The Uptime Blog
a list advertising parts for machinery along with prices. (from Dictionary.com)
Over the years Enigma has connected with a lot of OEM companies who tell us they maintain and actively use a parts catalog. By many definitions they would be correct, whether that was a printed page distributed via snail mail or even a collection of PDFs that could be shared via email, they published a list of parts and associated prices to share with their internal service teams or network of dealers/distributors.
End of story, right? Wrong.
Vintage Parts Catalogs – what a parts catalogs used to be
“[A] list advertising parts for machinery along with prices” is an antiquated definition of a parts catalog, even by small scale manufacturer’s standards. It’s entirely inadequate to describe the types of tasks that parts catalogs are regularly called upon to perform while maintaining the uptime on an expanding fleet of complex equipment.
While technically speaking, companies may have a printed parts catalog – or even what they consider to be an electronic parts catalog (collection of PDFs), those definitions are far too limited to be of value to an OEM looking to support their equipment after the sale or to support their network of dealers that maintain their equipment.
The expectation of what a parts catalog does and can do has evolved. Service technicians, dealers, and even customers want immediate access to in-depth information, not just a list of parts and their prices. They want to see illustrations of individual parts, sub-assemblies and their relationship to the entire piece of equipment. Service techs and dealers want access to service manuals, service bulletins, marketing product sheets as well as parts availability. The manufacturers themselves want the parts catalog to become part of their revenue model with facilitated ordering and to provide analytics on orders, parts or service searches, and maintenance.
Integrated, Illustrated, Electronic Parts Catalogs – what a parts catalogs looks like today
Parts catalogs have advanced to become the backbone of the service organization. Today an electronic parts catalog is a vital part of an OEMs aftermarket maintenance information structure and knowledge base. It’s a mission critical tool that allows maintenance and repair teams to access service information, identify parts, check availability and order online, share best practices, and integrate with other business functions.
According to the The 2012 Field Service Benchmarking Report by WBR Research, over the next five years, the service market will:
• Involve more integration with customers and focus on core deliverables for business growth
• Be technology product driven due to the demand (gratification) for immediate information
• Move toward predictive maintenance, BI to OLS, customer self service, and cloud based software services
• See “Bring Your Own Device” to work impacting delivery models outsourcing of more service related activities; consolidation of service providers into adjacent space”
Enigma has been pre-emptive in researching and adding features and functions to our parts catalog to stay ahead of the changing service trends. We offer a web-native application that enables equipment manufacturers to easily publish and distribute accurate, up-to-date parts and service information for their dealer/distributor networks.
Parts and Service Information
Parts catalogs house far more than just parts information
Transactions and Integration
- Illustrated parts catalogs display a parts list and assembly illustration together with dynamic part information (pricing, location, availability)
- Parts lists, alternative parts and assembly views that provide dealers and service technicians with the information they need
- Part cards display detailed information regarding the selected part, such as price, cost, quantity in stock, quantity on order and warehouse location (BIN)
- Complete parts, sales and service information delivered by serial number, product line, model and options
- Support for multiple data formats including tables, text, graphics and video
- Shopping carts, lists and e-commerce integration to streamline and automate the parts ordering process
- Choice of DVD, web/online or print distribution packages, with incremental updates
- Administrator tools to generate and automatically distribute parts and service updates
- Open architecture enables integration with back-office applications such as warranty, diagnostics, inventory and ERP systems
- Search functionality that enables simple or advanced searches according to free text, serial number, part number, description, product type, family and model
- On-the-fly creation and viewing of collaborative e-notes for maintenance and feedback
- Bookmarks and history to save and recall the model, assembly and serial number filtering, and allow users to easily return to previously viewed parts catalogs or product information
- Complete support for foreign languages and currency
- Dashboard Reporting providing business intelligence and predictive trends
- Flexibility for on-line, off-line, and mobile service environments
- Browser and device independence to address BYOD concerns
Is Your Parts Catalog Vintage or Mission Critical? Questions to Ask Yourself
The following are some questions to see how your parts catalog compares. Is your company operating a vintage parts catalog or have you embraced the modern definition, features and functions that are necessary to succeed in the aftermarket support of complex equipment?
