The Uptime Blog
The end of the year is a perfect time to look back on some of the blog posts written in the past few years. These posts were some of the most popular and we hope you find them timeless and relevant. From all of us at Enigma, Happy New Year!
The Value of SaaS-Based Service Information: IDC Speaks
A recent blog post by IDC Analyst Sheila Brennan (“Service Information Delivered as a Service Improves Quality”) validates what we’ve been saying: there’s great value in offering parts and service information via The Cloud, or in a SaaS-based offering. It’s good to see that others recognize the value of software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings in this space. There are not many to choose in this category: Enigma’s SaaS EPC solution is one of just a couple of them out there. The benefits of a SaaS offering appeal especially to the SMB market because it improves customer and dealer support with minimal impact on back-office IT resources and budgets, and reduces server hardware and maintenance costs. Brennan predicts that more companies will embrace Cloud-based content as the market and technology matures.
Forbes Says Online Documentation Is "A Critical Business Tool”
An article on Forbes.com indirectly speaks to why online parts catalogs are so critical to manufacturers and owner-operators of complex machinery. We couldn’t agree more. The author Aaron Fulkerson writes, “Indeed, online product and services documentation has now proved to be an immensely effective way to increase new customer acquisition and to shorten sales cycles. It is now a critical business tool.” We couldn’t agree more.
Report from Aviation MRO Show: OEM Content Policies Create Problems
Our November 2010 blog wrap-up of the Aircraft Commerce Airline & Aerospace MRO & Operations IT Conference in Singapore struck a chord with many. The strong message that came out of this conference—that “content is king” when it comes to successfully implementing MRO IT systems—will prompt the airlines and MROs to adopt a more independent approach vis-à-vis the OEMs and take control of the content that shapes and determines the efficiency of their maintenance operations.
With the holidays upon us (and four years of blog posts behind us), we thought this week would be a good time to reflect on a few of our most popular blog posts.
To all our readers: Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Happy Kwanzaa!
Automation and Integration: A Conversation with British Airways and SAP about Aircraft MRO
Here’s a blog that summarizes a great webinar that Enigma co-sponsored with SAP and Air Transport World, featuring guest speakers Alun Pryer, the Design Authority Head of Engineering at British Airways, and Phil Te Hau, SAP’s Director of Solution Management for Airlines. The topic was “The Challenges of Aircraft Provisioning, Configuration and Maintenance Execution,” which has been of great interest to airlines and MRO shops. Pryer describes how British Airways is working to increase efficiency within maintenance and engineering.
Improving First Time Fix Rates — It’s Not About Scheduling
Field Service Management is a crowded technology field, and there’s much ado about the importance of scheduling service calls to improve first-time fix rates (FTFR). But what good is it to get a technician to the service call if he doesn’t have the right parts and service information at his fingertips? Even service technicians with “the right talent” can’t fix everything if they don’t have updated/accurate parts and service information.
OEM Data: The New Flying Fortress
Airplanes need to be serviced and replenished so that they can keep generating revenue. For that, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems exist: managing inventory, resources, planning and scheduling. In simple words, the ERP determines "who does what, when, and where?" Unfortunately, the technical documentation provided by manufacturers, which describes "how" to fix the airplanes, is not built to support modern airlines and their ERP systems. Using the B-17 analogy, it seems that OEMs care less about the "flying" and more about the "fortress."
A recent blog post by Sally Foster, a Technology Service Industry Association (TSIA) blogger, focuses on how much time an equipment owner loses when he/she must wait for a service technician. She writes mainly in terms of the hours that customers lose (while on the phone with customer support), or waiting for a service technician to show up. Foster references a TIME Moneyland article that says that nationwide we lost $38 billion in the last year, waiting for in-home service.
Indeed, as consumers most of us can probably recall situations where we have waited a very long time for a technician to show up, or where we spent hours on the phone with customer support trying to resolve a problem. We are not only frustrated that our equipment isn’t working, we are doubly frustrated that we have to spend time just trying to get someone to fix it.
Although it’s interesting to read about the value of consumers’ lost time, it would have been better if Foster had written about the costs that businesses incur when they have to wait for their equipment to be repaired. In various industries, getting efficient, effective service for broken equipment is even more important because they typically lose revenue opportunities when their equipment is down.
The cost of downtime varies, depending on the amount of revenue the equipment generates per day/hour and the demand for its use. In the aviation industry downtime is extremely costly; it’s been estimated that an airline can lose as much as $250,000 per day when an aircraft is on the ground (commonly referred to as AOG). But what about other industries? When a car is undergoing service the costs are not so dear, but for a piece of heavy equipment like a crane or bulldozer, the lost opportunity costs can be significant, perhaps thousands of dollars per day. The costs are even more substantial for something like an MRI machine (in terms of both human health and revenue) or a semiconductor chip manufacturing machine.
