The Uptime Blog
In October, Enigma was a guest speaker at the ATA e-Business Forum and delivered a presentation about tablets on the tarmac, which focused on helping aircraft mechanics get the information they need while out on the flight line. But the story of tablets is applicable to any industry where technicians must work in remote, restricted or challenging environments.
Tablets promise higher productivity for just about everyone involved in aftermarket service and parts: technicians, inspectors, engineers, parts managers, planners, etc. Tablets promise that maintenance tasks will be performed faster and more accurately, which will decrease mean time to repair (MTTR), increase first time fix (FTF) rates and reduce no fault found (NFF) events. The problem is that it takes more than tablets to deliver on those promises. For companies to realize these benefits, the tablet-wielding workforce must also be rewarded for their achievements, otherwise any efficiency gains might get spent on longer lunch breaks. Furthermore, industries that rely on organized labor may run into contractual issues before they get buy-in from mechanics and engineers. And so tablet promises come with some strings attached.
This raises an interesting question, “Do tablets offer any benefits that are independent of workforce cooperation?” In a word that benefit is “visibility.” Tablets offer visibility into the parts, processes, products and people involved in service and parts decisions – visibility into how people approach maintenance tasks and visibility into why some are successful and others are not. Tablets allow the collection and analysis of “big data” straight from the field (i.e. at the point of service). Such passive data collection provides insight to part selection, purchasing and service processes, and to problems with training and product quality, without being a burden on the workforce.
Despite all the hype about tablets improving maintenance and repair, the real opportunity is less about service productivity and more about sales strategy. Tablets provide the necessary link to understand aftermarket parts and service workflows. By exposing bottlenecks, inconsistencies and missed opportunities, companies can fully optimize their parts strategy and streamline service offerings. And that represents a much higher value than simple mobility.
Tags: Maintenance, Electronic parts catalogs, parts and service, parts catalog, technical documentation, MTTR, field service, PDF, medical equipment, Enigma, John Snow
Field Service 2012 has come and gone in Las Vegas, but there is much to report from the event. Not counting the hardware and software vendors, FS 2012 hosted over 200 attendees from over 100 companies. General manufacturing and high tech companies were the biggest industries represented, followed by A&D, medical equipment and semiconductor tool manufacturers.
The Enigma booth was incredibly busy, answering questions from attendees and demonstrating the advanced capabilities of InService® EPC. Based on these conversations it’s apparent that more and more companies are looking for knowledge management solutions, and Enigma has the technology and expertise to turn their piles of documentation, parts catalogs and service bulletins into an interactive, integrated field service solution.
Some of the comments from attendees reminded us of how much work is still to be done to improve aftermarket service and support. One VP of Services said, “All of my support content is in paper format. I have 1500 field technicians and the only electronic device they have is a cell phone. Now what?” Now what, indeed. After a fairly comprehensive demo, this VP realized Enigma has solutions that can improve any field service environment, whether it’s based on paper, smart phones, tablets or laptops.
Another VP of Field Service told Enigma, “We spend far too much of our budget on printing costs. I’m thinking of buying tablets or laptops for the field but I don’t know how to get all the necessary data into the right format and onto these devices." They went on to say that maintaining the accuracy of technical data and making sure it was safe from prying eyes was a significant worry. Again, a demonstration was all that was necessary to relieve this executive’s concerns and help them grasp the reality of Enigma’s technology as a profit driver.