- Does it include more than just parts (ie Service manuals, service bulletins)?
- Does it include dynamic illustrations of parts assemblies with hot spotted parts?
- Does it easily support multiple file formats (even video)?
- Is it integrated into critical business systems (like ERP, PLM)?
- Can it scale as the business grows?
- Is it easily navigable and provide contextual search with highlighted search results?
- Is it mobile and can it be accessed online or offline?
- Does it provide analytics to managers and/or executives?
With a good sense of the type of parts catalog you’re operating, along with a clear understanding of where the service industry is moving you’ll have the tools you need to successfully navigate your company’s service growth.
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.
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.
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?
Boeing and Airbus are fierce competitors; it’s a well-documented fact. What’s not well-documented is their competition with the rest of the aviation industry. Boeing and Airbus compete on the following fronts: with each other, for big deals; with smaller OEMs, for smaller deals; with PMA manufacturers, for spare parts; with 3rd party MRO shops, for maintenance/repair business; with their own airline customers, for maintenance/repair business; with independent software vendors (ISVs), for the technology that drives MRO and parts decisions. Boeing and Airbus apparently compete with (almost) everybody in the aviation ecosystem.
Why do I bring this up? Because once you look past the quality of their airplanes, their products are just not that good. Certainly most airlines know more about what it takes to keep these airframes flying than the OEM does. Most airlines know more about what they need out of their IT systems than the OEM does as well. But the OEM marketing messages make it sound like they can solve any airline problem and their sales force makes offers that the airlines “can’t refuse.” Just remember, caveat emptor (buyer beware).
What’s becoming more clear is that Boeing and Airbus have done a masterful job of hiding their true objectives, which seem to be aimed at limiting access to aircraft maintenance manuals (AMM), illustrated parts catalogs (IPC) and other critical information…unless the airlines agree to use the OEM’s proprietary MRO and tech pubs solutions. Contrary to their public affirmations about being good corporate citizens, they appear to have no interest in cooperating on initiatives with vendors, customers or standards bodies (like ATA). I’ve now had several conversations with ISVs that tried to partner with the OEMs to improve operations at joint airline customers however, the OEMs told the ISVs…no. (I’m being polite about the “tone” of the OEMs’ rejection.)
This mimics what was said at Aviation Week’s MRO Americas 2011 Conference. During this event there were a number of senior airline executives publically expressing their displeasure over the tactics employed by Boeing and Airbus. (Here is a link to our blog about that conference.) Many IT vendors, including some of the largest in the world, also voiced complaints about the challenges of working with the OEMs. The OEM policies make it difficult for airlines to deploy fully-integrated solutions. Without the ability to integrate each IT component (i.e., MRO, ERP, SCM, ECM, tech pubs, configuration management, etc.) and make them readily accessible (to engineering, planning, logistics, hangar/line mechanics, etc.) the airlines cannot drive down costs and increase uptime. (Here’s a blog about Gartner’s report on KAL’s integrated system and a report on KAL’s presentation at an Aircraft Commerce event.)
Last spring I met with a senior ATA executive to discuss the OEM role in maintenance IT systems. Once we examined the OEM strategy from several perspectives—maintenance schedules, service revenue, parts selection/sales, inventory management—this ATA executive began to understand why many ISVs view Boeing and Airbus as competitors.
The competitive situation with the OEMs was highlighted in a recent article from MRO Global magazine (p. 12), “…it is hard to see the aftermarket remaining independent of the OEMs and this will lead to lack of data and choice for the operators on a scale not imaginable just ten years ago. Once the OEMs control the data then there is no going back.” The article continues (p. 14), “[Ronald Schaeuffele, CEO of Swiss Aviation Software] adds: ‘When Airbus delivers a new aircraft, the documents delivered with the aircraft – including the component list of the aircraft – are completely different from those Boeing delivers. The two manufacturers don’t seem to communicate on this issue; they don’t seem to be preoccupied with the data format of information they provide.’”
