The Uptime Blog
What Millennials want, Millennials get – and transportation is no exception.
Who are Millenials and why do we care?
The Millennial Generation (or Millennials) refers to a demographic segment of the U.S. population born roughly between 1980 and 2000. Also known as “Generation Y” or “Echo Boomers” these individuals are the children of the post-WWII baby boomer generation, and represent the largest generation in U.S. History.
The sheer number of Millenials is staggering – population estimates range depending on the interpretation of the actual start and end dates of the generation, but regardless, it’s impressive. It is estimated that there are approximately 80 million Millennials in the United States, about 4% more than the Baby Boom generation. As we learned from the Boomers, any demographic group with numbers that large can significantly impact every aspect of our culture – politics, economy, and especially transportation policy and expenditures. And that is exactly what is happening. The very structure and use of transportation is changing based on the preferences and desires of this very influential segment of our population.
What do they want?
Without a doubt, Millennials are clear in expressing their preferences when it comes to transit,
Millennials want multi-modal transportation. According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), “nearly 70 percent of Millennials use multiple ways of getting around a city or suburb”.
As the National Resource Defense Council points out in a recent blog post, “Millennials (those Americans who came into adulthood in the new century) want more access to public transportation and support local governments in expanding and improving public transportation options”.
Millennials no longer view cars as the first option for transportation. “The Driving Boom—a six decade-long period of steady increases in per-capita driving in the United States—is over” says Public Interest Research Group (PRIG). Fewer Millennials are getting their licenses. According to Tony Dutzik, senior policy analyst with Frontier Group, “In 2011, the percentage of 16-to-24 year olds with driver’s licenses dipped to another new low. Just over two-thirds of these young Americans (67 percent) were licensed to drive in 2011, based on the latest licensing data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and population estimates from the Census Bureau. That’s the lowest percentage since at least 1963.”
Millennials are driving fewer miles. In a recent press release U.S. PIRG reports that “[t]he Millennial generation is leading the change in transportation trends. 16 to 34-year-olds drove a whopping 23 percent fewer miles on average in 2009 than in 2001— the greatest decline in driving of any age group”. Car ownership is down in the Millennial age group. University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute results show that Boomers are far more likely to purchase new cars than their Echo Boomer children.
What does this mean for transportation?
Public transit ridership is up, bicycle sharing/rentals are up, ride sharing is up, as is the oldest form of transportation, walking (especially in urban areas). Millennials are shaping these trends. According to a recent APTA report Millennials and Mobility: Understanding the Millennial Mindset, this group is on the move, but doing so quite differently than previous generations. They say that:
“Millennials would like to see in the next ten years: 1) 61% more reliable systems, 2) 55% real-time updates, 3) 55% Wi-Fi or 3G/4G wherever they go, 4) 44% a more user-friendly and intuitive travel experience. Fully leveraging technology, through real-time transit applications that connect users with community amenities, through smartphone fare payment, and the provision of WiFi and 3G/4G, will allow transit users to be more spontaneous, thus addressing the key competitive advantage of the car.”
With so many Echo Boomers making different transportation choices than their Boomer parents, alternative methods of transit are becoming more important. And as more Echo Boomers take on leadership positions in our communities and government, their influence will steer where funds are allocated in support of these transit options.
What does this mean for the servicing of transportation equipment?
The increased interest in public transit places new and more exacting demands on the country’s existing yet frail public transit infrastructure. In their 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) tell us that “Americans who do have access [to public transit] have increased their ridership 9.1% in the past decade, and that trend is expected to continue. Although investment in transit has also increased, deficient and deteriorating transit systems cost the U.S. economy $90 billion in 2010, as many transit agencies are struggling to maintain aging and obsolete fleets and facilities amid an economic downturn that has reduced their funding, forcing service cuts and fare increases”. On a standard scholastic grading scale of A through F, the ASCE gave America’s transit system a D+.
