The Uptime Blog
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?
Six years ago, Ford Motor Company decided it needed a better way to distribute parts information to its dealer network. Working with Enigma, Ford used the Enigma 3C Electronic Parts Catalog (EPC) to launch a new offering, Ford Catalog Advantage (FCA), Ford Motor Company’s Genuine Parts Catalog. FCA has delivered so much value that recently Ford renewed its contract with Enigma.
FCA provides up-to-date parts information, both online and offline, to more than 1,800 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealerships in North America. The benefits? Ford has reduced the cost of delivering parts information to dealers and distributors, eliminated delays for implementing updated information, increased the accuracy of parts orders and improved service bay productivity at Ford dealerships.
Here’s what some Ford dealers have said about FCA:
“[FCA] is one of the best tools I’ve seen come out in a long time. It really is beneficial to the dealership for customer satisfaction.” — Tim Worthington, General Service Director, Hines Park Lincoln
“The integration [of FCA and Ford's Workshop Manuals] has in fact helped the relationship between our parts department and technicians… As our technicians use this tool more often their efficiency will improve by eliminating any wasted time looking at pictures in the parts department; they will be able to spend more time in their stalls working on vehicles!” — Paul Cole, Service Director, Santa Margarita Ford
"[With FCA] parts are scrubbed against the VIN number, so we don’t have as many returned parts, and the technician doesn’t end up waiting for a part that may be wrong. It saves us time, it saves the technician time, and ultimately it saves the customer time.” — Dan Barr, Parts Manager, Hines Park Lincoln
“[FCA] makes life a lot easier and can make you money in the long run. This system probably saves me an hour a day.” — Scott Stern, Drivability Technician, Hines Park Lincoln
Enigma EPC applications benefit both OEMs and service organizations:
- Parts and service information is frequently revised, and changes need to be quickly distributed to service technicians in the field and at dealerships.
- Technicians can’t afford to spend valuable time searching through shop manuals and catalogs, copying down part numbers (possibly making errors), then spending time with customer support or a parts manager to order the (hopefully correct) parts.
With FCA, Ford has found a way to ensure service technicians find and order the right parts. FCA also improves service bay productivity, allowing more cars to be serviced, which means more aftermarket parts can be sold via the dealer. And faster service with the right parts yields happier customers, which helps brand perception.
For related thoughts on this topic see an earlier blog we wrote, “Helping Automotive OEMs Help Themselves."
Tags: aftermarket, Electronic parts catalogs, parts and service, service technicians, Goodrich, SaaS, OEM content, automotive, service information, parts ordering, heavy equipment, Volvo, Ford, dealer support
OEMs that make complex machinery (whether it’s heavy equipment, automobiles, oil rigs, or other discrete manufacturing products) need to support their dealers and distributors. This can be a challenge because dealers and distributors tend to run as stand-alone operations (often they are independent franchises) that have their own business issues, separate but related to the business issues of the OEM. One of the ways OEMs help these business partners is via an electronic parts catalog, to provide accurate parts and service information, streamline parts purchases and simplify customer support/service.
But creating an up-to-date parts catalog is no small task; many forms of data (schematics, manuals, service bulletins, inventory, etc.) must be pulled from multiple database sources, and formatted into an application that is accessible to many users. That’s where Enigma comes in, providing Electronic Part Catalog (EPC) technology that: 1) makes it faster and less expensive to create and publish aftermarket support applications; 2) makes it easier to buy service parts from the OEM and distributors; 3) improves customer support/service.
Some OEMs are motivated by saving money on the front end; i.e., saving money on the cost of producing their catalog. Goodrich Aerostructures, for example, saves $1-1.5M per year in production costs. Others, like Ford, primarily want to help sell the right parts fast, without increasing customer support costs. Others are keenly interested in improving their end-users’ customer service experience, like Volvo, which embeds the Enigma EPC into Volvo VIDA, its dealer support system. (Relative to its former system, Volvo service techs now make repairs faster and service more cars per day.)
The advantage of Enigma’s InService EPC software solution is that it can be tied into the OEM’s order management, inventory, ERP and CRM systems to automate the entire customer support workflow. It also allows dealers and distributors to integrate the EPC to their dealer management (or ERP) systems to automate workflow and part procurement for the dealer.
However, some companies require a faster rollout and lower costs (in dollars and IT resources), and consider fully-integrated parts logistics to be a future objective. The solution in these cases is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution. As more companies embrace a SaaS approach to IT, Enigma has responded by offering a SaaS version of our tried and true EPC technology. Enigma SaaS EPC is a powerful product that helps OEMs put parts and service information online very quickly, allowing the OEM to support dealers and customers with unlimited updates of service and parts data.
One advantage of Enigma SaaS EPC is that it reduces the time and cost of launching a Web-based service and parts storefront. It can be rolled out in 90 days, with little or no upfront IT investment. Furthermore, because the application is hosted “in the cloud,” it reduces hardware server and maintenance costs. The SaaS EPC solution is particularly compelling for two business profiles: 1) small-medium businesses (SMBs) that wish to keep infrastructure requirements low; 2) larger companies that want to start small as they move their customer support (and EPC) to the Web.
There are good reasons for both solutions; OEMs need to determine their immediate requirements, as well as their future goals, and choose an EPC solution that supports both.