Product Support Financial Value Drivers. 7/10 – Regulatory Requirements

Nov 27
2012

This post is the seventh 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

As nations become wealthier, there is a drive to mitigate the risks of occurrence of the events that unfavorably impact society – think auto safety, hazardous materials disposition, and many others. As a result, many regulatory actions have been employed by nations and local legislatures. These regulations have had a significant impact upon Product Support financial value driver results.

Product support financial value drivers – regulatory requirements

Let’s start with safety concerns. All industries have regulations that require certain Product Support processes to be employed that either protects the users of equipment, or the outputs of the equipment. Transportation equipment has as extensive amount of time/use/condition based preventive maintenance tasks to avoid any unplanned failure. From brake overhauls for trains, to flight control actuator overhauls for aircraft, very specific maintenance tasks must be performed throughout the life of the equipment; in most cases the ability to operate a piece of equipment requires that the OEM has obtained approval by a regulatory body for a detailed preventive maintenance schedule. These requirements can often drive 20-40% of the Product Support life cycle costs.

Another area of regulation driving costs is one that continues to expand every year; maintenance activities that avoid unfavorable environmental events. For example, the preventive overhaul of a valve in order to avoid failure resulting in a hazardous material spill, or the inspection of a structure for corrosion that could result in equipment releasing toxic fumes into the atmosphere. This area is specifically costly in the process industries of chemicals, oil and power generation.

In certain cases, regulatory requirements have a strange impact on Product Support costs. A case in point is in Japan and the insurance of automobiles where in order to generate demand for new cars, the Japanese government has mandated that insurance rates increase based upon the age of a vehicle. Upon a car approaching 10 years old, the insurance rates are so high that it “pays”  to get rid of the car (they leave Japan for  less developed countries) and purchase a new car. This regulation has a major impact upon the Product Support financial value driver solutions for older vehicles; there is none!

Recent changes to the fuels employed to operate equipment has created unintended impacts upon Product Support maintenance; some have decreased the frequency of unplanned failures, but others have significantly changed the frequency of preventive maintenance tasks; think bio-fuels for commercial truck engines.

The disposition of Product Support parts that are deemed hazardous materials can also increase costs; sometimes the cost of disposition is more expensive than the acquisition of the part. This is often true of certain consumables such of filters, lubricants, and others.

Product support financial value drivers – regulatory requirements

One of the Product Support financial value cost challenges is that there are many different regulations throughout the globe requiring different Product Support processes to be employed. For many global organizations, where equipment is transported to many sites, think oil drilling equipment, Product Support processes are often employed that meet the most demanding regulations of any nation that the equipment can be employed. This is done in order to be flexible in aligning demand and supply of equipment on a global basis. For example if ExxonMobil has to move equipment from Nigeria to the USA, even though Nigeria may have less demanding Product Support regulations, the Nigerian equipment is maintained to USA standards so that if demand shifts to the USA, the equipment doesn’t have to be reset to use in the USA.

All the above cases of regulatory requirements are always driven by optimizing equipment cost and minimizing its unfavorable impacts on society. Product Support costs, which constitute the plurality of Total Ownership Costs for most equipment types, will remain a primary “victim” of many of these regulations.

Product Support life cycle financial planning must include scenario-based tools that can analyze the impact of different regulatory changes upon the short-term and long-term TOC.

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.

Product Support Financial Value Drivers. 3/10 – Product Failure

Oct 11
2012

This post is the third 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 Value Drivers – Product Failure Physics Envy

This area is one of the most “abused” areas in Product Support life cycle financial planning. Operation Research [OR] analysts, design engineers and logistics professionals have what is affectionately called “physics envy” when it comes to estimating the product failure rates of end-items and their components. The elite group of professionals in the business of predicting product failures tend to have a universally low success rate…

The marketplace has defined the acceptable average level of unplanned failures for a capital good/end-item at about once every 5-7 years. This product failure rate is applicable primarily for Commercial Off The Shelf [COTS] items, with Developmental/Design-To-Order items incurring product failure rates anywhere from 50-100% higher than that of COTS items.

