The Uptime Blog
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!
Following up on an earlier blog post titled “OEMs and aftermarket parts—a bigger piece or a bigger pie,” I wanted to mention a blog post by Carlisle & Company titled “Recession Busters and Low Hanging Fruit.” The article points out that there are some pretty straightforward steps that OEMs can take to increase market share for aftermarket parts and service.
According to Carlisle & Company, “…take it as a fact: customers go to your websites to learn about service and parts. Next, regardless what segment you are in, what’s important to customers of service and parts? We’ve really nailed this one over the past several years: (1) trust, (2) value, (3) cost, and (4) convenience. That’s pretty much it. Next, what’s important to the OEMs? (5) High service retention. Finally, what’s important to connecting these five things together? (6) Ease and (7) Innovation. It has to be easy for customers to get relevant information … or they will rely on other information sources and common opinions from their cousin Goober.”
If Carlisle is correct, and our experience shows that they are, then OEMs clearly have the ability to increase revenues by developing a highly effective aftermarket. Let’s look at each of the seven steps listed by Carlisle:
- Trust – Customer trust for the OEM, and for the dealer, requires consistency. Ensuring that service and parts are consistently diagnosed, repaired and/or delivered builds trust.
- Value – Value is measured by the customer. The right balance of price, performance and quality creates good value.
- Cost – Cost, as a competitive differentiator, is sometimes overestimated but if trust and value haven’t been established then price becomes a major factor.
- Convenience – Convenience may be associated with value, but it’s different. Customers will pay more for things of similar value based solely on convenience.
- High service retention – High service retention, or repeat business, is the direct result of OEMs and dealers providing trust, value, cost and convenience.
- Ease – Ease of access to relevant information is the key to tying together steps 1-5. OEMs know it but they don’t always know how to achieve it.
- Innovation – Innovation is required to achieve each step, and is currently lacking from the approach of many OEMs and software vendors. The key is to focus less on the IT department and more on the line-of-business and its customers, dealers and distributors.
To innovate, and make it easy to order parts and perform service, OEMs must leverage their intellectual property with a dynamic, online/offline electronic parts catalog (EPC). Since OEMs are the ones with the most accurate service and parts information, their EPC should always be up-to-date, which would pave the way for establishing trust. As long as cost is set “close enough,” dealers can leverage the convenience of a one-stop-shop of service and parts information to consistently deliver quality and performance, which will establish real value in the mind of the customer. This ultimately leads to high service retention, which benefits both the OEM and the dealer/distributor.
For me, the most important words in that Carlisle quote are “ease” and “innovation.” When Enigma talks to customers, dealers and distributors, without a doubt the number one request we hear is, “please make it easier to work with the OEM.” What they mean is that they want fast, accurate, integrated aftermarket systems that help them identify and order the correct parts and then quickly perform the right service. The seven steps towards aftermarket success are spelled out; now OEMs have to take them.
Tags: Maintenance, MRO, aftermarket, Electronic parts catalogs, aviation, technical documentation, Defense, automotive, effectivity, parts logistics, parts ordering
When evaluating the benefits of different maintenance information systems, features are often measured against increased efficiency. And of course, this is an important goal: Allowing engineers and technicians to work faster translates immediately into higher uptime and lower costs. But sometimes, features go beyond the tactical benefit of worker efficiency, by adding strategic operational savings to the picture. Effectivity is one of those features that provides both tactical and strategic benefits.
One reason for Enigma’s leadership in the aerospace and manufacturing aftermarket is that all of the products include effectivity filtering. I had always seen this as a tactical feature that helps workers consistently perform more efficiently. But I’ve now discovered that effectivity also provides a strategic advantage, by improving and automating key aspects of maintenance planning, parts purchasing and inventory management.
Before describing these benefits, let me give a brief overview of effectivity…
Complex equipment—like planes, trains and automobiles—is typically designed as a single model and then adapted to meet various customer requirements. Each customization, or option package, does not usually warrant a completely new set of manuals—most of the content remains the same, with just a few special instructions and optional parts. For the sake of efficiency, the OEM’s tech pubs department will often maintain a single source document and simply mark the content that changes, according to the specific equipment model or serial number. For example (using an imaginary data schema):
<step effect=’ALL’>Remove the locking bolt.</step>
<step effect=’ALL’>Insert the protective gasket, part #
<part effect=’V18,V22’ >A44-4481</part>
This is a very simple example that describes the concept of effectivity. With really complex equipment, effectivity often applies to large portions of text, and in some cases can even be nested, with subtasks split according to the equipment model, and then specific part data within that subtask split further according to each serial number.
