The Uptime Blog
IETMs – Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals – have been around for a few decades now. The road for widespread use of electronic manuals in the military was paved by a set of standards issued in the United States in 1992: MIL-M-87268, defining the content and style of the manuals; MIL-D-87269, defining the database requirements; and MIL-Q-87270, defining quality assurance procedures.
Traditionally, IETMs have been categorized into five classes based on the level of functionality they provide to the end user. Class 1 IETMs are simple “page turner” applications that provide basic navigation and search capabilities. On the other end of the spectrum are Class 5 IETMs, offering fully integrated and dynamic database functionality. In practice, for many years most IETMs in the market were in the lower classes, as the efforts required to develop Class 4/5 IETMs required heavy customization. In recent years, IETMs have been defined using a functionality matrix rather than a 5-category classification, allowing clearer definitions of the functionality needed by the end user (and blurring the boundaries between the Classes in the process). The relatively new S1000D standard has further enhanced the reusability of data used within IETMs.
Enigma has been supplying defense customers with IETMs for more than twenty years. As with all our solutions, these IETMs have been developed with the end user in mind. That is, what does the user in the field – the soldier, the sailor, the airman, the marine – need in order to perform necessary maintenance in the most efficient manner? As such, our IETMs have been designed to offer an easy and intuitive user interface, the ability to find and order parts quickly and the integration to other systems to ensure a smooth and complete workflow. This functionality was not developed specifically for the defense industry. Our military IETMs are based on the Enigma 3C platform, which offers the necessary open and scalable architecture to produce these IETMs almost “out of the box.”
Most recently, Enigma’s IETM technology has been selected by the Norwegian Defence forces in their SAP Logistics project. Norwegian Defence is able to deliver fully-functional IETMs to the field based on a myriad of formats, from simple PDFs all the way to structured S1000D content. Other Enigma IETMs have been implemented by US and European defense customers.
For a deeper look into the Enigma IETMs for the military, we invite you to download our updated white paper: The Advantages of Integrated Military IETMs or IETPs in the Field.
Equipment uptime is critical. Hospitals need MRI machines to take accurate images in order to make proper diagnoses. Construction companies need boom lifts to build multi-story buildings, and auto manufacturers have a whole dealer network and extended independent repair facility network to support in order to keep their cars, trucks and vans safe and on-the-road.
Manufacturers of complex equipment support their products after the initial sale in order to maintain high performance standards for their customers. But supporting that equipment is challenging. Sometimes manufacturers work with third party vendors to contract that support. Other times, they maintain their own staff to supply parts, and perform service or warranty work. Either way, aftermarket support is a necessary function for customer loyalty and continued success.
Make It or Buy It?
The first question when considering aftermarket support software is whether to develop the software in-house or purchase it out of the box (OOTB). Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) wrestle with this question regardless of whether they hire third party maintenance vendors or field their own maintenance teams to do the work. Their challenge is how to provide the parts and service information needed to keep their equipment (and their customers) up and running.
Benefits of Out Of The Box Aftermarket Software
While there are many pros and cons to both making and buying and aftermarket solution, we think there are some compelling reasons to choose an out of the box aftermarket software solution. Here’s why:
Software Development as a Core Competency
Software development is an arduous task, requiring a dedicated team of developers and a steady budget. Manufacturers undertaking an in-house, custom software development approach must step outside their core manufacturing competency to create proficiency in an entirely different discipline – software development. This shifts the focus away from what the manufacturer does best – produce products.
Instead, valuable time, money and attention is spent building a team, employing a highly trained staff of developers, and incurring expenses to maintain the team’s education in coding, hardware and ongoing knowledge of new and upcoming technologies. It can be done, but is not the best use of assets or resources. Mis-appropriation of valuable resources may result. In-house development staff members become overburdened with routine daily activity, interruptions and user troubleshooting for desktop applications, which compromises development time and the quality of the resultant software.
A better option is for manufacturers to do what they do best, and outsource the rest. Choose an established out of the box software developed by a company whose sole business is software development and that specializes in the task at hand. Enigma is a great example. Our InService EPC software is an electronic parts catalogs specializing in delivering critical OEM parts and service information for aftermarket maintenance of complex equipment – within a dealer environment, in-house field service teams or outsourced service companies. Our sole purpose is to develop software that provides an entire system for implementation, bug fixes, updates and compatibility. We build parts and service best practices directly into the framework of the software to improve the function and operability of a company’s service business. Manufacturers are then freed to concentrate on performance of their own core business function.
Scalability refers to the ability of the software to support an increasing numbers of users, devices and workloads without data transfers slowing down. If built with scalability in mind, software grows as a company grows – expanding to meet increasing demands while delivering the same high levels of productivity. This doesn’t just mean adding hardware to support increased activity, but ensuring that data integrity between application instances remains constant and synchronization across work processes remains stable. It takes into account security, equipment uptime, and integration with other business applications to improve the flow of information and commerce.
