The Uptime Blog
New aircraft have a number of systems that monitor engines, components and structures, generating large volumes of data for multiple stakeholders: operations, maintenance planning and engineering, line and base maintenance, purchasing and safety offices. A key challenge still being sorted out is how to manage and distribute that data so it can be effectively applied to reduce downtime and improve maintenance efficiency. An article in the May 2011 issue of Aviation Week Overhaul and Maintenance, titled “Data Performance Takes Off,” aptly describes the problem:
“…aircraft and everything on them talk, but systems are not fully exploiting the data because sometimes they are not even connected, and sometimes they speak in different languages. Really utilizing all that data will require building an information ecosystem for aircraft maintenance, part distribution, reliability reporting and much else.”
Peter Feldmann, VP of the Cavok division of Oliver Wyman said, “Engine guys have been taking engine condition monitoring messages for years…Now components and structures are talking. There is lots of chatter coming from Airbus A380s and Boeing 737NGs, and more is coming on the 787 and A350. But how do you get it off, and what do you do with it?”
“No current software does the whole capture-distribute-interpret job yet. 'Engine applications look at engines, but you need something that rolls it up for engines, airframes and components. If you get a failure alert, you want to forward a part to the gate. That is Nirvana, and we are not there yet,’ says Feldman.”
Beyond managing and distributing data, the article also addresses questions of who owns the data, and what are the business rules for sharing it among OEMs, airlines, MRO shops and other third parties. However, another complicating factor that is not fully explored is that data exists in both structured and unstructured formats. (For instance, there is performance data that fits nicely in a database for analysis and then there are defect descriptions that don't.)
Some OEMs and software vendors are attempting to leverage condition-monitoring data to guide certain maintenance decisions, but the data alone lacks context for the aircraft and the airline and is no substitute for a truly robust maintenance system. Aircraft data is most useful when it is integrated with maintenance planning and execution systems, thereby synchronizing service and parts information to improve decisions across the entire organization.
That’s where Enigma can help create the Nirvana that Feldman described. Aircraft condition data that is collected can be an input to the Enigma system, which will then generate customized job cards and deliver updated parts and service information directly to the assigned technicians. Enigma provides context, delivering data in a format that maintenance planners, engineers and technicians understand and preparing them to carry out the required tasks. Such an integrated environment would improve turnaround for each aircraft and ensure accuracy and visibility for the entire fleet.
Enigma’s open architecture supports the vision of truly integrated maintenance data. Enigma doesn’t claim to solve the complex problem of acquiring, managing and distributing condition-monitoring data, but we can support whatever solutions are ultimately stitched together, creating a seamless MRO environment that optimizes airline operations.
Service organizations lose business for many reasons; while some are related to technology, some are not. Customer retention is a tricky problem, but at its heart is the customer’s perception that they are not getting satisfactory service—they lose trust and question the value of the service they receive. Knowing this, once a customer has entrusted a service organization to fix their equipment, the first order of business should be to maintain that trust. No matter if the customer’s equipment is a car, locomotive, MRI scanner, or semiconductor tool, customer satisfaction is the key to repeat service business.
To highlight this point I turn to Carlisle & Company, a research firm that specializes in the automotive (and related) sector. According to one of their recent blog posts, “Five years ago, in 2006, [Carlisle & Company’s] Service Customer Sentiment Survey proved what customers really want – it came back to trust, value, cost, and convenience.” Carlisle followed that up with a three-part series called, “Just for Dealers: So, What Can You Do to Survive in a Collapsing Customer Pay Parts Market? - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.” While these blogs are targeted at automotive dealers, the ideas can be adapted to any service organization in a competitive market place. Part 3 of the series describes the importance of customer retention, “In plain English, a very satisfied customer is 15% more loyal than a merely satisfied customer. In even plainer English, a very satisfied customer will, for all practical purposes, remain loyal and “your” customer for as long as you continue to make him/her “very satisfied.” Once you slip and deliver merely “good” service, not “great” service, there is a chance that the customer will defect. Call it a 15% chance. That’s a roughly right number.”
However, there’s more to excellent service than a technician’s “bedside manner.” Customers expect service technicians to accurately explain any equipment problems and quickly describe the time, parts, procedures and cost to complete the repair. Given the variety and/or complexity of equipment that technicians must service, this requires an incredible amount of knowledge—or access to system that locates the right service procedures and orders the right parts quickly and easily. Often, unsatisfactory service calls have less to do with the quality of the service technicians and more with their lack of access to updated parts and service information; they can waste a lot of time searching through mountains of technical documentation for accurate, updated information and then procuring the right parts.
OEMs play a big role in helping service organizations perform to the highest standards. They are uniquely qualified to provide technicians with the information necessary to respond accurately and decisively. Furthermore, there are compelling reasons for OEMs to care about their customers’ quality of service. For OEMs that provide service level agreements (SLA), very satisfied customers typically make fewer support calls and so are more profitable. Very satisfied customers also demonstrate greater loyalty for service and parts (as noted above). Finally, very satisfied customers create a perception of quality and value for the OEM’s brand.
Enigma’s InService EPC application helps service organizations improve their first-time-fix-rates (FTFR) and build customer loyalty. It’s the only tool on the market that helps OEMs support technicians by delivering complete, accurate parts and service information—filtered by equipment configuration (or serial number), updated dynamically (on-the-fly), deployed online and/or offline, and able to be integrated to ERP, EAM, ECM, SCM and order management systems. Enigma helps every service technician act like an expert, ensuring they don’t get lost (or lose a customer), by safely guiding them through mountains of technical content.
