Product Support Financial Value Drivers. 6/10 – Volatility of Product Technology

Nov 04

This post is the sixth of ten entries that will discuss product support financial value drivers for solutions supplied by a commercial or military focused capital good Product Support Enterprise [PSE]. The 10 topics that will be discussed are the following:

  1. # of products employed by end-users
  2. End-user product utilization rate
  3. Product failure
  4. Environment in which end users engage the product
  5. Preventive maintenance processes employed
  6. Volatility of product technology
  7. Regulatory requirements
  8. Chronological age of the product installed base
  9. Life cycle stage of the product
  10. Manufacturer’s warranty coverage

Product Support Financial Value Drivers

The current business model for OEMs is to seek a problem being encountered by an organization and to configure a hardware/software solution that affordably and effectively addresses a resolution to the problem. For example, a warfighter requires, within a 6-month period, a communication system that can access satellite transmissions on-the-move for a period of 20 years. The OEM awarded the contract chooses to employ a suite of bleeding-edge Commercial Off The Shelf [COTS] items and integrates all the pieces into a Design-To-Order solution. Great; the warfighter gets their solution quickly and the OEM can “call it a day.” But now comes the fun part. The Product Support Strategy [PSS] for this COTS-based solution must employ a process that modifies the configuration of the solution based upon future Diminishing Manufacturing Sources Material Shortages [DMSMS] challenges; what is currently bleeding-edge, will most probably have a cold commercial supply chain within 3-4 years.

Understanding how the source-of-design impacts Total Ownership Cost [TOC] is often not fully understood. An OEM’s employment of COTS items enables access to a hot supply chain in which development costs have been amortized by the manufacturer; item acquisition costs can often be 30-50% less than that of a developmental item with the same capabilities. Also note that the reliability of a COTS item can be 3-4 fold higher than that of a developmental item. All-in-all the production costs of a COTS-centric solution is financially attractive, but Product Support life cycle costs can be significant enough to offset the production savings.

For example, if a COTS item is to be modified, due to DMSMS issues every 4 years and there is a planned 20 year product life, that indicates that 4 to 5 modifications will have be performed during the period that the solution is in inventory. Note that upon the insertion of these modifications, capabilities enhancements may occur, but that is strictly a by-product of the activity.

From personal financial analytics experience working on many systems, I have in almost all situations observed that DMSMS-driven modification costs can constitute the number one or two ranked Product Support cost driver. Remember that Product Support constitutes a plurality of TOC, thus modifications to COTS-centric solutions are often within the top ten cost drivers of TOC.

Product Support Financial Value Drivers

Other issues to be considered that will impact financial performance due to technology volatility, is how the modification process will be performed. There are several alternatives (this is not an all inclusive listing), each with their own cost drivers:

  • Block-mod in which all end-items are inducted into the modification process at a depot within a short period of time
  • Block-mod in which all end-items are inducted into the modification process in the field via an exchange program, within a short period of time
  • Modify-as-failed in which reparable items, when inducted in a repair process, will also be modified
  • Modify-bundled-with-other in which an end-item when inducted into a process such as reset, overhaul or other end-item process, the modification will be employed when the end-item has been disassembled; logic is that as long as the end-item is apart, there is no additional labor required for installing the modification.

Each of the above impacts technician labor costs to remove and replace, transportation costs, facility costs, indirect personnel costs and many other costs. Also note that each alternative will impact Materiel Availability [Am].

Any financial analytics of the Product Support life cycle must include a rigorous review of modification expenditures regardless of the “color of money.” Technology volatility provides many challenges, but with insightful life cycle planning unfavorable performance risks can be mitigated.

Hypatia©, a Giuntini & Company financial software tool, provides a highly automated means of calculating the above and other product support financial value drivers, as well as an effortless way of being able to change any utilization assumption and immediately understand its impact upon total ownership costs. Hypatia is also a proven, trusted and highly effective tool for assisting in the development of product support business case analysis.

The Dark Side of Remanufacturing

Jun 23

The Product Support process of remanufacturing can be employed for good…or for evil. Remanufacturing is a process that extends the economic life of a used-condition system by: growing its reliability, evolving its technology, assuring its design capability and improving the efficiency of Product Support processes employed.

Many firms acquire used systems and induct them into a remanufacturing process that delivers a product that has many of the attributes of a new system, but at 50% to 70% of the price; the customer wins and the entrepreneur wins by taking an “ugly duckling” and making an attractive profit from the make-over.

But there is one organization that can view remanufacturing unfavorably; OEMs who believe that the remanufactured product has “stolen” sales from their new-condition products. One approach an OEM could take is to begin a remanufacturing business and at least grab some of the used product market…but an “evil” approach would be to purchase as much used products as possible and then destroy the products so they could never be remanufactured…forcing customers to buy the OEM’s new-condition products.

One of America’s business leader icons, Thomas Watson, Sr., founder of IBM, used exactly this “evil” practice and was found guilty of anticompetitive practices. In 1903 Watson, working for National Cash Register (NCR) created a bogus firm to monopolize the used cash register business and systemically destroyed the machines, thus driving increased demand for new-condition cash registers.   

The above event and much more about Thomas Watson can be found in the book, “The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson Sr., and the Making of IBM”.

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