When publishing to paper, effectivity requirements are typically listed in the footer of each page, and are also listed as a lead-in to specific paragraphs or parts list items that are effectivity-specific. Although sometimes confusing, this format may be sufficient for mechanics with the proper training. However, electronic delivery can eliminate this confusion by filtering out any content that is not relevant to the specific machine being serviced, allowing technicians to focus only on the content that matters.
I’ve had the chance to see a few electronic systems that did not filter according to effectivity, rather they simply mimicked the paper-publishing model of headers and lead-ins. Unfortunately, treating electronic delivery like paper does not always work, and the customer results were less than stellar.
I was astounded to discover that because mechanics could not be sure of the specific part that was needed (for the serial number being serviced) they would often order every possible part! They might take three or more parts to service one piece of equipment and figure out which one was correct out in the field. The other parts would then, hopefully, be returned.
It’s hard to even measure the additional costs incurred by this process:
- ‘Lost’ parts, that are not properly returned
- Cash-flow that is tied up in lengthy return material procedures (RMA)
- Inventory purchases made to replace parts that weren’t needed in the first place
- Wasted shipping, stocking and logistics costs
Maintenance information systems that use effectivity filtering eliminate this problem. Not only does effectivity provide strategic benefits—operational savings across multiple departments—but also tactical benefits—faster, more accurate maintenance.
Effectivity filtering increases manitenance productivity and reduces parts and inventory costs. Now, that’s what I call effective.
The US Department of Defense (DoD) has hundreds of different vehicle types amounting to hundreds of thousands of pieces of equipment deployed all over the world. Each vehicle is aggressively inspected and maintained according to a regular schedule, based on the manufacturer’s recommendations and field experience. Most maintenance activities rely on manual processes that are disconnected and paper-based. With so many vehicles scattered across the globe, and service and repair being so labor-intensive, it is a daunting task for the DoD to manage and maintain these vehicles in an efficient manner. Each branch of the armed forces conducts technical inspections according to its own standards but they all share a similar challenge: how to accelerate maintenance and quickly return equipment to service.
DoD maintenance depots often receive hundreds (or thousands) of vehicles at the same time, all of which require inspection and/or service. The first step in this process requires teams of soldiers/mechanics (maintainers) to inspect each vehicle for faults; this is a slow process in which maintainers rely on paper manuals and fill-out paper reports. These technical inspections (TI) last an average of one and a half to two hours and typically include:
- Following a standard inspection checklist found in the vehicle’s maintenance manual
- Identifying and recording all faults found during the inspection on a paper form
- Searching the Repair Parts Special Tool List (RPSTL) to identify the parts and tools necessary to fix each fault
- Manually validating these parts against FEDLOG, a logistics information system
- Submitting this completed form to a clerk who then types this information into the backend maintenance planning system and returns the form to maintenance for execution
The current TI process is both time consuming and error prone—more than 50% of the time the forms have missing, incorrect or illegible information. To accelerate this process and reduce errors, our defense customers use the Enigma Integrated Electronic Maintenance and Logistics application (E-IML). In the DoD, Enigma’s customers have reported a 50% reduction in the time required to complete technical inspections.
Using a laptop, tablet PC or handheld device, the maintainer works with a digital TI checklist that automatically captures fault information and enters that information into an electronic form such as a DA 2404, 5988E or, in the case of the Navy, a 2-Kilo Report. Upon logging into the system, Enigma captures information and pre-populates the majority of the fields on each form. The E-IML is connected to an updated online parts catalog (RPSTL) to display which part(s) are needed and automatically enters this information into the appropriate parts ordering form. The maintainer can also search for part numbers and repair procedures. To ensure that the correct part numbers are entered, the electronic version of the technical manual (IETM) automatically cross references the part numbers with the FEDLOG.
Working with the E-IML application offers several advantages:
•Technical inspections are digitized and automated, reducing the required time by half
•Paper documents no longer need to be carried to the inspection site
•Maintainers and maintenance supervisors can easily access the correct technical manuals for each type of vehicle
•Technical manuals can be revised at any time, eliminating the need to manually update paper manuals
•Electronic maintenance forms, containing critical pieces of a vehicle’s maintenance history, are automatically shared with the maintenance center to track fault codes and conduct prognostic and condition-based maintenance
All in all, Enigma’s E-IML solution enables the DoD to inspect and repair its equipment faster, allowing it to be deployed to the field more quickly. Beyond automating the TI process, the E-IML can be integrated with diagnostic systems to retrieve fault codes from a vehicle’s electronic control units, which automates troubleshooting and fault-isolation. But that’s a topic for another post…