It’s not pretty. It’s bad for business, painful to work with, and costly to maintain. It damages customer loyalty. So what is it?
Dirty data – and it is slowly clogging up revenue streams and shrinking profits for countless unaware or indifferent U.S. companies. It’s costing over $3.1 trillion of lost revenue every year, according to industry expert Hollis Tibbets who notes, “that’s twice the size of the Federal deficit.”
What is Dirty Data?
Techopedia says that dirty data refers to data that contains erroneous information. It may be misleading, incorrect, inaccurate, duplicate or non-integrated data. It could violate business rules, be outdated, incomplete, contain spelling or punctuation errors, or be unstructured without generalized formatting. In some cases hard copy data can also be construed as dirty since its non-digitized formatting cannot be easily accessed and shared. And although some businesses pay attention to keeping their data as clean as possible, their work is never done. New products, new parts, new service information, changing part specifications, updated service instructions, manual data entry, and countless other reasons can all muddy the water.
Dirty Data in the Field
To support the aftermarket maintenance of complex machines and equipment, manufacturers (OEMs) publish and distribute large quantities of technical information for themselves (service and field service maintenance technicians), their networks (usually dealers and distributors), and even their end users (customers or third-party vendors such as authorized service providers).
Often the data used in the field includes parts catalogs, maintenance manuals, troubleshooting guides, service bulletins, installation guides, schematics and marketing collateral. This technical documentation is at the heart of an OEM’s long-term success, because it enables effective customer support, which is a key driver of cross-selling, up-selling and brand loyalty.
Dirty data in the field wreaks havoc on aftermarket support. Distributing erroneous part information and service instruction to service technicians unnecessarily extends equipment downtime. It lengthens the time needed to perform a repair and adds excessive cost for the customer leading to frustration and lack of loyalty. It leads to second guessing by field service, resulting in needless calls to the help desk on routine matters and hidden inventories of unreturned alternate parts and “trunk spares.” Clean data, on the other hand, enables technicians to provide fast and accurate aftermarket support with confidence, ensuring high levels of customer satisfaction.
Customers expect to find OEM parts and service information online, rather than in DVDs or paper catalogs, and they expect it to be accurate and well organized, in the form of an electronic parts catalog (EPC). Customers will take their business elsewhere if the OEM doesn’t make it easy for them to figure out what’s wrong with a machine and find and purchase the necessary parts. The OEM’s goal should be to ensure that customers can quickly find and order the right part, procedure or service bulletin online. An electronic parts catalog with a centralized knowledge library like InService EPC makes that possible.
Clean Data for Aftermarket Profit
The importance of clean data in the aftermarket can’t be overstated. Aftermarket parts and service is a significant source of revenue for companies that manufacture complex equipment and machines. Morris A. Cohen, Professor of Manufacturing and Logistics at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and Chair, MCA Solutions Inc., writes about aftermarket profitability and predictable revenue:
“The sale of parts and services to provide aftermarket support represents a significant portion of a firm’s business (25% to 50% in most industries). Typically, these sales have some of the highest margins, providing, on average, 45% of profit. At the same time, the market share of the lucrative aftermarket business is low for many companies. A Deloitte benchmarking survey found an average 40% share for services and a 70% share for parts sales. Capturing service revenue is important as it generates a recurring revenue stream, which is much more predictable than the uncertain revenue from new product sales. The design and delivery of new “service support products” represents an opportunity to increase both revenue and profit on a consistent basis.”
Clean Data Makes for Clean Business
Real-world parts and service information is constantly changing, which makes consistent formats, presentation styles and navigation hierarchy critically important. Adjusting to structured data standards may take some getting used to but is the only proven path to success to ensure that aftermarket data is clean, scalable and profitable.
Some companies are able to take on the task of prepping data for integration into an electronic parts catalog. They are organized, structured and persistent enough to make it happen. But most gratefully accept the help of knowledgeable professionals like Enigma who are skilled in database integration and electronic parts catalog software. Together with our data conversion partner, DCL, we collect, map, format and prepare all sorts of technical documents such as paper, scanned paper PDF, textual PDF, Word, CSV, XML and SGML so it is all available and searchable.
And—more good news—companies can start small in prepping their data. Preparing and testing data on a limited scale, such as a few selected product lines or a single region teaches valuable lessons in data management that can be useful for a fuller rollout. It illustrates immediate ROI benefits and allows for more efficient inclusion of other products and regions, in greater detail, later on.
Getting Squeaky Clean and Polished
With over $3.1 trillion of lost revenue every year attributed to dirty data, there’s plenty of room to tidy up. Enigma has prepared a white paper – Seven Steps to Put Parts and Service Information Online – to get you started. Not surprisingly, it concentrates on cleaning up the dirty data so you can deliver the right information to the right person at the right time through the right electronic parts catalog. It’s no secret that cleaning up data and streamlining its distribution to maintenance and support staff will help aftermarket revenue flow more freely and companies find their lost profits.