The Uptime Blog
Service of complex equipment is a complicated matter. And making improvements to a system that deals with high degrees of detail can also be a challenge.
But what if you had a tool that could easily help you estimate how much you’d save in dollars and wrench-time by improving productivity? Interesting, right? Well, Enigma has come up with a handy ROI-like calculator that does just that. We call it our Service Savings Calculator, and it’s available as a free download from the resource center on our website.
Service technician time is expensive and wasted service time is a revenue buster for service organizations. That seemed to be the collective opinion when we talked to a number of our customers responsible for the profitability of their service operations. One common frustration was the amount of time that was wasted looking up information instead of fixing equipment and machines. It turns out, service technicians look up a lot of things on a regular basis – parts, part assemblies, service maintenance instructions, service bulletin updates and warranty details to mention a few. It’s a necessary activity given the intricacy of the machines and equipment they work on. That means that how and where information is stored and the ease of access to it can have a big impact on the bottom line of a service operation.
That’s where Enigma and our Service Savings Calculator come into the picture. We’ve researched the top factors to consider when calculating the value of the time spent on information retrieval in the service environment. We narrowed it down to eight essential bits of information. You probably already know the first seven of them off-the-top of your head and if you don’t, they’re pretty easy to find or estimate. The eighth factor estimates how much time it would take using the Enigma InService EPC system. InService EPC is an electronic parts catalog that acts as a knowledge library, making parts and service information easy to manage, update, distribute and access. It streamlines the information retrieval process, while ensuring accurate and current data for users.
Using your own data, the Service Savings Calculator computes the average cost of your existing service information retrieval system and compares it to Enigma’s InService EPC. And that is where we see some serious savings.
Here’s how it works in three steps.
1. First, figure out the answer to the following bits of information. It’s easier than you think.
Average technician work shift – We’re guessing that most folks have an 8 hour work day, but some companies work longer and harder when needed. However long your technicians work on average per shift, that’s the number you want to use.
Number of work shifts per week – Although the average is probably 5 shifts per week, we know plenty of service organizations that regularly work 6 days. Again, estimate the average number of shifts your team puts in each week.
Weeks in the year – We all know there are 52 weeks in the year, but you may want to account for vacation time, seasonal closings, or other factors to make this number more accurate.
Total number of service technicians – This includes all the service technicians company wide. Of course you could also save different versions of the calculator and compare regions, departments or divisions too.
Average hourly technician pay rate – Even though some technicians earn more or less based on experience and skill, we use an average hourly rate to get the best average.
Average minutes spent on EACH search – Here’s where it gets tricky. As we said earlier, service technicians retrieve a lot of information on parts, service info, warranty etc. The number we’re looking for here is the average number of minutes that EACH technician spends on EACH search. So let’s say (s)he looks up a part, which typically takes 7 minutes, a service maintenance issue that takes on average 13 minutes and a warranty issue averaging 25 minutes. The average number of minutes would be 15 or 7+13+25/3.
Number of searches per shift – How many times does EACH technician perform an information search (on average) per shift?
2. Second, download the Service Savings Calculator if you haven’t already and enter the seven numbers you estimated into the white boxes provided.
3. Third, estimate the average amount of time (in minutes) spent on EACH search using Enigma’s InService EPC software (similar to the average minutes spent on EACH search mentioned above). One of our sales consultants can best help you estimate that number based on your existing information system and work flow. Enter this number in the last, dark blue box and immediately see the savings.
The Result: See what you could be saving.
We’ve represented the results in two very measurable ways – first, the estimated dollar amount that is saved by reducing the search time for service-related information and second, what that equates to in terms of technician equivalents. In other words, you could be saving thousands of dollars and an equivalent of five, six or even tens or hundreds of full-time service technicians depending on the size of your service team. Reducing the amount of search time with InService EPC, a tool that is accurate, current, and easy to use, simplifies the complicated nature of complex equipment service by providing and allowing easy access to service information.
We encourage you to download the calculator, share it with others in your organization and contact us to see how InService EPC can benefit your service organization.
Involuntary servitude is a thing of the past, right? Think again.
