Rental in Transition

Last week I went to Riga to participate in the annual convention of the European Rental Association. With the theme ‘Rental in Transition’ the convention rightfully worded the pivotal junction in time. Fuelled by the European Green Deal we are poised to rebuild our economy towards net zero emmisions. This means construction will boom requiring lots of construction equipment. The big challenge for OEM, dealer, rental and construction companies will be to manage the installed base of construction equipment from a carbon footprint and emmisions perspective.

Collective bargaining

When the representative of the EU, the consultant from the Boston Consulting Group and the chairman of the European Construction Industry Federation talked about the need and drivers for transition, I had this nagging question. Suppose I own a construction equipment fleet of 1b$, the majority still being internal combustion engine (ICE) based, how do I monetise that investment if the awarding of new construction jobs is based on lower carbon footprint and emission levels?

This is big. This is a challenge of major proportions. Though the delegates subscribed to the mid-term sustainability and transformation goals, for the short-term there’s that ominous questionmark of the how-to. The impact and magnititude of the sustainability transition shows how OEM, dealer, rental, construction companies and legislators are intertwined. This requires a serious dose of collective bargaining.

Preparing for the transition

Regardless of how the transition is going to pan out, for all players in the value chain it is imperative to prepare for the transition. It will become increasingly important to understand the usage profile of construction equipment versus generic equipment attributes.

Let me explain with an example in the car rental industry. When you rent a car it typically comes with a mileage allotment per day. If you drive more, you pay more. If you drive less you still pay the daily rate. You could also split the rental model in an ‘availability’ and ‘usage’ component. Especially if the usage component drives carbon and emissions output, splitting the rental model can motivate the user for a more sustainable use.

This simple example sits at the core of asset-centric business models. It’s not about owning of having an asset, it’s about using it. See here the incentive to digitally transform your business and get access to equipment usage information. Bye the way, if you are catering to the larger construction companies, you will know that providing the usage data of construction equipment is a critical element of the rental service.

Carbon offsetting

Most of the delegates flew to Riga. Upon buying their airline ticket each had a possibility to purchase the carbon-offsetting option. How many did buy that option? Today the majority of the rental companies offer a similar carbon-offsetting option for rental equipment. How often is that option selected? A brief survey amonst the delegates revealed the non-scientific value of ±5%. Rental today is a very price sensitive industry.

When I look at the construction deadlock in my own country, the Netherlands, I see that each new project must submit a carbon and emissions overview before even getting a building permit. We heard the EU representative make remarks along similar lines. “We will use carrot and stick”. And we know of sustainability-forefront-cities only awarding projects to eco-frontrunners.

Does this mean that we can only use electric or hydrogen based equipment for future construction projects? Contemplating on the sheer size of the sustainability challenge, the answer will be ‘no’. There simply isn’t enough construction equipment to get all the work done. But if you want to continue using ICE equipment, you need to get smart at carbon-offsetting options. At the conference we heard that a CO2 calculator is a good start, but we need to make it easier to use and equipment usage based.

Beyond Equipment

For the mid and longer term we have an adject challenge when replacing ICE equipment with electric and hydrogen based alternatives. For ICE equipment we can build on the existing infrastructure of fosile fuels. And for remote locations we can very easy offer a fuel management option. 

If we want to deploy electric and hydrogen based equipment, it often means we have to supply the complete EV or hydrogen powertrain as well. This implies that the rental paradigm will change from equipment rental to complete solutions rental. From an asset management and equipment availability perspective that will mean that the complexity will increase. This will feed the argument for accelerated digital transformation.

In completely different acumen we could label this as ‘servitisation’. When the contractor needs to excavate 100 tonnes of rock, he’ll need an excavator, dumpster truck and complete power train. As food for thought for rental, would it be too far off to start selling electricity/ hydrogen as well?

Beyond Riga

It was great to be in Riga. To hear so many people in the industry. The challenge is big. Yes, there are some threats. Yes, there is a level of denial and green-washing too. On the other hand, the challenge provides a great number of opportunities too. Those who embrace those challenges and embark on their digital transformation journey, those will have the upper hand in a rental market that is in transition.

Previous blog on rental.

Maximising Asset Availability for Rental Equipment

Four years ago we moved to the country side and bought an old farmhouse on a large plot of land. Having big construction and landscaping plans we regularly rented all kind of equipment to get the job done. The journey I experienced was tough for the companies that rent out equipment and for my DIY-projects progress. I wish some of these rental companies had state-of-the-art service execution systems, such they could drive both a better customer experience and value delivery.