Jonathan Yaron, Enigma’s CEO, was part of a panel titled, “Delivering Faster Service With Higher Quality And Fewer Support Calls: Integrating Knowledge Tools And Technical Libraries.” One of the concerns raised during this session was the use of social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Chatter, etc. The panelists almost universally felt that sharing maintenance advice and best practices on such an open, unregulated environment carried very high risks to the service organization. In fact, one of the speakers said, “Using social media for sharing best practices carries significant risk because such content would be part of any future legal investigation. If a technician makes a repair based on a Twitter or Facebook post, and there’s a problem down the road, then there will probably be a liability claim and any unsanctioned maintenance instructions will be brought into the discussion. What’s needed is a secure way to collect, evaluate, enhance, approve and distribute service and parts information and best practices quickly and safely.” That’s exactly what’s needed. Enigma couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
These issues, and more, were addressed at FS 2012 in Las Vegas. For those who attended, we’d love to hear your feedback on what you learned and what you plan to do with what you learned. For those who didn’t get a chance to see Enigma’s product in action, visit our home page to request a personalized demo
. You might find what so many at FS2012 found; Enigma’s software improves service execution
and increases profits
Field Service 2012 is being hosted in Las Vegas from April 16-19 and Jonathan Yaron, Enigma’s CEO, will be participating in a panel called “Delivering Faster Service With Higher Quality And Fewer Support Calls: Integrating Knowledge Tools And Technical Libraries.” After talking to the panel moderator, it’s clear that the panel has a single goal: to help the audience learn how to improve field service speed and quality.
A number of questions have been planned to engage the panelists, but audience participation will be the key to success for the session. To avoid spilling any secrets we’ll share four of the panel questions, just to get your minds working.
1. What are some of the goals of a knowledge library?
- Faster service/ higher uptime
- More (and bigger) service level agreements (SLA)
- Lower warranty/ no fault found (NFF) costs
2. What are the best sources of information—both quality and quantity?
- Field service
- Customer/ technical support
3. What type of information should go into the knowledge library?
- Fault isolation/ troubleshooting
- Service manuals/ bulletins
- Part lists/ BOM/ Illustrations
- Best practices/ best known methods (BKM)
4. What are the best ways to deliver knowledge to field service, engineers, customers?
- Online, offline, mobile
- Training—internal, field, customers, etc.
- Controlling user access—protecting intellectual property (IP)
All of these topics, and more, will be addressed at Field Service 2012 in Las Vegas so we hope to see you there. If you go, please attend the panel session and then stop by the booth to speak with Jonathan. You can also see a live demo of Enigma’s InService® EPC product. Enigma’s panel session is scheduled for 2:00 pm on the 17th, and we will be demonstrating our field service solutions in booth #5.
A recent blog post by Sally Foster, a Technology Service Industry Association (TSIA) blogger, focuses on how much time an equipment owner loses when he/she must wait for a service technician. She writes mainly in terms of the hours that customers lose (while on the phone with customer support), or waiting for a service technician to show up. Foster references a TIME Moneyland article that says that nationwide we lost $38 billion in the last year, waiting for in-home service.
Indeed, as consumers most of us can probably recall situations where we have waited a very long time for a technician to show up, or where we spent hours on the phone with customer support trying to resolve a problem. We are not only frustrated that our equipment isn’t working, we are doubly frustrated that we have to spend time just trying to get someone to fix it.
Although it’s interesting to read about the value of consumers’ lost time, it would have been better if Foster had written about the costs that businesses incur when they have to wait for their equipment to be repaired. In various industries, getting efficient, effective service for broken equipment is even more important because they typically lose revenue opportunities when their equipment is down.
The cost of downtime varies, depending on the amount of revenue the equipment generates per day/hour and the demand for its use. In the aviation industry downtime is extremely costly; it’s been estimated that an airline can lose as much as $250,000 per day when an aircraft is on the ground (commonly referred to as AOG). But what about other industries? When a car is undergoing service the costs are not so dear, but for a piece of heavy equipment like a crane or bulldozer, the lost opportunity costs can be significant, perhaps thousands of dollars per day. The costs are even more substantial for something like an MRI machine (in terms of both human health and revenue) or a semiconductor chip manufacturing machine.
That’s the main reason why field service organizations exist: to reduce equipment downtime. It’s why they invest in parts logistics and inventory solutions, and spend lots of resources trying to get expert technicians to a job site, as quickly as possible. But technicians (and customer support representatives) not only need to respond quickly to service requests, they need to be armed with accurate, complete parts and service information. This is what enables them to efficiently diagnose problems, identify and order the right parts and perform repairs, so they can get equipment up and running again. Accurate, accessible information at the point of need is the key to boosting first-time fix rates (FTFR), improving mean-time-to-repair (MTTR) and increasing mean time between failure (MTBF).