Scalability can be difficult to achieve. Matt Aimonetti, a Senior Software Architect at LivingSocial best describes the concept of scalability in his personal developer’s blog by saying:
“Designing beautiful and scalable software is hard. Really hard.
It’s hard for many reasons. But what makes it even harder is that software scalability is a relatively new challenge, something only really done in big companies, companies that are not really keen on sharing their knowledge. The amount of academic work done on software design is quite limited compared to other types of design, but shared knowledge about scalable design is almost nonexistent (Don’t expect to find detailed information about scaling online video games either, the industry is super secretive. And even if this is a niche market where finding skilled/experienced developers is really challenging, information is not shared outside a game project).”
Scalability makes aftermarket software flexible. It adjusts and allows businesses to adapt to changing market demands by growing rather than replacing the software system. Enigma’s InService EPC software application is created with scalability in mind. It extends the capacity and capability, without the need for new infrastructure, additional personnel, or the development of new software.
Time and Money Savings – Add More Value with Fewer Resources
The argument of core competencies and scalability should be reason enough to consider out of the box aftermarket parts and service software, but the issues of time and money really drive the point home.
Manufacturers today are being asked to deliver more value with fewer resources. The Manufacturing Institute and the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) partnered to produce the 2011 Structural Cost Study. The key finding was that U.S. manufacturers face a 20.0% structural cost burden in the global market compared to manufacturers in our nine largest trading partner countries. This is up from 17.6% in 2008.
To be globally competitive, OEMs are looking for ways to realize bottom line savings quickly with only modest investment. Out of the box software solutions deliver. InService EPC’s out of the box parts catalog furnishes OEMs with shorter implementation periods while Enigma works with them on issues of hosting, data prep, training, testing, and integration. Once in place, InService EPC saves money by providing scheduled updates and improved functionality without the burdensome costs associated with an in-house team.
Equipment uptime is critical. And manufacturers will do what it takes to support their products after the initial sale in order to maintain high performance standards for their customers. Enigma’s out of the box electronic parts catalog software can help make that happen.
Tags: aftermarket, electronic parts catalogue, parts and service, parts catalog, parts catalogues, shopping carts, InService EPC, dvautier, diane vautier, electronic parts catalog, epc software, software
The term “Losing to no decision” is a phrase sales reps use when their potential customer, after a lengthy exploration and proposal process, elects to take no action at all, rather than choose a solution from the sales rep or his (her) competitors. The process ends in stagnation, without a sale – a very discouraging experience for the sales rep trying to close the deal.
A Company’s “No Decision” Perspective
But if we look at the same scenario from the perspective of the company that had been searching for a solution to their business challenge, there are even more serious consequences. The company (and its staff) is worse off than when it began the search, with little to show for all the effort. The lack of action has spurred frustration about the project – possibly discouraging future problem seeking, wasted valuable resources and man-hours exploring the options while the opportunity is unrealized and the original problem is left unresolved.
Avoid Losing to No Decision
Let’s say that you are one of several aftermarket Regional Service Managers of a manufacturing company that makes high-ticket complex equipment like medical imaging machines, industrial robotic assembly components or mining equipment. Congratulations if you actually are the Regional Service Manager. If not, you can always aspire, right?
For a long while now, you’ve been thinking about making recommendations to senior staff that you feel will help the maintenance team become a more active contributor to revenue generation. You want to suggest that the company include additional functionality to the existing parts catalog or upgrade altogether to a highly functional electronic parts catalog.
You’re confident that such a move will reduce costs by providing more accurate parts and service information, streamlining service technician work flow, improving field service performance and minimizing parts misorders. You also know that deeper integration with the company’s business system would give your team access to parts pricing and availability and a built-in shopping cart ordering process would result in increased parts sales.
The only challenge is that you don’t know how to go about making the suggestion in a way that will have impact rather than being ignored. Here is what Enigma has found to be a solid foundation for moving through an electronic parts catalog project and making the right decision to resolve the challenge.
- Have a Goal: Maybe you don’t know all the upfront features, benefits and details like the Regional Service Manager example above. Maybe you just intuitively know that there’s a better way to do things. Any good idea has to be intellectually tangible to gain support, so avoid uneasy vagueness and establish clear goals of what you hope to accomplish. In the example above, the aftermarket manager wants to help the service department become a more active revenue generator.
- Identify Key Stakeholders: Not everyone is going to agree with your great ideas and that’s OK. You only need to gain the confidence of the people who have a direct interest or influence in the decision. This may be the service staff who may be most impacted, the IT department who would oversee integration, and of course the Regional VP who would benefit from an integrated electronic parts catalog or have the authority to veto its progress. Stakeholders are different for every project or company. Figure out who they are and start earning their trust and support. Decision makers can make or break your project.
- Assemble Your Team: Seek out people who share your keen insights, can influence stakeholders or support your efforts. They are your partners, your teammates, and your allies in transforming your inert environment into a dynamic one. They will help keep the project on course. It may be someone like the parts manager who may benefit from increased sales, the top field service technician willing to share insights and experience, or the new IT assistant eager to prove him or herself to the IT department manager. One surprising resource is the electronic parts catalog vendor. Vendors can provide the facts or structure you need to support your position. For example Enigma makes available an RFP sample that can drastically reduce the time and effort put into identifying and organizing the important project details.