Job and Equipment planning is tough

The most important thing I’ve learnt in those four years of home improvement is that a piece of rental equipment is ‘just’ a small piece of the planning puzzle. As an example, for my landscaping an element of the work was the relocation of a lot of dirt. For this I needed a (mini) excavator. The availability of the excavator was intricately entangled with ten or more other planning items. You can imagine my surprise/ frustration when the excavator wasn’t available on its due date … and the alternative had only half the capacity.

This is one of many examples I accumulated over four years. As a result I’ve become proficient in reverse engineering the processes of the rental agencies. It’s tough for rental agencies too. If only they had better visibility and planning tools. Speaking of the devil, I happen to work for a company that provides those tools and has implemented them in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer contexts.

The happy path

A rental fleet represents a significant investment so it may sound obvious to know where all that equipment is, and in what state. When you visit a rental yard or a construction site it becomes clear that knowing what-is-where is not that easy. If my personal experiences are representative for equipment visibilty, then WYSIWYG is a rather common implementation.

WYSIWYG works fine when the rental process follows the happy path. Meaning: actual pickup and return date are as planned/ booked; equipment doesn’t break and/or require servicing; no conflicts between availability and demand for equipment.

Going back to my landscaping job and the excavator. With half the capacity, my rental period mathematically doubled. With half the capacity, interlinked activities got pushed out as well causing additional delays. In the end my rental period tripled. Because ‘my’ excavator originally was booked by another customer, the rental agency phoned me in the third week to expedite its return. I was not happy, and certainly I did not pay anymore than the original contracted amount.

Does this sound familiar? Can you imagine how much it costs for a rental agency to mitigate the not-so-happy-path? Cost in headcount and lost revenue generation?

Reducing Turn-Around-Time?

Knowing that a piece of rental equipment is only making money when it is rented out, a key driver is to reduce the so-called turn-around-time (TAT). The time it takes to clean, inspect and service an equipment after its return, making it available for the next customer.

Suppose you have a rental fleet valued at 1b$, then your daily cost for interest and depreciation are roughly half a million $ per day (based on a annuity scheme at 4% interest and five year term). Thus if you can turn TAT-days into rental-days, cost-days become revenue-days. Suppose each piece of equipment has four rental periods per year, and you reduce your TAT by one day, you save 2m$ in cost. Add your sales margin and we’re talking serious numbers when renting out equipment back-to-back.

Defining servicing priorities

This brings us to the most challenging issue in the rental business. Instead of reducing the TAT for every equipment upon return using FiFo, you want to prioritise those units that have an adjacent rental period. By applying prioritisation rules, you can better plan the capacity of the rental return and servicing functions as well as making sure that the most revenue generating units as turned around first.

An example of the non-priortised 

We’ve seen examples where excavators, dumpster trucks and cranes not having an adjacent renter are ‘left’ at the customer site post rental period to save yard space. To ‘free-up’ capacity for the turn-around team in favour of ‘hot rentals’.

Managing the lifecycle of the equipment?

Rental equipment can have a rough life. Let me be honest. I sweated ‘my’ excavator to an extent I would not have done if I owned the excavator. In setting their rates, rental companies take these use cases into account. After each rental period there is a decision to be made: do we maintain the existing equipment or do we replace it?

The math behind the decision is simple: is the earning capacity of the equipment more or less than the cost to sustain it? To make the equation come to live, you need both historical data and forward looking data.

Keeping a record of historical data is pretty much possible in any business tool. For the forward looking piece you’ll need a tool that supports asset centric use cases for your assets.

  • Plotting the future preventive maintenance activities
  • Plotting the future calibration and certification activities
  • Aligning future service interventions such they don’t break or clash with rental periods
  • Create reporting that depicts plan versus actual versus outlook on equipment level

In the past four years I’ve learnt a lot about the rental business. Though a rental fleet is a significant asset on the balance sheet, in rental operations we still see a lot of appointment centric and reactive business practices. Modern day tools allow rental companies to apply asset centric business practices. Becoming proactive and getting a better return on the asset investment.

This article is published on Field Service Digital.

Why you should put service campaigns at the heart of your go-to-market

It’s common sense that owners of products, equipment and assets want a maximum of uptime at minimal operational cost. But how much emphasis does this get in the procurement cycle? For many buyers, it is difficult to define the service requirements over a multi year lifecycle. At the same time, buyers do have implicit expectations regarding lifecycle support, often derived from brand perceptions. This is a nice mix for OEM’s to strategize on.

The bulk of lifecycle cost is in operating the asset

To create an asset lifecycle strategy we will have to look at it from cradle to grave, including both the OEM and the asset owner’s perspective. In the following picture you can see the cost elements that go into each phase.

Lifecycle of assets and costs © ServiceMax

What you can see in the picture is that the cost of operating and maintaining the asset is typically a multiple of the cost of acquiring the asset. In the image from Accenture below, the ratio between product expenditure (capex) and the service expenditures (opex) comes to life. For example, if you had purchased a piece of industrial equipment for $1m, you would spend an additional $7.3m over its lifecycle to keep it running.