Updating and delivering that critical technical content to service technicians is not easy, because it involves large volumes of data, usually in different formats spread across multiple locations: EAM, ERP and ECM systems. But this is Enigma’s strength; we specialize in helping OEMs and operators publish and distribute technical documentation that is essential for maintaining complex machines. Companies that invest in field service solutions like Enigma InService EPC drastically increase equipment uptime, which means their customers don’t lose revenue while their machines sit idle.
An article by Ben Casselman in the Wall Street Journal (November 26, 2011) describes a recent survey by consulting firm Deloitte that found “83% of manufacturers reported a moderate or severe shortage of skilled production workers to hire.” And that “74% of manufacturers said a shortage of skilled production workers had a ‘significant negative impact’ on either their productivity or expansion plans.”
The article uncovers other evidence of growing demand for skilled jobs as well, “While hourly wages in the broad category of maintenance and repair workers rose 6.4% from 2007 to 2010, increases were 10% in the subcategory of heavy-vehicle mechanics and 15% for specialists in electrical repairs on commercial and industrial equipment. The implication is that employers were competing for a limited pool of qualified workers.”
Clearly the Wall Street Journal is challenging the notion that good jobs are hard to find. There is demand for skilled workers in the manufacturing sector.
For instance, according to the article “AAR Corp., a Chicago-based aviation-parts manufacturer, has 600 job openings, mostly for skilled trade jobs like welders and maintenance mechanics. Chief Executive David Storch said the shortage of workers has forced the company to pass up business and delay some manufacturing work. He said the company would like to start a third shift at its Indianapolis aircraft maintenance facility but has been unable to do so because of worker shortages.”
And while the shortage of skilled workers can be seen across multiple industries, retirement is making matters worse. Casselman’s story indicates that almost 10% of Union Pacific’s employees will retire in 2011 (4,000 out of 45,000).
Finally, in this slow economy it seems that companies are becoming more selective about who they hire. “Jeffrey Joerres, CEO of staffing firm Manpower Inc., said that with demand for their products weak, companies only want candidates who have all of the skills they are looking for, and if the companies can't find someone who fits the bill really well, they'll just leave the job unfilled.”
Think about it; companies are leaving skilled jobs unfilled. That indicates two things about today’s manufacturing sector:
- Quality is more important than quantity (i.e., companies would rather do the job right than do it fast).
- The return on investment (ROI) for training skilled workers is too low (i.e., the cost of training exceeds the revenue generated by an inexperienced worker).
Given that over the past 20 years lean and six-sigma initiatives (LSS) have been implemented at almost every manufacturing company, the focus on quality isn’t surprising. However, the issue of training ROI is surprising. It’s amazing that companies have not yet applied their LSS expertise to address the bottlenecks in training skilled workers.
Skill is developed in two steps: knowledge and experience. For unskilled workers, knowledge is the technical information about how to perform a task; experience, on the other hand, is gained as they perform that task and apply that knowledge. There is no way to develop experience except through…experience. However, there are many ways to share knowledge. The closer you can bring the knowledge to the experience, the faster you develop a skilled workforce. In other words, when you get workers out of the classroom and into the field—and still provide them with the required knowledge—you revolutionize their training. This can simultaneously improve training ROI and work quality.
Enigma provides the technology to deliver knowledge, especially for organizations that maintain and repair complex equipment: planes, trains, trucks, cars, power sports, construction equipment, medical devices, semiconductor equipment, etc. Our solutions provide a one-stop shop of product information wherever it may be needed—consisting of parts and service information, best practices from the field, procurement, sales, remote collaboration, etc.—allowing workers to quickly apply knowledge and gain experience. With Enigma’s technology companies are empowering their service technicians to quickly become experts on the job, which improves equipment uptime, first-time-fix-rates (FTFR) and mean-time-to-repair (MTTR).
According to the Wall Street Journal, companies are looking for skilled workers. Enigma makes it cost-effective and easy for companies to train and develop skilled employees.