- Build a Business Case: Anyone who is responsible for the profit and loss (P&L) of a department or company appreciates when you make a business case that speaks their language. Relate your goals to dollars – what costs will be reduced and by how much will the expected revenue increase? You can still include less concrete results like increased customer satisfaction, but don’t leave out the obvious connection to the immediate P&L bottom line.
Now that you have defined a clear goal, identified the stakeholders, assembled your team, and built a business case, you’re ready and able to help your company move forward with solid decision making.
Remember when you were a kid and you saw a science fiction movie? If you were like me, you were simply amazed at the endless high-tech gadgets and devices that made life on the silver screen so futuristic and so exciting. The creativeness behind those sci-fi concepts was simply awe-inspiring.
Well, today we’re starting to reap the harvest of all that inspiration. You could say that “the future is now.” Modern technology is infiltrating every aspect of our lives, from smart objects to integrated systems, from information sharing to logistics and nearly everything in between. We’re more connected through technology now than any other time in known history. And we’re on the cusp of the next giant leap forward. Imagine cars that talk to each other to better manage commute routes, phones that signal houses to prepare for your arrival with lights turned on and heat turned up, or your computer tracking all your important assets with GPS.
It starts with the Internet
Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s J.C.R. Licklider and his colleagues could never have imagined that the "Galactic Network" concept first discussed in 1962 would catch on and change the world. But it did. A brief history of the Internet contains countless contributors, collaborators and visionaries who have made this invisible network critical to research, business, and our own daily lives. The Internet, it seems has become an integral part of our lives.
In a 2005 Pew Internet and American Life Project report, “How the Internet has woven itself into American life,” researchers said that “a decade after browsers came into popular use, the Internet has reached into–and, in some cases, reshaped–just about every important realm of modern life.” In Pew’s 2009 report, “The Mobile Difference,” they added that “wireless connectivity has drawn many users more deeply into digital life.” And in their 2012 report, “The Future of Smart Systems,” they said that “hundreds of tech analysts foresee a future with ‘smart’ devices and environments that make people’s lives more efficient.”
It continues with the new Internet and new technology
The Business Insider reported that, “On June 6, 2012, a brand-new version of the Internet was turned on,” and that “we needed a new Internet because the old Internet was running out of address space.” Apparently the ‘old’ Internet only contained 4.3 billion unique addresses. Vint Cerf, the inventor of the Internet Protocol system says that the new Internet, IPv6 is "trillions upon trillions of times larger."
Not coincidentally, the timing of the Internet expansion corresponds with an explosion of new advances in technology eager to include unique internet protocol addresses in countless ‘things’ that can connect to the Internet. Sensors with unique Internet protocol (IP) addresses that can be attached to objects (or things) and products with the Internet connectivity built into the product itself are showing up on retail shelves everywhere. At the beginning of 2012, tech blog ReadWrite, in talking about new products, reported that “over 50% at CES (consumer electronics show) were internet connected.” That number is growing exponentially with an expected 24 billion connected devices in the world by 2020 says GSMA (Groupe Speciale Mobile Association).
It culminates with the “Internet of Things”
According to Techopedia, “The Internet of Things (IoT) is a computing concept that describes a future where everyday physical objects will be connected to the Internet and will be able to identify themselves to other devices. IoT is significant because an object that can represent itself digitally becomes something greater than when the object existed by itself. No longer does the object relate just to you, but now it is connected to objects around it, data from a database, etc. When many objects act in unison, they are referred to as having ‘ambient intelligence.’ ”
Imagine a world where everything—not just computers and people—is linked. Emergency responders could know of accidents as they happen and where they happen, rather than wait for someone to witness it and then report it. Consider healthcare scenarios where patients’ vital health conditions are monitored outside hospital walls or where diagnostic procedures are performed and diagnosis performed remotely providing exceptional medical coverage where needed most.
Are you feeling like you’re on an episode of Star Trek yet?
Perhaps the most practical understanding of the concept of the “Internet of Things” originates from the founder of the term himself, Kevin Ashton, who writes:
“If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best.”
This drives home the point of how the “Internet of Things” is already taking shape in our lives and our businesses. As an electronic parts catalog software developer, Enigma is highly concerned with publishing, storing, and distributing data to help a “reduce waste, loss and cost” as Kevin Ashton describes above. Our goal is to improve maintenance and repair operations through the distribution of parts information and service knowledge to service technicians and staff so they have the information they need to determine if “things need replacing, repairing or recalling,” and the where-with-all to get it done.
How exciting. Enigma and our InService EPC parts catalog is on the forefront of the innovative technology movement that is propelling us ever closer to complete connectivity – the very foundation of the “Internet of Things”. We are one of the high-tech companies whose technology makes life in the present and in the future so exciting.