The Uptime Blog
In 2009, Michael Blumberg, of Blumberg Advisory Group, wrote a white paper titled, “Meeting the Aftermarket Service Requirements of Medical Device Manufacturers.” His paper explores various challenges for improving service efficiency and complying with FDA regulations in the medical equipment aftermarket. Blumberg recommends that manufacturers explore business process outsourcing (BPO) as a way to reduce costs and improve efficiency of aftermarket services. Some of his examples include order management/fulfillment, inventory management and logistics, reverse logistics and returns, depot repair and logistics planning. Unfortunately, Blumberg’s analysis presents an incomplete picture of both the problem and the opportunity.
Blumberg’s discussion focuses on processes and activities that are transactional in nature, meaning the data is fairly discrete/well-defined, which makes it easy to transmit, interpret and apply. While he touches on depot repair, mentioning diagnostic equipment and procedures, his primary concern seems to be improving parts logistics. Blumberg writes “Our research indicates that these improvements [to the Aftermarket Logistics Supply Chain] can improve efficiency and productivity by as much as 30% to 40% depending on the functional area under consideration.”
Of course, percentage estimates don’t mean a whole lot unless you know the basis of measurement (seconds, minutes, hours, days, etc.). Furthermore, while 30% improvement sounds good, the underlying assumption is that the right problem has been identified, the right parts have been procured and the right service is being performed. Unfortunately, Blumberg’s white paper doesn’t even mention field service, which many consider to be the “tip of the spear” in terms of reducing aftermarket costs and improving quality and efficiency.
To address field service and depot repair problems manufacturers must look beyond the typical measurement mentality that pervades BPO thinking; instead, they should investigate the actual business systems that support technicians as they diagnose and repair equipment. In other words, manufacturers must change their focus from “what needs to be done when” to address the technician’s most urgent question, “how do I fix this specific machine right now?” Answering this question is less about resource scheduling and inventory control and more about service execution, which requires accurate troubleshooting and repair manuals that deliver relevant, context-sensitive information. (Service and parts catalogs are not so much transactional as they are instructional.) Service execution is an area that Enigma understands well, as improving the performance of service technicians is our business.
I applaud Blumberg’s choice of topic; the aftermarket deserves more attention from medical equipment and other high-tech industries. I simply feel he provides an incomplete solution to a complex problem. To truly improve aftermarket service of medical equipment requires business tools that help technicians perform with surgical precision. Looking beyond transactional IT systems and BPO allows manufacturers to improve the “human element” within the aftermarket equation, which pays far higher dividends in the long run.
At the Aircraft Commerce Airline and Aerospace MRO & Operations IT Conference, Massimo Criscuolo, Technical Documentation Manager at Atitech, discusses the implementation of the Enigma-Rusada solution.
This week Enigma exhibited and presented at the Aircraft Commerce Airline and Aerospace MRO & Operations IT Conference - EMEA in Darmstadt, Germany. The event, organized by Aircraft Commerce, brings together most of the IT vendors in the aviation MRO market, all showing off their latest and greatest solutions to delegates from airlines and MRO companies.
Enigma presented the keynote case study in the conference, highlighting our project at Atitech, which is being implemented jointly with our partner Rusada. Massimo Criscuolo, Technical Documentation Manager at Atitech, explained their selection of the integrated Enigma-Rusada solution, summarizing it in one word: flexibility. As proof of the system’s ease of use, Criscuolo pointed out the fact that the entire administration of the content in the system is done by one person.
Susan Glass, Director of European Professional Services and Solutions at Enigma, described the challenges Atitech faced with their old legacy system, and compared it with flow of the new integrated solution, which enables Atitech to handle 3rd party MRO work efficiently. Tim Alden, Director at Rusada, presented the Envision solution and how it works together with the Enigma solution to update the maintenance programs and produce job cards. By automatically identifying changes in technical content and synchronizing tech pubs and ERP/MRO systems, Atitech is assured that the latest job card information is available across all maintenance and support departments.
More than 50 customers were represented this year, mostly from Europe. But the most significant change from previous years has been the increase in the number of vendors offering solutions; I counted more than 40 booths on the exhibition floor. The “usual suspects” were there, but many of the names were not familiar to me: consulting shops, and niche solutions like fuel efficiency and capacity planning software. Notably, many vendors were offering Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) solutions.
Against this vibrant backdrop of MRO IT vendors, the market leaders were conspicuous in their absence, yet again. SAP, whose headquarters is located 20 kilometers from here, did not bother to turn up (or be represented by one of their MRO implementation partners). Oracle continued in their tradition of not investing marketing dollars in the events that draw the customers they are targeting with their cMRO solution. I fail to comprehend this strategy, but then again, I don’t work for these corporate giants.