Airlines operate some of the most sophisticated and advanced pieces of equipment invented by mankind. They pay up to a quarter of a billion dollars for a new aircraft, and then spend many millions of dollars every year to maintain it. They must follow strict regulatory procedures just to stay in business. They operate in an industry that is facing huge challenges to achieving sustainable profitability: volatile oil prices, depressed world economy, entrenched unionized workforce, etc. You would think that in such an environment airlines would do anything to become more efficient, liberating themselves from unnecessary yokes and burdens that weigh them down.
Yet when it comes to decreasing costs in maintenance operations through the use of advanced IT systems, many airlines seem to be happy in continuing to fetter themselves to inefficient systems forced upon them by the aircraft and engine OEMs. This is especially true when it comes to the utilization of technical content in MRO operations. Most airlines still use outdated, underperforming software to handle technical content only because the software comes bundled with the equipment they buy from the OEMs, or because they are too time-pressed to properly evaluate superior offerings from specialized software vendors.
Almost every step in maintenance operations has a connection to a technical document. In most cases the connection is direct: the use of a procedure from the Aircraft Maintenance Manual, the list of parts pulled from the Illustrated Parts Catalog or the need to follow instructions contained in a Job Card or an Engineering Order. In other cases the connection is indirect, necessitating a reference to some document in order to complete a certain maintenance task. Technical content is not just boxes of paper stored in the Technical Publications library. It is the grease that oils maintenance operations and makes sure these run smoothly. When the IT systems handling technical content do not provide up-to-date information, or when they are not properly integrated with the MRO IT systems running the business, inefficiencies and higher costs of operations are guaranteed.
Most of the OEMs know that what they do best is manufacture airplanes or engines, not write software code. But they also understand that to hold sway over their customers after the initial sale of the equipment, they must take the airlines hostage for the long term. One of the best ways to keep this dominant subservient relationship is by making sure the airlines use their IT systems for technical content. By offering these systems at a low price (or for free), the OEMs ensure that the airlines do not become independently efficient in their maintenance activities and remain tied to what the OEM feeds them. This strategy is perfectly understandable from the OEM’s point of view. It is much less understandable why the airline MRO’s would continue to accept this predicament, when the obvious alternative, breaking free, produces clear and immediate benefits.
One can only conclude that the airlines are suffering from a hostage mentality, exhibiting symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome. They have been under the gun for so long that they are simply unable to conceive what it means to be free, believing their captor knows what’s best for them. Waking up one morning and deciding to break with known routines is not something that comes easily to anyone, let alone big organizations. The few airlines that managed to overcome this hostage mentality and break free cannot fathom going back to being in the power of the OEMs. If only there was an easy way for other airlines to see the light.
Cost containment used to be the buzzword for field service. Do the best job you can with the least possible expense while keeping the customer happy. Not an easy task, yet managers in every industry imaginable – from construction equipment to mining rigs, MRI to ultrasound machines, industrial robots to ATMs – have worked diligently to minimize costs associated with aftermarket maintenance, repair and support, even if it didn’t fix the real field service problem.
Luckily, aftermarket field service is changing, undergoing a fundamental shift in how it’s contributing to the original equipment manufacturer’s (OEM’s) bottom line. As it comes of age, aftermarket field service is bringing with it some hefty strategic incentives that companies should not ignore. According to the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) “More and more companies are realizing that field agents, with their face-to-face interactions with customers, can have a major impact on customer satisfaction and incremental revenue.”
Field service and customer satisfaction – that makes sense. Field service has long enjoyed a well-established connection to customers and thus impacts the level of customer satisfaction a company enjoys, especially after the sale.
But can field service go beyond creating customer satisfaction to actually generating revenue. Savvy aftermarket service organizations recognize the untapped potential of an OEM – installed customer base as an asset capable of generating a profitable revenue stream. They see the strategic opportunity and are transitioning away from the outdated concept of field service as a cost center – the necessary evil. They are embracing a more progressive approach to field service as a profit (and potential growth) center. Aftermarket service operations – technicians, departments, and managers – now represent the promise of emergent revenue.
