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Service Management – What are your biggest pain points?

One of the things that I’ve really been thinking about a lot is why would someone want to buy my products?  It’s funny, because I’ve been working on these application for quite a while, and the sales and marketing stuff is finally starting to sink in for me :).  I’ve been building because I saw the need in places I’ve consulted at, or things my friends have told me.  But what is really important is why the customer would want to buy them.   Because of this, I’m trying to focus on what problems customers have, and then see if my applications might fit…  so I wanted to go through some of the most common things I’ve seen, and find out if they ring true for anyone else out there.

1.  SAP is too complicated for my service technicians to use.

  • Why does this matter?  because in many organizations, this means that the supervisor becomes the lead data entry clerk for all of the service management information.  Imagine if you were supposed to be running a shop of technicians, but half of your day (or more) revolved around entering service notification, repair sales order, planning service orders, and even trying to deliver them back to the customer.  The alternative is bad data, incomplete data, or someone spending an hour a day to enter in 5 minutes of information because they hate dealing with computers, they just want to fix things.  And even if they are computer savy, they still need to enter data into the confirmation screen, the service order screen, perhaps MIGO to issue components, maybe Resource related billing to quick off the billing or the repair sales order to enter in the cost/price of the repair.  Is this how you want your technicians spending their day?
  • What does this do to a service shop?  pretty obvious that it can’t run efficiently because either you need someone else to enter in the data, or you just come to grips with the fact that it will cost you an extra 5-10% in data entry to complete each repair.  Let’s hope your customers won’t care if you pass this cost onto them (ha ha).

2.  The service data is all over the place.  I have data in the notification, repair sales order and service order.

  • Now, you can solve this by designing a form to printout that pulls data from all the locations.  But this means your team is tied to pieces of paper.  If you make changes anywhere, you need to get a new printout to your team, because they won’t see the change.  In some organization, this isn’t a big deal.  But for a rapidly changing environment where priorities can change daily or even hourly, this is a lot of paper, and also a lot opportunity for mistakes or late shipments.
  • What does this do to your service shop?  well, first off someone has to keep printing off more things, but paper is cheap, so it’s no big deal.  But if you have significant setup time, and something changes that bumps the priority of a job, you might spend an hour getting something ready to be worked on, only to find out that the boss said to put this on hold till tomorrow because we have a hot job for our best customer.  Well, you may have just thrown away an hour of work.  What if this happens several times a week?  all because your schedule isn’t up to date and aside from a piece of paper, you don’t have any other way to find out if things have changed, unless you go digging into 3 different places in SAP.

3.  Scheduling the service orders in SAP is too time consuming.

  • Again, you can fix this by running your shop in Excel.  Keep a list of all the jobs you have open and when you should be working each one.  After all, is there any benefit to keeping all that information in SAP?  Not really, unless you need components for your work order, or want to make sure your technicians are available when you need them, or want other groups to be able to see your information to let a customer know when the job is expected to be finished.  But hey, I’m sure you can make a lot of phone calls, and tell everyone to look at your spreadsheet, right???  I hope you read the sarcasm in there…  if not…  trust me, it’s there, and you don’t want to run your business this way.
  • Again, this makes your service shop less efficient, because now you’re double entering information, or if you use SAP, you still need to go into each order and make a change in dates or rescheduling, check the component availability, etc.  No matter how you look it, it takes time for your supervisor to change the schedule around, because a new hot job jumped into line, and bumper 6 other orders scheduled for today.

These are just 3 of the things I’ve come up with companies commonly complain about.  I’d love to hear from you.  What do you hear customers complain about when it comes to SAP and service management?  What would make your service supervisor or service technicians more efficient?  what would make your director of service smile because you found an easy way to get 3-5% (or more) of your time back?

Thanks for reading,

Warranty Dates – Would having them set automatically be valuable?

Now, if you’re anything like me, you recognize how important warranty is to many (if not most) companies out there.  This is essentially money you have to set aside, because you need your customers to feel comfortable enough to buy your products and know it won’t break in 10 days after purchase.  In that respect, warranty is more of a marketing feature than a product feature, but it is a fact of business none the less.  Now, of the things that always frustrated me was that as a service person, how do I know I can trust the warranty dates on the products.  Because let’s face it, customers will always claim it’s warranty, no matter what.  And why do they do it?  because many companies either don’t care or don’t know if it really is warranty, so they do a free repair or send a free replacement.  Well, at the end of the day, it all comes off the bottom line.