A recent post on the Association for Maintenance Professionals blog reports that “U.S. oil refiners are ‘compromising the mechanical integrity’ of their equipment by extending maintenance cycles on their plants, the head of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board said.”
Though the blog focuses on oil refineries, it references the Deepwater Horizon oil rig catastrophe of April 2010 by noting “During April and May there were 13 fires, 19 deaths and 25 injuries in the oil sector, according to the United Steelworkers. Explosions in April on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico operated by BP Plc and at Tesoro Corp.’s Anacortes, Washington, refinery resulted in 18 deaths.”
The reference to Deepwater might be a somewhat unfair (or at least illogical) correlation, since the rig was not a refinery; the article sort of mixes apples and oranges, so to speak. By referencing the Deepwater spill, it implies that the blowout of the rig might be caused by lack of maintenance. I am no expert on the subject but by most accounts, such as this one in the Washington Post, it remains unclear whether the Deepwater explosion occurred because managers failed to carry out scheduled or unscheduled maintenance. (I wrote previously on the costs of downtime in this blog post on the Deepwater Horizon explosion.)
Nonetheless, the AMP blog does raise a valid issue: the importance of performing routine maintenance. It seems short-sighted to skimp on scheduled maintenance, because the cost of equipment failure is typically far greater than the cost of parts and labor associated with routine maintenance execution. Therefore, the driving economic factor is probably downtime. As oil prices continue to rise, the cost of downtime for a refinery must be so high as to make the risk of equipment failure, due to delayed maintenance, worth taking. However the cost of equipment failure can be measured not only in economic terms (downtime), but also in terms of injury/safety and environmental damage.
When it comes to maintenance standards, many industries are highly regulated. In the United States, for example, the commercial aviation sector is highly regulated by the government (Federal Aviation Administration). Every commercial aircraft has scheduled maintenance checks, and every maintenance procedure that is performed gets recorded. (For more info, see one of our blog posts on aircraft maintenance and compliance.) Other industries, such as oil/gas, rail and chemical, are also asset intensive, with strict safety compliance regulations of their own.
Reducing maintenance costs is important to every industry but so is regulatory compliance. What can be done to encourage compliance, besides trying to instill different priorities (a big challenge in a corporate environment)? They can implement technology solutions that support this goal, such as providing access to relevant maintenance information, wherever and whenever it is needed.
Many companies that operate complex machines and equipment have implemented content management systems and maintenance planning systems, but few have tied these together with systems that deliver relevant, accurate service and parts information on-demand to mechanics and technicians in the field. (For more on this topic, see our white paper on “Deriving Greater Value from Enterprise Asset Management Investments.” )
Yet there is a great need; maintenance planners and service technicians grapple with the daunting complexity and diverse configurations of multiple pieces of equipment. Keeping assets operational involves enormous amounts of documentation, often in different formats spread across multiple locations: EAM, ERP and ECM systems. Automating the delivery of that critical content to the mechanic increases the efficiency and consistency of maintenance by streamlining fault isolation, part identification and selection of repair procedures. This boosts first-time fix rates (FTFR), improves mean-time-to-repair (MTTR), reduces manpower requirements and downtime costs and improves safety and compliance.
With this type of asset maintenance technology at their fingertips, more companies could reduce downtime and costs, while adhering to maintenance schedules.
Accelerating mean-time-to-repair (MTTR) and turnaround-time (TAT) requires a new approach that hinges on activities at the beginning of a service visit. Much can be done to improve the inspection and analysis of equipment—trains, planes, automobiles, oil rigs, etc—which is when the scope of the job and the work plan is being established. This phase of the service visit will determine if the repair is fast or slow, and most maintenance solutions can't do a thing to improve it.
I bring this up for two reasons: 1) the inspection phase determines the work to be done and so plays a critical role in accelerating MTTR; 2) inspection consumes about 30% of total service time, which is a significant portion of TAT. (30% for inspection time has been reported by aircraft MROs and office equipment OEMs, so it seems like a reasonable value to use.) However, none of the EAM/MRO/ERP vendors offers a good solution for accelerating the inspection process. While optimizing maintenance schedules, work assignments and resource allocations is great functionality, it doesn't make equipment diagnosis any faster or more accurate. EAM/MRO/ERP software is based on a relational database that tracks discrete machines, tasks, people and parts, so while it's good for tracking progress and procuring resources, it doesn't help much for inspections. When a mechanic needs to verify a problem, they want service documents, not a database.
