The Uptime Blog
One of our recent blog posts discussed how the Enigma electronic parts catalog (EPC) can be integrated with an enterprise asset management system (EAM) to load, maintain and update the recommended bill-of-materials (BOM) for each piece of equipment. Today we’ll address how Enigma’s EPC integrates and complements a variety of maintenance processes to provide crucial parts and service information. EAM systems are used to determine such things as maintenance planning and inventory requirements; Enigma complements an EAM system because it delivers information on how to make the repair and what parts need to be replaced, whether it is for scheduled or unscheduled maintenance.
Why is this integration capability important? For three reasons:
1) OEMs send service and parts updates to their customers—sometimes annually, sometimes quarterly or sometimes on an urgent/as-needed basis—as service bulletins, catalogs and maintenance manuals. In such cases, the customer usually has to allocate hundreds, if not thousands, of man-hours to update all the new information from all of the vendors into the current configuration of its assets. However, this time-consuming activity can be eliminated by using the electronic parts catalog to incrementally, and automatically, update the EAM system.
2) Equipment downtime increases when technicians can’t find accurate service and parts information to perform the right repairs and order the correct part(s). They must either search out the right information, through phone calls and flipping through the manual, or they must proceed using a "best-guess" approach. By integrating technical content with the EAM, service technicians have immediate access to the latest parts and procedures needed to fix equipment.
3) Unless accurate part information is included on a work order, the as-maintained BOM for each piece of equipment quickly becomes unreliable. The result is that maintenance planning becomes less accurate because, before a repair can begin, technicians must figure out the "true" current configuration and any related problems. Enigma parts catalogs offer sophisticated effectivity filtering, according to the unique configuration of each asset. During the planning process, or in the field, when a required part is selected, any new part recommendations are highlighted to the user, ensuring the proper part is used. Detailed part information is then sent from the Enigma system back to the EAM system to synchronize the work order (and therefore the BOM).
What happens with a completely integrated system? Before an asset is scheduled for service, the maintenance department reviews the current BOM and the service history (work orders) for the asset. Preventive maintenance is planned and work orders are created that include a list of required parts. Once a service technician starts work, they can access the work order and navigate directly to specific tasks or procedures within the service manuals. If additional parts are needed to deal with unscheduled maintenance requirements the technician uses the Enigma EPC to select those parts and add them to the work order. This allows the EAM system to capture and record all maintenance processes—what service was performed, what parts were replaced and the position of each part replaced by the technician—ensuring an accurate as-maintained BOM for compliance and future planning. Integrating the EAM and the parts catalog synchronizes the system of record (the EAM) with the latest information, ensuring accuracy throughout the service environment.
Such an integration also improves inventory/logistics planning, maintenance planning and maintenance execution. It improves first-time fix rates (FTFR), reduces manpower requirements and downtime costs, improves safety and compliance, improves mean-time-to-repair (MTTR), and increases customer satisfaction.
Enigma has live implementations in a variety of industries that have integrated their EPC with EAM solutions; for more information download our white paper on Deriving Greater Value from Enterprise Asset Management Investments, or request a demo by contacting us.
What’s the state of the automotive parts market these days? In a recent blog post Carlisle and Company, a leading consulting company for automotive and heavy equipment, says that the aftermarket is on the upswing: “North American Auto Parts Sales Seem to Be in Solid Recovery.”
According to the author, “The service parts market is in recovery, the IAM [independent aftermarket] has not launched a secret market share stealing weapon, and, due to 2009 cutbacks and capacity tightening, the OEMs are all under-realizing the potential of these market conditions. That is the unintended consequence of conservative forecasting. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been left on the table.”
He goes on to write, “Overall US parts and accessory sales are still gaining momentum. For some OEMs it will be in the double digits – growth in the same ballpark as year-over-year vehicles sales.”
The Carlisle and Company blog post presents several reasons for the uptick in parts sales, but a key factor is this: after delaying service during leaner times, consumers are finally bringing their cars in for maintenance and repair. Carlisle says there are “solid gains” in maintenance and light repair and that it seems to be a sustainable trend, rather than being “reflective of a common wave of consumer fix-it-up behaviors.” The author seems to be saying that car owners are bringing their cars back into dealer service bays and that OEMs have the opportunity to capitalize on the opportunity by selling more parts. The industry data presented in the Carlisle blog supports this conclusion. However, it’s hard to miss the point that even with the aftermarket rebound, OEMs are still leaving “hundreds of millions of dollars” on the table. Clearly Carlisle believes that OEMs could, and should, do more to capture that parts revenue.
At Enigma, we’ve been anticipating an upturn in the aftermarket (see a blog post we wrote 18 months ago on Where to Invest). During the recession, most OEMs tightened their belts, and delayed investments in IT systems that support their aftermarket operations. It was our opinion that such a strategy was a mistake; that by doing so, the OEMs would lose out on an opportunity to quickly capitalize during the inevitable turnaround. Some OEMs however, did make IT investments during the downturn, some are doing it now, and some are still thinking about it. There are many companies currently pursuing profit strategies that are tied to improving aftermarket IT. From our perspective, since Enigma introduced a full-function, hosted EPC solution about six months ago, we have noticed a dramatic rise in OEM discussions regarding how to improve their service parts business. Whether that's a function of the new SaaS EPC product or a general rebound in OEM aftermarket initiatives remains unclear. (For a list of key functionality that should be part of any aftermarket-based profit strategy, download our sample EPC RFP here)
The interest in aftermarket optimization goes beyond automotive OEMs, including construction/agricultural, energy, medical, semiconductor and oil/gas equipment. For many of these OEMs, spare parts generate less than 10% of revenue, but more than 25% of profits. Therefore as sales of new products begin to rebound, OEMs shouldn’t overlook the opportunity to improve aftermarket operations and lock-in this recurring revenue stream. Using the proper technology, OEMs can decrease the cost of aftermarket operations and increase their market share for parts and accessories at the same time. Enigma’s OEM customers report increased part sales, improved customer/dealer satisfaction and greater accuracy for parts and service orders (read some Enigma case studies on automakers).