Six years ago, Ford Motor Company decided it needed a better way to distribute parts information to its dealer network. Working with Enigma, Ford used the Enigma 3C Electronic Parts Catalog (EPC) to launch a new offering, Ford Catalog Advantage (FCA), Ford Motor Company’s Genuine Parts Catalog. FCA has delivered so much value that recently Ford renewed its contract with Enigma.
FCA provides up-to-date parts information, both online and offline, to more than 1,800 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealerships in North America. The benefits? Ford has reduced the cost of delivering parts information to dealers and distributors, eliminated delays for implementing updated information, increased the accuracy of parts orders and improved service bay productivity at Ford dealerships.
Here’s what some Ford dealers have said about FCA:
“[FCA] is one of the best tools I’ve seen come out in a long time. It really is beneficial to the dealership for customer satisfaction.” — Tim Worthington, General Service Director, Hines Park Lincoln
“The integration [of FCA and Ford's Workshop Manuals] has in fact helped the relationship between our parts department and technicians… As our technicians use this tool more often their efficiency will improve by eliminating any wasted time looking at pictures in the parts department; they will be able to spend more time in their stalls working on vehicles!” — Paul Cole, Service Director, Santa Margarita Ford
"[With FCA] parts are scrubbed against the VIN number, so we don’t have as many returned parts, and the technician doesn’t end up waiting for a part that may be wrong. It saves us time, it saves the technician time, and ultimately it saves the customer time.” — Dan Barr, Parts Manager, Hines Park Lincoln
“[FCA] makes life a lot easier and can make you money in the long run. This system probably saves me an hour a day.” — Scott Stern, Drivability Technician, Hines Park Lincoln
Enigma EPC applications benefit both OEMs and service organizations:
- Parts and service information is frequently revised, and changes need to be quickly distributed to service technicians in the field and at dealerships.
- Technicians can’t afford to spend valuable time searching through shop manuals and catalogs, copying down part numbers (possibly making errors), then spending time with customer support or a parts manager to order the (hopefully correct) parts.
With FCA, Ford has found a way to ensure service technicians find and order the right parts. FCA also improves service bay productivity, allowing more cars to be serviced, which means more aftermarket parts can be sold via the dealer. And faster service with the right parts yields happier customers, which helps brand perception.
For related thoughts on this topic see an earlier blog we wrote, “Helping Automotive OEMs Help Themselves."
Last week I attended the Field Service 2011 conference in Chandler, Arizona, which drew over 300 senior-level service and support professionals from 15 different manufacturing industries including aerospace, medical device, high tech, semi-conductor, construction/ agricultural and automotive manufacturing.
The majority of vendors exhibiting at the show were focused on parts logistics/optimization, inventory, predictive maintenance, scheduling, remote monitoring, etc. There were hardware vendors too, offering wireless, GPS, metering devices, printing devices, etc. In other words, most of the technology was focused on getting the tech to the repair site, predicting what parts were needed and helping them complete “paperwork.”
But none of those vendor products solve the serious problem of helping the technician make more accurate and better informed decisions in the field. Most of the vendors were selling around the margins of how to improve current technician processes. What they are selling appears to be important, but to speed up travel time, automate the paperwork and still have a tech looking at the wrong diagram, ordering the wrong part, or installing with the wrong tolerances is just accelerating failures.
Techs today are often spread thin and undertrained, while the products they work on are more and more complex. The common message in several conference presentations was that much of a service tech’s time is not spent on “wrench time” (making actual repairs). According to a McKinsey presentation, half of a service tech’s time is unproductive, up to 20% of field visits are unnecessary, and productivity loss was up to six hours a day in some cases.
Gleason Company estimated that 30% of a service tech’s time is spent searching for information across sources of information that they know is unreliable. Gleason also noted that 25% of all orders include requests for multiple parts because the tech assumes he will not get the right part.
So, the message I heard from manufacturers and consulting firms is that field service teams spend needless time looking for service information and mis-ordering parts. The solution is not dispatch or route logic, GPS tech monitoring, inventory/parts optimization, fault resolution, better tech training, or placing the right person at the call. What service organizations need is intelligent, accurate and up-to-date parts and service information, at the point of need in the field.
Consider what can happen every time a service technician orders the wrong part. At best, the technician realizes the mistake before proceeding, and waits for the correct part. At worst, the technician does not realize the mistake and attempts to service the equipment anyway. Either way, the service organization loses credibility. It also loses the technician's productivity, and the customer loses equipment availability.
But if the wrong part is installed the consequences can be far worse—including personal injury, equipment damage, poor performance, and regulatory non-compliance, to name a few. Order the wrong part and everything stops. Equipment stays down, customers cancel contracts, and technicians wait—all of which costs money that the manufacturer can never recover. Then there's the expense of shipping, storing and returning parts that aren’t used—or the added inventory expense of keeping parts that aren’t returned.
With Enigma InService EPC, service technicians can access the latest part lists, service bulletins, job cards (task cards), schematics, diagrams, and service manuals. They can find the right parts (even filter by equipment configuration or serial number), order the right parts and install the right parts. Previous training can be reinforced in the field by delivering contextual information based upon the repair being performed, or they can view the repair in 3D or via a video right at time of repair. Enigma’s EPC can even be integrated with the manufacturer’s ERP or e-commerce system, which reduces the mistakes or wasted effort of human data entry. All in all, this helps techs improve their first time fix rates, and dramatically reduces mis-order rates.
Fixing the problems of field service organizations is more than a matter of logistics; it’s a matter of delivering technical content in context, which will vastly improve service delivery and productivity.