Initial product purchase relative to total product lifecycle cost © ServiceMax

Nominal output of the asset

Let’s go back one step. Why does somebody buy an asset? Not for the pleasure of owning it, but to use it. In using it, the asset produces a nominal output/outcome, and that generates value for the asset owner. To maintain the nominal output while wear-and-tear is degrading the asset, a mitigating lifecycle strategy needs to be put in place to secure the value potential of the asset. The following picture shows a typical asset lifecycle.

Typical asset lifecycle © ServiceMax

In this picture you’ll see service interventions like preventive maintenance and break-fix that serve the purpose of uptime. An intervention like an engineering change serves the purpose of prolonging the lifecycle of the asset as well as potentially boosting the original nominal output.

  • Extending lifecycle: mid-life upgrade, retrofit or overhaul.
  • Expanding output: booster-packs, product or software upgrades.

Product engineering beyond Point-of-Sale

Both extending the lifecycle and expanding the nominal output of an asset can be plotted against the continuous process of product engineering. Once a product hits the street, engineering receives feedback on its use through quality, warranty and maintenance channels.

Acting on asset feedback, engineering can design newer revisions of that product as well as define upgrade and booster offerings for the existing installed base.

For some OEM’s the asset feedback loop is an integral part of their Go-to-Market. Imagine you operate in an very competitive and tech savvy market. Timing is essential in building market share. At ServiceMax, we’ve come across OEM’s that go GA with a product when engineering is at 80%. They use the service organization to ‘bestow’ the customer with goodness and attention to make up for the missing 20%. In doing so, the service organization retrieves relevant intelligence to complete the engineering process. As part of the deal, the customer gets the benefit of both the latest technology as well as engineering changes post-point-of-sale. A win-win for both OEM and asset owner.

Using the product lifecyle as a means to customer intimacy

Whether you launch your product at 80% engineering completeness or at 100%, most OEM’s will continue to engineer their product beyond GA. The question is, how would you like to make those product improvements and engineering changes accessible to your existing installed base. In other words, have you setup a process to manage asset lifecycle service campaigns?

Service campaigns can stem from two different emotions. A negative and a positive one. In the end, when you manage your campaigns well, you’ll achieve higher levels of customer intimacy.

  • Negative emotions: These are quality and complaint driven engineering changes. A customer expects a certain quality and nominal output level, but is not getting it. The customer expects the supplier to fix it as quick as possible at no extra cost. Though a complaint and quality issue may start as a negative emotion, an OEM’s capability to act on it determines if the emotion remains negative or turns positive. In addition, service campaign capabilities will deliver efficiency and compliance benefits to the OEM.
  • Positive emotions: These are engineering changes that will enhance the capabilities of the asset. As such, you go above and beyond the nominal output specifications promised at point-of-sale. In general customers will perceive this as a positive, adding credibility to the OEM’s leadership and brand value. With service campaigns an OEM can reinforce that positive emotion as well as monetize it.

Service campaigns drive pro-active service

If customers buy assets to use them, OEM’s are very well positioned to facilitate the usage of those assets throughout their lifecycle. The OEM designed the product. The OEM has all the expert knowledge of how and why the product works. Now, if the OEM gets feedback on how each individual asset performs in the field, the OEM is sitting on a gold mine of data, ready to be servitized and monetized. The vehicle to deliver those services to the installed base is called – service campaigns.

This article is published on Diginomica.

Is the Service Menu Card Replacing Bronze, Silver and Gold Contracts?

During last week’s High Tech Manufacturing event in the Netherlands, we reimagined tomorrow’s service delivery in the context of vocal and demanding customers. If customers expect products to work, is it enough to mitigate downtime, or should you know why your products work and in the context of customer usage? Is your current services portfolio in line with tomorrow’s customer expectations?

Bronze, Silver & Gold Contracts

In reviewing the services portfolio I used words like bronze, silver, and gold contracts to paint a continuum of reactive to proactive and predictive contracts. In an earlier blog on Mind the Gap, I used gold to quantify your maximum services revenue.

Proverbially the gold contract is the ultimate bundle of services to guarantee the uptime of the equipment. It’s not really product-as-a-service, as the customer still needs to buy both the product and a service contract, but outcome-wise it is the next best thing.

Just like with any product or service that is sold today, B2B or B2C, the big question is: who decides what is put into the bundle? Is it a seller-push or a buyer-pull?

This is exactly the challenge the high-tech manufactures are facing today. Based on our discussions during the event, the consensus was: we need to provide more choice and autonomy to our customers. Even if the installed product is the same, the usage context is different case by case.