Yesterday would have been an ideal time for OEMs to invest in their aftermarket operations; but if they were bound by fiscal limitations in the past, then today is the time to act.
The complexity of maintenance repair and overhaul systems is a common theme in aviation maintenance trade publications and conferences; it’s sometimes described as “overwhelming.” (While this discussion focuses on aircraft maintenance, it really applies to any complex piece of equipment.) I’ve seen the question posed in online forums; “why are MRO IT systems so complex?”
The simple answer is, because the documentation to fix complex machines is, by its very nature, complex. It requires vast amounts of data, it comes from multiple OEMs and vendors, it’s stored in multiple databases in multiple formats, and it has to be acted upon by multiple departments and organizations. People that perform line maintenance and base maintenance (field and depot), planning and engineering, tech pubs, IT and parts logistics all need to communicate about service and parts information, and practically every department has its own set of business systems that must share data, whether a tech pubs authoring tool or an ERP system.
In brief, airlines and MRO shops need IT tools to do the following:
- Manage various content types (manuals, catalogs, best practices, etc.) from multiple sources (OEMs, field engineers, suppliers, etc.) across different business processes (maintenance, procurement, planning, etc.)
- Manage ongoing content publishing and updating cycles and distribute approved content to multiple channels and devices with a click of a button
- Control system and user processes, content flow in the organization, access rights and personalization
- Integrate technical content with ERP, maintenance planning and enterprise IT systems.
Given these multi-faceted needs, whenever an airline or large MRO shop decides to upgrade its IT systems, it can be a long, painful process to decide which tools are necessary, which ones will work with legacy systems and data, and which ones will work with future applications. Can it work well with new and emerging data specs (like S1000D)? Does it integrate with current and future ERP platforms? How much of the process should be automated (e.g. digital task cards and sign-offs)? What features are needed in an illustrated parts catalog (IPC)? Can it process technical updates from the OEMs (revisions and service bulletins)? Will it improve maintenance planning and scheduling?
These questions, and many more like them, are what drive MRO IT decisions. To help companies ask the right questions, and hopefully get complete answers, Enigma has created a sample RFP for the MRO industry. It is based on almost 20 years of experience in turning complex documentation into usable information, and includes the most requested and important functionality and requirements, as defined by airlines and 3rd party MRO shops. While it is written in the language of aviation, we hope this document will also prove useful to customers and prospects in all industries as they seek to improve their aftermarket service and support processes.
Click here to download the RFP Sample.
Organizations that maintain complex machinery try to keep accurate maintenance records because the assets are highly valuable and because there are often warranty implications and compliance regulations for such equipment (e.g. aviation and public transit). In addition, complex, machines typically have long life cycles, with numerous service checks and repairs over time. The ability to keep accurate maintenance records for corporate assets is critical to configuration management, service planning and inventory.
When an asset/vehicle is acquired, its initial service and parts data is entered into an EAM or ERP system of record. This can be a time-consuming process, as the critical components for each machine are loaded into the ERP system and the maintenance procedures and service schedules are converted into maintenance plans in the EAM system. Usually assets are represented as a unique configuration of parts (Bill of Materials, or BOM), but in the case of similar equipment the BOM for one asset may start-off looking the same as another. That however, changes over time.
One of the challenges of asset maintenance is that the BOM for each asset evolves; it doesn’t match the original factory-built BOM. As soon as equipment comes in for service, and parts are replaced, the asset no longer reflects the as-built configuration, and its BOM continues to change, as additional repairs and modifications are performed. The history of maintenance and parts for each asset is usually recorded in the EAM system, but not always to the level of detail necessary for compliance and warranty requirements.
In such cases, the equipment owner/operator must often be able to identify the specific method of repair and the specific parts that were removed/installed (sometimes down to the component serial number). This raises some critical questions; how does this detailed information get back into the EAM and ERP systems for configuration management? How is unscheduled (break-fix) maintenance identified and recorded in the systems of record? What happens when an OEM sends out new service bulletins, catalogs or manuals that call for different parts and procedures? How does revised information get updated into the EAM and ERP system so that inventory and maintenance planning/execution can be improved? Without a fast and easy way to address these questions, equipment owner/operators will always be at risk for compliance and warranty violations. Such violations cost companies millions of dollars per year, on top of the cost of manually loading and updating EAM and ERP systems and the cost of using incorrect parts and maintenance processes.
Enigma understands the challenges of using service and parts documentation for configuration management, service planning and inventory optimization, and currently supports various types of solutions across multiple industries. In future blog posts we will outline some of the ways our customers are reducing the costs and risks of warranty, compliance and aftermarket service and support.
For more information, download our white paper on Deriving Greater Value from Enterprise Asset Management Investments.