One downside to the growing size of this conference is a lack of focus. Aircraft Commerce has another event – the Annual Flight Operations Conference – that focuses on, well, flight operations. Many of the “new faces” in Darmstadt this week were offering solutions that seemed more suitable for flight operations rather than for MRO. The MRO IT events have been successful because of their focus; customers who are looking for IT solutions specific to aviation MRO know they will find what they need here. The organizers should be careful not to widen the scope too much and risk having a “supermarket” of vendors that span too many functional areas.
The Aviation Outlook China conference was held this week (July 6-7) in Shanghai, billing itself as “the strategic conference for leading airlines and airports operators in the world’s fastest growing aviation market.” Enigma did not attend this conference (though we were invited, and considered it) because the conference agenda did not include any presentations on maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO).
This void in the agenda is somewhat surprising, given that a few months ago the conference directors published the results of a market intelligence survey on China’s aviation industry, which stated that 33.3% of the airlines surveyed listed “Improving aircraft turnaround operations” as a top priority. Overall, turnaround time ranked #7 in the list of top priorities for airlines. Most interestingly, the #1 technology requirement (57% of respondents) was “systems and network integration for real-time information flow.” (Note: as of this blog post publication, the survey results were no longer posted online, so click here to see the PDF.)
Enigma aircraft maintenance solutions help improve turnaround time, and can integrate with vital ERP and MRO systems to provide real-time information flow between maintenance planning, engineering and execution. For example, Enigma InService MRO Revision Manager automatically identifies changes to service and parts information (parts, manuals, bulletins, job cards, revisions, engineering orders, COCs, supplements, etc.) and allows updated content to be synchronized across the maintenance environment. Revision Manager compares content and generates change reports to automatically update maintenance plans, inventory/equipment lists and job/task cards.
By automatically identifying changes in technical content and synchronizing tech pubs and ERP/MRO systems, Enigma solutions ensure that the latest service, parts and job card information is available across all maintenance and support departments. This enables each department to achieve unprecedented levels of efficiency, accuracy and responsiveness, which of course improves turnaround time.
This conference in Shanghai may have tried to cover a variety of operational and business issues, but it was lacking in what 33% of survey responders care about: improving maintenance turnaround times. Certainly there is a great demand for aircraft MRO solutions in China, given that it is indeed a fast-growing aviation market. Hopefully next year’s Aviation Outlook China agenda will include sessions that address the critically important issues surrounding technical documentation information flow in MRO organizations.
For further reading:
“The World Airline Report,” Air Transport World, July 1, 2011
“The China Market is Attaining Critical Mass,” Aviation Week, April 25, 2011
“China’s MROs Gear Up For Fierce Competition,” Flightglobal, February 25, 2011
Here in Massachusetts the legislature is debating a bill called Right to Repair (RTR). Basically RTR says that automotive OEMs will not hinder the consumer’s ability to get their car fixed wherever they want. The implication is that OEMs are obstructing independent repair facilities (IRFs) from getting the maintenance manuals, parts catalogs, diagnostic codes and equipment that are needed to fix your car. And, since it’s your car, you should be able to get it fixed wherever you want.
On the surface RTR sounds very reasonable, after all the United States was founded on the belief in personal freedom—in this case the freedom to choose who fixes your car. But something doesn’t feel right about how this bill is being “advertised.”
To ensure passage of RTR, I’ve seen a huge amount of advertising—basically lobbying the public and the lawmakers to accelerate approval. And the ads are so biased that it’s almost impossible to discuss RTR without sounding like you’re against personal freedom (and that’s un-American).
The RTR lobbying campaign describes itself as protecting the little guy (IRF). However as each of the videos below will show, getting automotive repair information doesn’t seem to be a problem for IRFs.
Since it seems that IRFs can get the information they need, I’m left with more than a few questions:
- Who’s paying for the RTR lobbying campaign? (I want to know the real motive because I’ve seldom seen an expensive lobbying effort that is meant to benefit the public.)
- Why don’t the OEMs have an anti-RTR campaign underway? (Is it because they will be labeled un-American and “anti-consumer”?)
- How can the intellectual property of the OEMs be protected? (Low-quality parts and repairs can have a significant impact on OEM brand perception and loyalty—people rarely complain about service or parts but frequently complain about their cars.)
- What about the concern regarding security systems raised by law enforcement in this blog, is it real? (Contrary to the exaggeration in RTR lobbying efforts, OEMs haven’t said that IRFs steal cars.)
- What about the safety risks raised by the Mass Auto Coalition, are they real?
I have even more questions but that’s a start. It’s interesting to note that a personal friend, who’s also a mechanic, says he’s never had difficulty getting the information he needs to fix a car. However, his IRF prefers to focus on basic maintenance and repairs and let the franchised dealers handle the complex stuff. His shop doesn’t encounter enough complex problems to justify the specialized training and equipment and he has all the business he can handle.
So who’s really behind the lobbying effort for Right to Repair? And who will really benefit if it passes? Let the conspiracy theories start now!