The Uptime Blog
Last week Enigma introduced our InService® EPC Version 5.5 electronic parts catalog. The new release includes two key features – tablet compatibility and dashboard reporting. It also contains enhanced performance, improved functionality and more detailed administrative control with the ability to broadcast messages to users system wide.
While all the system updates are cause for excitement, one feature creating buzz with top management and executives is the new Dashboard Reporting function, designed for executive-level monitoring. It captures data trends of electronic parts catalog activity and visually represents them in an easy-to-read chart format by highlighting pre-defined key performance indicators (KPIs). Dashboard Reporting arms OEM management with real-time, data-driven insights to optimize aftermarket service and parts revenue.
Jonathan Yaron, CEO of Enigma, describes the Dashbord as “…an important executive management tool that uncovers user trends as the OEM in-house service teams and dealer service teams support complex equipment. It is a real game changer for OEMs looking to improve customer/dealer support and increase aftermarket parts revenue”.
InService EPC Version 5.5 comes pre-loaded with nine dashboard charts that highlight key performance indicators for processes, products, people and purchases:
Processes Trends - Monitor Service and Parts Processes (activity)
- Activity Trend. Utilization of EPC system
- Activity by Role. Utilization of EPC system by job type (user role)
Product Trends – Identify Product Trends
- Top Usage Models. Number of documents assessed per model (high)
- Top Usage Models by Number of Users. Number of users researching each model
- Top Usage Serial Numbers. EPC utilization time by serial number
- Mean Time Work on Machine (S/N) Distribution. Mean time of EPC utilization by serial number
People / Purchase Trends – Influence People and Generate Purchases
- Submitted Carts Trend. Number of shopping carts submitted by date
- Total Amount of Submitted Carts. Value ($) of shopping carts submitted by date
- Abandoned Shopping Carts. Number of shopping carts abandoned by date
The Dashboard Reporting feature lets executives and management:
- Gauge the impact of InService EPC on service and parts business and identify opportunities to capture revenue
- Determine which product models generate the most/least EPC-driven service and parts activity and identify quality and training issues
- Identify which serial numbers are generating the most EPC-driven service and parts activity and identify quality and training issues
- Measure the impact of the EPC system on capturing parts orders/revenue and facilitating online transactions
- Measure the number of lost parts orders due to shopping cart abandonment
The InService EPC Dashboard Reporting feature adds a layer of business intelligence not found in other electronic parts catalog software. It brings clarity and visibility to previously undetected processes and products and gives management the tools to influence people and parts purchases. OEM executives are able to evaluate and optimize aftermarket service and parts processes—those recurring activities that drive the most profitable part of the business.
Dashboard Reporting helps monitor service and parts processes, identify product trends, and track purchases. This allows OEMs with dealer/distributor networks to measure buying habits of those networks while OEMs with their own field service teams to evaluate staff efficiency. The Dashboard helps companies gauge the impact of the EPC system on either dealer or field service and parts business and capitalize on opportunities to realize untapped revenue. It is a real-time, data-driven competitive advantage that helps OEM executives capture more of the aftermarket parts market.
If you’re an existing Enigma InService EPC customer, or if you’re considering moving to an electronic parts catalog from a paper system, contact us to learn more about our Version 5.5 release with the mobility of tablets and Dashboard Reporting.
It’s here. The latest release of InService EPC Version 5.5 is now available. Our programmers have been working hard to deliver the next big innovation in electronic parts catalogs – and Version 5.5 delivers. There are two key features that make InService EPC Version 5.5 a ground-breaking advance in parts catalog software innovation – mobility and business intelligence.
Mobility – a More Productive Tool for Service Technicians
Service technician mobility is a hot topic. OEMs operating in-house service and field service teams, dealership service departments, and independent service providers are demanding more from their parts catalog software. Service technicians want:
- Mobility – full remote access to parts availability, pricing and service information
- Browser and device independence
- Easy to use touch screen graphic user interface
- Ability to view, search, highlight and display pdf documents without additional software
InService EPC version 5.5 with tablet compatibility gives them what they need. It expands the capabilities of service staff with a user interface expressly designed for use on a tablet computer. It provides a fully functional application, touch screen navigation and convenience of tablet mobility.
This latest release is HTML5 and CSS3 compliant making it device- and browser-independent so service technicians can use whatever device they want, wherever online connection is available. It features built-in streaming pdf so users can view, search with highlights and display parts and service information without an outside pdf viewer. No additional plug-ins or apps are needed.