Product Push vs. Usage Pull

It is not uncommon that the current bronze, silver, and gold bundles are based on product characteristics. When we sell expensive and/or complex products, we tend to believe we need to offer the higher segment of bundles. But if your expensive product is used in lower utilization environments, then the cost of downtime to its owner is lower, resulting in less budget for mitigating strategies. That unit may end up with a bronze contract.

If we want to address the challenge of more vocal and demanding customers, we need to flip the bundling paradigm from product to usage characteristics. To understand those usage characteristics we need to have a mitigating strategy conversation with the owner/user of the product.

Mitigating Strategy Conversation

Dear buyer, why is my product so important to you, and what happens if my product fails? What impact does downtime have on your operations?

If your customer is buying your product, meaning there is a point of title passage, it implies that all risks associated with owning the product reside with your customer. As a product owner, your customer will define a mitigating strategy for uptime/downtime risks throughout the life cycle of the product. As OEM you can help the product owner by offering life cycle services. The owner will weigh risk versus price.

Dear buyer, do you agree with me that throughout the life cycle of the product you will need the following service activities to maintain and safeguard the uptime of the product? Which of those activities do you want to execute yourself and which ones do you want me to do?

Is the Service Menu Card is Replacing Bronze, Silver and Gold Contracts?

The above picture a derived from the ITIL v4 framework by Axelos. All boxes serve the nominal state of the product, the uptime. And uptime ensures the output and outcome of the product. If your customer agrees with this landscape of services, the conversation becomes a simple one: what level of risk does the owner/buyer want to retain, versus outsourcing that risk to a service provider in exchange for a fee.

Driving Business Results with Entitlement Process

Flipping the service bundle paradigm and handing over the choice to your customer may sound scary. Is it controllable? With modern-day field service management software the answer is yes. It’s similar to going to a restaurant. You define what is on the menu. Your customer has the choice. And any good chef knows that the personal interaction at the table when ordering is key to the choices made. The success of CSAT starts when ordering.

With modern tools, you can implement a service menu card in the service-sales process. The true value comes from pairing the menu card with an entitlement engine in your service delivery process. It’s great that you sold all those configure-to-order service contracts to meet customer requirements. The people that have to deliver the services need to be aware of what has been promised, what has been paid for, and what is billable. This is where the entitlement engine kicks in.

A sophisticated entitlement engine has visibility on the customer, the asset, the contractual obligations agreements, and on the specifics of the customer-ask as specified in the case or work order. As ‘gatekeeper’ the entitlement engine will drive:

  • Customer expectation & satisfaction
  • Leakage reduction
  • Cross & Upsell increase
Is the Service Menu Card is Replacing Bronze, Silver and Gold Contracts?

To accommodate vocal and demanding customers a service menu card is a good alternative to bronze, silver, and gold bundles. Having choice and autonomy creates engagement and builds the foundation to success and CSAT.

To stay in the restaurant analogy, the proof is in eating the pudding. Your service delivery organization needs to have insight into what has been sold/ promised and be able to act on it. Imagine the waiter bringing the food without knowing the order. No tip, invoice at risk, no return visit.

The service menu card and the entitlement engine go hand-in-hand. Say what you do then do what you say.

Learn more about service contracts & entitlements from ServiceMax here. 

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on October 21st, 2021

Asset Data Remains Largely Untapped For Driving Revenue Growth

New study finds asset equipment data is key to bridging the gap between sales and service

PLEASANTON, CALIFORNIA – October 19, 2021 – Valuable data collected from servicing equipment assets remains largely untapped, unused and under monetized, offering rich potential to sales and marketing, according to new research conducted by WBRin collaboration with ServiceMax, Inc., a leader in asset-centric, Field Service Management software and Salesforce, the global leader in CRM.

The study, “Building a Bridge Between Sales and Service with Asset Data”, surveyed 100 field service leaders across the US and Canada from a variety of verticals, including manufacturing, information and communications technology, the semiconductor industry and utility sectors.

While all the organizations surveyed currently aggregate and analyze data from their field service operations, only 22 percent trust their field service data completely, indicating lack of confidence in their existing systems or procedures. And more than one-third of respondents can’t connect their field service management solution with their CRM. As a result, organizations are missing opportunities to provide better service to their clients and generate new revenue streams by monetizing data, such as personalizing marketing campaigns, driving more revenue from usage insights and analytics and demonstrating ROI in sales conversations.

While asset data remains largely under-used at present, the study also revealed that almost half of respondents (44 percent) plan to adopt or update their asset data analysis solutions in the next 12 months —including remote and virtual service support tools, asset data analysis solutions, IoT devices and sensors, and others. Likewise, at present, only 27 percent are currently utilizing their field service solutions for field service analytics, while in the next 12 months, 57 percent will deploy this capability.

