Manufacturing companies trying to expand their aftermarket parts and service business must grapple with a problem that is unknown to most of their executives—the issue of old (or poor quality) product information. (i.e. maintenance manuals, service bulletins, technical specs, parts catalogs, etc.) Any customer with machines more than five years old is, in all likelihood, making maintenance decisions based on outdated paper documentation—or the electronic equivalent, scanned PDF. Customers running old equipment will eventually rely on old information.
There are billions of machines in use throughout the world that fit that description, and service and parts decisions are being made for them based on old information. Modern authoring tools with robust data formats, like XML, may help future generations of technicians, but OEMs that want to improve aftermarket revenues must find a way to use yesterday’s service information to help today’s mechanics and parts managers. That means getting parts and service information that’s in an old format on-line, tying it into parts ordering systems and then updating and maintaining this information for the future.
Before they begin, OEMs must clearly define their aftermarket business objectives because decisions about cleansing, converting or re-using old data can have significant implications. In fact, for anyone trying to improve aftermarket profits, the cost of making their old data usable is probably the biggest unknown expense they will face. Poor data decisions can easily double the time and money needed to implement a new aftermarket initiative.
For instance, if service information is in paper format there is really no other option than to scan it into an electronic format. But what then? Should the company take the next step and use optical character recognition (OCR) to convert the scanned document into a true, text-based format? If so, what level of conversion accuracy is required? (Accuracy requirements will vary by industry and be driven by the risk of potential errors—in terms of money and safety.) If OCR is deemed too expensive, perhaps metadata or searchable keywords can be added into the file header or the properties of the new electronic document. (This may be a manual process or it may involve OCR, but on a more limited scale and therefore with far greater accuracy.) But what types of metadata/keywords are most useful to aftermarket business activities? What about non-textual information like graphics, schematics and illustrations; or parts lists, calibration and inspection tables? The answers to these questions, and more, will have a significant influence on the time and cost of getting the aftermarket solution up-and-running.
Of course, if the OEM has source documents in an electronic format, so much the better. In fact, it is reasonable to assume that any document printed in the last 20 years was created on some type of electronic authoring tool. Since electronic data will provide much better quality than scanning and OCR the question then becomes how to obtain the original files? And what about any revisions and ongoing updates/modifications?
When trying to improve aftermarket revenues, there are a large number of data issues that deserve thoughtful consideration. Because of Enigma’s vast experience serving the aviation, automotive, oil & gas, rail, defense, utilities and high-tech industries, we are well positioned to provide you with insight and solutions to even the most difficult data problems. The key to success in the aftermarket is cleansing old data to drive new business.