The new release makes increased mobility a reality by allowing service technicians to access the service and parts catalog wherever they are on whatever device they choose. It’s a tool that helps service technicians be more productive, mangers reduce service maintenance costs, and customers increase complex equipment uptime.
Business Intelligence – a More Productive Tool for Managers and Executives
One thing that every executive craves is Big Data Business Intelligence. That’s exactly what InService EPC Version 5.5 gives them with the new Dashboard Reporting feature. It arms OEM management with real-time, data-driven insights to optimize aftermarket service and parts revenue. The Dashboard Reporting feature is a newly created executive management tool for Enigma InService EPC customers. It captures data trends of electronic parts catalog activity and visually represents it in an easy-to-read chart format by highlighting pre-defined key performance indicators (KPIs).
It’s a highly effective business intelligence tool that:
• Organizes and presents executive level data
• Highlights key performance indicators
• Brings visibility to undetected service and parts trends
• Provides real-time, data-driven competitive advantage
Dashboard Reporting lets executives and managers measure the effectiveness of a company’s services and parts operations so they can evaluate service and parts processes, indentify product trends and drive parts purchases.
In addition to mobility and Dashboard Reporting, Version 5.5 also includes other strategic upgrades to the interface, performance, functionality and administrative InService EPC control:
- Mobility – Browser and device independence on a fully functional application designed expressly for mobile tablet use
- Executive Reporting – Introduces the InService EPC Dashboard feature that visually represents data in an easy-to-read chart format by highlighting pre-defined key performance indicators
- More Intuitive User Interface – Redesigned to be consistent with latest e-commerce practices including shopping cart location and more descriptive search results
- Enhanced Performance – Faster processing of catalog revisions and faster graphic user interface
- Improved Functionality – Delivering more detail in part descriptions and more flexibility in assembly structure
- More Detailed Admin Control - Ability to broadcast “What’s New” messages on the main page of the EPC, and the ability to limit user modifications to item descriptions and price
The InService EPC Version 5.5 release is the latest example of Enigma’s ongoing commitment of continued research and development that supports our customers’ service and parts business today and anticipates their needs tomorrow. It’s a philosophy we take seriously in our efforts to provide exceptional support for the service of complex equipment.
Enigma is the most advanced electronic parts catalog software on the market, used by OEMs worldwide, to facilitate parts lookup, sharing of service, sales, and related maintenance information, and parts ordering through deep integration with our customer’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.
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.
Every field service organization or complex equipment manufacturer uses a parts catalog to support the maintenance and repair of their products after the sale. Some parts catalogs are electronic, some are integrated, and a few are still rocking it old school with paper based systems. But no matter what level of parts catalog adoption is being employed, it’s a universal truth that complex equipment doesn’t get maintained or repaired without accurate, current and proper service and parts information.
Throughout 2012, Enigma has followed a number of complex equipment industries to understand the challenges and successes in leveraging service and parts catalog technology. Increasingly, parts catalogs and extended service libraries are becoming an integral component of aftermarket service, knowledge bases, and customer support efforts. From automotive aftermarket service and parts to medical device field service and OEM/dealer relationships, parts catalog technology is heating up discussions and moving maintenance and field service onto center stage.
Our readers have read, shared and commented on a number of Enigma’s electronic parts catalog (EPC) related blog posts this year. We’ve listed our most popular articles here just in case you missed them. Please take a moment to read through the best of our 2012 posts, and share your own thoughts and opinions in the comments section.
As we move into 2013 we invite you to subscribe to our blog via email or RSS to stay up to date on next year’s hot topics in parts catalogs.
- Service Contracts that Sell Themselves — How Medical Device OEMs Can Gain a Competitive Edge in Field Service
- How Cars are Like CAT Scan Machines — What the Medical Device Industry Can Learn from Automotive Manufacturing
- Helping Field Service Technicians in Offline Mode
- 3 Things Mechanics Know About Your Parts Catalog That You Don't
- Field Service 2012 — Technology to Improve Service Execution and Increase Profits
- E-Commerce Heats Up Discrete Manufacturing -- A Gartner Report
- Fewer Mechanics Fixing Harder Problems
- The Ride of a Lifetime: Medical Equipment Manufacturing, Service, Maintenance and Repair
- OEM/Dealer Relationships — How the Right EPC Can Help or Hurt
- Parts Catalog Helps Parts & Service Staff Cross Sell and Up Sell
The Right to Repair initiative recently passed as law in Massachusetts creates a win-win-win-win (4X win) scenario for auto manufacturers, auto dealers, automobile owners, and independent repair facilities alike.