“The research shows growing recognition and demand for closing the asset data gap,” said Amit Jain, Chief Product Officer for ServiceMax. “This gap exists between an organization’s current service revenue and the maximum revenue it could achieve when every unit sold could have a higher service contract attached to it. By using field data to optimize revenue and drive product innovation, product, service, sales and marketing organizations can maximize their asset performance. This critical insight is relatively new and empowers service leaders to easily shift to outcome-based business strategies that fuel growth in an age where service is now a differentiator.”

The research also found that 43 percent of organizations admit they need to improve their asset uptime and availability, lending further weight to the need for better service data and service delivery.

The full report can be downloaded here.

Salesforce and others are among the trademarks of salesforce.com, inc.

About ServiceMax

ServiceMax’s mission is to help customers keep the world running with asset-centric field service management software. As a recognized leader in this space, ServiceMax’s mobile apps and cloud-based software provide a complete view of assets to field service teams. By optimizing field service operations, customers across all industries can better manage the complexities of service, support faster growth, and run more profitable, outcome-centric businesses. www.servicemax.com

Media Contact:

Nicole Guzzo
nicole.guzzo@servicemax.com

Keeping Your Assets in Shape

Do you have this feeling that the battery of your phone drains faster and faster? Internet forums are full of testimonials and resolutions for keeping your battery in tip-top shape. How does this apply to B2B products, equipment and assets? Can asset owners monitor the performance of the equipment, and what handles do they have to maintain output/ outcome at the nominal level promised at point of sale?

For many years I’ve captured the digital and service transformation journey in a single tagline: “from fixing what breaks to knowing what works.” The message is driven by a simple principle: customers expect things to work. Even more, they expect the outcome of the asset to be stable over the lifecycle.

Another simple truth is that everything eventually deteriorates and breaks. This prompts the following questions:

  • What is the life expectancy of the asset? 
  • What do I need to do to keep the asset in shape?
  • What can I do to extend the life cycle of the asset?

Building a Fitness Plan

Preventive maintenance might be the first thing that comes to mind as the way to keep your assets in shape. But what does preventive maintenance (PM) prevent? And how does it affect asset performance and life expectancy? This was a tough question to answer when one of my counterparts in procurement, who was looking to reduce the selling price of a service contract, asked me, “What will happen when we reduce the PM effort by lengthening the interval?” This was even more difficult to answer when it became a numbers game, and the purchaser asked me to prove the offset between PM and break-fix. 

So where do we look next? I propose condition-based maintenance.  

We know that the performance of an asset will deteriorate over time, and we know the rate of deterioration will depend on various attributes like aging and usage. Because these attributes are measurable, we can use them as levels to trigger a service intervention. 

So rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach based on time intervals, you can create a custom fitness plan for keeping your assets in shape. One that looks at the condition of the asset in relation to its expected performance. This can look like an intervention being triggered when the output of an asset or the viscosity of a lubricant drops below a certain threshold. 

To continue with the fitness metaphor, we often don’t just want to stay in shape—we also want to increase our longevity and even get in better shape as we age. When it comes to your assets, this is where mid-life upgrades, booster-packs and engineering changes come into play. And in the same way you use predefined levers to trigger service interventions, you should use these levers to trigger updates, upgrades and lifecycle extensions.

Both of these service strategies use asset health at the core of your service delivery model, steering you away from ‘fixing what breaks’ and towards ‘knowing what works.’

A Real Life Example

Imagine you have a pump and valve combination that has a nominal capacity of 140 m3/h.

If you used a preventive maintenance model that runs every 6 months, it would not take into account the age of the pump and valve combination, nor would it account for the corrosiveness of the transported materials. 

But if you took a condition-based approach using IoT-connected sensors, you could measure attributes like vibration, temperature, and energy consumption and use them as indicators for asset performance. For example, if the capacity drops below 130 m3/h, a service intervention would be triggered. It’s like the pump saying: “I’m not feeling well, I need a medicine.” On top of this, if you detect the pump is consistently pushed beyond original specifications, you can know that it’s necessary to initiate an upgrade conversation to safeguard asset health and durability.

Asset Centricity

The common theme of these service strategies is asset centricity. It’s about putting asset health at the core of your service delivery model and continuously comparing an asset’s current output with its expected performance.

By looking at current performance, expected performance and demand, you can also advise your customers on when it’s time to downgrade or upgrade the asset. Through this asset-centric lens you can truly become a fitness coach, advising your customers on the right fitness program that will keep their assets in tip-top shape.Learn more about IoT and condition-based maintenance here.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on September 1st, 2021 and Field Service News on August 25th, 2021.