Contrary to this quote (above) Enigma’s experience indicates that the OEMs are very preoccupied with data formats, management and control. In fact, the negative impacts of the OEM strategy were highlighted at a SAP user group meeting for airlines (SUGAIR) back in 2010 (as reported in this blog). Clearly the OEMs know that aircraft MRO data is the key to increasing their aftermarket revenues. If OEMs control the data and IT systems used by the airline, they can lock-in parts and service business and set whatever price they desire. And while regulations require this same MRO data be provided to airlines so they can use it independently, the OEMs seem to be looking for ways to avoid this responsibility.
Fortunately, Enigma can cope with almost any data format, regardless of how bad the OEMs try to make it. While we would prefer clean standardized data, it appears that’s not part of the plan at Boeing and Airbus. As a result, airlines that recognize the value of MRO information—for providing competitive advantage around cost, service and asset utilization—are actively seeking out tools like Enigma as a key enabler of their strategic plans.
A recent article from Aviation Week titled “Spend Less From Better MRO Planning” focuses on some of the challenges airlines face as they try to control maintenance costs. While the article starts by describing the cost implications of leased aircraft and engines, the real message is the opportunity to lower total aircraft costs through long-term maintenance planning. In a business where the utilization of capital equipment fluctuates according to seasonal demand, oil prices, geo-political circumstances, economic activity, weather and even seismic or geothermal events, it can be especially difficult to implement long-term maintenance planning. Furthermore, the complexity of the equipment (aircraft, engines and components) makes aviation an inherently unpredictable business. With these things in mind, contingencies have to be part of any full strategic maintenance plan.
The author suggests that with enough data about each aircraft, each fleet, each lease contract, each maintenance site, and each route plan, that airlines could optimize their MRO schedules and significantly decrease costs. The article also talks about understanding manpower, skill levels, locations and lead times; these are important. But equally important to controlling costs is the ability to understand the current and desired configuration of each aircraft, and the parts and procedures that will be needed. So while the author speaks at length about the vision, he only briefly touches on the roadmap or requirements to achieve it.
Throughout the article, several MRO software vendors are interviewed and each says basically the same thing, “give us resource and planning data and we can do the calculations.” Guess what? If an airline has the time and talent they can get Microsoft Excel to do the resource allocation calculations. (A point that is made in the article.) Achieving this vision requires the integration of accurate configuration data with flexible execution systems, so that building strategic plans and responding to tactical requirements go hand-in-hand.
In other words, achieving this vision requires a system like Enigma. Here’s why. How does the configuration and maintenance plan for each aircraft and engine get into the planning system? One way is to load it manually from OEM manuals and IPCs. A better way is to use software to deconstruct those manuals against each tail number and automatically load the configuration into the M&E system. How does the as-maintained configuration of each aircraft and engine stay current in the planning system? One way is to manually load the data from completed job cards. A better way is to automatically extract the data from job cards and update the M&E system.
How do revised (new, modified, deleted) parts and procedures get into the planning system? One way is to inspect each revision of every manual and IPC and make the changes manually. A better way is to compare each OEM revision to the current data in the M&E system, note the changes and then apply airline-specific logic to determine which changes are made automatically and which require engineering approval. You get the point, achieving the goal of spending less on maintenance through better MRO planning is a complicated but achievable problem. But it’s more than resource allocation. The key is to ensure that the data that drives maintenance planning and execution remains integrated and accurate so that maintenance reflects the needs of the airline rather than the desires of the OEM or (in lease situations) the owner.
The second part of achieving this vision is to have a system that allows airlines to quickly respond to changing situations. In other words, the ability to handle AOGs (aircraft on ground) and NRs (non-routine events). The article describes how maintenance requirements are needed well ahead of the service date so they can gather long-lead items and prepare job cards. While long-lead items are a valid concern, the unpredictable nature of maintenance means that job card generation should not be considered a long-lead item. Even for heavy maintenance, a significant portion of the work performed is unscheduled. Planning and execution systems need to be integrated and accurate so that non-routine job cards can be dynamically generated and approved. This will minimize delays, while still remaining true to the airline’s current strategic maintenance plan.
