The Uptime Blog
I just returned from the 2008 ATA E-Business/ S1000D Forum in Budapest, Hungary. This was the first year that ATA (Air Transport Association) combined the E-Business and S1000D meetings. The resulting event concentrated more on authoring/tech pubs than on the aftermarket service and support focus of past years. Almost 300 people attended, which is larger than either of the two individual events in 2007 but smaller than the combined total from last year. It wasn’t clear to me if this drop-off was because of the location, the topics, or the economy.
This year’s event drew fewer airlines than last year (14) but those that attended were serious about improving maintenance processes and job cards. There were also many OEMs in attendance trying to learn how to implement the S1000D spec but a few wanted to learn how to improve customer support and field service through electronic catalogs. Enigma stood out as one of the only exhibitors solely focused on making service information usable to mechanics and technicians, and a number of airlines sought us out for a demo. Each one expressed an urgent need to reduce maintenance costs. So while the quantity of attendees was down, the quality seemed to be up.
One change from last year was an increase in the amount of competitive eavesdropping. I often noticed Boeing and Airbus people hovering around as I gave product demos. This was particularly amusing from Airbus because when they presented the A380 information system during one of the open sessions it looked a lot like the Enigma solution from 2002. However, during the presentation Airbus mentioned some problems around incremental updates so I guess they haven’t copied everything.
Regarding the event itself, ATA did a fantastic job planning and coordinating the location and the topics. The hotel was first-rate and the city was very pleasant, despite the fact that the Communists were marching to commemorate the failed 1956 Revolt and protesting all things democratic. (Perhaps that’s why my bag arrived home two days after I did.) For me, the whole event was a worthwhile adventure. I learned a few things that could improve our products, and I was able to meet potential customers and partners to discuss the business opportunities in the aviation aftermarket. Kudos to Brad Ballance and the ATA!
It’s a no-brainer that parts managers and service technicians need fast, easy access to the right parts and service information, all in a “one-stop-shop” application. In this mini-demo, I give you an overview of the multiple ways that one can search for parts and service information in the InService Electronic Parts Catalog (EPC).
When data is loaded into the EPC application, all of the content is indexed for fast and easy retrieval by the search system. Click on the demo to see the following features:
Search All: The Search All option looks for the desired text within all available sources of information: parts catalogs, maintenance manuals, product specs, sales collateral and any other information that has been included in the solution. This search option allows the use of conditional (Boolean) expressions such as “AND”, “OR” and ”NOT”.
Search Part: The Search Part option looks for the desired text as a part number inside the illustrated parts catalog. This search option also allows the use of wildcard and truncation operators in the search field.
Search Center: The Search Center provides the ability to perform more refined searches. This option allows unique search parameters for parts catalogs and product information, broken down by product type, family and model as well as part number, description and free text.
Search Results: The Search Results display a list of links to information that matches the search criteria. The user can sort the search results by a particular column or filter the search results by applying a specific product model.
MRO Asia 2008 concluded today in Singapore. Here are some of my impressions from this year’s show:
1. The prevailing mood was definitely on the somber side. Every speaker mentioned the “financial crisis” or “market turmoil” at some point or other in his/her speech, some more than once. The presentation from the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) included one slide that had several bullet points all saying, in diffferent words: “expect bad times ahead, we have no idea what to expect”. The continuously falling oil price was small consolation in the general feeling of uncertainty.
2. The exhibition floor was comparable in size to last year’s show in Shanghai, but some of the players in the MRO IT space were conspicuously absent. While most of the best-of-breed MRO providers were there, Swiss Aviation Software was absent. The two “gorillas” in this space – SAP and Oracle – were also absent, although Axon Global was there, with their new iMRO offering, which basically is to replace SAP MRO. From the content delivery players, OpenConnent was not there. Perhaps the European players do not view Asia as a market they need to invest in.
3. As for the attendees, most Asian airlines and many of the non-Asian ones, were represented. However, there seemed to be fewer delegates compared to last year, definitely fewer representatives from Chinese airlines. I know for a fact that one of the airlines planned to send five senior delegates but, with the recent upheavals in the world economy, decided at the last minute to cancel the trip and send two junior delegates instead.