Once a problem has been confirmed, a maintenance plan must be established—typically consisting of one or more job cards (work cards). Most companies modify the OEM's job cards to suit their specific needs and manually load the tasks from each job card into the EAM/MRO/ERP database. (Loading this data brings more automation to the scheduling process.) While the lack of integration between OEM job cards and the maintenance database is bad, job card tasks are frequently superseded by service bulletins, engineering orders and regulatory requirements, which is worse. When that happens, the EAM/MRO/ERP database must be updated—a manual and time-consuming process. And the more equipment in the database, the more often updates are required. As a result, keeping the service database accurate becomes a full-time job—for a team of people.
For the foreseeable future, inspection will remain a manual process. Equipment with on-board diagnostics and remote monitoring will help, but it takes a long-time to develop, install and calibrate all the different electronic sensors that would be required to catch more than a fraction of the maintenance problems. To improve the situation, two things are needed: 1) interactive solutions based on service manuals that help mechanics interpret the condition of the equipment, compare it to the maintenance requirements, and feed that information into the database; 2) a way to compare updates (new revisions, SB, EO, TR, AD, MSDS, etc) to the current maintenance process and drive any approved changes into the EAM/MRO/ERP database. Companies need solutions that understand documents rather than databases, schematics not schedules.
Enigma provides this type of software. Enigma augments the EAM/MRO/ERP system by providing updated, integrated service and parts information, which accelerates the process of equipment inspection and delivers faster MTTR and TAT.
As more companies pursue lean and six-sigma for service, it's important to recognize that one of the largest bottlenecks to productivity sits at the very beginning of the maintenance process. Get the diagnosis right, ensure the job cards are accurate and then let the EAM/MRO/ERP software set the optimal schedule. That's how you improve uptime.
(Previous blog posts discussed lean/six-sigma in service and the "long-tail" of complex equipment maintenance for high-tech equipment and for aircraft.)
While this blog post does not include any direct quotes, the topic was inspired by an article in the October/November 2009 issue of Aircraft Commerce, "Improving the efficiency of hangar check planning & execution".
According to Henry Canaday, writing in AviationWeek (MROs Race to Speed TAT), "The most important factors in an airline's selection of an airframe maintenance firm typically are quality, turnaround time (TAT) and price, in that order. Airlines usually rank TAT ahead of price because it can cost $10,000 a day to lease a narrowbody for each day of planned TAT, and several times that for a widebody, according to maintenance consultants at Oliver Wyman. Unplanned TAT delays cost even more in revenue losses."
This supports what Enigma has been saying for years, regardless of your industry when it comes to maximizing uptime and minimizing costs, maintenance quality and speed is critical. It's almost embarrassing to write something so obvious; however, what isn't so obvious is one of the key factors for improving quality and speed of service.
Maintenance consistency is a major driver for both quality and speed. In fact, lean six-sigma (LSS) shows that increasing maintenance consistency has a bigger impact on service cost than reducing mean-time-to-repair (MTTR). (You can look here and here for why that is.) In other words, when looking at the big picture, MTTR shouldn't be your primary concern.
Since quality and speed are not mutually exclusive, achieving both should be the goal—and service consistency drives both. Because Enigma's technology focuses on efficiency and consistency, we have been helping companies provide better, faster maintenance for years serving: airlines, MROs, automotive and industrial manufacturers and their dealers, rail and transit, and others.
Canaday writes, "KLM Engineering & Maintenance now leads the EU market in TAT for the 747-400, according to VP Base Maintenance Karel Bockstael. ‘We have to, to compete with Asia on labor cost.' D-check TAT on 747-400s [a complex maintenance event] can be as brief as four weeks, or 3.5 weeks without exterior painting. This represents a 30% reduction in five years through Lean and Six Sigma, identification of critical paths and other improvements, with no increase in manpower."