Managing your Quality and Engineering Changes

February 2021, breaking news, your engineering team issues a mandatory engineering change to all product models ABC built between 2011 – 2013. “The gearbox needs a retrofit to avoid potential injury and claims”.

Change the verbatim, the dates or the technical details. I guess you’ll recognise the scenario. Whether the origin of the change is quality, compliance, engineering maturity or commercially driven, managing engineering changes is a big deal. A big deal because you don’t want claims. You don’t want your brand image tarnished. You don’t want cost overruns. It’s a big deal because you want to convert a negative into a positive.

Engineering changes extend into the operational life cycle of a product

I once believed every product was 100% engineered before it found its way onto the markets. Having run service organisations for more than 25 years I’ve reduced my confidence in this percentage year over year. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to say that is a bad thing, but I do want to emphasise that acknowledging that anything less than 100% puts a burden on the service organisation to build mitigating processes.

I’ve seen organisations introduce 80% engineered products by business model design, as they need the usage feedback to finalise the engineering. Other organisations aim at a near 100% engineered product, only to discover their products are used in unforeseen contexts leading to post-GA modifications. And in the digital age I see more and more organisations enhancing product capabilities of physical products by ‘selling’ software upgrade options.

Where is my Installed Base?

All variants share a common premise: you need to have installed base visibility as well as an accurate as-maintained BoM to be able to manage your engineering changes effectively.

To illustrate this, I’ll give an example on the other end of the spectrum. If you don’t know where the affected products are, and you have a compliance obligation to reach out to the product/ asset owners, you can only go public … and that is not good for your brand image … as many car manufacturers and food companies will confirm.

In our Global Customer Transformation (GCT) practice we often see a hybrid. Some units sold have an associated warranty and/ or service contract, other units are not visible because they are sold via an indirect channel and/or the owner does not want to be visible. What engineering change managers need is a ‘workbench’ to create a near-complete installed base from multiple data sources.

Now we have a near-complete installed base, we can filter on model ABC with a commissioning date between 2011 – 2013. 

Spread the Wealth

A common characteristic of engineering changes is that they tend to come at an inconvenient time, on top of the existing workload. What potentially complicates things is the combination of a) the availability of replacement parts and b) the customer expectation to be first in line.

Let me give you an illustration that reveals my age. In 1989 Intel launched the 80486 processor. High-end customers upped the specs of their PC’s with the 80487 co-processor. Then a researcher detected a mathematical flaw in the co-processor. Immediately people wanted a replacement. The supply chain was stocked with the flawed 80487 revision 1, whilst Intel had to ramp the production and shipments of revision 2. In analogy to Covid-19 vaccinations you can imagine this became a puzzle of priorities and constant shifting plans.

In our GCT practice we talk to Engineering Change Managers. They receive so called product bulletins on a regular basis. And each time they need to make decisions on when to launch an engineering change campaign while weighing brand image, quality and cost. And once they have launched a campaign, they want to know the progress. But the most asked ‘feature’ by Engineering Change Managers is the ability to adapt the priorities in a campaign based on progress, the amount of ‘wealth’, the voice of the customer and the impact on existing SLA & Contract commitments. Regarding the latter, I’ll dedicate my next blog on Engineering Change prioritisation strategies. 

Digital EC’s and Retrofit Kits as Upsell and Lock-in instrument

I’d like to change the ‘energy level’ of the conversation. Engineering changes are not always negative from a quality, financial or brand image perspective.

There is a limit to the number of mechanical and electrical changes you can make to a product post commissioning using Retrofit Kits, but more modern products have an ever-growing digital component. Digital engineering maturity continues post commissioning.Do you own a Sonos sound system, a Tesla, a digital press? The physical product you bought remains the same, while over-the-air digital EC’s deliver a steady stream of new features and enhancements. Whether your organisation uses this EC-stream for lock-in purposes or upsell revenue, at the core you need an asset centric infrastructure with comprehensive engineering change capabilities.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on March 2nd, 2021

How to Maintain and Protect Your Brand as an OEM

You make great products. You have a strong brand. But how do you maintain those products and protect your brand beyond the point of sale? What do you do when customers demand more through CX or regulators demand more through compliance or channels partners struggle to deliver consistent service? The good news is modern field service management systems provide you with the tools to manage and overcome these challenges.

Trending in 2021

At the close of each year, a lot of people ask me to make some predictions for the new year. Honestly, with some extreme disruptions in 2020, it is hard to single out a theme for 2021. Though I do see a consistent trend over the last decade. A trend that will very much drive the OEM transformation agenda: how do we extend our value proposition beyond the revenue of the product sales? Margin contribution on product sales is dwindling. Thus, it is logical that your CFO is eying service margins and tasking you with service revenue growth. So, let’s focus on two 2021 topics to achieve those goals.