This led me to the latest piece of development I wanted to start, but I wanted to find out if others thought this would be valuable, or has everyone already built their own solution to handle this.  The idea is to determine the warranty end date similar to the pricing tables.  If you aren’t familiar with pricing, think of it as a table (or series of tables) that are read to determine what the warranty end date (or perhaps master warranty)  should be applied.  The idea is that you can determine the products by profit center, material group, product hierarchy, or even material based on your own rules.  So you say the first table to look at is material number as the key.  if you find an entry, stop and apply that value.  If you don’t, drop down to the next table that is product hierarchy.  If you find an entry, stop and apply, otherwise move onto to table 3, and so on.  This gives you an incredibly flexible way to set the warranty dates automatically.

Now, in order to accommodate, my idea is that my customers will build their own structures (z tables, or pricing tables, doesn’t matter),  then just plug the tables into my configuration tables.  (It’ll take a bit of mapping, since the application will need to know where to get the data from (sales order, delivery, material master, etc.).  But then, my application will use the tables to set the dates on shipment, user registration, or even on repair.  IN order to avoid complex user exits, I’d design a program that can be run in batch.  I’d pick the most common scenarios (installation, post goods issue, registration) and make sure the dates could be set based on certain key changes.  For most organizations, a nightly run of this would be sufficient to handle the warranty dates.

I’d love to hear your thoughts or concerns…  and if this might be useful for your organization or someone you know.

thanks for reading,

SAP HANA and AWS

So, naturally, I’m all jazzed up SAP HANA.  Less for the capabilities for me personally, but more for the ability to add the latest buzzwords to my applications.  Plus, I’ve heard enough details to make me concerned if all my applications will continue to run on the new HANA platform.  So for that reason, I want to build a HANA box of my own to validate that my stuff will work… and if not, figure out how much redesign will be needed if I end up with a customer on or going to the new platform.

So I talked to the organization that is helping me install a new EHP5 system (I’ve talked a little bit my headaches with that upgrade… but I hope that is close to finished).  Their recommendation was to build the platform on Amazon Web Service platform instead of buying my own hardware.  Being a bit of control freak, this naturally makes me a little concerned and a little curious to try it.  Here’s the big things…  I won’t have to worry about the maintenance or internet connectivity or any of that other stuff that gives me constant nightmares.  I won’t have to invest in my own hardware… but on the flip side, I’ll have to pay for the use hourly.  My understanding is that it will range from $1 – $5 per hour of use.  This portion could be a little bit of hassle, since I use contract developers, and I don’t know exactly when they will be working.  When you run your own systems, it doesn’t matter.  they can be up 24/7 (as long as I can keep them running). but in order to keep from wasting money, I’ll need to start the server when I need work done or I run the risk of big bills at the end of the month.

Anyone out there have experience with AWS?  anyone do it with an SAP system?  I’d love to hear any experiences or things to be concerned with.

Thanks for reading,

Reminder of why we work so hard

It’s funny, after the big conference, and putting so much time and effort into preparing, it can be easy coast for a couple weeks.  After all, I worked hard, don’t I deserve a break?  But luckily for me, I work a lot from home, so I get perfect little reminders all the the day of why I do it.  For example, after my little girl wakes up from her nap, she runs into my office and gives me a big hug (then usually requests a pistachio or whatever other snacks I might have).  Then when I my little boy gets home from school, he comes and chats a bit about his day (or the new lego he wants to buy).  It’s these little constant reminders that keep me working hard on both my day job, and my “night job”.

When I think back to the days of when I had to travel every week, Monday through Thursday, it really hits him how lucky I am and how much I want to avoid that.  It is so special to see my little kids grow up a little every day, and I don’t want to miss that.  With consulting, there’s no guarantees I can maintain the remote work forever.  But if I can become self sufficient in my software business, then I can dictate when I travel and how much.  So, working a few extra hours at night is absolutely worth it.

What makes it worth it for you to work so hard?  It doesn’t matter if you’re like me and you do it for the kids (which is really doing it for me), or you do it for your fun lifestyle, that big house you want to buy, or early retirement.  The important thing is to notice those reminders.  It will help keep you focused.