A promise of revenue isn’t as tangible as revenue itself, however. As the Blumberg Advisory Group points out, “In order to operate as an Aftermarket Service as a profit center, a company must be able to generate income.” One way many are accomplishing that is through the adaptation of technology, including mobile technology. Aberdeen Group, a Harte-Hanks research firm, notes that “seventy percent of field technicians carry at least one mobile device for field work.”
In addition to tool belts, service technicians are now wielding a whole new set of high-tech tools, making them more effective, efficient and ultimately more profitable. Tucked inside service tool belts are mobile devices loaded with knowledge management software, remote and embedded diagnostics and other smart technologies for spare parts & logistics, like InService EPC. InService EPC is a tool that reduces support costs, reduces catalog costs and increases parts revenue making the generation of profit a more attainable goal.
In service work, managers know that time is money. InService EPC provides the most accurate and up-to-date parts and service information at the point of need so field service technicians are more self-sufficient. They don’t waste call center support time and are able to expertly perform service work quickly with confidence.
From an operational perspective, being able to go digital and manage updates in-house can save even more field service expenses. InService EPC reduces printing and distribution costs. The ability to create updates in-house reduces the costly outsourcing expense associated with updating, printing (electronic or hardcopy) and distributing volumes or CDs of catalog and service information.
Where InService EPC really shines is in the revenue generation part of the equation. It makes parts ordering easy through deep integration with a company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP). With InService EPC, techs can order directly from their laptop or tablet, with highly accurate product and service information right at their fingertips. This generates more parts orders and reduces mis-orders. In fact, it works to eliminate all of the 7 deadly sins of field service operations.
While some service organizations cling to old school cost containment methodology, aftermarket service innovators are arming crews with tools that turn opportunity to profit.
There are countless landmines in the battlefield of field service operations and they all contribute to a single, unwanted outcome – lost business. It’s the stuff that field service technicians dread, field service managers lose sleep over, and executives seek to remedy.
While there has been much written on what field service technicians should do to keep customers happy during service calls, less is available to help field service managers achieve success. We want to change that. In addition to this blog post, we’ve written a white paper (available for download) specifically about this topic: Fixing Field Service Operations – How to Improve Technician Efficiency and Increase Customer Satisfaction.
So how do field service managers guard against lost business? We’ve identified seven key factors to monitor – Seven Deadly Sins you could call them – that spell trouble for field service operations. Avoiding these will help your field service organization increase efficiency and consistency while reducing operational cost, reducing equipment downtime and ultimately meeting customer expectations and securing customer satisfaction and retention.
- Wasted time – Field service technicians often spend significant time searching for the service information and part numbers, only to find the information they uncover is out-of-date. That’s time that field service organizations cannot afford to waste.
- Parts misorders – Misorders happen for many reasons: outdated parts catalogs, incorrect maintenance manuals, undocumented equipment changes/modifications, data entry/transcription errors, multiple similar parts choices, missing service bulletins, etc. Incorrect parts results in multiple service calls and additional costs.
- High support costs – Customers and service technicians call customer support for the latest parts and procedures. This increases call center costs with no additional value to the customer or the OEM.
- Poor mean time to repair (MTTR) – Technicians have different levels of experience, which means that one technician may take twice as long to fix a particular problem as another. Lack of consistency makes scheduling less predictable and increases costs.
- Frequent no fault found (NFF) events – Equipment troubleshooting is notoriously difficult, especially when multiple components are involved. Fault isolation by process of elimination – incrementally replacing parts until the problem goes away – is an expensive and time-consuming way to perform repairs and does not reliably identify the defective component, resulting in higher no fault found costs.
- Excess inventory and trunk spares – Technicians often order multiple similar parts, hoping that one of them will fix the equipment problem. The extra parts are either stored locally (as “trunk spares”) or returned to inventory or the manufacturer, which increases expenses.
- Dissatisfied customers – For equipment owners, downtime equates to lost revenues. They expect service technicians to repair equipment efficiently and consistently. When technicians can’t meet owners expectations it harms customer satisfaction and brand perception.
Although there are many reasons that organizations fall prey to one or more of the deadly field service operations sins, we believe there is one root cause – service technicians and customer support representatives don’t have the accurate parts and service information they need to properly perform the work at hand.