  1. Improve your installed base visibility across all your sales channels
  2. Support your product throughout its life cycle

And by focussing on these two, you’ll get a lot of adjacent benefits too.

Step 1: Invest in Installed Base Visibility and Effective Channel Partners

To exert a maximum level of control over the value an OEM can provide to its customers, an OEM may have the ambition to own each step of the value chain. The commercial reality is that a network of partners and competitors is involved in the value creation. This may result in a battle over the ownership of the customer relationship. Especially when we consider the underlying paradigm: the one who owns the relationship owns the levers to CX and sustainable revenue.

The key enabler to value creation is your Installed Base Visibility. It is pretty straight forward. If you want to create value from the products you sell, you need to know where they are and how they are being used. Without visibility, your service delivery will be in the blind. Without a relationship, your revenue streams will be unpredictable.

We see more and more OEMs investing in installed base visibility. This starts with shifting from margin contribution through product sales to margin contribution through using the product.  The increased margin contribution pays for the investment and buy-in from the channel partners.

Are you curious about what installed base visibility brings to the bottom line? See what Schneider Electric was able to achieve here.

Step 2: Support Your Product Throughout Its Life Cycle

Who knows your product best? You, the OEM. You designed it and built it, so it seems you are best qualified to support its use during its life cycle. Hence the previous paragraph, you need to know where your installed base is and in what condition.

For each product, we know that the true test comes when it is used by real customers. No matter how well designed and built it is, actual customers seem to use products in more different ways than you have anticipated. Whether the feedback is coming to you via the quality department, service interactions, or through an autonomous engineering department, your products do get revisions and engineering changes.

Some of these changes are for liability and compliance. Others may enhance the function of the product, potentially driving more value. Thus, you have multiple reasons to reach out to your installed base. And when you do so, you want to track what portion of that base you have reached.

Two to Tango

The combination of installed base visibility and product life cycle support form an ideal tango to strengthen your brand. Though the commercial reality of your channel strategy may impact your ability to reach out to your installed base, asset-centric field service management tools make it much easier to visualize and manage your assets. Extending those tools to your channel partners will make it easier to share and grow the value creation for your customers.

Whether you decide to take tango lessons in 2021 or not, at least put some thought into the beauty and joy of the dance. I promise you; your customers will like it.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on December 17th, 2020

Back to the Future with Design-for-Service

Yes, it’s really happening!”. That was my feeling when a customer of ServiceMax contacted me to enlighten them on the Design-for-Service concept. Six years ago, they started their service transformation journey to get Visibility and Control. Now they are moving the needle towards Excellence and Growth. What makes this ask even more ‘special’, is that it is the engineering department that wants to know what service needs to deliver value.

Black swan

Most of us will have plenty of examples where engineering asks technicians to record all kind of diagnostics, reason and fault codes during the service execution. What happens with that data? Will the technician feel taken seriously when servicing yet another piece of equipment that is engineered for manufacturing?

Thus, you can imagine my positive surprise when engineering wants to ‘learn’ what service needs and what modern service execution tools are capable of. It is a true win-win when both service and engineering are seeking the joint benefit of their siloed effort. 

  1. Technicians will get a return on their administrative effort when they see that it results in easier-to-maintain products.
  2. Engineering will get the justification to fund their design-for-service effort when they see that service can improve the margin and drive new revenue streams.

Attach Rates

The concept of design-for-service is not new. Still many organisations only apply design-for-manufacturing. The latter concept drives for cost optimisation in the manufacturing process of a product at the expense of a potential higher maintenance cost over the life cycle of the product. Design-for-service optimises both the manufacturing and the maintenance aspects of a product. Yes, I hear you. What about TCO, total cost of ownership? TCO is great, but TCO only works when capital expenditures (Capex) and operating expenses (Opex) are evaluated by a single entity.

Cutting a few corners and dialling it down into a single metric, have a look at your Attach Rates. You can imagine that when engineering puts more effort/ cost into the design of the product, the selling price of the product goes up. Balancing the effort equation, you have the maintenance cost going down due to better quality and more efficient maintenance delivery. On top of that, the engineering effort may also result in the creation of new types of service offerings like availability services and data-monetisation. To reap the benefits post point of sales, you need to have or get your customer ‘attached’.

Attach Rate: the percentage of your installed base that has an associated service contract with your organisation

Getting ‘attached’ customers might be easier when you sell your product via your own direct sales channel versus units sold via your indirect channel, read dealers and resellers. That all changes when engineering starts including concepts like ‘digital activation’ of the product.

