The Uptime Blog
All good things must come to an end, and so it is with the Enigma website and Uptime Blog. At the end of December, we’ll be retiring the website and blog so we can fully integrate into PTC’s Service Lifecycle Management segment.
The Enigma website was the core of our online presence, illustrating the breadth of our knowledge, experience, innovation and leadership. We were able to address specific industries with both our InService MRO (now called PTC Servigistics InService MRO) and InService EPC (now called PTC Servigistics InService Technical Content) parts and service catalog software.
The Uptime Blog was where we shared our insights, opinions and expertise. Throughout the years we’ve covered some interesting parts and service related topics, followed industry trends and shared helpful InService product knowledge. Along the way we’ve been able to keep our customers and readers in-the-know. While some of our blog posts have been purely informational, others have sparked serious MRO discussions that leap frogged to other media (LinkedIn discussion groups) and that lasted long after the post was published.
Enigma blog subscribers needn’t worry about losing a valuable parts and service information resource though. PTC has an even more robust compilation of resources and communities that are equally as useful and informative, and are adding more knowledge every day.
Stay connected to parts and service expertise
Here’s a brief list of how you can stay connected with industry news, insight and product knowledge that will support your parts, service and aftermarket intelligence.
- On the web. PTC Service Lifecycle Management segment Get the most up-to-date information on service lifecycle management solutions at the website. Visit often as product information from Enigma gets woven into the larger SLM offerings and updates to the website are made.
- On our blog. PTC Product Lifecycle Stories (Blog) Stay informed on Product Lifecycle Management topics as well as service related topics. Look for a dedicated Service blog coming in January 2014 for all kinds of service specific stories and posts.
- On Twitter. Follow our PTC corporate account at @PTC or our Service Lifecycle Management account at @PTC_SLM to say connected with all the PTC and service related happenings. Also check out @PTC_FIRST where we partner with future engineers, @PTC_University for training or @PTC_Support for information on newest product releases and technical support.
- On Facebook. PTC’s Facebook page boasts an active online community where you can learn about PTC events, the latest research, innovation, guest lectures and products.
- On LinkedIn. Learn about PTC on LinkedIn where you’ll find company insights, career opportunities and the chance to connect with the individuals behind the service and product lifecycle management success.
Explore, follow and join
We encourage you to visit and participate in these information rich communities and come back often to discover even more information as PTCs influence in the Service Lifecycle Management segment continues to expand and grow. PTC’s web and online communities are where you can stay connected to the Enigma parts and service expertise you’ve come to know and respect.
We have some exciting news to share. Enigma has made a strategic decision to join PTC (NASDAQ: PMTC) in order to provide our customers with a single source of service support. PTC is a leading provider of technology solutions that transforms how products are created and serviced.
For years Enigma has supported the service efforts of our maintenance and manufacturing customers with a best-in-class parts and service information delivery system. Our InService MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) software supports the maintenance, repair and overhaul of capital equipment such as aircraft, locomotives and other complex assets. Our InService EPC (electronic parts catalog) software is a superior web-native application that enables OEMs to easily publish and distribute accurate, updated parts and service information for their field service teams and dealer/distributor networks.
We’ve built quite an impressive list of national and international customers – Ford, FedEx, American Eagle (a network of American Airlines), Korean Air, Rolls-Royce Defence, Bobcat, DitchWitch, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), and the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy to name just a few. For all our customers, Enigma has become an integral component of their core service operations.
Our decision to join PTC was driven by a desire to provide our customers with a more complete system for managing their products and aftermarket service efforts from start to finish. Enigma will become a vital part of PTC’s existing service lifecycle management (SLM) solution to thoroughly address the organizational, operational, and technological change which companies must tackle to emerge as competitive service-driven enterprises in the global marketplace.
Existing Enigma customers will benefit from the combined resources of Enigma and PTC – two global organizations with the common goal of delivering more value across the full service lifecycle of complex equipment. New customers will get a more complete solution to their product and service lifecycle by combining InService MRO and InService EPC with existing PTC SLM offerings. Distributed manufacturing industries worldwide gain a striking competitive advantage to keep them ahead of competitors with technologies that span the planning, delivery and analysis of service operations.
As we integrate into the PTC business structure and blend our parts and service software solutions into the more comprehensive offerings of PTC, we’ll continue to communicate with customers and partners. Customers can still contact technical support through the Enigma Support Portal, where you’ll reach the same trusted technical team that you already know, have built a rapport with, and have come to rely on. And of course, you can contact your Enigma representative, who is available to answer any questions you may have.