This clear cut divide between growing expectations for our transit systems and the state of our current infrastructure reality is concerning. It puts tremendous strain on the service structures of the transit operations to keep the systems and people moving. With demand rising, transit service organizations will be called upon to reduce service operations expenses by focusing on a service lifecycle management model or by outsourcing maintenance and service all together thus transitioning the liability of performance to service vendors who are paid to ensure equipment uptime.
Transit service groups would be wise to consider restructuring service operations with the aim of reducing costs, streamlining parts management, and sharing service updates and information in order to optimize the maintenance process. Any effort toward simplifying the support of the complex transit equipment with parts and service information will go a long way toward meeting the growing expectations and demands of Millennials for dependable multi-modal transit.
Pit stops are one of the most exciting and critical elements of a Formula One Grand Prix race. A successful pit stop can mean the difference between earning the chequered flag or rolling across the finish line along with the rest of the F1 pack. It can make or break a race for both driver and crew. Of course, core to every team’s success is a fast turnaround, regardless of what needs doing – be it fresh fuel, wheel replacements, an inspection to remove debris from the car, or the replacement of any damaged parts such as the nose assembly. Jobs that might take an afternoon at your local garage are crammed into a mere few seconds.
Interestingly enough, only the day after this year’s British Grand Prix – an exciting race with an inordinate number of pit stops as a result of the Pirelli tyre failures – was it announced on the BBC News that train and bus companies have started working with the Williams Formula One team to help improve their maintenance service. The infusion of pit crew mentality into fleet transportation maintenance is producing amazing results where train maker Alstom Transport managed to turn a two day repair job into a four hour repair job after watching the F1 maintenance team at work.
So if F1 teams have been able to perfect this process why hasn’t the rest of the maintenance world also managed it? After all, this is not rocket science! For years, everybody has been talking about optimizing the maintenance process and is acutely aware that long equipment downtime results in poor customer satisfaction and loss of revenue to the maintenance company.
According to F1 teams the answer is simple and has two main points:
1. Make sure you have the right part in the right place with the right engineer at the right time
2. Make sure mechanics know what to expect, beforehand, so they can get everything ready to go
And I couldn’t agree more! Point one makes it clear that effective parts management is a vital component of well-organized fleet maintenance and repair, while point two stresses the importance of an integrated diagnostics system. This reinforces exactly what we have been saying for years at Enigma, and what our InService MRO solution provides when it is integrated with a diagnostics system.
Mechanics at the base or workshop can receive malfunction notifications directly from the diagnostic system, thus enabling them to start to trace the fault before they even see the equipment. When integrated with the technical information, the mechanic not only rapidly finds the source of the problem but also ascertains the precise steps that will need to be performed to fix it, and also critically the exact parts needed for the job. The final piece of the jigsaw is the ability to order parts directly from the parts catalog so that no time is lost in this seamless process, thereby ensuring that the parts are ready for when the equipment comes in for repair and resulting in a complete synergy of parts, people and preparedness.
So what is everyone waiting for? Perhaps the bus and train companies are going to lead the way with Formula One race crew tactics and other industries will follow. Watch this space, as they say.
Equipment breakdowns are inevitable in the transit industry, and there are various causes. It’s challenging to ensure fleets (buses, trains, service vehicles and trolleys) operate safely and on-time, with maximum uptime. It’s tough enough when equipment is out of service for scheduled maintenance; agencies lose revenue, and sometimes can’t support peak demand. But when equipment fails unexpectedly (i.e., while in service), even a short delay can impact dozens or thousands of commuters, depending on the time of day, the route, and the type of transit (bus, train or trolley). Long delays often create angry commuters and politicians, and bad publicity. Last week, for example, was a challenging one for the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad (MBCR), which had two major mechanical breakdowns that resulted in commuter delays.