Auto manufacturers have a lot to gain from Right to Repair. Most notably, they have an opportunity to increase brand loyalty through improved customer satisfaction, improved reliability of their maintenance, service and parts information, and a new layer of dealer support.
Customer Loyalty. According to the National Business Research Institute (NBRI), “Customer loyalty is important because it drives increased same-store sales. Customer service drives intent to return. Intent to return is the measurable indicator of future same-store sales.”
That means that positive repeat customer service interactions have a direct correlation to customer loyalty. Buying a car or truck is only the beginning of a long-term relationship. And while OEMs have traditionally relied on their dealers to forge the all-important relationship of trust and loyalty with customers, Right to Repair now provides the single biggest reason for a customer to maintain a direct interaction with the OEM following an auto purchase.
As the primary source of maintenance and service information, OEMs are well positioned to establish new, more personal relationships with customers and offer additional information on accessories, recommended maintenance schedules or other topics that have real value.
Reliability. OEMs are responsible for the accuracy and consistency of diagnostic and repair information. That information positively influences the customers’ experience with—and perception of—the brand. Right to Repair encourages OEMs to have a direct conversation with customers, allowing for online feedback via electronic notes. That feedback improves product design and increases overall product reliability.
Dealer support. While dealers have a strong propensity to purchase authorized OEM aftermarket parts, DIY customers and independent repair shops may not share that same sense of brand loyalty. By authoring and managing their own information and interacting directly with customers and independent repair facilities, as Right to Repair suggests, OEMs are in a unique position to provide diagnostic guidance, and make parts and service recommendations.
Naturally, a recommendation to the closest authorized dealership supports the OEMs dealer network in a very direct and measurable way.
Authorized auto dealerships also benefit from Right to Repair by becoming the go-to source for DIY customers and independent repair shops for parts and extended service. Recommendations from OEMs regarding parts needed to complete a repair help customers and independent repair facilities find reputable and reliable parts to complete the work.
OEM recommendations of where service work can be performed if the difficulty of the repair exceeds the customers’ or repair shops’ expertise also provide a high level of customer confidence that the OEM and its dealer network are committed to supporting the vehicle through the life of the auto.
For a long time car owners have been driving in the dark, endlessly searching the internet chat rooms and forums for tidbits of automotive information or blindly relying on the word of a mechanic or dealership as their sole source of maintenance wisdom. Right to Repair ensures that customers have direct access to reliable, authorized information they need to make informed maintenance and repair decisions for their vehicles.
In many instances, OEMs are starting to respond to customer desires for more information access even without the mandate of Right to Repair. In fact, some OEM brands are taking the opportunity to begin a personal, one-to-one relationship with car owners to make it easy to learn about and maintain their cars for the life of the vehicles. Much in the way that Lowes Hardware is rolling out MyLowes.com, the MyLowes new "home asset management" website, auto OEMs like GM, Mopar (for all the Chrysler brands) and Enigma customer Ford, are gearing up to help customers track their cars' maintenance history and future needs with websites designed specifically for owners.
Independent Repair Facilities
Right to Repair gives independent repair shops access to the information they need to service vehicles requiring technical diagnostic equipment to evaluate. This allows them to broaden the range of makes and models of vehicles they can work on, putting them on an even playing field with larger maintenance shops.
Right to Repair changes the dynamic of dealer/independent shop interactions to a more convivial one where independent repair shops search and find the repair and parts information from the OEM and are then directed to their local dealership to source the parts. Independent repair shops can become part of the feedback loop when they are encouraged to provide service and repair insights to the OEM. These insights help OEMs increase product reliability and ultimately help the small shop mechanic improve his/her repair. The feedback to the OEM from a professional mechanic decreases the mean time to repair as more users read and apply the documentation. The steps and instructions are improved as more people use the data.
In Right to Repair, we see an opportunity for OEMs to build stronger ties with customers and dealerships while opening new channels with independent repair shops.
Yes, but how will OEMs know their outreach to customer is increasing their loyalty?
Good intentions aside, can adherence to Right to Repair turn resistance into market opportunity?
