The Uptime Blog
Tags: Maintenance, Electronic parts catalogs, parts and service, parts catalog, technical documentation, MTTR, field service, PDF, medical equipment, Enigma, John Snow
Field Service 2012 has come and gone in Las Vegas, but there is much to report from the event. Not counting the hardware and software vendors, FS 2012 hosted over 200 attendees from over 100 companies. General manufacturing and high tech companies were the biggest industries represented, followed by A&D, medical equipment and semiconductor tool manufacturers.
The Enigma booth was incredibly busy, answering questions from attendees and demonstrating the advanced capabilities of InService® EPC. Based on these conversations it’s apparent that more and more companies are looking for knowledge management solutions, and Enigma has the technology and expertise to turn their piles of documentation, parts catalogs and service bulletins into an interactive, integrated field service solution.
Some of the comments from attendees reminded us of how much work is still to be done to improve aftermarket service and support. One VP of Services said, “All of my support content is in paper format. I have 1500 field technicians and the only electronic device they have is a cell phone. Now what?” Now what, indeed. After a fairly comprehensive demo, this VP realized Enigma has solutions that can improve any field service environment, whether it’s based on paper, smart phones, tablets or laptops.
Another VP of Field Service told Enigma, “We spend far too much of our budget on printing costs. I’m thinking of buying tablets or laptops for the field but I don’t know how to get all the necessary data into the right format and onto these devices." They went on to say that maintaining the accuracy of technical data and making sure it was safe from prying eyes was a significant worry. Again, a demonstration was all that was necessary to relieve this executive’s concerns and help them grasp the reality of Enigma’s technology as a profit driver.
Jonathan Yaron, Enigma’s CEO, was part of a panel titled, “Delivering Faster Service With Higher Quality And Fewer Support Calls: Integrating Knowledge Tools And Technical Libraries.” One of the concerns raised during this session was the use of social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Chatter, etc. The panelists almost universally felt that sharing maintenance advice and best practices on such an open, unregulated environment carried very high risks to the service organization. In fact, one of the speakers said, “Using social media for sharing best practices carries significant risk because such content would be part of any future legal investigation. If a technician makes a repair based on a Twitter or Facebook post, and there’s a problem down the road, then there will probably be a liability claim and any unsanctioned maintenance instructions will be brought into the discussion. What’s needed is a secure way to collect, evaluate, enhance, approve and distribute service and parts information and best practices quickly and safely.” That’s exactly what’s needed. Enigma couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
These issues, and more, were addressed at FS 2012 in Las Vegas. For those who attended, we’d love to hear your feedback on what you learned and what you plan to do with what you learned. For those who didn’t get a chance to see Enigma’s product in action, visit our home page to request a personalized demo
. You might find what so many at FS2012 found; Enigma’s software improves service execution
and increases profits
Field Service 2012 is being hosted in Las Vegas from April 16-19 and Jonathan Yaron, Enigma’s CEO, will be participating in a panel called “Delivering Faster Service With Higher Quality And Fewer Support Calls: Integrating Knowledge Tools And Technical Libraries.” After talking to the panel moderator, it’s clear that the panel has a single goal: to help the audience learn how to improve field service speed and quality.
A number of questions have been planned to engage the panelists, but audience participation will be the key to success for the session. To avoid spilling any secrets we’ll share four of the panel questions, just to get your minds working.
1. What are some of the goals of a knowledge library?
- Faster service/ higher uptime
- More (and bigger) service level agreements (SLA)
- Lower warranty/ no fault found (NFF) costs
2. What are the best sources of information—both quality and quantity?
- Field service
- Customer/ technical support
3. What type of information should go into the knowledge library?
- Fault isolation/ troubleshooting
- Service manuals/ bulletins
- Part lists/ BOM/ Illustrations
- Best practices/ best known methods (BKM)
4. What are the best ways to deliver knowledge to field service, engineers, customers?
- Online, offline, mobile
- Training—internal, field, customers, etc.
- Controlling user access—protecting intellectual property (IP)
All of these topics, and more, will be addressed at Field Service 2012 in Las Vegas so we hope to see you there. If you go, please attend the panel session and then stop by the booth to speak with Jonathan. You can also see a live demo of Enigma’s InService® EPC product. Enigma’s panel session is scheduled for 2:00 pm on the 17th, and we will be demonstrating our field service solutions in booth #5.