Transit agencies around the world face these problems and try to figure out ways to prevent them. Maintenance organizations do their best to keep a fleet up-and-running, but there are common, major obstacles:
- Equipment breakdowns and road service calls because of deferred or missed maintenance
- Delayed maintenance because of incorrect inventory or part shortages
- Slow repairs because of complex troubleshooting and diagnosis (difficult to identify the problem and requisition the correct parts)
- Difficulties finding the right documentation because there are multiple databases filled with obsolete parts and service information
- Different documents and manuals, for multiple fleets, from many different vendors/OEMs
It’s impossible to prevent every maintenance problem, but it is possible to increase equipment uptime by using technology that streamlines access to accurate, updated service and parts information. That's why Dallas Area Rapid Transit is implementing Enigma InService EPC to manage its assets, which include a fleet of 750 buses, light rail, and non-revenue vehicles; 15 transit centers; over 12,000 bus stops; and 48 miles of light rail track and right-of-way.
InService EPC is an off-the-shelf solution that manages and delivers updated parts catalogs and service documentation to the maintenance depot/service bay and the field, so service technicians can make repairs faster and more accurately, wherever the equipment happens to be. The solution integrates with ERP systems so that once mechanics identify the right parts, they can easily requisition them. The solution can also be integrated with diagnostic maintenance systems, to reduce unscheduled breakdowns; i.e., to predict the problem and make a repair before an actual equipment failure. The results are higher first time fix rates (FTFR) and faster turnaround times. Click here to learn more about the benefits of InService EPC for transit maintenance operations.
Each year, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) hosts a “Bus Roadeo" held in conjunction with its annual meeting, where bus operators and maintenance teams vie for the titles of best transit bus operator and best skilled bus mechanic team. It’s a playful approach to an important topic: how to operate buses efficiently and fix them faster.
To the people who run public transit maintenance operations, troubleshooting and fixing equipment is priority #1; when equipment is out of service, agencies lose revenue, and sometimes can’t support peak demand. Of course, in daily operations for a public transit maintenance division, the goal is more complicated than fixing one bus in record time. To keep a fleet up and running and reduce operational costs, maintenance faces several common obstacles:
- Difficulty in identifying, finding and ordering the correct parts
- Multiple databases filled with outdated parts and service information
- Multiple documents and manuals, for multiple fleets, from multiple vendors/OEMs
- Equipment breakdowns and road service calls
- Failure to recover warranty claims on defective parts.
Earlier this week Enigma announced a new customer: Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), the public transit agency that provides light rail and bus transportation for Dallas, Texas and 12 surrounding cities. DART assets include a fleet of 750 buses, light rail, and non-revenue vehicles; 15 transit centers; over 12,000 bus stops; and 48 miles of light rail track and right-of-way. (For more information about the DART win, click here; also, see a YouTube clip of a DART Light Rail Technician.)
One of DART’s strategic goals is to improve maintenance execution, which has a direct impact on equipment availability, costs and ridership. As with any organization that maintains complex machines, whether it be commercial aircraft, oil rigs, or power plants, transit agencies are tasked with keeping their assets up and running, while reducing costs. Towards that end, DART selected Enigma InService EPC (Electronic Parts Catalog) because it offers a major advance in automation and productivity. Simply put, the ability to identify correct parts and relevant service information is critical to maximize productivity and equipment uptime.
InService EPC will provide up-to-date and accurate parts and service information for its maintenance and engineering department, including all parts and service manuals to support the maintenance of DART’s assets—light rail, buses, facilities and vehicles.
Incidentally, this year’s “Roadeo” was conducted at the Dallas Area Rapid Transit's Arapaho Station, but the “best skilled bus mechanic team” honor went to the King County Metro maintenance team, who hail from Seattle, Washington. We can’t claim that Enigma will help DART win next year’s competition but we are confident that InService EPC will help increase the efficiency and consistency of their daily maintenance operations.
Can an effective aftermarket strategy affect new product sales? I would argue that yes, indeed it can. In my opinion one of the most overlooked and undervalued aspects of providing a first-class aftermarket environment is the strong relationship and brand recognition it enables companies to build with their customers throughout the service life of a product, which in many industries can be as long as 15-20 years. The aftermarket provides companies with a perfect venue to make a positive impression and build customer loyalty.
