Talk It Out

 HYATT COLUMN 01Better communication means better delivery.

By Dick Hyatt

Wholesale and distribution is, by its nature, a fast-paced business, and customers’ expectations and demands have risen commensurate to the improving economy. As such, distributors are under increasing pressure to ensure their products are being delivered more quickly and efficiently than ever before.

In response, distributors have turned to technology to help streamline their processes and worker productivity. For some, this has meant upgrading their enterprise resource planning systems and implementing handheld scanners to expedite picking processes, among other things.

Yet information sharing remains a hindrance. Distributors remain challenged by the ability to get quality data to the right people, at the right time, and in the right context.

This is not just a communication challenge, but an operational issue as well. Distributors need their equipment to run optimally 24/7. But when something fails – an engine dies, a piece of machinery overheats – it’s often not the “fix” that eats up the majority of downtime. Instead, it’s poor communication and lack of access to data that dramatically extends downtime and causes more missed deadlines and lost revenue than necessary.

Big Data, Bigger Silos

Although distributors are amassing tons of data – much of it from connected sensors on warehouse equipment, trucks within their fleets, and elsewhere – that “Big Data” too often exists in silos. You may know what’s wrong, or even how you should fix it. But ultimately, it requires someone picking up the phone or sending an email for data and insights to become decisions and actions.

Members of the service supply chain – manufacturers, service providers, and fleet operators, for example – often rely on their own systems and data portals, but that is a problem when something goes wrong. Consider the trucking industry, where more than 80 percent of downtime has nothing to do with actually fixing the machinery. That time is taken up by phone calls, emails, and paper shuffling amongst various members of the service supply chain. Everyone is scrambling to exchange information just to identify and triage the problem, before they even get around to implementing a fix.

Breaking the Silos

To fix this problem, and find greater efficiency in the distribution process, organizations must break down the data silos within their service supply chains. This can be accomplished by adopting a service relationship management (SRM) approach to asset maintenance. SRM creates and strengthens customer-supplier relationships and improves productivity by facilitating data sharing between all members of the service supply chain. SRM ensures that each of these members have access to the right information at the right time. When a piece of equipment malfunctions and that equipment’s connected sensor sends out an alert, relevant parties in the supply chain will have immediate access to that information – whether their role is to provide warranty details, approve an estimate, or schedule and perform the repair. No more silos or time-consuming hunting and pecking for information; equipment spends less time out of service.

Data is captured from all relevant parties from beginning to end and is automatically stored and easily accessible in the cloud. Service supply chain members have immediate access to detailed equipment information, business intelligence tools for real-time risk mitigation, compliance management and other critical data, which can be referred to as necessary in the future.

For instance, if a delivery truck breaks down, teams can use SRM to capture every piece of information related to the incident, including the cause of the breakdown, repair procedures and more. That information is recorded as part of the truck’s history and can be used to inform  future repairs.

Adding Context to Data

Alerts by themselves are not necessarily helpful. Teams need insight into and details of the problem to effectively address the issue in a timely manner.

SRM contextualizes raw alert data and turns it into actionable information that can help expedite repair processes. This information can include service histories, warranty information, diagnostics, photographs, and more. Collectively, these pieces of background provide a rich kaleidoscope of information that provides a better picture of the problem at hand. Members can then share this information with relevant parties, based on specific business rules. This provides a foundation for better collaboration, enhanced communication, and expedited repairs.

A Boon to Efficiency

SRM has made better communication an easily achievable reality. It provides distributors with a viable means of eliminating the communications silos amongst their service supply chain members, and makes it easy to turn data and insights into action and results. In turn, distributors can build reliable, efficient processes to improve delivery times and meet their customers’ needs.

Dick Hyatt, CEO of Decisiv, has more than 25 years of experience building, managing and growing early stage technology companies including SAGE Systems, Automation Partners, Hayes-Ligon (sold to ADP Dealer Services) and Amteva Technology (sold to Cisco Systems). Prior to his tenure at Decisiv, Hyatt was a director of marketing in Cisco’s unified communications business. Hyatt is responsible for all aspects of building a world-class team of industry and technology experts and delivering high-quality, profit-improving products and services leading to long-term customer satisfaction.

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