The 2012 MRO Americas Conference was held last week at the Dallas Convention Center. The opening keynote address was delayed over an hour because a number of tornadoes touched down around Dallas, which forced everyone to shelter in the lower levels of the facility. The tornadoes outside foreshadowed the storms that would soon be raging inside, caused by OEM restrictions on sharing critical MRO information.
During a session titled “Customers Speak Out,” executives from FedEx Express, TAP, Spirit Airlines and Atlas Air shared their concerns regarding the current MRO environment. George Silverman, VP Materiel at FedEx Express described how certain suppliers are unwilling to share data with airlines and MROs, which increases costs and inventory levels. Valter Fernandes, EVP Operations at TAP described the difficulties they experience when performing repairs outside of documented manuals. When performing heavy maintenance TAP sometimes needs help from the OEMs, however they often wait more than 10 days (and sometimes more than 30 days) without receiving an answer. (Similar to TAP, FedEx's Silverman claims that out of 30,000 service requests addressed to the OEMs, 50% are not returned on time.) Fernandes said he believes the OEMs are trying to achieve a monopoly in maintenance, which harms both the independent MROs and the airlines. Guy Borowski, VP Technical Operations at Spirit Airlines, said that the OEMs seem to be withholding technical information to help them dominate the MRO service business.
George Silverman offered a very specific and timely example of how the OEM’s strategy is causing delays and driving up costs. It turns out that the violent weather that caused tornadoes in Dallas also dropped a lot of hail at DFW International Airport, which damaged a number of elevators on FedEx aircraft. Because FedEx does not have access to the necessary Airbus repair data they must ship these elevators to Spain for repair, which will take 9-12 months to complete. (Aviation Week’s Frank Jackman posted a blog titled “OEMs Criticized For Not Sharing Data,” which described the same story.) As a result, Fed Ex will probably need to purchase replacement elevators to repair these aircraft. Following this session, I asked Silverman how long it would take FedEx to fix the elevators if they had the data and he said, "less than two months." Furthermore, Silverman has heard reports that the facility in Spain is running 12-24 months behind on repair work, so the estimate he received may not be accurate. This is an example of how the information policies of certain OEM’s is increasing MRO costs and delaying aircraft from being returned to service.
During a session titled “In or Out? Knowing When and What to Outsource,” Bill Meehan, CEO of Pemco World Aviation Services and Kent Horton, Director of Aircraft Programs for Southwest Airlines both agreed that access to technical information is the key to making critical MRO decisions. Without this data, airlines have very few alternatives for what, when and where to outsource maintenance—and likewise very little control over costs.
In the closing keynote session titled “Global Markets, Financial Instability, and MRO,” Jim Keenan, SVP Technical Operations at United Airlines said that he understands the OEM’s business motivation to restrict maintenance and repair information. However, he also said the issue of technical content must be resolved because the current strategy is counterproductive to the industry and is increasing costs unnecessarily. He said that when fuel is removed from the cost of operations (CASM ex-fuel) MRO activities are the single largest driver of cost—at 15-20% of total. During the Q&A time, someone in the audience suggested that OEMs have no alternative to monopolizing MRO because they must recoup the billions of dollars they invest in R&D. Keenan’s response was fairly blunt, saying he has very little sympathy for OEMs that engaged in a market share grab (to drive competitors out of business) by under pricing their products. The airlines didn’t force OEMs to do this and for OEMs to try to cover their R&D investment by employing a “razor blade” business model is unfair to their customers. Trying to dominate the MRO space by using a “have vs. have not” approach with maintenance information doesn’t serve the industry well and won’t work in the long run. Keenan finished by saying that the current inequity in profits—OEMs gaining at the expense of airlines—causes him to be very concerned for the future of the industry.
While MRO Americas 2012 had plenty of dialog about OEM information policies, it didn’t resolve the current impasse between OEMs, airlines and MROs regarding access to technical content. The people I spoke to agreed that OEMs have a right to protect their intellectual property but there is significant disagreement regarding whether or not MRO information constitutes intellectual property. Unfortunately, just as the automotive industry is now grappling with “right to repair” laws, the aviation industry seems to be headed in the same direction. It would be better however, if all three parties could find a way to work together to avoid legislation and lawsuits.