Interestingly, KLM went live with Enigma about five years ago. While we can't take credit for all of the savings—that would be unfair to KLM Engineering & Maintenance—Enigma's technology has contributed to their success.
At the dawn of this new decade, perhaps it's time for a fresh look at how your company supports and services equipment. When it comes to succeeding in the aftermarket, Enigma has the technology and the experience to help you fix it right and fix it fast.
During a recent conversation with Joe Barkai of IDC Manufacturing Insights, he mentioned that he’s often asked about improving MTTR and FTFR but rarely MTBF. (For those of you that have forgotten your maintenance acronyms: MTTR is mean-time-to-repair, FTFR is first-time-fix-rate and MTBF is mean-time-between-failure.)
It seems that the natural inclination of many service departments is to focus on quickly getting equipment back in service, with less concern for proper equipment maintenance and calibration. During a break-fix event (unscheduled maintenance) this is a rational response: the equipment is down, revenue generation has stopped, so get the machines working again. However, even during scheduled service events mechanics can become overly focused on speed. This is an example of reacting to the urgent rather than resolving the important. The problem is that service departments are often measured more on productivity than on quality.
Looking at each of these acronyms: MTTR is all about fixing stuff faster, which requires streamlining repair processes; FTFR seems like it’s about quality but is really more about accurate diagnosis, which takes us back to productivity again; However, MTBF is all about how long equipment continues to function properly.
For example, when the wheels on a car are aligned there is a certain range of adjustment that qualifies as “straight.” That range is the tolerance of the alignment. If the mechanic adjusts the wheels so that they’re barely within tolerance, then one small pothole can knock the wheels out of alignment again. However, if the mechanic is diligent about centering the wheels in the tolerance zone then it may take several potholes before the steering needs another adjustment. In this case, the length of time between wheel alignments is the mean-time-between-failure.
As you can imagine, focusing on MTBF can have a negative impact on MTTR but that can happen when any measurement criteria gets too much emphasis. In future blog posts we plan to take this discussion deeper, and talk about some of the challenges and solutions for keeping these three service measurements properly aligned.
With all the projections of gloom and doom for the coming year, one area we’re not hearing about very much is aftermarket parts and service. Perhaps that’s because the economic downturn has a smaller effect on the aftermarket than it does on manufacturing. The reason is pretty obvious; the wear and tear of normal equipment operations guarantees a need for parts and maintenance. This need never goes away as long as the equipment is in service. So unless customers stop using existing equipment altogether, which can happen, there will continue to be a market for service and parts.
It’s true that in certain industries, and certain regions, some of the equipment is being mothballed. In many industries, new equipment purchases are being delayed. However, most companies are simply finding ways to continue existing operations with the equipment they already own. These companies have an urgent need to operate their equipment more efficiently—improving uptime, reducing mean-time-between-failures (MTBF) and improving mean-time-to-repair (MTTR). The only way to accomplish this, with existing equipment, is to improve the processes associated with parts and service. And that means improving IT, for both the manufacturer and the operator.
A TechWeb Research Report in the print version of the Nov 24 Information Week (”The Road Ahead: Tough Times Call for Strategic IT”) says: “An unintended consequence of the global economic problems is that they may further elevate the strategic role of IT in organizations, as the business looks to its technology platforms and processes to help drive efficiencies that save money and accelerate business activities that can have an impact on customer loyalty.” (The full report is available for registration here.)
For instance, under normal circumstances an automotive OEM gets less than 5% of corporate revenue from spare parts sales but those same sales provide more than 30% of corporate profits. With the decrease in car sales what must that picture look like now? And how much better would it be if the OEMs could position themselves to compete more effectively against Pep Boys, AutoZone and NAPA? Many manufacturers are now trying to find out by implementing advanced parts and service systems to support their customers and dealers.
The economy may be bad but companies are still running their equipment. Enigma’s job is to help manufacturers and operators support that equipment, with software that simplifies the work of mechanics, technicians and parts managers. The result is a more efficient aftermarket with lower costs and higher profits for all involved.
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