Such capabilities are not in the distant future, they exist today at places like Korean Airlines (KAL). KAL recently delivered a case study at the Airline and Aerospace MRO & Operations IT tradeshow in Singapore on this very topic, and we will cover that in this blog in the near future. The key message is, when it comes to MRO planning it’s time to apply a new equation: More Integration (M&E + ERP + Enigma) = Lower Cost + Less Downtime.
Tags: Air Transport World, Revision Management, Customer Originated Changes, aircraft maintenance, Job Cards, technical documentation, SAP, Illustrated Parts Catalogs (IPC), Master Parts Lists (MPL), Configuration, British Airways
A few days ago we had the pleasure of co-sponsoring a webinar with SAP and Air Transport World, with featured guest speakers Alun Pryer, the Design Authority Head of Engineering at British Airways, and Phil Te Hau, SAP’s Director of Solution Management for Airlines. Together, we discussed “The Challenges of Aircraft Provisioning, Configuration and Maintenance Execution,” a topic that has been of great interest lately to airlines and MRO shops.
Pryer described how British Airways is working to increase efficiency within maintenance and engineering. One challenge, according to Pryer, is that traditional IT systems require too much manual intervention for processing technical documentation and revisions. While BA’s current approach provides acceptable quality, it is very labor intensive with aspects of the process being monitored and managed using spreadsheets. There are no automated checks and balances to validate and approve data changes, which creates delays and increases costs. As Pryer stated during the webinar, “The system works well, and we produce quality, so the case for [process] change is not around quality. Rather, it’s driven by new documentation formats, and the need to modernize, reduce costs, increase efficiency and conserve resources.”
Technical documentation goes through frequent, sometimes complex revisions. Yet it’s critical to keep that content updated and synchronized with other IT systems, because technical documentation is the key to communicating important changes throughout an MRO ecosystem, and is the foundation for compliance. Outdated tech pubs information creates a ripple effect that impacts inventory, maintenance and compliance decisions. For airlines and MROs looking to make meaningful business improvements it’s essential to automate tech pubs processes. (Enigma offers solutions such as Enigma InService MRO, InService Revision Manager and InService Job Card Generator.)
But automating tech pubs is only one part of the solution. Integrating tech pubs with the master parts list (MPL), inventory and “as-maintained” configuration for each aircraft is the other key to improve efficiencies throughout the MRO environment. That’s why Te Hau from SAP stressed the importance of integration and configuration control to “increase efficiencies in the supply chain, improve compliance and reporting, and to manage down maintenance costs and inventory to best match fleet requirements.” To minimize delays and costs, it’s important to keep inventory synchronized with the airline’s fleet (provisioning). This requires configuration management to know the parts that are already on an aircraft and the parts that are allowed, which in turn affects maintenance planning, execution and compliance.
The problem for many MRO organizations today is that traditional configuration management and inventory systems don’t integrate technical documentation, and so it is difficult to compare the as-allowed part numbers (from the IPC), the as-planned parts (from the MPD/MPL), and the as-maintained structure of the aircraft (from the MRO/ERP). An integrated MRO IT system brings together technical documentation, the MPL, the maintenance planning documents (MPD) and the as-maintained structure, to provide one consistent view of configuration control, inventory and maintenance requirements.
“We want everything centered around a single, central content repository, with automated revisions, reduced paper format, and a standardized, streamlined approach,” said Pryer. “That is our vision. We are aiming to achieve an integrated workflow, automated tracking and revisions, and application directly to the source documentation.” Pryer also noted that British Airways needs a scalable solution to accommodate their growing third party MRO business, and the need to be “ready for future technologies, especially mobile.”
To view the entire webinar presentation, we encourage you to playback the recording.
Airlines and MRO shops are increasing investments in IT solutions that integrate and improve three critical aspects of MRO operations: inventory planning, maintenance scheduling and maintenance execution. This blog post looks at the opportunity for leveraging technical content to optimize inventory and the challenge of integration.