Thanks for reading,

Service Management – Using Equipment History

Well, I recently started helping a new client to revisit their current service processes across multiple organizations.  My first observation with all of their processes is that in many places things are disconnected because they aren’t using some of the functionality that is native to SAP.  This made me wonder, are there other places that aren’t connecting things in the system?  So I thought I’d do a post on serial number / Equipment history.

So, on with the show.  the serial number history is an amazing resource, but only if you use the serial number properly.  If you are using standard SAP, in your equipment record there is a tab called serdata.  This magical tab is by far my favorite on the equipment record.  it gives you the material, serial number, if it’s currently in stock and of course the history button:

ser-01

Now this is a sample history of a single serial number.  This becomes invaluable because if you look at the legend that included in this screenshot, you’ll see a huge list of documents that will be shown in the history, but only if you add the serial number to them.

Some of the biggest culprits are the SD delivery, especially if you do in-house repairs.  if you don’t add the serial number to the inbound delivery, it won’t show up anywhere in the document chain.  You can manually add it to the SD repair sales order (using the menu extras->technical objects), then even the sales order will show it.  Now, keep in mind, your serial number profile will define where the serial number is allowed and where it is required.  I’ll be doing a post soon talking about the serial number profile to give you more details.  the important detail to take away from today’s post is that everywhere you can put a serial number you should.  If you include it in a document, it will show up in the history and give you a complete picture of everywhere the number has been used.

Thanks for reading,

Service Management – Taking Advantage of the Notification User Status

Now in my many consulting engagements, one thing I’ve seen consistently overlooked is the notification status.  When I ask why don’t you close your notification when you’re done with them?  I always get the same answer, we don’t have the time.  Now I understand that everyone is busy, and extra steps take extra time, but today I’d like to point out why using the notification status can help your service organization.

Now, the first thing to notice is that by default, service notifications do not have a lot of status options.  For the most part, it’s open, closed (there are more if you use the tasks, but that’s for another day).  So it’s pretty easy.  There is also the ability to add the user status (another thing I highly encourage, more on this later).  So we’ve established that there are simple choices in the service notification…  but they are often not used.

Now, the whole point of this post is to tell you why you’re missing out if you don’t use these.  Just like everything in SAP, you can collect data, metrics, and lots of useful information if you just enter it into the system.  I did a post the other day talking about how companies miss the boat by either not entering, or not using the info that SAP offers.  Well, this is directly related to that.

Entering the status of the notification allows you to use standard SAP transactions (IW58 for example) as a work list of notifications that require attention.  More importantly, it can give you the metrics to see how well your call center is performing.  Since SAP collects all the data for you, you just need to tell it when you’re done, you can have instant statistics on how many notifications were created, how long were they open, how many were closed, and even who closed them.  If you run a call center, this information could be vital to determine if you have enough representatives in the call center, are they able to close the majority of calls without follow-up, how many were questions vs. an actual return or RMA request?  All of these metrics can be extracted from SAP (if you want to see this in action, check out the demo for Broadsword, and it will show you a program that shows you all of these metrics.  All of which extract standard data from SAP.

The whole key to this is…  someone needs to perform the tasks of setting the status (user status, or just closing it).  Like everything, the data is no good if no one is looking at it, but if you are a proactive organization,  you are probably looking for ways to cut costs.  Knowing how your call center is performing can give you some key insight into now only your employees and their skill sets, but also into your products and how well they meet the needs of your customers.  (you can tell this by the number of returns, the reason for returns, and the number of repairs).

Well, I hope this was useful… as always, thanks for reading and I’d love to hear from you,

Thanks for reading,

Service Management – Service Availability (pt 2)

I wanted to pick up where I left off yesterday.

Finally, you need to assign the availability check to the plant/order.  And you also can change the check for creation vs. release.

As a note, if you create an order type as a copy from an existing order type, you will still need to maintain this data.

IMG->Plant Maintenance and Customer Service->Maintenance and Service Processing->Maintenance and Service Orders->Functions and Settings for Order Types->Availability Check for Material, PRT’s, and Capacities->Define Inspection Control

avail-04

Here are the settings you can control:

avail-05

Material Availability

  • No Check – skip material availability checking
  • Check Material Availability when saving order
  • Checking Rule – defined above
  • Component Check Type – allows you to determine the type of checking to perform
    • ATP check – checking against every single component according to ATP logic
    • Check against planned ind requirements
  • Conversion – Controls whether a planned order can be converted to a production order if one or more material components are not available. This key only relates to the collective conversion and partial conversion planned orders.

