The Uptime Blog
In a recent blog post titled “Parts is Parts…Or Is It Opportunity for OEMs?” Kristen Clark shares some analysis about automotive shoppers that indicates “year-over-year, 36% more customers are visiting parts websites, suggesting they may be looking to replace the parts before they replace the car.” As she breaks down the numbers it becomes clear that customers are not shopping for parts at the websites of the OEM or the OEM’s parts brand; instead, they are shopping for auto parts at independent retailers like NAPA and AutoZone.
This seems backward to me. To get new parts for an old Explorer the logical place to shop would be the Ford website. Yet, that’s not what happens, which raises a number of questions:
1. If aftermarket superstores have positioned themselves as a one-stop shop for all things automotive, how do the OEMs and dealers reverse this perception? Do any dealers have enough marketing clout to tackle this problem, or is it up to the OEMs?
2. What is the appropriate role for dealers in the aftermarket? Are they more interested in selling parts or services? For part sales, is their target audience the independent service station or the do-it-yourself car owner/weekend mechanic?
3. How can OEMs make it easy and cost-effective for customers to locate and purchase the correct parts while protecting the dealer/consumer relationship? Can the OEM manage the part ordering process and then hand-off the deal to a local dealer for order fulfillment?
Whether buying oil, shocks, fuzzy dice or mag wheels, people want a single location to get all the parts they need for their specific car. And they want it at a reasonable price. Enigma has the technology that addresses each of these questions. However the key to success will be innovative thinkers, at the OEMs and dealers, who have been empowered to use technology to forge tighter business relationships and deeper technology integrations between the OEM and dealer. If that can be achieved, then the infrastructure will be in place for the OEMs and dealers to beat the parts superstores at their own game.
In the June, 2008 issue of Overhaul & Maintenance, Henry Canaday wrote an article titled “Better Operations With Smarter MRO.” In this article the author states, “Airline operations are affected mightily by the quality and frequency of maintenance, and these effects grow more intense as jet fuel prices skyrocket.” He also points out that maintenance departments are giving “more attention to traditional best practices, redefining best practices to fit the new economic environment or adopting new techniques developed especially for this brutal time.”
The article goes on to describe 20 ways that airlines can reduce operating costs or increase revenue through better maintenance practices. The ideas presented can be applied to most types of complex equipment. I’d like to highlight three of the author’s ideas that are relevant to not only the aircraft maintenance industry but to industries such as heavy equipment, rail and defense:
1. Reduce the mean time to repair (MTTR). For aircraft, the author states that it’s possible to eliminate two-days per heavy maintenance event, which could save as much as $200,000 per year. The point is, “more productive and better-deployed labor…” As I said in last week’s post, the key to reducing maintenance time and cost can be found in Lean Six Sigma (LSS). But rather than rushing to begin a lean initiative in search of efficiency, companies should pursue six sigma initiatives, which deliver maintenance consistency. Maintenance consistency will ensure higher quality and more predictability, which is the key to reducing maintenance delays. Consistency will also expose problems that can be addressed through Lean.
2. Avoid unnecessary or non-cost-effective maintenance. The key is to help companies determine which service bulletins and safety directives are relevant and necessary for their equipment. Because any significant maintenance almost always requires equipment downtime, evaluating new service information is critical to making the decision to proceed.
3. Focus on equipment reliability. Reliability is the key to success for the maintenance organization. Equipment must be fixed right the first time, because unscheduled downtime costs the operator far more than scheduled downtime. The article estimated that each hour of unplanned downtime for a typical aircraft costs the airline $6,000, not to mention the bad publicity.
How does Enigma help OEMs and operators achieve these goals?
First, the Enigma InService MRO, Electronic Parts Catalog and Job Card Generator ensure that mechanics always use the latest approved service procedures. Second, our software solutions integrate with maintenance planning systems, ensuring that mechanics perform all required service procedures and follow an optimized work flow. Third, the Enigma 3C Revision Manager helps maintenance planners understand whether new service information is relevant to their equipment, before maintenance begins.
Overhaul & Maintenance magazine does a good job highlighting the importance of reducing operating costs and improving uptime for the owners and operators of aircraft; however, the advice that’s offered is important to all industries, not just airlines.
Back in March I wrote a post about the importance of Lean Six Sigma (LSS) for aftermarket service and support. I took the somewhat controversial position that, in the maintenance world, consistency should be a higher priority than efficiency and while companies usually focus on helping mechanics fix stuff faster, they would see more benefit by getting mechanics to fix stuff in the same amount of time. In other words, reducing the variability of maintenance execution provides more value than streamlining maintenance procedures. This doesn’t mean that reducing mean-time-to-repair (MTTR) is irrelevant, nor does it mean that improving work flows should be ignored; but it does mean that companies should control the maintenance process before they try to streamline it.