Inventory is a major priority for airlines and MROs because the carrying costs are so high. It’s a no-brainer that carrying the right inventory, and having the right amount of inventory in the right places, can cut costs and improve aircraft availability.
To properly plan maintenance and inventory, airlines and MROs rely on the ERP system, expecting it to be up-to-date and accurate. The information in the ERP system comes from maintenance manuals and parts catalogs. With each revision of the technical documentation, someone needs to evaluate and approve any changes before adding them to the ERP. This is a time-consuming process that typically involves 1) side-by-side comparisons to understand what changed and 2) manual data entry into the ERP. The result of this process is that the ERP system is frequently out-of-date with regard to latest parts and service recommendations. At the 2010 Air Transport Association eBusiness Forum, GE admitted that it’s not uncommon for airlines to be two or three revision cycles behind the OEM updates. Why? The conventional process of reconciling and implementing OEM changes takes too long.
How does this affect inventory? Each updated illustrated parts catalog (IPC) can contain over 5,000 modified parts lists. That’s over 40% of a typical IPC! While some changes may be specific to certain operating conditions, like ETOPS, airlines must evaluate every change to understand the impact; and any approved changes must be updated in the ERP. Since the IPC defines the valid parts for each aircraft, if revisions are not processed quickly then the ERP documents that drive inventory decisions will not be accurate—Minimum Equipment List (MEL), Master Parts List (MPL) and Maintenance Planning Documents (MPD). In fact, if an airline gets two or three revisions behind on maintenance manuals and parts catalogs the inventory and ERP system will no longer reflect actual fleet requirements, and inventory will become bloated with “dead” parts.
The solution to this problem is Enigma InService Revision Manager, which simplifies the process of reviewing and integrating OEM updates. It turns a labor-intensive task measured in weeks or months into an automated procedure often completed in hours or days. Revision Manager compares new maintenance revisions to existing information—previous OEM data as well as the airline’s own best practices—and uses customizable logic to accelerate the reconciliation process.
After the content is reconciled, the next important step is to make sure changes flow seamlessly into the ERP system. Airlines and MRO shops have seen the need for ERP integration for years but until recently, the technical hurdles were too high. Now the technology exists to automate this process.
Accurate technical documentation is needed throughout the MRO lifecycle, and across maintenance planning, engineering, technical publications, and line and base maintenance departments. In particular, maintenance technicians and parts managers need relevant, updated IPC content to guide procurement decisions; without it, they risk using the wrong parts and carrying excess or obsolete inventory.
Stay tuned for more posts related to this topic; we’ll discuss how to synchronize various maintenance documents, including the IPC, the MPD and the aircraft maintenance manual (AMM), to drive productivity and lower costs. We’ll also explain how effectivity filtering helps to manage logistics by helping identify which parts go with each specific aircraft and fleet.
The complexity of maintenance repair and overhaul systems is a common theme in aviation maintenance trade publications and conferences; it’s sometimes described as “overwhelming.” (While this discussion focuses on aircraft maintenance, it really applies to any complex piece of equipment.) I’ve seen the question posed in online forums; “why are MRO IT systems so complex?”
The simple answer is, because the documentation to fix complex machines is, by its very nature, complex. It requires vast amounts of data, it comes from multiple OEMs and vendors, it’s stored in multiple databases in multiple formats, and it has to be acted upon by multiple departments and organizations. People that perform line maintenance and base maintenance (field and depot), planning and engineering, tech pubs, IT and parts logistics all need to communicate about service and parts information, and practically every department has its own set of business systems that must share data, whether a tech pubs authoring tool or an ERP system.
In brief, airlines and MRO shops need IT tools to do the following:
- Manage various content types (manuals, catalogs, best practices, etc.) from multiple sources (OEMs, field engineers, suppliers, etc.) across different business processes (maintenance, procurement, planning, etc.)
- Manage ongoing content publishing and updating cycles and distribute approved content to multiple channels and devices with a click of a button
- Control system and user processes, content flow in the organization, access rights and personalization
- Integrate technical content with ERP, maintenance planning and enterprise IT systems.
