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 recognize the scenario. Whether the origin of the change is quality, compliance, engineering maturity, or commercially driven, managing engineering changes is a big deal.
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 organizations 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 emphasize that anything less than 100% puts a burden on the service organization to build mitigating processes.
I’ve seen organizations introduce 80% engineered products by business model design, as they need the user feedback to finalize the engineering. Other organizations 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 organizations enhancing product capabilities of physical products by ‘selling’ software upgrade options.
1. Know Your Installed Base
All variants share a common premise: you need to have installed base visibility 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 can confirm.
In my experience working with ServiceMax customers, I 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.
Once you have a near-complete installed base, you can filter on model ABC with a commissioning date between 2011 – 2013.
2. 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 PCs 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.
As members of ServiceMax’s Global Customer Transformation team, we often 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’ is to be able 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.
3. Embrace Engineering Changes as Upsell Opportunities
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, 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, or a digital press? The physical product you bought remains the same, while over-the-air digital engineering changes deliver a steady stream of new features and enhancements.
Whether used for lock-in purposes or upsell revenue, at the core, service leaders need an asset-centric infrastructure with comprehensive engineering change capabilities. Managing engineering changes is hard and it is constantly evolving, but with the right solution, you can make it a whole lot easier. ServiceMax recently introduced our Field Change Order module, which allows you to instantly find a complete list of affected assets with their locations and statuses. FCO’s automated field change order workflow ensures work orders are automatically created and scheduled, reducing costs and providing complete traceability of your assets for compliance.
To learn the ins and outs of ServiceMax Field Change Orders, join our Field Change Order sessions at Maximize:
- Field Change Order – What’s New, What’s Next?
- Setting Up Field Change Orders in ServiceMax Core
Maximize is your chance to connect with leaders from companies like Salesforce, GE Healthcare, and Valmet and discuss the strategies you can use to take your service business to the next level.
Register for Maximize 2021 here.