Measuring success would be difficult without analytics, Big Data technology and business intelligence. Luckily, forerunners in service and parts catalog software like Enigma are introducing advances in reporting capability and trend spotting. Newly developed dashboard reporting tools capture and display electronic parts catalog activities and purchases, presenting them as easy-to-read charts that highlight pre-defined key performance indicators (KPIs).
The InService EPC Dashboard provides OEMs with real-time, data-driven insights into their aftermarket. It adds a layer of business intelligence not found in other electronic parts catalog software. The Dashboard gives OEMs a strong competitive advantage when developing aftermarket service and sales strategies by identifying patterns in equipment repair, parts ordering and dealer, customer or independent repair facilities behavior.
The Win-Win-Win-Win Recap
OEMs are happy because they now have a means to deliver information to help all participants in the vehicle maintenance process. They improve their customer loyalty in the process and support their dealer network through referrals.
Dealer are happy because they sold the parts to the independent shop and perhaps picked up some more complex service work that the small shop was not suited to complete.
Customers are happy because their car or truck is fixed. Independent repair shops are happy because they are paid for service work and are able to broaden their base of makes and models that they can work on.
Tags: electronic parts catalogue, service technicians, automotive, FTFR, No Fault Found, warranty, EPC, InService EPC, John Snow, electronic parts catalog, epc software
According to an article in USA Today there’s a: serious shortage of skilled auto mechanics looming. The article says, “There is already competition among auto dealers in many parts of the nation to hire or retain good technicians. The bigger worry is whether there will be enough younger workers in a few years as a wave of midcareer mechanics hits retirement age. “We're finding we're going to run short of technicians in the very near future,” says Rich Orbain, manager for General Motors' Service Technical College.”
The article makes clear that the biggest risk to consumers is not for routine maintenance but rather for more complex tasks that require troubleshooting and fault isolation. Advanced diagnostic systems may tell a technician which systems have gone wrong but won’t necessarily explain why. As a result, inexperienced mechanics may resort to pop-and-swap repair procedures where they simply replace parts one-at-a-time until the diagnostic system says that all is well. The problem with this approach is cost–lots and lots of additional cost.
- For vehicles under warranty, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) absorbs the cost of all the “good” parts that were replaced.
- For vehicles not under warranty, the customer pays.
- Replaced parts are typically tested by the OEM (or component vendor) to identify which ones are faulty and which ones have “no-fault-found” (NFF).
- Parts that can be repaired/refurbished are then sold on the secondary market.
Given the potential costs associated with a bad diagnosis, today’s master mechanic is the equivalent of a high-tech field engineer. They must have expertise around powertrain technology spanning 30 years or more, including: carburetors, fuel injection, ignition systems, turbo chargers, manual transmissions, automatic transmissions (mechanical and electronic), hybrids, all-electric and advanced diesel engines. A modern vehicle may have over 20 computer chips managing different systems, each of which uses software that must “play nicely” with other software systems. (Eliminating the key from the ignition—replacing it with a “push to start” button—is the final evidence of cars becoming rolling computers.)
So what is to be done? According to the research, in the near future there won’t be enough mechanics with the skills required to fix cars. The complexity of modern vehicles means that small, independent service stations won’t be able to afford specialist mechanics and diagnostic tools and so more and more repair work will go to dealers or large maintenance outfits (e.g. Sears Auto Centers). But even these well-stocked locations won’t be able to hire master mechanics because they won’t exist. People aren’t choosing auto repair as a career path.
The only way to solve this problem is for OEMs to take ownership of the solution. If OEMs can find a way to simplify access to accurate service, parts and diagnostic information then less experienced technicians can still get the job done. Service and parts information is usually delivered to dealers and mechanics as a series of separate manuals and catalogs. OEMs have been playing around with electronic parts catalogs (EPC) for years but most of them outsource it to 3rd party suppliers (like ARI and Snap-on), effectively divorcing themselves from the solution. Unfortunately, 3rd party EPCs don’t have the know-how to fully integrate an OEMs diagnostic, service and parts information so dealers have a fully automated workflow—the way they do in the airline industry. As a result, pop-and-swap maintenance, NFF and warranty costs continue to increase. And the whole time this is happening, the OEM’s reputation is getting more and more tarnished.