We’re excited to be joining PTC and hope you share in our enthusiasm. We’re looking forward to being part of a larger team of global leaders in the service lifecycle management space in which parts, service and aftermarket support of complex equipment thrives.
Tags: aftermarket, electronic parts catalogue, parts and service, parts catalog, InService EPC, dvautier, diane vautier, automotive aftermarket, electronic parts catalog, epc software, maintenance, complex equipment
Aftermarket support can be inexact. It’s hard to define, hard to differentiate, and even harder to transition from cost center to profit center. But, armed with three strategic best practices, aftermarket operations can find and capitalize on opportunity with success.
Benchmarking compares a company’s business processes and performance metrics against best in class or other similar industry standards. Management consultant, university professor and author Peter Drucker best described the value of benchmarking when he said “what's measured improves”, and benchmarking makes meaningful measurement possible.
Benchmarking in OEM or third party aftermarket support is an important step for ongoing and continual improvement. It is the process of identifying key performance indicators (KPIs), measuring them, establishing goals for improving them and then monitoring them to evaluate the level of improvement. According to a Blumberg Advisory Group study, “benchmarking is the key to understanding aftermarket services … and identifying areas for improvement.”
What types of performance metrics are benchmarked in aftermarket industry?
That depends on the industry. For instance, the telecommunications and consumer electronics industries consider key performance indicators to be No Fault Found and the overall length of the depot repair cycle. Blumberg Advisory Group found that “No Fault Found (NFF) remains one of the most cost prohibitive issues for manufacturers. 80% of respondents stated that they are looking for alternative solutions to combat high levels of NFF.” They also found that the overall length of the depot repair cycle is critical because it is essential to operational readiness and sustainability and impacts on-hand inventory stocking.
Accountants and advisors Moore Stephens Automotive, in their Key Performance Indicators for Automotive Retailers report, identify gross return on investment and gross profit percentage (among other indicators) as top automotive parts KPIs. They include gross profit percentage of labor and the parts/labor ratio as KPIs (among others) for service work.
Find and benchmark whatever aftermarket metrics are important to your industry and let those KPIs inspire strategies for improvement.
Integration connects a company’s various departments and business centers. It improves communication, streamlines operations, creates valuable channels for monitoring established KPIs, and helps drive revenue.
Integration in aftermarket operations creates a significant competitive advantage and is an important factor to future success. Enigma’s partner SAP in its whitepaper Best Practices in Complex Equipment Manufacturing, Sales, and Service writes:
“With their spare parts business growing rapidly as a percentage of revenue, many complex product and equipment manufacturers have found their cost centers growing into larger and larger profit centers.Typically, these cost centers have ‘island’ systems that are not integrated to the enterprise, inhibiting communication with customers and customer service organizations, service groups, engineers, vendors, and suppliers.”
They go on to say that “[i]ntegrated applications, especially parts and service catalog information, enable organizations to position inventories, either globally or locally to better service your customers.” SAP’s conclusion is that “manufacturing companies with integrated parts and service information are enjoying reduced inventory levels without a decrease in customer fill rates.”
Jonathan Carey, Managing Director and Head of the Automotive Aftermarket Practice at BB&T Capital Markets, in his 2012 Automotive Specialty Products Alliance (ASPA)presentation Current State of the Aftermarket estimates that the retail online penetration rates for the auto/autoparts industry has a “conservative growth potential of 12%.” That’s a huge growth opportunity that will elude OEM parts organizations still clinging to outdated “island” systems that are not up to par with progressing online usage estimates.
Continued focus on incorporating new technologies and responding to new trends allows integrated aftermarket organizations to outperform their competitors. The introduction or upgrade of an electronic parts catalog, with field service mobility, and browser and device independence (HTML 5 and CSS3 compliance), position OEM aftermarket organizations for continued success.
3. Predictive Analytics
Predictive Analytics unleashes the power hidden deep in business data. Whereas traditional reporting tools show you where you’ve been, predictive analytics uses data patterns to uncover forward-looking trends (either positive or negative) that help guide critical strategic business decisions. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to an aftermarket crystal ball.
According to a Forrester Research study, “predictive analytics enables firms to reduce risks, make intelligent decisions, and create differentiated, more personal customer experiences.” Enigma has identified three critical areas where predictive analytics can provide a competitive advantage for OEM or third party aftermarket service and parts support – to evaluate service and parts processes, identify product and service trends, and drive parts purchases.