avail-06

PRT Availability

  • No check – skip PRT availability checking
  • Checking Rule – same as above
  • Conversion – same as above

Capacity availability

  • No check – skip capacity checking
  • Overall profile – The profile is evaluated when the No check indicator has not been set. If you do not enter a profile, the system uses profile SAPSFCG013
  • Conversion – same as above

OK… so now you’ve seen the settings.  Here’s how you use it in day to day life.

avail-07

Press this button to availability.  There are several important system status that relate to availability:

MANC – Availability not checked
MSPT – Missing parts
MACM – All parts Available

If you use IW38/IW39 or Iw72/Iw73 and you look at system status, this will give you the quick look to determine if you have components available or not.  Please note, this doesn’t do a hard allocation of the components.  it simply says, based on the availability check (see above) that it is in stock.

I hope this little overview gives you an understanding why availability could be an important piece of service that you’ve overlooked.

Now, if you’d like to take this to the next level, Proximity gives you the ability to run this availability in mass for all your orders, so you can instantly see the most up to date status.

Thanks for reading,

Service Management – Service Availability

This is another post I did a long time ago.  I even devoted quite a few pages to this in my book.  In many of my past implementations, this was something that not enough customers took advantage of.  So consider this a subtle reminder of the cool things available in ECC.

Today, I want to talk about Service Availability.  I’ve seen it used sporadically in places, but never very well.  So I want to talk about the how and why.  Now, before I get into the meat of the topic, let me explain why this part is important.  Just as in sales, knowing if all of the components are available is extremely important to managing your workload.  SAP provides the same availability functionality in the service order as it does in the production (except of course, running it in mass…  but for that, check Armory by JaveLLin Solutions. couldn’t help the shameless plug).  Transaction IWBK is actually a good transaction to show you all of the availability associated with a service order, and it even gives you fancy traffic lights to let you know at a glimpse if everything is available.  In addition, the status of the service order itself lets you know if all components are available.

Now, you may be asking, why do I care?  Often you have a decent workload of service orders and you require components in order to begin work on them.  Wouldn’t it be nice to see at a glance if all the components are available to know if you should start working on the order?  Perhaps you released the order to get some MRP requirements out there for parts.  Well, if you don’t know when the parts are available, how do you know when you can start working on the order?  Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for getting this part back to the customer.  Your metrics look worse and worse, all because you don’t know if you have parts to start working on a repair.

Alright, you understand the problem, so what can you do about it?  First thing you need to do is make sure the availability check is configured the way you need it.  Just like the availability for sales and production orders, you can have a unique one for service (or more often you’ll use the same one that production uses).  The screen shot below shows you were to find the configuration to see what in the system.

avail-01

If you look at the Define Checking Rules, you’ll see the following.  Please note, SM is the default.
avail-02

Next go the Define Scope of Check…  this is where the real work is done. Remember, that the scope of check can be different depending on the material availability check. This example shows 02 – SM

IMG->Plant Maintenance and Customer Service->Maintenance and Service Processing->Maintenance and Service Orders->Functions and Settings for Order Types->Availability Check for Material, PRT’s, and Capacities->Define Scope of Check

avail-03

Every one of these options determines things that the availability check includes or excludes.  Every organization is different, so I can’t tell you there are default settings to use.  I can tell you that you should experiment with whatever you do select.  Have a service order with some components and make sure your settings do what you expect.  ATP is touchy…  powerful, but touchy…  I’ll go over the basic of this screen, so you have some idea where to start.  My best recommendation will be find out what is working for your production group and start there.

Stock Section:  I don’t claim to be an availability expert, but I know the setting well enough to explain the basics.

  • Include Safety Stock – This means that safety stock should be considered as available in the availability check.  In most organization I see this checked.
  • Stock In Transfer – Include stock that is being transferred into the plant
  • Include Quality Inspection Stock – Include stock in quality inspection.  Normally, I see this NO selected.
  • Include Blocked Stock – Just what the name says.  Again, not normally checked.
  • Include Restricted Use Stock – Include restricted use batch stock.  Not normally checked.
  • W/O Subcontracting – exclude any vendor or subcontract stock from the check.

Replenishment Lead Time

  • Check without RLT – This one is always confusing.  You check the box if you DO NOT want to use replenishment lead time from the material master.  It depends on if you want availability to find a date, even if none are in stock.  Typically in SM, I see this checked.