Toward the end of the article, Jose Ramirez, an instructor at Los Angeles Trade Technical College highlights the challenge of working on modern cars, “Sure, a car's computer may spit out a ‘trouble code’ to report what system is malfunctioning. But that's not enough. It's a matter of how to diagnose that trouble code. You have to play around with it."
“You have to play around with it.” Is that really what the OEMs want their customers to hear? For those OEMs willing to take control of their service and parts market, Enigma stands ready to help.
The main task of a construction equipment fleet manager is to extend the useful life of equipment, regardless if it’s for a construction equipment rental house or a construction company with its own fleet.
Fleet managers have a big responsibility. They control a highly valuable collection of assets, managing the overall cost of operating, maintaining and repairing tens, hundreds or possibly thousands of vehicles and equipment within that asset group.
So why is this important? Construction Equipment magazine suggests that “fleet accounts for as much as 80 percent of an organization’s assets, so managing it well best serves the future of the organization.” That’s a pretty big piece of asset pie and how it’s managed can have a huge impact on a company’s bottom line.
If that’s not enough, here’s another reason. Like the auto industry and the medical devices industry, Rousse Asset Services, in their monthly Equipment Reports, observes that the age of construction equipment has risen, meaning that equipment is being forced into service for longer periods of time. Fleet managers are now even more challenged to properly manage the equipment, especially if they’re with one of the many construction equipment rental houses, which are expected to grow by 7 percent this year according to forconstructionpros.com.
So how do companies and their fleet managers take advantage of this possibly lucrative management of their business operations and assets (or avoid potentially unprofitable decisions)? How do they capitalize on various factors mentioned above to ensure they capture its full opportunity? Answer: by managing the process itself.
Good fleet managers know that there is money to be made in the operational details of equipment ‘uptime’. Proper repair and maintenance information can help reduce the time needed to find the right part, reduce the time to determine part availability and then waiting for parts to arrive, and reduce the time needed to review maintenance manuals for troubleshooting.
For years fleet managers have relied on either hard-copy, printed catalogs or electronic documents stored in disparate places and formats. Electronic parts catalogs like Enigma’s InService EPC are changing that antiquated system. Electronic parts catalogs are becoming valuable repositories of information centered completely around repair and maintenance, giving users the tools they need to streamline the parts and service structure. And as any good fleet manager will tell you, a well run maintenance and repair department can manage your construction equipment assets to not only best serve the future of the organization, but generate service driven profits.
Mechanics know a lot about the tools they use and the equipment they repair. They are a rich source of information, if only someone would listen. Dealers and field service organizations count on mechanics and technicians to properly maintain and repair equipment, but often overlook the competitive advantage of experienced service technicians.
We were curious about just what sorts of insights top performing equipment mechanics could bring to the topic of parts catalogs, so we asked a handful of equipment service technicians what common service related challenges and roadblocks they encountered during their workday.
Here’s what we found.
Time. Overwhelmingly mechanics and service technicians agreed their most common challenge was time – they’re under great pressure to fix equipment quickly and correctly in order to minimize equipment downtime.
One task that slowed them down and ate into their repair schedule was looking up parts. For mechanics still using printed parts and service manuals, this made sense. But surprisingly mechanics using digital documents, PDF parts lists and service manuals, also experienced the same frustration. They noted that it was difficult to lookup parts or search for information. To make matters worse, the information they needed was spread among many different documents, in many different formats stored in many different locations. Additionally, the programs used to browse, sort or search for parts were hard to navigate and not intuitive. And, once they finally found the right replacement part, they had to use a different system to order it, or have someone else order it for them.
Accuracy. A second irritation for mechanics was that the part and/or service information was wrong. A part may have been discontinued with no indication of what replaced it, there may be confusion about which part is actually the right part to order or service bulletins with the latest service tips may not have been distributed. Inaccurate parts information, service manuals or bulletins could be important to what they were working on, especially in the case of discontinued parts that had been replaced with new parts altogether.
The mechanics were often left with two options: call the OEM or customer service manager to get the most current information and wait for a reply, or blindly order the parts anyway and take the chance that the new parts or service bulletins would ‘probably work’ about the same. That kind of guesswork was a risk they regularly took in order to keep the repair moving forward.
Portability. A third common thread for field service mechanics in particular was portability. Information that is available at the shop may not be available to the mobile technicians working on-site at a remote customer location. As a result, field service technicians felt they had to do more preparation, more organization, and be more knowledgeable than shop mechanics precisely because they often had to work out of a van.