- Evaluate Service and Parts Processes
o Gain service & parts insight about how often the EPC is being used and for what purpose
o Gauge the impact of the EPC on business and identify opportunities to capture revenue
o Align people, processes and assets to optimize performance for productivity and profitability
o Measure KPI’s to evaluate goal attainment
- Indentify Product and Service Trends
o Detect hidden service patterns and part search associations
o Efficiency of technical service & parts content
o Learn which specific equipment or models are causing the most (and least) EPC usage
o Identify quality training issues
o Identify opportunities to capture revenue
o Measure the number of lost parts orders due to shopping cart abandonment
o Understand online parts purchase flow and value via submitted carts
o Strengthen customer retention
o Improve cross-selling opportunities through service patterns and part searches
Engima’s most recent InService EPC Version 5.5 release has introduced a Dashboard Reporting feature that sheds light on these three areas to uncover business information, and giving managers and executives more insight into these three critical areas of aftermarket operations.
Knowing and working the three strategic best practices in aftermarket support will position aftermarket operations for continued success.
Tags: electronic parts catalogue, parts catalog, field service, mobile, InService EPC, dvautier, fleet maintenance, electronic parts catalogs, epc software, complex equipment, mobile parts catalog
When it comes to complex equipment maintenance and repair, mobility is a key factor to success. According to an infographic “Delight Customers and Increase Profitability,” by SAP, an Enigma partner, mobility improves first-time fix rates, increases productivity, produces gains in profitability and is a key strategy for improving performance.
Customers Want More, Now
Customers are increasingly demanding more from their equipment service providers – OEMs operating in-house service and field service teams, dealership service departments, and independent service providers. Customers want faster, smarter, more extensive service to combat equipment downtime, and they want it NOW.
Although service providers recognize shifting customer expectations and are eager to respond, they are restricted by the technology available to them. The inability to remotely access service and parts information, and the limitations of mobile device operating systems present stumbling blocks to productive and profitable field service.
Mobile Electronic Parts Catalog Software Delivers
Just a few weeks ago Enigma announced InService EPC Version 5.5. It includes new advances in parts catalog software that help service providers tackle the challenges of field service mobility. It gives service teams the tools needed to meet customer’s demands head on.
The InService EPC Version 5.5 puts the power of a parts catalog where it’s needed most – in the hands of the service technicians. It works equally as well on a tablet as is does on a desktop or laptop. Five key features make InService EPC tablet compatibility advantageous:
- Mobility – full remote access to parts availability, pricing and service information
- Independence – browser and device independent
- Design – easy-to-use touch screen graphic user interface
- Viewing – ability to view, search with highlight and display pdf documents without additional software
- Technology – HTML5 and CSS3 compliant with Enigma 3C platform technology Improved Service Performance
Mobility – Tablet compatibility expands the mobile capabilities of service staff. It offers a fully functioning software application that gives field service techs access to all the same functions found in the desktop or laptop versions. Search for parts availability, pricing or detailed service information. View parts assemblies, add items to the shopping cart, and submit orders online.
Independence – InService EPC Version 5.5 is HTML5 and CSS3 compliant making it device- and browser-independent. Service technicians can use whatever device they want, wherever online connection is available. This cross-platform support is also useful for IT departments struggling to manage challenging BOYD issues.
Design – A sleek new interface is expressly designed for tablet use. Internet Explorer users won’t notice any changes to the user interface, but when you view version 5.5 on your team’s tablets using other browsers, you’ll experience a simple, easy-to-use design. The touch screen navigation eliminates the need for a mouse while maintaining the full application functionality. Service technicians have all the information they need – literally at their fingertips.
Document Viewing – InService EPC Version 5.5 features built-in streaming pdf viewing. No plug-in is required. There are no apps to download. View, search and get highlighted search results. Display pdf documents without additional software. Open multiple windows to compare models, share e-notes, or get detailed parts information with fly-out boxes when hot-spotted items are selected.
Technology – Version 5.5 is based on our proven 3C Platform technology, and incorporating international programming community standards. It conforms to the latest HTML5 and CSS3 standards making it a powerful and robust mobile application supporting multiple types of rich content formats.
InService EPC Version 5.5 is true mobility without compromise – the power of a desktop with the portability of a tablet. It makes increased mobility a reality for service teams looking to improve performance and is leading the transformation of the field service industry.
Last week Enigma introduced our InService® EPC Version 5.5 electronic parts catalog. The new release includes two key features – tablet compatibility and dashboard reporting. It also contains enhanced performance, improved functionality and more detailed administrative control with the ability to broadcast messages to users system wide.
While all the system updates are cause for excitement, one feature creating buzz with top management and executives is the new Dashboard Reporting function, designed for executive-level monitoring. It captures data trends of electronic parts catalog activity and visually represents them in an easy-to-read chart format by highlighting pre-defined key performance indicators (KPIs). Dashboard Reporting arms OEM management with real-time, data-driven insights to optimize aftermarket service and parts revenue.
