embarked on an ambitious, all-encompassing installation of an SAP-based logistics management system. The project spans various facets of the air, land and sea operations, from the acquisition of equipment to its deployment, operation and maintenance and finally its sale/retirement. While the focus is on core functional areas, such as finance or maintenance, the documentation related to all Norwegian Defence equipment is a critical piece of the puzzle, as it is needed at all stages of the equipment lifecycle.
Sap and Enigma have been chosen to collaborate on the integration of our InService MRO with SAP software to ensure the logistics readiness for the Norwegian Armed Forces.
Enigma has had many successful InService MRO implementations in the defense sector including U.S. Department of Defense with the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy. In the commercial aviation industry we've worked with top airlines such as Korean Air Lines, Air France Industries KLM Engineering and Maintenance, and AtiTech to name a few. But our involvement with the Norwegian Defence project poses some new and interesting angles. The technical documentation issues may be familiar, but the mission critical nature of the documents and the various user groups in the organization add a complexity layer not present in commercial airlines.
All organizations rely on equipment uptime and availability of accurate information, all the more so when that equipment is mission critical. There are several core challenges that Norwegian Defence must tackle on the road to equipment uptime. Many of these challenges are related to documentation:
- Different processes and governing body regulations exist within the various groups, so achieving a “one-size-fits-all” solution is not easy
- Different types of technical documentation formats exist within the armed forces, ranging in structure from PDFs to the latest S1000D XML standard, as well as various MIL-SPEC SGML/XML standards; interestingly, unstructured PDFs constitute a vast majority of the data
- While some groups really care about official S1000D documentation, others have absolutely no concern for it and would prefer to be working with PDFs that give access to the information they need in the simplest way; therefore, intelligently handling PDF content and overcoming PDF limitations has become a crucial success factor
- The management and delivery of technical documentation are sometimes perceived as one and the same thing; in fact, delivery relies on easy access to information needed to perform operational or maintenance tasks in an optimised manner, while management relies on maintaining and retrieving previous versions of the documentation. Just having access to the managed information is not enough, particularly for the maintenance community
- Almost every process in maintenance is related to a technical document: maintenance manuals, parts catalogs, job cards, engineering orders, to name but a few. While important job information (such as when the job will be done, where it will be done, what skill is required for it etc.) can come from the SAP MRO System, one cannot perform maintenance without good and ready access to the documentation
Aside to these challenges relating to documentation, there are “generic” challenges that come with a project as complex as this. The sheer scale of the project has mandated continuous changes to scope as well as the timeline. SAP project methodology is being deployed across all solution providers, even if SAP is not the underlying architecture or methodology for that provider. This makes for continuous (and sometimes arduous) adaptations to well established processes.
Perhaps most importantly, communication is key in such a project. The nature of the business is that not all team members are available all of the time, and some are assigned to other projects. Continuity in design processes and customer requirements becomes difficult, so establishing clear and open lines of communication and periodical reviews is crucial in ensuring everyone is on the same page. Having previously worked with defense organizations, and our experience and long-standing partnership with SAP uniquely positions Enigma as the ideal provider for this complex logistics challenge.
When it really gets going, I believe this project is going to be one of our most interesting and challenging ones to date. Bring it on!
Can OEMs can find a way to improve customer satisfaction and brand loyalty through “Right to Repair?
Recently we posted a blog article about the passage of a new law in Massachusetts
called “Right to Repair
” that promises to improve choice and reduce costs when people get their cars serviced. On several occasions Enigma has written about what we perceive to be the false claims behind Right to Repair (RTR) however, now that RTR has become law it is time to focus on how manufacturers (OEMs) should respond to this new reality. As unpleasant as RTR may seem to OEMs, this law gives them an incredible opportunity to improve customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
While dealership groups have been vocally opposed to the passage of RTR, the OEMs have kept their concerns more muted. There are two reasons for the OEM’s caution: 1) OEMs would be hard pressed to publicly oppose a bill that promotes consumer rights without alienating their customers; 2) given the potential for bad publicity, OEMs must focus on protecting their own spare part sales rather than protecting the dealer’s service revenue. (OEMs don’t get paid for dealer service, only for parts.) Dealers, on the other hand, raised concerns about independent repair facilities’ (IRF) ability to ensure quality and safety of repairs. The reality is, OEM and dealer concerns that RTR will add cost, complexity and uncertainty to an already fragmented automotive service and support environment have yet to be proven.
