The Uptime Blog
According to a recent Aviation Week article, “U.S. Navy Manual Details New Focus,” the Navy’s Surface Force Readiness Manual (SFRM) is calling for improvements to fleet maintenance. According to the article, “The manual boasts that it ‘provides the overarching strategy and policy required to generate and sustain surface ship material and operational readiness to perform operational tasking and reach expected service life.’” Put another way, the new manual explains how to maximize uptime of a Navy ship, so it can perform as expected throughout its lifecycle. Interestingly enough, the needs of the Navy aren’t that different from the needs of other industries like energy exploration, refining, utilities, transit, process plant, high-tech, medical equipment, etc.
Admiral J.C. Harvey, Jr., commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, described the manual as “a robust and highly scrutinized readiness policy that I believe will better prepare our ships and crews for the many significant demands we face today.” The author makes it clear that the goal is for Navy maintenance to become more efficient and consistent, both in port and out on the ocean. It's all about making sure that a very complex ship is prepared to meet the mission that’s required. That means creating a self-sufficient ship and crew.
“Training a ship’s crew to execute maintenance availability, perform routine operations in and around homeports, and conduct sustained combat operations requires a sequenced and coordinated maintenance and training effort,” the manual continues. “This strategy is ship-focused and synchronizes training among multiple readiness stakeholders.”
The Navy’s strategy is ship-focused—each ship is treated as a unique asset. That means when a mechanic or technician is looking for parts and procedures, the only information they should find is data that relates to the specific equipment on that particular ship. (i.e. Information must be filtered according to hull number effectivity.) More than that, this information must be readily available regardless of network connection, which can be limited by weather conditions, location/deployment or combat environment.
The Navy’s strategy synchronizes across multiple stakeholders—effectively combining elements of planning, inventory, training and execution. That means when a mechanic or technician is selecting parts and procedures, they should also see other relevant information such as part availability, alternate parts, service bulletins, best practices and previous maintenance reports. Not only does such an approach augment previous training, because it provides complete technical information in real-time service is both accurate and effective.
What does this mean for other industries? The Aviation Week article indicates that the Navy looked at how it maintains its ships and decided it was time for a change. They realized that the quality and quantity of maintenance was deteriorating, which was adversely affecting readiness. A ship that can’t be deployed is not an asset, it’s a liability. For industries that rely on capital equipment, a similar investigation may turn up similar results. The question is, “What can these companies do to improve the situation?”
Enigma’s customers consistently say they deliver faster, more accurate service and support for their own customers, dealers and any equipment under service contract. The Enigma InService® EPC product ensures that mechanics, technicians and field engineers always have the right information at-hand, whether they are online, offline or mobile. With the ability to integrate to back-office systems, Enigma customers have a complete technical library that provides all necessary information for a particular machine or situation. Click here to see why more and more companies are turning to Enigma to improve their aftermarket service and support.
According to an article in the December issue of MRO News Focus (“TAP M&E Takes on the OEM Bullies”), TAP M&E is being denied access to critically important repair information. The article says that certain OEMs have dramatically changed the quality and quantity of technical content they provide to airlines and MROs. In TAP’s case, some maintenance and repair manuals have been cut from 50 pages to five pages. This results in two significant problems for TAP, 1) as an airline it becomes impossible to diagnose and repair certain aircraft components so they must be sent back to the OEM; 2) as a third-party MRO provider it becomes impossible to fulfill maintenance contracts already signed with other airlines.
The experience of TAP is essentially an extension of a trend that started back in 2003 when some OEMs stopped providing rich SGML-based information and instead switched to delivering dumb PDF documents. At that time, according to one MRO facility, the lost productivity on the shop floor increased costs by a million dollars per quarter. Naturally, this MRO was forced to pass on the higher costs to the airlines (who then passed it on to the travelling public).
