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.