All too often the aftermarket is an afterthought; some companies don’t consider the effects a poor aftermarket experience can have on a customer’s opinion of them and their products. Every aftermarket interaction offers a tremendous opportunity for an OEM to quickly and efficiently assist the customer and improve the customer’s perception of the organization. Yet many OEM customers experience the following scenario in trying to identify a part and complete an order:
A mission-critical piece of equipment that a customer purchased from your company goes down. The customer needs to get the equipment running again and reviews the service information included with the equipment at the time of purchase. But the service information is out of date, so the customer reaches out to your company to get the updated service and part information to make the necessary repairs in a timely manner.
The customer either cannot find or decides it is too difficult to locate the part and service information as it is offered (or not offered) via the web. So the customer calls your customer support center and is placed on hold for 15-20 minutes, waiting to speak with a customer support representative (that’s if they are calling between the hours of 8am and 5pm, when the customer support center is open.) They then sit through a 45-minute process of having the customer support representative identify and order the correct part, which might reach the customer by the following day, at best.
As you review your current aftermarket strategy ask yourself the following questions, which will give you some insight into your customers’ experience:
- Is updated parts and service information readily available for your customers via the web?
- Can your customers easily identify the parts they need and, via self service, place an order?
- Are customers required to contact a customer service representative to order parts?
- If a customer service representative is required to order parts are they available 24 x 7?
- What is the average wait time to speak with a customer service representative?
If your company’s process is anywhere close to the process I outlined above, how eager will your customer be to purchase a new piece of equipment from your company in the future? My guess is that they won’t be very eager to do so. A bad aftermarket experience will decrease the odds that the customer will buy a new piece of equipment from that OEM; do you agree or disagree? I’d like to hear your thoughts on this, so please feel free to comment.
I recently returned from MRO Americas, where I spent some time walking the exhibit hall, listening to various presentations and serving on a speaking panel, “Regulatory Compliance in the Digital Age.” Here are a few observations from my time in Dallas: the show was busier than I expected, despite the economy; airline concerns regarding the aging MRO workforce are increasing; although my speaking panel was the last one of the entire show it was very well attended. From this I reached the following conclusions:
- MRO remains a critical priority for airlines (no surprise there)
- Airlines don’t know who will be fixing their airplanes in the future (or how they will be trained)
- Airlines want the FAA to give clear guidance and help resolve the significant issues that arise when implementing digital systems
Since this panel was the last topic before attendees left to go home, the Q&A session was informal. Nevertheless, we were surrounded by people asking questions about how to achieve a truly efficient, and compliant, digital MRO environment. The airlines made it clear that they need the FAA to synchronize maintenance regulations with current IT capabilities. Furthermore, they expect the FAA to focus on more than just the airframe and engine OEMs, looking also to the airlines, MRO shops and technology suppliers for input. Airlines want FAA regulations that synchronize safety, maintenance and data standards so that they can be protected from being forced into rigid single-provider systems. (The issue of data standards is very important to airlines as they try to avoid OEM-only systems that may limit their flexibility for procuring parts and service.)
Despite years of IT investment, today’s reality is that airplanes are still being fixed with paper documentation. The result is that after one or two years it is nearly impossible for a maintenance planner to understand an airplane’s service history. It is no wonder that planning organizations take months to properly schedule fleet maintenance and must still repeatedly revise the plan throughout the year.
Paperwork is the bane of our industry, not regulation but literally paperwork. Anyone that has ever been forced to sit on a plane, on the tarmac, waiting for the paperwork to be completed knows exactly what I mean.
The Obama administration is a huge advocate of e-government, green initiatives and consumer safety. These are all issues that the MRO industry embraces. With help from the FAA digital MRO can become a reality, which will improve maintenance operations, simplify safety compliance and accelerate AD (Airworthiness Directive) adoption.
In future blog posts I will speak more on this subject and address some of the preconceived notions that exist around aircraft MRO and the technology that supports it.