The Uptime Blog
A Sample EPC Schema Structure
In last week’s blog post we gave eight steps for organizing/cleaning your aftermarket parts and service data. As promised, in this post we elaborate on Step #8, “Publishing your Data,” to explain how Enigma uses a simple hierarchical approach for structuring data to be loaded into the system and deliver to the end user environment. (Full disclosure: our approach is in tandem with the Enigma EPC solutions for delivering aftermarket parts and service information to the end user.)
First of all, Enigma makes technical content delivery easier by standardizing the content to a predefined XML schema. The Parts Catalog information is loaded as XML and the supplemental documents are loaded as PDF. The PDF documents can be marketing information, user guides, maintenance manuals, training guides, service bulletins, certification documents, inspection forms, etc.
After you have organized and cleansed your initial data sets you will need to map it to match a predefined Enigma data structure. In some cases you may have products that use the same supporting material. In such cases, those documents can be reused in Enigma EPC, thus reducing the need to duplicate and track identical files.
You may already have a hierarchy built into your ERP, PLM, document management system or in an Excel spreadsheet. Leveraging this hierarchy in your existing systems of record will allow you to export a data dump of the structure to a tab-delimited file format. This will greatly reduce the work involved in creating the catalog. Depending on the complexity of your organization’s product structure, Enigma supports five levels of information. For example:
- Division – example: Construction Loader
- Family – example: Skid Steer Loader
- Model – example: Model 553
- Folder – Parts Catalog, User Guide, Maintenance Manual, New Bulletins, Training Documents etc.
- Assembly Parts List or PDF Document
* Assembly Parts List – Air Cleaner, Hydraulics System, etc.
* PDF Document – 2010 User Guide, How to Replace the Oil, Scheduled Maintenance Chart, etc.
Building a hierarchy in your data requires that you track the relationship between the various levels in the structure. The various levels of the structure determine the parent/child relationships in the structure. Each level of the structure has a unique code or identifier, much like your driver’s license has a unique number that identifies you. In the following example you can see the Unique ID for each level of structure. In addition, the ID shows the parent in the chain:
- Division – example: Construction Loader – Unique ID: “DIV001”
- Family – example: Skid Steer Loader – Unique ID: “DIV001.FAM001” (Parent is DIV001)
- Model – example: Model 553 – Unique ID: “DIV001.FAM001.MOD001” (Grand Parent is DIV001, Parent FAM001)
Very often, companies have this parent/child structure but they don’t realize it, because the data resides in various file systems or databases. Once they have discovered their data, and organized it into a structure, they are well-situated to deliver that data via an electronic parts catalog (EPC). The value of the EPC is that it enables end-users/customers to search, find and filter the service and parts data they need, via the Web and/or DVD.
Companies can make this data organization an internal IT project, but Enigma does offer professional services, with the help of data conversion companies, to clean and organize parts and service information. For an in-depth explanation of how Enigma can help your company structure and deliver parts catalog information and supplemental documentation to the Web, contact us.
Here's some news, hot off the MRO press...
Atitech, the former Alitalia maintenance company and the largest aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul facility in Italy, has selected Enigma and Rusada to provide the most comprehensive planning and execution system for independent MRO facilities in the world.
The joint solution will integrate engineering and planning modules from Rusada with dynamic job card and technical content modules from Enigma, resulting in the most advanced MRO system for critical aircraft maintenance. The Atitech solution also includes complete financial and inventory modules. The Enigma-Rusada system will allow Atitech to accept and schedule MRO orders from airlines around the globe on very short notice. Loading the PDF, XML and SGML-based maintenance content using the Enigma smart knowledge system and feeding the planning and engineering modules of Rusada gives Atitech the capability to quote, plan and produce C and D check work packages in a matter of days, and sometimes hours, versus the many months that are often required today: all with updated content.
Enigma will provide the following modules: InService MRO, Job Card Generator and Revision Manager. Rusada will provide the following module: Envision asset management system. Enigma InService MRO provides an ATA-compliant technical information system, with effectivity filtering, for aircraft, engine and component manuals. InService Job Card Generator automates the production of dynamic, step-by-step task cards that are used by technicians and inspectors to guide maintenance practices and document regulatory compliance. InService Revision Manager automates the process of reviewing OEM and airline-specific maintenance changes, resolving conflicts and updating all relevant information systems.
Atitech selected the Enigma-Rusada solution over competing non-integrated offerings to replace the existing MRO solution used by Alitalia. The Rusada professional services team will also integrate Envision with SAP, AMOS, and Atitech’s time reporting and HR systems.