That’s the main reason why field service organizations exist: to reduce equipment downtime. It’s why they invest in parts logistics and inventory solutions, and spend lots of resources trying to get expert technicians to a job site, as quickly as possible. But technicians (and customer support representatives) not only need to respond quickly to service requests, they need to be armed with accurate, complete parts and service information. This is what enables them to efficiently diagnose problems, identify and order the right parts and perform repairs, so they can get equipment up and running again. Accurate, accessible information at the point of need is the key to boosting first-time fix rates (FTFR), improving mean-time-to-repair (MTTR) and increasing mean time between failure (MTBF).
Updating and delivering that critical technical content to service technicians is not easy, because it involves large volumes of data, usually in different formats spread across multiple locations: EAM, ERP and ECM systems. But this is Enigma’s strength; we specialize in helping OEMs and operators publish and distribute technical documentation that is essential for maintaining complex machines. Companies that invest in field service solutions like Enigma InService EPC drastically increase equipment uptime, which means their customers don’t lose revenue while their machines sit idle.
An article by Ben Casselman in the Wall Street Journal (November 26, 2011) describes a recent survey by consulting firm Deloitte that found “83% of manufacturers reported a moderate or severe shortage of skilled production workers to hire.” And that “74% of manufacturers said a shortage of skilled production workers had a ‘significant negative impact’ on either their productivity or expansion plans.”
The article uncovers other evidence of growing demand for skilled jobs as well, “While hourly wages in the broad category of maintenance and repair workers rose 6.4% from 2007 to 2010, increases were 10% in the subcategory of heavy-vehicle mechanics and 15% for specialists in electrical repairs on commercial and industrial equipment. The implication is that employers were competing for a limited pool of qualified workers.”
Clearly the Wall Street Journal is challenging the notion that good jobs are hard to find. There is demand for skilled workers in the manufacturing sector.
For instance, according to the article “AAR Corp., a Chicago-based aviation-parts manufacturer, has 600 job openings, mostly for skilled trade jobs like welders and maintenance mechanics. Chief Executive David Storch said the shortage of workers has forced the company to pass up business and delay some manufacturing work. He said the company would like to start a third shift at its Indianapolis aircraft maintenance facility but has been unable to do so because of worker shortages.”
And while the shortage of skilled workers can be seen across multiple industries, retirement is making matters worse. Casselman’s story indicates that almost 10% of Union Pacific’s employees will retire in 2011 (4,000 out of 45,000).
Finally, in this slow economy it seems that companies are becoming more selective about who they hire. “Jeffrey Joerres, CEO of staffing firm Manpower Inc., said that with demand for their products weak, companies only want candidates who have all of the skills they are looking for, and if the companies can't find someone who fits the bill really well, they'll just leave the job unfilled.”
Think about it; companies are leaving skilled jobs unfilled. That indicates two things about today’s manufacturing sector:
- Quality is more important than quantity (i.e., companies would rather do the job right than do it fast).
- The return on investment (ROI) for training skilled workers is too low (i.e., the cost of training exceeds the revenue generated by an inexperienced worker).
Given that over the past 20 years lean and six-sigma initiatives (LSS) have been implemented at almost every manufacturing company, the focus on quality isn’t surprising. However, the issue of training ROI is surprising. It’s amazing that companies have not yet applied their LSS expertise to address the bottlenecks in training skilled workers.
Skill is developed in two steps: knowledge and experience. For unskilled workers, knowledge is the technical information about how to perform a task; experience, on the other hand, is gained as they perform that task and apply that knowledge. There is no way to develop experience except through…experience. However, there are many ways to share knowledge. The closer you can bring the knowledge to the experience, the faster you develop a skilled workforce. In other words, when you get workers out of the classroom and into the field—and still provide them with the required knowledge—you revolutionize their training. This can simultaneously improve training ROI and work quality.
Enigma provides the technology to deliver knowledge, especially for organizations that maintain and repair complex equipment: planes, trains, trucks, cars, power sports, construction equipment, medical devices, semiconductor equipment, etc. Our solutions provide a one-stop shop of product information wherever it may be needed—consisting of parts and service information, best practices from the field, procurement, sales, remote collaboration, etc.—allowing workers to quickly apply knowledge and gain experience. With Enigma’s technology companies are empowering their service technicians to quickly become experts on the job, which improves equipment uptime, first-time-fix-rates (FTFR) and mean-time-to-repair (MTTR).
According to the Wall Street Journal, companies are looking for skilled workers. Enigma makes it cost-effective and easy for companies to train and develop skilled employees.