Tablets on the Tarmac (or anywhere else) – It’s More Than Mobility
In October, Enigma was a guest speaker at the ATA e-Business Forum and delivered a presentation about tablets on the tarmac, which focused on helping aircraft mechanics get the information they need while out on the flight line. But the story of tablets is applicable to any industry where technicians must work in remote, restricted or challenging environments.
Tablets promise higher productivity for just about everyone involved in aftermarket service and parts: technicians, inspectors, engineers, parts managers, planners, etc. Tablets promise that maintenance tasks will be performed faster and more accurately, which will decrease mean time to repair (MTTR), increase first time fix (FTF) rates and reduce no fault found (NFF) events. The problem is that it takes more than tablets to deliver on those promises. For companies to realize these benefits, the tablet-wielding workforce must also be rewarded for their achievements, otherwise any efficiency gains might get spent on longer lunch breaks. Furthermore, industries that rely on organized labor may run into contractual issues before they get buy-in from mechanics and engineers. And so tablet promises come with some strings attached.
This raises an interesting question, “Do tablets offer any benefits that are independent of workforce cooperation?” In a word that benefit is “visibility.” Tablets offer visibility into the parts, processes, products and people involved in service and parts decisions – visibility into how people approach maintenance tasks and visibility into why some are successful and others are not. Tablets allow the collection and analysis of “big data” straight from the field (i.e. at the point of service). Such passive data collection provides insight to part selection, purchasing and service processes, and to problems with training and product quality, without being a burden on the workforce.
Despite all the hype about tablets improving maintenance and repair, the real opportunity is less about service productivity and more about sales strategy. Tablets provide the necessary link to understand aftermarket parts and service workflows. By exposing bottlenecks, inconsistencies and missed opportunities, companies can fully optimize their parts strategy and streamline service offerings. And that represents a much higher value than simple mobility.