As an independent, 3rd party MRO organization, Atitech provides comprehensive support for numerous airlines. As such, Atitech planners and technicians will rely on the joint solution as the source for all information related to airframe and component maintenance, which includes OEM and airline-specific maintenance manuals and parts catalogs, and all Atitech and airline-specific maintenance supplements, service bulletins and schematics. The Enigma-Rusada solution will support maintenance for a wide variety of airframes, including the Airbus A320 family, Boeing 737 family and MD 80 family. 350 licensed maintenance engineers and mechanics, including 70 administrators, will utilize the solution at the company’s heavy maintenance base in Naples, Italy.
Read more here...
Our most recent blog post addressed a common problem for OEMs that make complex equipment: dirty data. Or rather, disorganized and inconsistent data. OEMs produce large volumes of technical content, but it sits in multiple formats and often lacks a consistent product hierarchy. This is a potential stumbling block that OEMs must clear away before they can effectively compete in the aftermarket, especially on the Web. It's important because customers are looking for parts and service information online and expect to find it accurate and well-organized; if the OEM doesn’t help them find and purchase what they need, they will buy their parts elsewhere.
The obstacle to achieving “clean” data is two-fold: multiple file formats that don’t follow a consistent data scheme and lack of a consistent product hierarchy. A consistent data scheme (e.g. part numbers, quantities, alternates, inventory, locations, etc.) ensures that accurate information is properly presented to the customer. A consistent product hierarchy (e.g. product division, family, model, sub-assembly, etc.) ensures that relevant information is quickly recognized by the customer. When a customer searches for a part, procedure or service bulletin in a system built upon clean data they will quickly find the correct information.
Most companies think that data cleansing is labor-intensive and time-consuming (and sometimes it is). But it doesn’t have to be. So what can OEMs do to clean their data? Enigma regularly helps OEMs resolve their data management problems, and we’ve come up with a few suggestions worth sharing…
Step 1: Decide what you want to do with the content. Do you want to deliver the technical content to customers, to dealers, to partners or just use it internally? Do you want to print it, burn it to a DVD, put it online? Is the technical content going to be part of a customer support site or an e-commerce/parts-buying process?
Step 2: Understand the data formats. Is the data stored in a consistent format (Manuals: SGML, XML, PDF, Word, scanned, paper; Parts: RDB, PDF tables, Excel, scanned, paper; Images: JPEG, CGM, SVG, scanned, paper)? For each data format and document type, is the information presented according to a consistent scheme (tasks, sub-tasks, assemblies, parts, naming conventions, numbering conventions, etc.)?
Step 3: Determine where the content is currently stored. Is all the data in one place? Do you have a document management system? Is any of the information in a PLM system, ERP system or relational database? Do you have illustrations for the parts and assemblies? What about schematics and wiring diagrams? Is any of the information in paper format?
Step 4: Decide which content is important. Based on what you would like to deliver, ask yourself if all the information needs to be cleansed? (Bear in mind that the time and cost needed to clean the data is dependent on both complexity and volume; in general, the more data you have, especially old data, the higher the cost.) How often is each type of content used (i.e. rarely or daily)?
Step 5: Develop a realistic approach. While most companies want to clean all technical content, such an approach may be cost-prohibitive. Assuming that the goal is to put service and parts information on the Web, content that is rarely used (e.g. old service bulletins) can remain in a relatively static format like PDF and may only need to be tagged for easy location, whereas content that is used frequently or changes regularly (e.g. parts lists, pricing and inventory) may need to be converted.
Step 6: Organize the content. After determining how each content type and format needs to be cleansed, it is useful to organize the content based on the supported products. Do you have a product structure for your models/equipment (e.g. product division, family, model, sub-assembly, accessories, kits, etc.)? Do you categorize or name the supporting documents based on a product structure? Once organized, technical content will still consist of many data types and file formats (including paper) but it will be easier to understand and ready for cleansing.
Step 7: Follow a strategic but tactical cleansing sequence. Because content cleansing can sometimes be slow and expensive, it’s important to show progress and value throughout the process. While it may seem like the most efficient approach is to fully cleanse each data type and then move on (i.e. all parts, all manuals, all images), that may not be the best choice. Doing so will force you to wait until all the content is cleansed before having anything to show for the effort. It may be better to plan the cleansing process according to product type (based on cost-benefit analysis) and use a progressive roll-out to the Web. (This allows customers, dealers, partners and internal management to quickly see the fruits of your labor.)
Step 8: Push the publish button. Enigma solves the problem of delivering aftermarket parts and service information to the Web or direct to dealers and customers, via the Enigma InService EPC application. Furthermore, Enigma ties that technical content into e-commerce, ERP, inventory and customer support systems to provide a fully integrated and automated aftermarket environment. However, as with any complex process the better (cleaner) the input data, the better the results.
In next week’s blog post we’ll address the specific approach to structuring and delivering parts catalog information and supplemental documentation to the Web, so check back here to learn more.