4. Any vendor that attends a major show like MRO Asia carefully monitors the topics that customers and prospects want to discuss. In this regard, Enigma InService Job Card Generator drew a lot of attention from attendees. It is clear that airlines and MROs view the ability to provide intelligent job cards quickly and easily as a key component to accelerating maintenance. Several airlines were seeking even greater automation, and took great interest in Enigma InService MRO. In this regard, it was nice to have important customers, like KLM, at the show that can verify the cost reductions and productivity improvements that are available through advanced technology.
Next year’s show is in Hong Kong. See you all there!
A few years ago I met with a customer service executive (Bill) from a well-known office equipment manufacturer. Over the course of several months we had a really good discussion regarding the best ways to improve field service. During this time Bill shared the service statistics for one of his products, which reflected the data I’ve seen in many other industries. What surprised me was the way he interpreted these statistics. Here’s what he found:
- Over an 8-month period, one product line received 5591 service calls
- Those calls were the result of 423 different fault codes
- The top 20 fault codes accounted for 50% of all service calls
- The other 403 fault codes (95% of total) were responsible for the rest of the service calls
- Each of those 403 fault codes occurred no more than 51 times. (In fact, 364 fault codes—86%—were tripped 20 times or less.)
Bill told me his company was trying to improve service by focusing on the most common problems—the top 20 fault codes—but he thought this was the wrong approach. He believed the top 20 problems didn’t pose an issue for most technicians because they repaired them so often. It was the other 50% of the calls that made life difficult.
The key to understanding Bill’s perspective can be found in the last two bullets—half of the service calls involved fault codes that occur less than 1% of the time. (In fact, 140 service calls involved fault codes that only occurred once.) Therefore, field technicians got little or no experience repairing these rare problems. Further analysis showed these service calls often took more than two hours to resolve and were at the heart of scheduling delays and blown response times.
Bill felt that the real key to improving customer service was not faster repairs for well-known problems but a more consistent approach to all problems. He said that once he changed his focus from 20 fault codes to 423, he realized the answer was not to streamline call handling, travel, part lookup or closeout but rather it was improving information access in general. If his service teams had an integrated parts and service information system they could address any fault code efficiently and consistently.
Recently, Bill told me his company never did act on his advice and he subsequently left the firm. He realized that a slick new call-center gets more political traction than a system to support field service engineers. After all, a tour of the call center was a great selling tool during customer visits. Unfortunately, at the end of the day it’s those same customers that suffer the results of this decision.
The September 19 issue of AftermarketNews reported, “A hot debate has ensued as to whether the industry ever can, or should, get rid of paper cats. The results of NCMA’s recent survey of counter professionals shows usage of paper versus electronic remains nearly tied, with paper catalogs at 86 percent and e-cats at 84 percent.” That research came from the National Catalog Managers Association (NCMA), which is a professional society within the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA). The data showed that 86 percent of parts counter professionals use manufacturers’ paper catalogs, 84 percent use full-line electronic catalogs, 70 percent use manufacturers’ web catalogs and 32 percent use manufacturers’ CDs.
The following week, September 26, the e-zine did a follow-up report, which asked parts professionals where they turn initially to look up parts information. Not surprisingly, it turns out that parts pros go to an electronic parts catalog a whopping 90% of the time; they resort to flipping through the pages of a paper OEM catalog only if they can’t find what they need in the electronic parts catalog. This makes sense, since the world has grown accustomed to searching for information online.
We at Enigma see a growing demand for our electronic parts catalog software, not only because it makes life easier for parts managers, but because it makes it easier for manufacturers to create, distribute and update parts and service information to their dealer networks and distributors.
Scott Luckett, vice president, technology standards and solutions for the AAIA, had this to say: “When parts professionals first turn to the electronic source 90 percent of the time, shouldn’t parts manufacturers allocate 90 percent of their cataloging resources into this medium? If electronic catalog content got 90 percent of the attention and resources, it wouldn’t be long before paper catalogs were truly obsolete.”
Thanks Scott, for that ringing endorsement of electronic part catalogs! We agree that when it comes to part catalogs, electronic is the way to go if possible. But we also realize that not every part manager, service technician or dealer has reliable internet access, so the Enigma software makes it possible to distribute parts catalogs via DVD or paper. Furthermore, when technical information needs to be printed out the electronic catalog will automatically provide it in a consistent and usable format. Maybe “paper cats“ (gee, I like that phrase!) will go on the endangered species list in the next few years. In this case it won’t be a bad thing, but for the time being it is important to offer our customers multiple options and maximum flexibility.