Enigma’s InService EPC helps field service organizations battle this challenge with accurate, up-to-date parts and service information when and where they need it, online or offline. InService EPC’s data library enables service technicians to access the latest parts lists, service bulletins, job cards, schematics, diagrams and maintenance manuals. Integration with existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems provides technicians with information on parts availability, pricing, and ordering without ever leaving the program. A powerful search function lets technicians find individual parts, assemblies, or sub-assemblies with text or illustration queries. It’s the kind of tool field service managers find invaluable while working hard to avoid the field service sins.
Download your copy of the white paper. Fixing Field Service Operations: How to Improve Technician Efficiency and Increase Customer Satisfaction.
Tags: service technicians, field service, medical equipment, InService EPC, dvautier, diane vautier, field technician, medical devices, manufacturing, InService MRO, electronic parts catalog
Medical equipment maintenance managers and technicians carry a hefty responsibility. Their jobs are to maximize equipment uptime so patients – people like you and me – can receive the diagnostic care and treatment needed to stay healthy. Our lives can depend on the success of their work.
That’s no small task given the ever-changing operational requirements and complex nature of equipment like ultra-sound machines, MRIs, x-ray machines, ventilators, and CT scanners. According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 1.5 million types of medical device products on the market (WHO factsheet No. 346). Countless parts, exacting calibration requirements, and the latest technology incorporated into over a million device types make ongoing maintenance a monumental challenge.
Luckily for medical equipment maintenance managers, all new medical equipment starts its life with a high degree of quality. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strict standards when it comes to the manufacture of medical devices. Their most current publication, the Medical Device Quality Systems Manual – A Small Entity Compliance Guide, First Edition specifies quality assurance methodology for every aspect of production, ensuring a high degree of operational excellence and top notch equipment.
Once medical equipment is operational, however, the ongoing maintenance and repair is demanding. Aftermarket maintenance and repair regulations are also stringent. According to the FDA’s postmarket requirements for medical devices:
“Medical device manufacturers as well as other firms involved in the distribution of devices must follow certain requirements and regulations once devices are on the market. These include such things as tracking systems, reporting of device malfunctions, serious injuries or deaths, and registering the establishments where devices are produced or distributed. Postmarket requirements also include postmarket surveillance studies required under section 522 of the act as well as post-approval studies required at the time of approval of a premarket approval (PMA), humanitarian device exemption (HDE), or product development protocol (PDP) application.”
Additionally, the FDA is proposing new regulation requiring a unique device identification (UDI) system to manage medical devices. The new regulation is intended to improve equipment safety and effectiveness, postmarket surveillance, quality of care and patient safety. The UDI project is being coordinated internationally through the Global Harmonization Care Task Force (GHTF) – now the International Medical Device Regulators Forum. Although generally supported by the medical device community, the resulting regulation may mean some scrambling on the part of maintenance and repair managers and service providers as they seek to accommodate the new bar coding system. New draft guidelines could be released as early as February 2013.
Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry’s (MD & DIs) Heather Thompson adds some insight on the topic in her post, “Unique Device IDs ‘A Single Source of Truth’ Says FDA Jay Crowley.” According to Thompson, the “FDA wants industry to start planning now for unique device identification—and the Agency is eager to help.”
Enigma is watching carefully as the new regulation takes shape. We see some striking similarities between the highly regulated, individually tracked aviation industry where we have created solutions for many years, and the evolving medical equipment industry also headed toward individual identification. For years, Enigma’s InService MRO software has helped aviation maintenance and repair organizations (MROs) individually track, manage and service aircraft in a highly regulated industry.
Our InService EPC software has also brought our expertise to the medical equipment industry, tracking and supporting the maintenance and repair of medical equipment. Customers like Toshiba America Medical Systems (TAMS) have already incorporated InService EPC to manage service and parts information on their magnetic resonance imaging machines (MRI) MRIs and CT scanners.
Although the challenges of medical equipment maintenance and repair may appear daunting, guidance from the FDA, the medical device community and software developers like Enigma will help to smooth the regulatory transition, enabling medical equipment managers and technicians to maintain and service the machines that deliver the diagnostic care and treatment we all need.