Since that time, many large airlines have found ways to get the original OEM content (SGML/XML), which they need for their internal maintenance planning and inventory systems. On the other hand, smaller airlines have been forced to work with PDF, which is more challenging to load into the ERP. The key point is that the current battle over who has rights to usable service and parts content began years ago when OEMs started reducing the quality and quantity of service and parts information they provide to their customers. Now, some OEMs are refusing to make any technical content available in a format that is useful for the airlines, insisting that they use proprietary systems to gain access.
Surely, OEMs have certain rights and expectations regarding the information they publish, and some of that data may truly qualify as intellectual property. On the other hand, since airlines have always relied on this data to maximize aircraft safety and uptime, they too have certain rights and expectations. (This was described in a previous blog, “Safety Held Hostage?—FAA Enters the Debate” where we highlighted that airlines are responsible for safety, costs and schedules.) It appears these OEMs are trying to leverage service and parts information to: 1) recapture parts revenue that is being taken away by PMA sales and; 2) capture or control the maintenance, repair and overhaul services business. And they are doing this with fancy names and marketing pitches like “Boeing Edge.” (You can see their new glossy brochures glued into almost every recent aviation publication.)
The issues at hand really come down to one question, “Who do airlines trust to keep their fleets airworthy?” The answer depends on who has access to accurate service and parts information and who has the demonstrated expertise. For years airlines have used tools like Enigma to fully-integrate technical content into maintenance and inventory processes. (For PDF data the Enigma InService MRO product actually allows it to perform like XML.) As a result, airlines have gotten very good at safely maintaining their own fleets and those of other airlines. In fact, according to this article 2011 was the safest year yet. To continue this trend, airlines must have access to service and parts data.
For OEMs, as aircraft reliability increases they've seen a reduction in the number of spare parts they sell. To counter that trend, these OEMs are now limiting access to technical content, preventing airlines from fully leveraging it within their own maintenance and inventory systems. From a business standpoint it is fair to ask, “Is this a good thing for airlines or for the public?”
According to the MRO News article, TAP doesn’t believe the OEM's strategy of limiting service and parts information is good for the industry. As a result, TAP is now joining with other airlines to consider legal options. Clearly there’s a battle heating up with OEMs on one side, and airlines, MROs and PMA providers on the other side. With the MRO Americas conference right around the corner, it will be interesting to hear what the OEMs have to say for themselves.
According to a recent Carlisle & Company report, when it comes to satisfying the needs of automotive parts managers, “the industry is collectively raising the bar for average OEM parts performance.” Furthermore, “the gap between the “best in class (BIC)” and “worst in class (WIC)” performance has been shrinking.” However, the detailed survey data shows room for improvement because OEMs received high scores (close to 100%) for supply chain issues but much lower scores for sales and marketing issues. According to Carlisle, “Clearly, the industry is doing a better job of meeting our customer’s expectations with respect to supply chain than with sales and marketing issues.” The question is what to do about it?
Carlisle doesn’t address how to resolve the sales and marketing issues; however, our experience with OEM customers indicates that sales and marketing problems are often related to cumbersome, out-of-date parts and service catalogs. It should be obvious that fast delivery doesn’t help the dealer if the wrong parts were ordered. When OEM products have multiple option packages, or multiple product lines, it’s critically important to give Parts Managers accurate information. This becomes even more important as the complexity of the OEM’s product increases, because the dealer needs to know if any components have been revised, superseded or made obsolete by the supplier. (When the latest electronics components are factored into this discussion accurate information cannot be over emphasized, especially when software is tracked and managed like a discrete part.)
Parts managers tend to be happiest when supply chains are running predictably, service is happening quickly and costs are being kept low. Making sure managers and technicians quickly find the right parts for a specific problem is critical to achieving that goal—and Enigma InService® EPC can help. While other solutions focus on automating inventory and logistics (the supply chain) Enigma focuses on automating the delivery of accurate information (online or offline). After all, it’s hard to make good decisions off bad data. Overcoming the parts manager’s sales and marketing issues will require both approaches, but the result will be a dramatic improvement in customer and dealer satisfaction—for any industry.