Companies that manufacture complex machines publish and distribute a lot of technical documentation. Installation manuals, maintenance manuals, training guides, service bulletins, marketing collateral, schematics and parts catalogs are typically the nuts and bolts of any customer service/support center. Naturally, OEMs want their customer (usually a dealer or distributor), to come to them for parts and service support; there is a healthy profit made in these areas and the OEM is well-positioned to offer technical advice. The best way to satisfy customers is to deliver fast and accurate support; this includes access to clear documentation and a straightforward process for finding/buying replacement parts.
Increasingly, customers expect to find OEM information online, instead of using DVD or paper catalogs. When data is organized and delivered to the Web in a user-friendly manner, customers can find the parts and service documents on their own. This increases OEM service efficiency, reduces customer support costs, and increases aftermarket revenue. In contrast, if the online parts and service information is not well organized and delivered, the end customer gets frustrated and turns to competitors for parts and information.
Putting technical content online can be relatively easy (with the right parts catalog technology). The more challenging part is getting all that parts and service data into a consistent format so that it can be easily uploaded and maintained. This is an essential first step which positions the OEM to successfully distribute its parts and service information to the Web and ultimately to fully-integrate aftermarket sales and logistics.
Many OEMs don’t think about data requirements when deciding to go online with aftermarket service and parts. They seem blind to the fact that human-based processes can accommodate inconsistent information far easier than computers can. OEMs often overlook the cost and challenge of data conversion and cleansing that is required before parts and service information can be successfully posted to the web. As a result, an OEM’s first foray into Web-based sales and support often fails to impress the CEO.
Because support documentation is often treated as an afterthought, maintenance manuals and parts catalogs have been developed by different teams, with different ideas about what is logical and what looks good. Furthermore, most OEMs have aftermarket information spread across multiple databases and multiple file formats: XML, SGML, CSV, PDF, Word and even paper. In such cases it’s not easy to work with this data as only a few people know where the data is, how it got there and what it means. For customer support, all these file formats and databases require call center staff to spend hours searching through piles of data to (hopefully) find what the customer is looking for. To turn that mess into a fully-automated and integrated web solution is even more complex.
The problem of “clean” data is two-fold: multiple file formats that don’t follow a consistent data scheme and lack of a consistent product hierarchy. A consistent data scheme (e.g. part numbers, quantities, alternates, inventory, locations, etc.) ensures that information is accurately presented to the customer. A consistent product hierarchy (e.g. product division, family, model, sub-assembly, etc.) ensures that information is accurately interpreted by the customer. When a customer searches for a part, procedure or service bulletin, in a system built upon clean data they will quickly find the correct part number and service information. And that is the key for OEMs to increase customer satisfaction and part sales.
Unfortunately, data cleansing is often labor-intensive and time-consuming. So what can OEMs do to fix this problem? Stay tuned for part II of this discussion in next week's blog post…
If you watched TV in the 80s and 90s, you probably recall the Maytag appliance commercials, featuring a bored and lonely Maytag Repairman. The gist of those commercials was that Maytag appliances hardly ever needed to be serviced, so the repairman was always superfluous (and consumers were happy because their appliances never broke down.)
Well, appliance technicians will never become superfluous, but they might soon have an easier job, with the advent of new technology that enables the appliances to “talk” to the manufacturer’s customer support center. A recent Business Week article about remote diagnostics for washers and dryers—commonly referred to within industry curcles as white goods—discusses the latest implementation of this new technology.
Kenmore has been piloting its self-diagnostic tool, called Kenmore Connect, for the past several months, and is now rolling it out. When the machine malfunctions, all the consumer has to do is call the manufacturer’s tech support line, turn on the machine’s self-diagnosing button and hold the phone up to the machine as it transmits a series of beeps and signals to the customer support center. The customer support representative views the data via computer and determines the problem. Sometimes the problem can be fixed by the customer; and sometimes the support representative has to dispatch a service truck and technician to the customer.
The benefits of this technology are obvious: the manufacturer spends less money sending out service technicians, and the customer is happier because he spends less time waiting for his appliance to be repaired.
By implementing such high tech field service solutions appliance makers are taking great strides to improve customer support. But along with these solutions they should consider improving access to technical documentation for field service. Many appliance manufacturers and repair facilities have rolled-out dispatch and work management software solutions, but they haven’t taken the next step to provide their field technicians with the latest parts and service information.
Appliances are getting increasingly complex, thus requiring the manufacturer to produce and distribute reams of additional technical manuals. Automatically assembling, updating and publishing parts and service information whenever there is a change is important; it enables field service and/or customer support to identify the right problem, find the right service procedure, and procure the right part (if a part is not already available on the service truck). Electronic parts catalogs allow field service technicians to fix complex machines faster and improve first-time fix rate; this saves the company money and makes customers happy.
In sum, online parts catalogs are an excellent complement to self-diagnostic systems. Heck, the Enigma electronic parts catalog solution might even make the Maytag repairman a happier fellow.