Jonathan Yaron, CEO of Enigma, describes the Dashbord as “…an important executive management tool that uncovers user trends as the OEM in-house service teams and dealer service teams support complex equipment. It is a real game changer for OEMs looking to improve customer/dealer support and increase aftermarket parts revenue”.
InService EPC Version 5.5 comes pre-loaded with nine dashboard charts that highlight key performance indicators for processes, products, people and purchases:
Processes Trends - Monitor Service and Parts Processes (activity)
- Activity Trend. Utilization of EPC system
- Activity by Role. Utilization of EPC system by job type (user role)
Product Trends – Identify Product Trends
- Top Usage Models. Number of documents assessed per model (high)
- Top Usage Models by Number of Users. Number of users researching each model
- Top Usage Serial Numbers. EPC utilization time by serial number
- Mean Time Work on Machine (S/N) Distribution. Mean time of EPC utilization by serial number
People / Purchase Trends – Influence People and Generate Purchases
- Submitted Carts Trend. Number of shopping carts submitted by date
- Total Amount of Submitted Carts. Value ($) of shopping carts submitted by date
- Abandoned Shopping Carts. Number of shopping carts abandoned by date
The Dashboard Reporting feature lets executives and management:
- Gauge the impact of InService EPC on service and parts business and identify opportunities to capture revenue
- Determine which product models generate the most/least EPC-driven service and parts activity and identify quality and training issues
- Identify which serial numbers are generating the most EPC-driven service and parts activity and identify quality and training issues
- Measure the impact of the EPC system on capturing parts orders/revenue and facilitating online transactions
- Measure the number of lost parts orders due to shopping cart abandonment
The InService EPC Dashboard Reporting feature adds a layer of business intelligence not found in other electronic parts catalog software. It brings clarity and visibility to previously undetected processes and products and gives management the tools to influence people and parts purchases. OEM executives are able to evaluate and optimize aftermarket service and parts processes—those recurring activities that drive the most profitable part of the business.
Dashboard Reporting helps monitor service and parts processes, identify product trends, and track purchases. This allows OEMs with dealer/distributor networks to measure buying habits of those networks while OEMs with their own field service teams to evaluate staff efficiency. The Dashboard helps companies gauge the impact of the EPC system on either dealer or field service and parts business and capitalize on opportunities to realize untapped revenue. It is a real-time, data-driven competitive advantage that helps OEM executives capture more of the aftermarket parts market.
If you’re an existing Enigma InService EPC customer, or if you’re considering moving to an electronic parts catalog from a paper system, contact us to learn more about our Version 5.5 release with the mobility of tablets and Dashboard Reporting.
It’s here. The latest release of InService EPC Version 5.5 is now available. Our programmers have been working hard to deliver the next big innovation in electronic parts catalogs – and Version 5.5 delivers. There are two key features that make InService EPC Version 5.5 a ground-breaking advance in parts catalog software innovation – mobility and business intelligence.
Mobility – a More Productive Tool for Service Technicians
Service technician mobility is a hot topic. OEMs operating in-house service and field service teams, dealership service departments, and independent service providers are demanding more from their parts catalog software. Service technicians want:
- Mobility – full remote access to parts availability, pricing and service information
- Browser and device independence
- Easy to use touch screen graphic user interface
- Ability to view, search, highlight and display pdf documents without additional software
InService EPC version 5.5 with tablet compatibility gives them what they need. It expands the capabilities of service staff with a user interface expressly designed for use on a tablet computer. It provides a fully functional application, touch screen navigation and convenience of tablet mobility.
This latest release is HTML5 and CSS3 compliant making it device- and browser-independent so service technicians can use whatever device they want, wherever online connection is available. It features built-in streaming pdf so users can view, search with highlights and display parts and service information without an outside pdf viewer. No additional plug-ins or apps are needed.
The new release makes increased mobility a reality by allowing service technicians to access the service and parts catalog wherever they are on whatever device they choose. It’s a tool that helps service technicians be more productive, mangers reduce service maintenance costs, and customers increase complex equipment uptime.
Business Intelligence – a More Productive Tool for Managers and Executives
One thing that every executive craves is Big Data Business Intelligence. That’s exactly what InService EPC Version 5.5 gives them with the new Dashboard Reporting feature. It arms OEM management with real-time, data-driven insights to optimize aftermarket service and parts revenue. The Dashboard Reporting feature is a newly created executive management tool for Enigma InService EPC customers. It captures data trends of electronic parts catalog activity and visually represents it in an easy-to-read chart format by highlighting pre-defined key performance indicators (KPIs).