Moving forward OEM’s have two primary concerns: 1) protecting their service parts business, including the intellectual property associated with parts, diagnostic tools and service procedures; 2) finding ways to increase revenue and profits for vehicles and service parts. Curiously, these are the same concerns OEMs had before RTR legislation was approved. Both of these challenges become more manageable if OEMs can find a way to improve customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
Improving customer satisfaction and brand loyalty were the key points of a recent Right to Repair blog post
by Enigma and now an IRF is making the same claim for OEMs that cooperate with IRFs (not just dealers). The challenges IRFs face from overly protective OEMs was highlighted in this Accurate Automotive
blog post but more importantly was the observation that OEMs like Toyota have significantly improved customer satisfaction and brand loyalty by making it easy for IRFs to get the information needed to fix Toyota’s cars. Accurate Automotive claims that whenever customers feel they can get reasonable service performed quickly, accurately and inexpensively they are happier about their vehicle choice, which benefits the OEM.Carlisle & Company
is seeing something similar and has highlighted the customer satisfaction problem in a recent blog post that offered a first-hand description of a recent dealer service experience
, comparing it to an episode of the TV show “Seinfeld.” (I’ll let you read it for yourselves but it’s a fascinating, first-hand account of a service visit gone wrong.) Carlisle however didn’t stop with a complaint; They took action and recently announced the creation of a dealer forum
– a website called MyGuy
. It’s Carlisle’s attempt to help dealers learn how to improve customer satisfaction while still staying profitable. In fact, the web site promises “if [dealers] employ consistent ‘MyGuy’ practices, you can achieve significantly higher levels of service retention, customer service satisfaction, and vehicle sales retention [brand loyalty].”
Ideas like MyGuy are a great way to help OEMs and dealers figure out how to profit in the RTR world. But OEMs have an opportunity of their own to improve how dealers and IRFs service their vehicles. By rolling out a comprehensive electronic parts catalog (EPC) that combines parts and service information, diagnostics and service bulletins OEMs can revolutionize how their cars are serviced (by dealers and IRFs) and score major customer satisfaction points and lock-in brand loyalty. Products like Enigma’s InService EPC
have helped companies like Ford
ensure that repair decisions are always based on accurate parts and service information. Offering an OEM-branded EPC to IRFs (delivering it beyond the dealer) provides an incredible opportunity to improve customer satisfaction and brand loyalty that is both fast and easy. And an EPC may help OEMs comply with the Right to Repair law at the same time.
Service of complex equipment is a complicated matter. And making improvements to a system that deals with high degrees of detail can also be a challenge.
But what if you had a tool that could easily help you estimate how much you’d save in dollars and wrench-time by improving productivity? Interesting, right? Well, Enigma has come up with a handy ROI-like calculator that does just that. We call it our Service Savings Calculator, and it’s available as a free download from the resource center on our website.
Service technician time is expensive and wasted service time is a revenue buster for service organizations. That seemed to be the collective opinion when we talked to a number of our customers responsible for the profitability of their service operations. One common frustration was the amount of time that was wasted looking up information instead of fixing equipment and machines. It turns out, service technicians look up a lot of things on a regular basis – parts, part assemblies, service maintenance instructions, service bulletin updates and warranty details to mention a few. It’s a necessary activity given the intricacy of the machines and equipment they work on. That means that how and where information is stored and the ease of access to it can have a big impact on the bottom line of a service operation.
That’s where Enigma and our Service Savings Calculator come into the picture. We’ve researched the top factors to consider when calculating the value of the time spent on information retrieval in the service environment. We narrowed it down to eight essential bits of information. You probably already know the first seven of them off-the-top of your head and if you don’t, they’re pretty easy to find or estimate. The eighth factor estimates how much time it would take using the Enigma InService EPC system. InService EPC is an electronic parts catalog that acts as a knowledge library, making parts and service information easy to manage, update, distribute and access. It streamlines the information retrieval process, while ensuring accurate and current data for users.
Using your own data, the Service Savings Calculator computes the average cost of your existing service information retrieval system and compares it to Enigma’s InService EPC. And that is where we see some serious savings.
Here’s how it works in three steps.
1. First, figure out the answer to the following bits of information. It’s easier than you think.
Average technician work shift – We’re guessing that most folks have an 8 hour work day, but some companies work longer and harder when needed. However long your technicians work on average per shift, that’s the number you want to use.
Number of work shifts per week – Although the average is probably 5 shifts per week, we know plenty of service organizations that regularly work 6 days. Again, estimate the average number of shifts your team puts in each week.
Weeks in the year – We all know there are 52 weeks in the year, but you may want to account for vacation time, seasonal closings, or other factors to make this number more accurate.
