Although connected products seem like they’re new, they’ve been around for a while. Vending machines send their inventory status via cellular networks or the Internet. Sensors in other products, such as machines in a factory, can send gigabytes of data.
Even though these sensors send so much information from the field, they may be missing important information. Data from the field is useful for designing future products, but what about today? Customers need actionable, smart information to address operational issues happening now. This is why it’s crucial for companies to have a good service knowledge management system.
In this series, Steve O’Lear has explored how companies can benefit from having these systems in their service lifecycle management strategies. In part one, he looked at how these systems help customers increase their profits. In part two, he explained how this system could benefit service teams fixing a deep sea oil rig pump. In part three, he discussed how these systems help customers observe performance trends and how they benefit automotive companies. Here, he discusses how these systems benefit those in the aerospace and defense (A&D) industry.
How aerospace companies can use service knowledge management systems
We’ve looked at how these systems can benefit companies in the automotive and the oil industries. Now let’s look at how these systems can benefits companies in the A&D industry.
Take a jet engine on a plane. Great quantities of data, along with any error codes, stream from the engine during its operation. Today’s jet engines are smart, and they need to work flawlessly: there’s no infield to coast to if there’s a problem. Examining trending information from the engine or seeing an error code might indicate a problem that needs to be addressed immediately, but again, this information tells you nothing other than that there’s a problem.
In the A&D industry, a manufacturer does the same design, simulation, testing, manufacturing and service planning our pump manufacturer did. But the manufacturer probably did a lot more of it with a much more complex, regulated product. Even after the engine is delivered and installed on an airplane, someone has to track the configuration through all service events on the engine for the life of the engine. Someone has to track all the utilization characteristics of the engine, take offs, landings, flight hours and heat cycles. These characteristics point to when and what service must be executed as approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). But as engines proceed through their useful life and services cycles, configurations change.
An OEM may issue a service bulletin (SB) to correct a potential problem or enhance engine performance. The FAA may issue an airworthiness directive (AD) to correct a problem based on a SB. The difference between ADs and SBs is that ADs are mandatory. SBs may be optional and can be executed out of sequence or not at all based on the operator’s applicability decisions. They may have certain prerequisites that require other SBs to first be executed.
This is all about the engine configuration through its productive use and service history. If the engine reports a problem and requires service, you need to know its configuration to do that work. What changes have been made to it? Which ADs have been or still have to be applied? Which SBs have been applied?
You don’t want to wait until you start disassembling the engine to determine its configuration and what parts kit(s) you need. That takes time away from the engine being operational, and it can be prone to error. This data resides in only one place: the service knowledge management system.
Many industries are changing their business model and turning their focus to aftersales service. Aerospace, marine, industrial machinery and other industries with long life products that have complex configurations take service lifecycle management seriously. Service revenue and profits over the product’s life can be greater than the initial sale of the product. It can also be a more stable revenue and profit stream.
In fact, there are aerospace and energy companies today that generate the larger share of their revenue from servicing their products rather than selling their products. Some companies actually consider products to be a platform for service. This service is just as important to customer satisfaction and loyalty as it is critical to long-term business success.
When you hear about the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data, keep in mind that taking advantage of these trends really depends on what you do with all of those data points. Are we looking back at what happened to improve future products? Or, are we combining what we’re learning from the IoT and Big Data with what we already know about our product?
That’s why you need a service knowledge management system as part of your overall service lifecycle management strategy. That combination empowers you to create smart data and achieve smart service.
About the author Steve O’Lear has been in the information system industry for more than 35 years. He has held positions in consulting, services management, sales and marketing across computer hardware, timesharing services (cloud), supercomputing and custom information management solutions in various industry segments. He has more recently focused on PDM and PLM, and many of his customer engagements have been in the A&D industry and with discrete manufacturers. He is currently focused on product marketing for solutions related to document management and service lifecycle management. Early in his career, Steve recognized the need for manufacturers to manage product development data and processes more holistically and became involved with the development, implementation and marketing of PDM solutions. He has also recognized this need with PLM and is now promoting the importance of the support phase in the product lifecycle as products become platforms for service for manufacturers.