It would be easy to see how some operations executives may regard these three areas of concern (time, stale info and portability) as simply grumpy mechanics complaining about their work environments. But astute managers may see them for something more – indispensable kernels of insight that any OEM would love to know so they can improve the number of parts and quality of support delivered to their customers.
If we take each point and deconstruct it, we begin to see the wisdom that mechanics add to our understanding of aftermarket parts and service repair.
- Challenge: “It takes too long to look up parts and service information”
- Translation: slow data retrieval and order processing
• Easier, faster, more intuitive parts and service lookup
• Make ordering OEM parts easier
• Speed rate of repair
- Challenge: “When I finally find the information, I’m not sure it’s accurate”
- Translation: Inaccurate info leads to guessing, parts ordering errors, and poor first time fix rates
• Put current, accurate parts and service information in the hands of mechanics
• Remove ‘guesswork’ from the equation
- Challenge: “I need information where I’m working, no matter where that is”
- Translation: Lack of access to information puts service technicians at a disadvantage
• Equip all equipment mechanics with online and offline access to parts and service information so everyone has access to best practices
Mechanics want to do their jobs well but they need the right tools to succeed. After all, the success of each mechanic and technician contributes to the success of the OEM; they represent your brand to your customer. The insight and experience of mechanics can teach OEMs a lot about how to improve the efficiency of aftermarket part sales and equipment service to help make it more profitable.
Learn more about how Enigma InService EPC (electronic parts catalog) can help you translate your mechanic’s challenges into your operational efficiency and aftermarket parts profit.
Previous posts have highlighted the fact that autos are aging and that there is stiff competition to properly maintain those senior citizen vehicles and keep them on the road. But what on earth does that have to do with the Medical Devices Industry? You may be surprised.
How Cars are like CAT Scan Machines
According to a recent press release by Global Industry Analysts, Inc., (GIA) the recessionary forces that have extended road life for automotive vehicles are exerting the same kind of pressure on the healthcare industry.
“With most medical equipment and systems, in particular medical imaging equipment, being capital intensive investments, tight liquidity, reduced credit availability, capital shortages, and high borrowing rates triggered by the recession forced hospitals and healthcare facilities to reduce capital expenditures on new equipment.”
The GIA report also goes on to say that “… the market witnessed a sudden spurt in demand for the servicing of older equipment.”
That means that hospitals and healthcare organizations are doing exactly what car owners are doing; they’re keeping their car (or in this case medical equipment) longer and relying on service providers to prolong the life of their X-ray, Ultrasound, CAT, MRI, PET Scanners and other medical devices.
Lost and Found Revenue
Because hospitals are fixing rather than buying new medical equipment, manufacturers are losing revenue and are looking for new ways to replace the lost income.
As the Automotive industry has shown, one logical place to find new revenue is in the aftermarket service (and parts) for their cars. Therefore, as medical equipment OEMs look for new business they may find that offering extended service and parts contracts is a good place to start.
But Who Will Get the Service Contracts?
Traditionally, medical equipment OEMs provided 60% of the aftermarket service of their equipment. But lessons from the auto industry’s battle for aftermarket parts and service dollars may provide some insight for ways to improve those numbers.
Regularly automotive OEMs see a sharp decline following the end of the car warranty when customers take their service and repair work to independent repair facilities (IRFs) rather than continue the dealer relationship.
Although medical device OEMs enjoy higher aftermarket service retention rates, they can still expect keen pressure from Independent Service Organizations (ISOs) and in-house Clinical Engineering Departments. ISOs and hospitals are both expanding their service offerings to aggressively bid for some of those maintenance and repair funds.
Consequently, much like the auto OEMs, medical equipment OEMs will have to step up their game and fight harder. In the auto industry OEMs have increased efforts to make it easier for dealers to do business with them and to purchase from them – key elements in dealer loyalty. Dealers in turn, with the help of their OEMs, are working harder to retain the customer’s service business after the warranty ends.
In the medical devices field, similar efforts will most likely be aimed at end users themselves – the hospitals that actually purchased the device – with the hope that better equipment support translates into higher loyalty, which turns into increased parts and service revenue.