It’s a highly effective business intelligence tool that:
• Organizes and presents executive level data
• Highlights key performance indicators
• Brings visibility to undetected service and parts trends
• Provides real-time, data-driven competitive advantage
Dashboard Reporting lets executives and managers measure the effectiveness of a company’s services and parts operations so they can evaluate service and parts processes, indentify product trends and drive parts purchases.
In addition to mobility and Dashboard Reporting, Version 5.5 also includes other strategic upgrades to the interface, performance, functionality and administrative InService EPC control:
- Mobility – Browser and device independence on a fully functional application designed expressly for mobile tablet use
- Executive Reporting – Introduces the InService EPC Dashboard feature that visually represents data in an easy-to-read chart format by highlighting pre-defined key performance indicators
- More Intuitive User Interface – Redesigned to be consistent with latest e-commerce practices including shopping cart location and more descriptive search results
- Enhanced Performance – Faster processing of catalog revisions and faster graphic user interface
- Improved Functionality – Delivering more detail in part descriptions and more flexibility in assembly structure
- More Detailed Admin Control - Ability to broadcast “What’s New” messages on the main page of the EPC, and the ability to limit user modifications to item descriptions and price
The InService EPC Version 5.5 release is the latest example of Enigma’s ongoing commitment of continued research and development that supports our customers’ service and parts business today and anticipates their needs tomorrow. It’s a philosophy we take seriously in our efforts to provide exceptional support for the service of complex equipment.
Enigma is the most advanced electronic parts catalog software on the market, used by OEMs worldwide, to facilitate parts lookup, sharing of service, sales, and related maintenance information, and parts ordering through deep integration with our customer’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.
Equipment uptime is critical. Hospitals need MRI machines to take accurate images in order to make proper diagnoses. Construction companies need boom lifts to build multi-story buildings, and auto manufacturers have a whole dealer network and extended independent repair facility network to support in order to keep their cars, trucks and vans safe and on-the-road.
Manufacturers of complex equipment support their products after the initial sale in order to maintain high performance standards for their customers. But supporting that equipment is challenging. Sometimes manufacturers work with third party vendors to contract that support. Other times, they maintain their own staff to supply parts, and perform service or warranty work. Either way, aftermarket support is a necessary function for customer loyalty and continued success.
Make It or Buy It?
The first question when considering aftermarket support software is whether to develop the software in-house or purchase it out of the box (OOTB). Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) wrestle with this question regardless of whether they hire third party maintenance vendors or field their own maintenance teams to do the work. Their challenge is how to provide the parts and service information needed to keep their equipment (and their customers) up and running.
Benefits of Out Of The Box Aftermarket Software
While there are many pros and cons to both making and buying and aftermarket solution, we think there are some compelling reasons to choose an out of the box aftermarket software solution. Here’s why:
Software Development as a Core Competency
Software development is an arduous task, requiring a dedicated team of developers and a steady budget. Manufacturers undertaking an in-house, custom software development approach must step outside their core manufacturing competency to create proficiency in an entirely different discipline – software development. This shifts the focus away from what the manufacturer does best – produce products.
Instead, valuable time, money and attention is spent building a team, employing a highly trained staff of developers, and incurring expenses to maintain the team’s education in coding, hardware and ongoing knowledge of new and upcoming technologies. It can be done, but is not the best use of assets or resources. Mis-appropriation of valuable resources may result. In-house development staff members become overburdened with routine daily activity, interruptions and user troubleshooting for desktop applications, which compromises development time and the quality of the resultant software.
A better option is for manufacturers to do what they do best, and outsource the rest. Choose an established out of the box software developed by a company whose sole business is software development and that specializes in the task at hand. Enigma is a great example. Our InService EPC software is an electronic parts catalogs specializing in delivering critical OEM parts and service information for aftermarket maintenance of complex equipment – within a dealer environment, in-house field service teams or outsourced service companies. Our sole purpose is to develop software that provides an entire system for implementation, bug fixes, updates and compatibility. We build parts and service best practices directly into the framework of the software to improve the function and operability of a company’s service business. Manufacturers are then freed to concentrate on performance of their own core business function.
Scalability refers to the ability of the software to support an increasing numbers of users, devices and workloads without data transfers slowing down. If built with scalability in mind, software grows as a company grows – expanding to meet increasing demands while delivering the same high levels of productivity. This doesn’t just mean adding hardware to support increased activity, but ensuring that data integrity between application instances remains constant and synchronization across work processes remains stable. It takes into account security, equipment uptime, and integration with other business applications to improve the flow of information and commerce.