Serviceability

When engineering defines the Product, the result is captured in a BOM (Bill of Material). So far, nothing new, this is design-for-manufacturing 101. When we start designing-for-service, we need to make a number of explicit decisions. Amongst those I’m highlighting two of them:

  1. What components from the BOM are serviceable?
  2. What service delivery model is applicable for that component?

First, is the product serviceable at all? If it remains a single unit, you have made the implicit choice to exchange the whole unit with the option to have the defect unit repaired or scrapped at a depot. This model may be a fit for some products but the larger, expensive and critical the product, the more you’ll need to ‘open the box’.

Second, in the BOM you’ll have to identify those components that are serviceable. For each component in the Service-BOM or SPL (Spare Parts List) you’ll have to classify the part.

  1. FRU: Field Replaceable Unit – the repair/ replace of the component requires specialised skills of a technician
  2. CRU: Customer Replaceable Unit – the repair/ replace of the component can be done by any customer (no explicit skills required)
  3. DRU: Depot Repairable Unit – the repair cannot be done in the field, but requires the asset to come to a depot where dedicated skills, tooling and components are available

Old-school textbook?

I’ve come to learn the above two service design considerations when I stumbled into my first service job at IBM in 1993. Though I did not grasp the full impact at first, the more I talk to today’s customers, the more I am convinced we need to re-establish the handshake with engineering to deliver above and beyond the service value promise. 

Handshake

In my session with this customer, I had conversation with a very adept, eager and forward-looking engineer. He understood the consequences of engineering choices for the service delivery … and ultimately the impact to cost, revenue and customer expectation.

Next, he wanted to know how service delivery constraints and possibilities would impact his engineering process. It was clear to him that state-of-the-art service execution tooling, with a high degree of asset centricity would enable him to create a positive ROI for his design-for-service efforts.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on December 10th, 2020

Why Asset Centricity Matters

When you communicate with your garage to service your car, what is the first question they ask? Do they ask your name, or do they ask your license plate number? This is at the core of asset centricity. The asset is tracked throughout its life cycle to drive cost efficiency, revenue generation and customer satisfaction.

Know thy Installed Base

One of the first questions we ask to any organisation is what level of visibility they have on their installed base. Do you track your products/ equipment assets beyond point-of-sale?

The rationale is simple. If you want to be efficient in service delivery, you need to know where the asset are and in what state. If you want to drive revenue and satisfaction, you need to know how your customers are using the assets and why those assets are important to them in their operations.

If you don’t know your installed base, your actions will be ad hoc and be at the mercy of tribal knowledge of the people serving that customer.

Schneider Electric transformed their business model from ‘sell and forget” to “sell and service” growing their installed base visibility from 10% to 35% driving service revenue by 11% YoY.

<Insert link to Schneider customer reference>

Recognise the asset

You may know the customer, but if you don’t know the asset you may make the wrong decision. This is illustrated in the entitlement process. Entitlement is the gateway to cost control, revenue increase and customer satisfaction.

  • Leakage: provide service on an asset without warranty and/or contract
  • SLA attainment & CX: over/ underdeliver on customer expectation
  • Attach rates & revenue: miss an opportunity to cross and upsell
The role of Entitlement in Service Execution

Often, we hear organisations say that their knowledge about their assets is not yet at a level to perform a reliable entitlement process, resulting in a lot of corrective actions post work order debrief. Have a look at the Schneider electric video, collecting and validating asset data is a journey.

Tip: if by improving technician productivity the ‘saved’ time does not constitute an extra job per day, you can use the time to take inventory of the installed assets, its state and its surroundings.   

Know the asset

You might know the technical details of the assets you produce. Your maintenance manuals may prescribe what to do under nominal operating parameters. But what do you about how your customers are using the assets? Some may be ‘sweated’ and run at 99% of capacity. Others may be used occasionally only.

Having knowledge about how your assets are being used by your customers is an essential piece of information to define the right action. It will put the service request in context, help in the entitlement decision and support the triage process. It will give your customer the feeling that you’re providing contextual solutions.

Manage the asset

In the car example of the opening paragraph, the dealer focusses on the asset. The asset has a life cycle. In each phase of the life cycle different service and maintenance activities need to be executed … in combination with the usage profile of the asset.

The car may be purchased/ leased by owner A. After a number of years, the asset may transfer to owner B. If the maintenance history would be tied to the customer record, the data would be lost under ownership B. Thus, the reason why more and more organisations adopt asset centricity for life cycle continuity.

This continuity is extremely important in regulated industries. If any time in the life cycle a quality or compliance defect is detected in a series of assets, then you would like to have the opportunity to search an asset centric installed based, instead of sending messages to the owner who did the initial purchase of the asset.

Asset centricity allow you to manage your field change orders effectively. Asset centricity allows you to manage mid-life upgrades. Asset centricity is an equally powerful paradigm as customer centricity. Try to merge them into your business operations.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on April 14th, 2020