Total number of service technicians – This includes all the service technicians company wide. Of course you could also save different versions of the calculator and compare regions, departments or divisions too.
Average hourly technician pay rate – Even though some technicians earn more or less based on experience and skill, we use an average hourly rate to get the best average.
Average minutes spent on EACH search – Here’s where it gets tricky. As we said earlier, service technicians retrieve a lot of information on parts, service info, warranty etc. The number we’re looking for here is the average number of minutes that EACH technician spends on EACH search. So let’s say (s)he looks up a part, which typically takes 7 minutes, a service maintenance issue that takes on average 13 minutes and a warranty issue averaging 25 minutes. The average number of minutes would be 15 or 7+13+25/3.
Number of searches per shift – How many times does EACH technician perform an information search (on average) per shift?
2. Second, download the Service Savings Calculator if you haven’t already and enter the seven numbers you estimated into the white boxes provided.
3. Third, estimate the average amount of time (in minutes) spent on EACH search using Enigma’s InService EPC software (similar to the average minutes spent on EACH search mentioned above). One of our sales consultants can best help you estimate that number based on your existing information system and work flow. Enter this number in the last, dark blue box and immediately see the savings.
The Result: See what you could be saving.
We’ve represented the results in two very measurable ways – first, the estimated dollar amount that is saved by reducing the search time for service-related information and second, what that equates to in terms of technician equivalents. In other words, you could be saving thousands of dollars and an equivalent of five, six or even tens or hundreds of full-time service technicians depending on the size of your service team. Reducing the amount of search time with InService EPC, a tool that is accurate, current, and easy to use, simplifies the complicated nature of complex equipment service by providing and allowing easy access to service information.
We encourage you to download the calculator, share it with others in your organization and contact us to see how InService EPC can benefit your service organization.
Involuntary servitude is a thing of the past, right? Think again.
Airlines operate some of the most sophisticated and advanced pieces of equipment invented by mankind. They pay up to a quarter of a billion dollars for a new aircraft, and then spend many millions of dollars every year to maintain it. They must follow strict regulatory procedures just to stay in business. They operate in an industry that is facing huge challenges to achieving sustainable profitability: volatile oil prices, depressed world economy, entrenched unionized workforce, etc. You would think that in such an environment airlines would do anything to become more efficient, liberating themselves from unnecessary yokes and burdens that weigh them down.
Yet when it comes to decreasing costs in maintenance operations through the use of advanced IT systems, many airlines seem to be happy in continuing to fetter themselves to inefficient systems forced upon them by the aircraft and engine OEMs. This is especially true when it comes to the utilization of technical content in MRO operations. Most airlines still use outdated, underperforming software to handle technical content only because the software comes bundled with the equipment they buy from the OEMs, or because they are too time-pressed to properly evaluate superior offerings from specialized software vendors.
Almost every step in maintenance operations has a connection to a technical document. In most cases the connection is direct: the use of a procedure from the Aircraft Maintenance Manual, the list of parts pulled from the Illustrated Parts Catalog or the need to follow instructions contained in a Job Card or an Engineering Order. In other cases the connection is indirect, necessitating a reference to some document in order to complete a certain maintenance task. Technical content is not just boxes of paper stored in the Technical Publications library. It is the grease that oils maintenance operations and makes sure these run smoothly. When the IT systems handling technical content do not provide up-to-date information, or when they are not properly integrated with the MRO IT systems running the business, inefficiencies and higher costs of operations are guaranteed.
Most of the OEMs know that what they do best is manufacture airplanes or engines, not write software code. But they also understand that to hold sway over their customers after the initial sale of the equipment, they must take the airlines hostage for the long term. One of the best ways to keep this dominant subservient relationship is by making sure the airlines use their IT systems for technical content. By offering these systems at a low price (or for free), the OEMs ensure that the airlines do not become independently efficient in their maintenance activities and remain tied to what the OEM feeds them. This strategy is perfectly understandable from the OEM’s point of view. It is much less understandable why the airline MRO’s would continue to accept this predicament, when the obvious alternative, breaking free, produces clear and immediate benefits.
One can only conclude that the airlines are suffering from a hostage mentality, exhibiting symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome. They have been under the gun for so long that they are simply unable to conceive what it means to be free, believing their captor knows what’s best for them. Waking up one morning and deciding to break with known routines is not something that comes easily to anyone, let alone big organizations. The few airlines that managed to overcome this hostage mentality and break free cannot fathom going back to being in the power of the OEMs. If only there was an easy way for other airlines to see the light.
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