Scalability can be difficult to achieve. Matt Aimonetti, a Senior Software Architect at LivingSocial best describes the concept of scalability in his personal developer’s blog by saying:
“Designing beautiful and scalable software is hard. Really hard.
It’s hard for many reasons. But what makes it even harder is that software scalability is a relatively new challenge, something only really done in big companies, companies that are not really keen on sharing their knowledge. The amount of academic work done on software design is quite limited compared to other types of design, but shared knowledge about scalable design is almost nonexistent (Don’t expect to find detailed information about scaling online video games either, the industry is super secretive. And even if this is a niche market where finding skilled/experienced developers is really challenging, information is not shared outside a game project).”
Scalability makes aftermarket software flexible. It adjusts and allows businesses to adapt to changing market demands by growing rather than replacing the software system. Enigma’s InService EPC software application is created with scalability in mind. It extends the capacity and capability, without the need for new infrastructure, additional personnel, or the development of new software.
Time and Money Savings – Add More Value with Fewer Resources
The argument of core competencies and scalability should be reason enough to consider out of the box aftermarket parts and service software, but the issues of time and money really drive the point home.
Manufacturers today are being asked to deliver more value with fewer resources. The Manufacturing Institute and the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) partnered to produce the 2011 Structural Cost Study. The key finding was that U.S. manufacturers face a 20.0% structural cost burden in the global market compared to manufacturers in our nine largest trading partner countries. This is up from 17.6% in 2008.
To be globally competitive, OEMs are looking for ways to realize bottom line savings quickly with only modest investment. Out of the box software solutions deliver. InService EPC’s out of the box parts catalog furnishes OEMs with shorter implementation periods while Enigma works with them on issues of hosting, data prep, training, testing, and integration. Once in place, InService EPC saves money by providing scheduled updates and improved functionality without the burdensome costs associated with an in-house team.
Equipment uptime is critical. And manufacturers will do what it takes to support their products after the initial sale in order to maintain high performance standards for their customers. Enigma’s out of the box electronic parts catalog software can help make that happen.
Tags: aftermarket, electronic parts catalogue, parts and service, parts catalog, parts catalogues, shopping carts, InService EPC, dvautier, diane vautier, electronic parts catalog, epc software, software
The term “Losing to no decision” is a phrase sales reps use when their potential customer, after a lengthy exploration and proposal process, elects to take no action at all, rather than choose a solution from the sales rep or his (her) competitors. The process ends in stagnation, without a sale – a very discouraging experience for the sales rep trying to close the deal.
A Company’s “No Decision” Perspective
But if we look at the same scenario from the perspective of the company that had been searching for a solution to their business challenge, there are even more serious consequences. The company (and its staff) is worse off than when it began the search, with little to show for all the effort. The lack of action has spurred frustration about the project – possibly discouraging future problem seeking, wasted valuable resources and man-hours exploring the options while the opportunity is unrealized and the original problem is left unresolved.
Avoid Losing to No Decision
Let’s say that you are one of several aftermarket Regional Service Managers of a manufacturing company that makes high-ticket complex equipment like medical imaging machines, industrial robotic assembly components or mining equipment. Congratulations if you actually are the Regional Service Manager. If not, you can always aspire, right?
For a long while now, you’ve been thinking about making recommendations to senior staff that you feel will help the maintenance team become a more active contributor to revenue generation. You want to suggest that the company include additional functionality to the existing parts catalog or upgrade altogether to a highly functional electronic parts catalog.
You’re confident that such a move will reduce costs by providing more accurate parts and service information, streamlining service technician work flow, improving field service performance and minimizing parts misorders. You also know that deeper integration with the company’s business system would give your team access to parts pricing and availability and a built-in shopping cart ordering process would result in increased parts sales.
The only challenge is that you don’t know how to go about making the suggestion in a way that will have impact rather than being ignored. Here is what Enigma has found to be a solid foundation for moving through an electronic parts catalog project and making the right decision to resolve the challenge.
- Have a Goal: Maybe you don’t know all the upfront features, benefits and details like the Regional Service Manager example above. Maybe you just intuitively know that there’s a better way to do things. Any good idea has to be intellectually tangible to gain support, so avoid uneasy vagueness and establish clear goals of what you hope to accomplish. In the example above, the aftermarket manager wants to help the service department become a more active revenue generator.