A Common Tool
One tool that helps both automotive aftermarket and medical device OEMs nurture their dealer and/or client relationship is an integrated electronics parts catalogs such as Enigma InService EPC. InService EPC helps service technicians (like those of Enigma customer Toshiba America Medical Systems) be more prepared on site with access to all equipment diagnostic information, parts and assembly illustrations, maintenance procedures, parts availability and price, as well as technical instruction, technical service bulletins and even sales brochures. And because the system can be deployed via web to laptops, desktops, mobile devices such as iPads, tablets or even smart phones or traditional paper, it becomes an indispensable tool for field service technicians to have on hand.
So, even though cars don’t exactly look like CAT Scan Machines, we think there is well-founded cause for comparison. Medical device OEMs can learn much from their automotive OEM counterparts.
Every day field service technicians and mechanics are charged with the critical task of keeping things running. That includes everything from heavy duty construction equipment and farming vehicles to high tech thermal processing equipment for the semi-conductor industry or even the most precise of medical devices like CAT scan machines.
It all has to work, all the time.
But overall equipment effectiveness isn’t the sole concern of the field technician alone. Uptime impacts three main stakeholders:
• the customer using the machinery
• the field technician fixing the machinery
• the company dispatching the field technician whether that’s the OEM or dealer
Field Service in a Perfect World and the Real World
In a perfect world equipment downtime wouldn’t be an issue. Equipment would seldom fail, and if on a rare occasion it did malfunction, downtime would be minimal. Field technicians would know the exacting details of each machine in their charge, remember all the part numbers and assembly combinations off the top of their heads, have the know-how to diagnose every function, be able to immediately order the right parts and then repair the machinery on the first try. Perfect and simple.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. In our imperfect real world, equipment goes down just when it’s most needed. New technicians don’t know the equipment as well as they should, part numbers change or are replaced, assemblies are redesigned, newer models didn’t come with field service training, service bulletins didn’t get distributed, part ordering is a multi-step process of calling the shop, having the counter rep research it, find it and order it, and then wait for its arrival, not really knowing if it actually is the right part or not. Quite often this all ends in multiple service calls, extended equipment downtime, costly service operations and a pretty angry customer.
Success Relies on the Field Technician or Mechanic
The pivotal point for all concerned is how well the field service technician/mechanic performs. For the machine owners, it’s essential to keeping income-producing equipment operational.
For the service provider (OEM or dealer) keeping field service in check is also important. Aberdeen Group reports in their Field Service 2011: Trends in Workforce Management that “58% of incoming service requests ultimately require a field dispatch of sorts”. Well over half of all calls end in a field service activity! So for the OEM or dealer, the performance of their field tech can cost them dearly if poorly managed, or become a source of revenue if given the right tools to do their jobs well.
The success for all three groups relies on the effectiveness of the technician in the field. The more knowledge, training, tools and updated information he/she has, the more effective they will be.
Tools of Knowledge
Not all field service technicians can be as perfect as those in our perfect world scenario. We are human after all. But how do we at least come as close as possible to that ideal?
Tools. Yes, of course we mean the manual kind needed to make the actual repairs, but we also mean tools to access a collective knowledge base about each particular machine, that may have taken hundreds of people to create, update and share.
Built into every piece of equipment is a deep well of information that isn’t always easy to disseminate to, or access from, the field. Engineering drawings, service bulletins, parts lists, previous service history, maintenance manuals, parts replacements, parts updates or available inventories, sales data sheets. The information exists, but field technicians and mechanics don’t always have access to it.
The tool best suited to equipping the tech with what they need is an Integrated Electronic Parts Catalog such as the Enigma® InService® EPC. With it, techs can access complete sales, catalog and service information by serial number, product line, or model. They can be granted access to diagnostics information, inventory and ERP systems or even videos on proper maintenance and repair techniques. The parts shopping cart streamlines the parts ordering process and reduces mis-orders leading to better first time fix rates.
And because InService EPC administrators can push catalog updates and service bulletins to the field immediately, the most current information is always available. This is especially useful if the service techs are also outfitted with technology to further improve service execution and increase profits. Wait, maybe that does sound a little bit like our perfect world scenario after all. The point is that with the proper organization of and access to collective bank of service information, knowledge becomes a serious profit generator for customers and OEM/dealers alike.
I’m sure Sir Francis Bacon, English author, courtier, & philosopher wasn’t thinking of the modern day field service industry when he originally coined the phrase “knowledge is power”. But I’m sure he wouldn’t mind us extending the meaning to include how profitable knowledge can be when applied to the unassuming field service technician or mechanic.
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