Storage Location Inspection – this allows you to turn off the storage location check and look for stock only at the plant level.

In/Outward Movements

  • Include purchase orders – just what it says.  Checked by default.
  • Include purchase Reqs – just what it says.  Checked by default.
  • Include dependent reqs – should it include a requirement that is generated from an upper level demand.  Checked by default.
  • Include reservations – just what it says.  Checked by default.
  • Include Sales requirements – include demands from sales orders.  Checked by default.
  • Include deliveries – include deliveries.  Checked by default.
  • Include Shipping Notifications – not checked by default.
  • Incl.depen.reservat. – take dependent reservations into account.
    •       Do not check – DEFAULT
    • X   Include all reservations
    • A   Only include withdrawable reservations
  • Incl.rel.order reqs – take stock transport orders/requests into account.
    • X   Yes
    •       No – DEFAULT
  • Incl. planned orders- if you don’t take these into account demands from planned orders (potentially placed before this order) will not be taken into account.  Stock could be stolen from a planned order if you don’t take this into account.
    •       Do not check
    • X   Check all planned orders – DEFAULT
    • A   Check firmed planned orders only
    • B   Only check planned orders that are completely confirmed
  • Incl. production orders- if you don’t take these into account demands from production orders (potentially placed before this order) will not be taken into account.  Stock could be stolen from a prod order if you don’t take this into account.
    •       Do not take into account
    • X   Take all production orders into account – DEFAULT
    • F    Only take released production orders into account

This is probably enough for now.  Next time I’ll show you how to finish up the configuration, and more importantly, how do you use this once it’s configured.

thanks for reading,

Service Management – Equipment vs. Serial Number Records

I originally posted this about 2 years ago, but since this topic still comes up, I thought it might be a good idea to throw it out there. again.

I get this a lot from different customers, “What is an Equipment Records?”.  Normally, my answer is always the same.  It’s equivalent to the serial number.  After spending a few minutes playing with the configuration and looking at the output, I realize that my answer isn’t completely accurate.  So that’s why I wanted to talk a little about this on the blog.

First, let’s take a look at the serial number.

ser-01

 

Now, the biggest thing to take into consideration is the category.  Based on the configuration behind the category, will impact if there are other tabs that show up.  For example, if you chose a different category that included Configuration, you would also get the configuration tab (for Variant Config info).  But in general, you won’t get a lot more than what you see right here.

Now, let’s contrast this with the equipment record:

ser-02

 

Notice all of the extra tabs and buttons you get by default.  Some of these views are configurable and can be turned on/off if you choose.  While much of this information is manually populated, you still have it all available

So there you have it…  why equipment is more than just a serial number.  My personal feeling is to always use an equipment, and let the serial number profile drive it automatically, but if you truly have no need for any additional data, just stick with the simple serial number structure.  I hope this helped you…  it’s actually helped clarify it in my own head…

Thanks for reading,

Sales and Marketing – Why Closing is Not always the answer

Well, after just getting back from the big SAPPHIRE NOW show, I’m once again reminded that building relationships with all of the people that I met needs to be job one.  I recently got connected with a top notch software sales person, and Jeff is helping to guide me through the process.  If you’ve followed my adventure, you know I’m an engineer/programmer at heart.  That means the whole sales and marketing side of things is uncharted territory.  I’m starting to figure out bits and pieces, but having someone that I can bounce my logical ideas off of is invaluable.

Now, one of the real revelations, which actually is good for me, is that so much of the stuff I’ve been learning when it comes to sales is wrong.  You always hear about closing, and getting the prospect to make commitments is job one.  Well, Jeff turned me onto a book called SPIN selling.  In a nutshell, this book breaks down the simple facts that selling small items is a whole different ball game than selling large item (like software).

I haven’t finished the book yet, but so far, one of the big revelations is that closing just isn’t the way to build a relationship.  Closing works great for customers that you will likely only see once.  Why is that?  because in a one time sale, it’s not a big deal if a buyer gets “buyer’s remorse” because you already made the sale.  But when you deal with large sales, you can rarely get the sale after a single conversation or visit.  This means, that if you put the pressure on your prospect early on, they will quickly write you off as someone they don’t want to do business with.

Large sales require a relationship, because likely you and your customer will be dealing with each other a lot, before and after the sale.  You better get along with whoever that is, otherwise, it will be a painful relationship, no matter how good of a deal your getting.

Thanks for reading,