- Identify Key Stakeholders: Not everyone is going to agree with your great ideas and that’s OK. You only need to gain the confidence of the people who have a direct interest or influence in the decision. This may be the service staff who may be most impacted, the IT department who would oversee integration, and of course the Regional VP who would benefit from an integrated electronic parts catalog or have the authority to veto its progress. Stakeholders are different for every project or company. Figure out who they are and start earning their trust and support. Decision makers can make or break your project.
- Assemble Your Team: Seek out people who share your keen insights, can influence stakeholders or support your efforts. They are your partners, your teammates, and your allies in transforming your inert environment into a dynamic one. They will help keep the project on course. It may be someone like the parts manager who may benefit from increased sales, the top field service technician willing to share insights and experience, or the new IT assistant eager to prove him or herself to the IT department manager. One surprising resource is the electronic parts catalog vendor. Vendors can provide the facts or structure you need to support your position. For example Enigma makes available an RFP sample that can drastically reduce the time and effort put into identifying and organizing the important project details.
- Build a Business Case: Anyone who is responsible for the profit and loss (P&L) of a department or company appreciates when you make a business case that speaks their language. Relate your goals to dollars – what costs will be reduced and by how much will the expected revenue increase? You can still include less concrete results like increased customer satisfaction, but don’t leave out the obvious connection to the immediate P&L bottom line.
Now that you have defined a clear goal, identified the stakeholders, assembled your team, and built a business case, you’re ready and able to help your company move forward with solid decision making.
Remember when you were a kid and you saw a science fiction movie? If you were like me, you were simply amazed at the endless high-tech gadgets and devices that made life on the silver screen so futuristic and so exciting. The creativeness behind those sci-fi concepts was simply awe-inspiring.
Well, today we’re starting to reap the harvest of all that inspiration. You could say that “the future is now.” Modern technology is infiltrating every aspect of our lives, from smart objects to integrated systems, from information sharing to logistics and nearly everything in between. We’re more connected through technology now than any other time in known history. And we’re on the cusp of the next giant leap forward. Imagine cars that talk to each other to better manage commute routes, phones that signal houses to prepare for your arrival with lights turned on and heat turned up, or your computer tracking all your important assets with GPS.
It starts with the Internet
Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s J.C.R. Licklider and his colleagues could never have imagined that the "Galactic Network" concept first discussed in 1962 would catch on and change the world. But it did. A brief history of the Internet contains countless contributors, collaborators and visionaries who have made this invisible network critical to research, business, and our own daily lives. The Internet, it seems has become an integral part of our lives.
In a 2005 Pew Internet and American Life Project report, “How the Internet has woven itself into American life,” researchers said that “a decade after browsers came into popular use, the Internet has reached into–and, in some cases, reshaped–just about every important realm of modern life.” In Pew’s 2009 report, “The Mobile Difference,” they added that “wireless connectivity has drawn many users more deeply into digital life.” And in their 2012 report, “The Future of Smart Systems,” they said that “hundreds of tech analysts foresee a future with ‘smart’ devices and environments that make people’s lives more efficient.”
It continues with the new Internet and new technology
The Business Insider reported that, “On June 6, 2012, a brand-new version of the Internet was turned on,” and that “we needed a new Internet because the old Internet was running out of address space.” Apparently the ‘old’ Internet only contained 4.3 billion unique addresses. Vint Cerf, the inventor of the Internet Protocol system says that the new Internet, IPv6 is "trillions upon trillions of times larger."
Not coincidentally, the timing of the Internet expansion corresponds with an explosion of new advances in technology eager to include unique internet protocol addresses in countless ‘things’ that can connect to the Internet. Sensors with unique Internet protocol (IP) addresses that can be attached to objects (or things) and products with the Internet connectivity built into the product itself are showing up on retail shelves everywhere. At the beginning of 2012, tech blog ReadWrite, in talking about new products, reported that “over 50% at CES (consumer electronics show) were internet connected.” That number is growing exponentially with an expected 24 billion connected devices in the world by 2020 says GSMA (Groupe Speciale Mobile Association).
It culminates with the “Internet of Things”
According to Techopedia, “The Internet of Things (IoT) is a computing concept that describes a future where everyday physical objects will be connected to the Internet and will be able to identify themselves to other devices. IoT is significant because an object that can represent itself digitally becomes something greater than when the object existed by itself. No longer does the object relate just to you, but now it is connected to objects around it, data from a database, etc. When many objects act in unison, they are referred to as having ‘ambient intelligence.’ ”
Imagine a world where everything—not just computers and people—is linked. Emergency responders could know of accidents as they happen and where they happen, rather than wait for someone to witness it and then report it. Consider healthcare scenarios where patients’ vital health conditions are monitored outside hospital walls or where diagnostic procedures are performed and diagnosis performed remotely providing exceptional medical coverage where needed most.