To understand why this is true we need to unpack the LSS acronym within the context of aftermarket service and support. Lean focuses on accelerating the overall repair process by modifying (or eliminating) non-value added maintenance tasks – to increase efficiency. Six Sigma focuses on reducing the variation in the time required to complete each task – to increase consistency. The big “aha” moment comes when companies realize that servicing equipment consists of multiple maintenance tasks and that no matter how streamlined the process, any variation between the fastest and slowest workers to complete each task has a compounding effect that can wreck the repair schedule and increase downtime. Any delays in maintenance execution trickle-down to the next task, destroying the ability to predict when equipment can be returned to service. This is why companies place a high premium on experienced mechanics. If a company can staff up with experts, they will have less variability in service execution and a more predictable and more flexible support organization.
At this point it makes sense to offer a word of warning about MTTR. Companies often overuse MTTR because it’s easy to understand and easy to measure. This makes it a very convenient number to track and report. However, MTTR is deceptive because it replaces the total range of repair times (as performed by each mechanic) with a single number (that represents the group). MTTR thereby masks the real source of blown schedules which is not the maintenance process but the variability of the workforce. Measuring the variability in repair times (for each task) is the critical first step for truly optimizing equipment maintenance.
In fact, reducing maintenance variability usually results in multiple options for the service organization to increase revenue and profits. One major OEM demonstrated that by reducing the variability of field service calls they could: 1) maintain the existing customer base with 12% fewer mechanics; 2) provide higher-margin service options (like a gold-level service plan); 3) increase the customer base up to 13% (by expanding the service territory). When comparing the impact of variability to cycle time (MTTR) this OEM realized that reducing variability provided much greater benefit.
So what’s more important for a maintenance organization: efficiency or consistency? As I said in the first blog post, the best answer is probably both. (Sometimes they go hand-in-hand.) But in terms of priority, companies should tackle consistency before efficiency. Once maintenance variation is under control, tasks that add no value become obvious. Enigma solutions help companies improve both aspects of Lean Six Sigma – efficiency and consistency.
For more information on Lean Six Sigma visit these sites:
Do you have ideas about optimizing aftermarket service and support? We welcome your input! Feel free to submit questions or comments to continue the dialog.
The US Department of Defense (DoD) has hundreds of different vehicle types amounting to hundreds of thousands of pieces of equipment deployed all over the world. Each vehicle is aggressively inspected and maintained according to a regular schedule, based on the manufacturer’s recommendations and field experience. Most maintenance activities rely on manual processes that are disconnected and paper-based. With so many vehicles scattered across the globe, and service and repair being so labor-intensive, it is a daunting task for the DoD to manage and maintain these vehicles in an efficient manner. Each branch of the armed forces conducts technical inspections according to its own standards but they all share a similar challenge: how to accelerate maintenance and quickly return equipment to service.
DoD maintenance depots often receive hundreds (or thousands) of vehicles at the same time, all of which require inspection and/or service. The first step in this process requires teams of soldiers/mechanics (maintainers) to inspect each vehicle for faults; this is a slow process in which maintainers rely on paper manuals and fill-out paper reports. These technical inspections (TI) last an average of one and a half to two hours and typically include:
- Following a standard inspection checklist found in the vehicle’s maintenance manual
- Identifying and recording all faults found during the inspection on a paper form
- Searching the Repair Parts Special Tool List (RPSTL) to identify the parts and tools necessary to fix each fault
- Manually validating these parts against FEDLOG, a logistics information system
- Submitting this completed form to a clerk who then types this information into the backend maintenance planning system and returns the form to maintenance for execution
The current TI process is both time consuming and error prone—more than 50% of the time the forms have missing, incorrect or illegible information. To accelerate this process and reduce errors, our defense customers use the Enigma Integrated Electronic Maintenance and Logistics application (E-IML). In the DoD, Enigma’s customers have reported a 50% reduction in the time required to complete technical inspections.
Using a laptop, tablet PC or handheld device, the maintainer works with a digital TI checklist that automatically captures fault information and enters that information into an electronic form such as a DA 2404, 5988E or, in the case of the Navy, a 2-Kilo Report. Upon logging into the system, Enigma captures information and pre-populates the majority of the fields on each form. The E-IML is connected to an updated online parts catalog (RPSTL) to display which part(s) are needed and automatically enters this information into the appropriate parts ordering form. The maintainer can also search for part numbers and repair procedures. To ensure that the correct part numbers are entered, the electronic version of the technical manual (IETM) automatically cross references the part numbers with the FEDLOG.
Working with the E-IML application offers several advantages:
•Technical inspections are digitized and automated, reducing the required time by half
•Paper documents no longer need to be carried to the inspection site
•Maintainers and maintenance supervisors can easily access the correct technical manuals for each type of vehicle
•Technical manuals can be revised at any time, eliminating the need to manually update paper manuals
•Electronic maintenance forms, containing critical pieces of a vehicle’s maintenance history, are automatically shared with the maintenance center to track fault codes and conduct prognostic and condition-based maintenance
All in all, Enigma’s E-IML solution enables the DoD to inspect and repair its equipment faster, allowing it to be deployed to the field more quickly. Beyond automating the TI process, the E-IML can be integrated with diagnostic systems to retrieve fault codes from a vehicle’s electronic control units, which automates troubleshooting and fault-isolation. But that’s a topic for another post…