Given these multi-faceted needs, whenever an airline or large MRO shop decides to upgrade its IT systems, it can be a long, painful process to decide which tools are necessary, which ones will work with legacy systems and data, and which ones will work with future applications. Can it work well with new and emerging data specs (like S1000D)? Does it integrate with current and future ERP platforms? How much of the process should be automated (e.g. digital task cards and sign-offs)? What features are needed in an illustrated parts catalog (IPC)? Can it process technical updates from the OEMs (revisions and service bulletins)? Will it improve maintenance planning and scheduling?
These questions, and many more like them, are what drive MRO IT decisions. To help companies ask the right questions, and hopefully get complete answers, Enigma has created a sample RFP for the MRO industry. It is based on almost 20 years of experience in turning complex documentation into usable information, and includes the most requested and important functionality and requirements, as defined by airlines and 3rd party MRO shops. While it is written in the language of aviation, we hope this document will also prove useful to customers and prospects in all industries as they seek to improve their aftermarket service and support processes.
Click here to download the RFP Sample.
Roni Pollack, Program Manager at Enigma, staffs the Enigma table at SUGAIR 57
I just returned from SUGAIR 57 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The SAP User Group for Airlines (SUGAIR) is a semi-annual conference for experts, executives and managers of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operations in the aviation, aerospace and defense industries. Enigma was invited by SUGAIR members to present Enigma’s capabilities with SAP and discuss the business impact of current and future integrations. SUGAIR 57 offered an impressive array of airline expertise and the feedback received by Enigma was overwhelmingly positive.
SUGAIR 57 was hosted by Malaysia Airlines in cooperation with SAP and HCL-AXON. Each of the attending airlines, MODs and MRO shops, delivered presentations detailing their SAP implementations, current challenges and strategies moving forward. SAP and HCL-AXON provided updates on their joint solution, as well as presentations on best practices, tactics and strategies for using SAP to maximize business success.
There was a long and intense discussion, led by several airlines, regarding the strategy of Boeing and Airbus to withhold service and parts information as a way to lock-in spare parts sales and control who can provide maintenance and repair services. The way it was reported by these airlines, Boeing and Airbus plan to limit airlines’ access to the aircraft maintenance manual (AMM), illustrated parts catalog (IPC) and other critical technical information unless the airlines agree to use the tech pubs solutions sold by Boeing and Airbus. The airlines on-hand, who had investigated these products, had the following comments about the OEM-based solutions:
- immature/incomplete functionality
- inflexible/difficult to integrate with existing M&E solutions
- limit airline’s ability to customize and control technical content
- risk exposing an airline’s confidential information and intellectual property to competitors (in the case of MRO services, competitors include Boeing and Airbus themselves).
This was a very animated discussion and I was surprised by the nearly universal anger and suspicion expressed by the airlines toward Boeing and Airbus.
For the Enigma presentation, SUGAIR members expressed particular interest in the ability to extract information from the IPC, AMM and maintenance planning documents (MPD) and then update the master parts list (MPL), maintenance requirements (MR) and job cards (task cards) in SAP. Beyond the ability to accelerate maintenance and improve compliance, the airlines, MROs and MODs on-hand quickly recognized another key implication of this functionality—helping identify inventory problems like “dead” parts that no longer apply to an airline’s fleet and can be safely purged/re-sold from stock. All the attendees commented on the huge opportunity this represents for cost reduction.
If the goal of SUGAIR is to generate meaningful discussions between companies with common objectives and to highlight topics that have implications on operations and compliance, then SUGAIR 57 was a success. Although the audience was varied—airlines, MODs, MROs, SAP and ISV partners—all the conversations I heard focused on increasing maintenance efficiency, consistency and compliance.
For Enigma, it was a pleasure to participate in SUGAIR 57 and to help facilitate the knowledge-sharing that’s required to solve tomorrow’s aftermarket and MRO challenges. This was a valuable opportunity for aviation and aerospace operators from around the world to learn how to maximize their business success using SAP, HCL-AXON and Enigma.
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