Are you feeling like you’re on an episode of Star Trek yet?
Perhaps the most practical understanding of the concept of the “Internet of Things” originates from the founder of the term himself, Kevin Ashton, who writes:
“If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best.”
This drives home the point of how the “Internet of Things” is already taking shape in our lives and our businesses. As an electronic parts catalog software developer, Enigma is highly concerned with publishing, storing, and distributing data to help a “reduce waste, loss and cost” as Kevin Ashton describes above. Our goal is to improve maintenance and repair operations through the distribution of parts information and service knowledge to service technicians and staff so they have the information they need to determine if “things need replacing, repairing or recalling,” and the where-with-all to get it done.
How exciting. Enigma and our InService EPC parts catalog is on the forefront of the innovative technology movement that is propelling us ever closer to complete connectivity – the very foundation of the “Internet of Things”. We are one of the high-tech companies whose technology makes life in the present and in the future so exciting.
Aberdeen Group, in its Field Service 2013: Workforce Management Guide, reports that “financially, leading [field service] organizations experienced a 9.6% year-over-year increase in revenue, ahead of the 6.6% increase driven by all other organizations.” That’s pretty impressive and shows significant profit.
The companies achieving that success have done so by becoming best-in-class organizations employing best-in-class strategies. Those strategies involve planning, executing the plan, and then re-evaluating the plan in a continuous improvement loop –a process that Aberdeen identifies as “performance management.” Aberdeen has found that performance management “plays a central role in enabling better plans and the strategies required to execute those plans.” And best-in-class companies, those earning higher year-over-year revenue than others, consider it a key area of investment for 2013.
The report goes on to identify five strategic actions that top performing field service organizations take to reach that revenue grabbing, best-in-class status.
What caught our attention about these strategic actions is how closely they align with the functions and features of a best-in-class electronic parts catalog, in particular Enigma’s own InService EPC, which helps service organizations realize success.
There are three ways InService EPC helps companies become best-in-class service organizations, which leads to higher year-over-year revenue. In essence, we help them make money on field service. Let’s take a closer look at each of the three points to see how.
1. Investment in mobile tools to provide technicians with better access to information in the field.
By its very nature, an electronics parts catalog (also known as an illustrated or integrated parts catalog) puts critical parts information at the fingertips of service technicians, wherever they may be working. InService EPC improves on that functionality in several ways.
First, it delivers all service information so technicians have installation, repair and replacement instructions for those not-so-familiar or less frequently performed procedures. This extends the experience of your staff, shares knowledge across all skill levels, and allows management to more effectively schedule work schedules since the entire team has access to the same service knowledge base, not just specialized staff.
Second, InService EPC ensures that service technicians not only have parts and service information they need readily available, but that it is the most accurate and current information that engineering and tech pubs can provide. Using the incremental updates feature allows new or modified materials to be updated in smaller batches, rather than the whole database of information, which results in faster distribution of the latest information to the field service teams. This helps reduce parts mis-orders by eliminating outdated or obsolete parts and service information.
Third, InService EPC was designed with flexibility for field mobility rollout in mind. Multiple devices and operating systems are supported, including laptop and tablets, from privately hosted or cloud hosted SaaS. Users can access InService EPC via web (online) or wireless, or run as standalone units offline in environments with no connectivity or with limited connectivity such as hospitals and high-security environments. Print distribution is available to output hardcopy of specific parts, assemblies or sections or whole service updates.
2. Make captured service information available across the enterprise.
Enigma InService EPC has two key features that support system-wide communication. Enigma InService EPC is based on an open architecture Enigma 3C platform, enabling integration with back office applications such as warranty, diagnostics, inventory and ERP systems. It easily integrates with the information systems that are critical to field service operation. Also built into InService EPC is an e-notes feature for on-the-job creation and viewing of collaborative information for maintenance and feedback associated with parts, assemblies, or manual sections.
3. Improve forecasting of and planning for future service demand.
In order for performance management to be effective, a means of measurement needs to be in place that provides insight and information to the executive team. Enigma’s Dashboard reporting feature provides that measurement. The InService EPC Dashboard is a newly created executive management tool that captures and displays EPC activities and purchases, presenting them as easy-to-read charts, highlighting pre-defined key performance indicators (KPIs). Insights gained from the Dashboard can be used to optimize aftermarket service and parts processes—those recurring activities that drive the most profitable part of the business.
Contributing so much to a field service company’s best-in-class status seems like a lot to ask of a humble parts catalog. But Enigma’s InService EPC boasts of advanced capabilities that play a significant role in improving the service revenue through performance management.
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