The source of the aforementioned failure data is the Security Exchange Commission [SEC] mandatory filings by OEMs detailing their actual expenses incurred to support their warranty programs. There is over 10 years of reliability/failure rate data sets. Note that product failure rates have dropped by almost 50% over this 10+ year period. Why the “failure analysis” community does not employ this treasure trove of data in all their cost calculations is always amazing to me.

Product Support Value Drivers – Product Failure

Recently Giuntini & Co. developed a scenario-based Product Support life cycle financial plan that included the target cost for the correct-failure process throughout the twenty life of a product. We employed a series of SEC filing data sets and estimated $10 million per year in costs associated with the correct-failure process for an installed base of $200 million end-items. We also employed another method to calculate the cost and it still resulted in approximately the same number.

Product Support Value Drivers – Product Failure

While we had been calculating the correct-failure process costs, a team of OR brains were also calculating the same cost; we were both aware that we were working to the same goal. We both agreed to compare our estimated costs and there was a 4-fold difference in our costs; the OR guys were the higher number. After I examined their methodology, which was quite eloquent, I must say (disclosure; I once was an OR geek myself), I found their results to be totally bogus.

If the higher product failure rates were to have occurred, the product would never have been acquired by any end-user. Our common client accepted the Giuntini & Co. cost estimate as the one to be included in his Total Ownership Cost [TOC] calculation. To this day the OR brains have remained convinced that their methodology was the right way to go, even after being proven decidedly inaccurate.

Lesson learned – be extremely careful of ”physics envy” professionals providing you with product failure rate estimates. There is a high probably that they are materially off from the real world and if you accept their costs without an alternative opinion, you have only yourself to blame when an estimated TOC is way, way off.

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.

Pricing Product Support Parts for Clueless OEMs

Sep 14
2012

Pricing Product Support parts continues to be an area in which many OEMs struggle.

A 2011 Defense Department’s Inspector General  report accused Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. a unit of Hartford, Connecticut-based United Technologies Corp. (UTX) of overcharging the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command’s Corpus Christi, Texas Depot  for 28 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Product Support parts, including $2,393.41 for a plastic wiring box cover worth $181.70.

Most OEMs continue to employ the following, dated method to pricing Product Support parts:

1. This is my cost.

2. This is the profit I have to make.

3. Therefore, this is the price I charge the customer.

Overly simplistic, and frankly, quite archaic.

Archaic Pricing Product Support models…

Earlier in my career, I ran an OEM’s (Falcon Jet) Product Support parts business unit for 10 years and my predecessor employed the cost-plus approach above. Customers were always screaming about $10 bolts, which met demanding aerospace specifications and were produced in small lots, but which a mechanic would perceive should only cost $1…because that is what you would pay at Sears.

Here is the funny part - a proprietary flight control actuator priced at $13,451 would have no pushback on price; the mechanic had no reference point to compare prices.

One day I decided to be very “clever” about pricing. I identified about 2,000 parts that “appeared” overpriced by our customers. Regardless of their cost, I brought them all down to $1. I then calculated my “loss” and increased the price of my proprietary items by the “loss” incurred, keeping my bottom line the same. Our customers were very happy that their concerns were acted upon…and there was no reaction to the higher prices on the proprietary parts.

Lesson learned: When an OEM stays with an illogical and rote Product Support parts pricing policy of cost-plus, their customers will be vocal about their disatisfaction. However, if you are clever, you can make your customers happy and still make the same profit. Voila!

Learn more about dynamic Product Support parts pricing models at www.giuntinicompany.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capital Goods OEM Warranty Costs Have Fallen By 20% Over The Last 8 Years

Sep 11
2012

 

Capital Goods OEM Warranty Costs Have Fallen By 20% Over The Last 8 Years

 

Overall annual warranty costs, as a % of sales revenue has been steadily declining. In 2003 warranty costs comprised about 1.8% of revenues for OEMs and last year it dropped to 1.4% or a 20% decline. This trend is positively impacting the end-users Total Ownership Cost [TOC] as products become more reliable and require less failure-driven maintenance.

Visit www.giuntinicompany.com for product support best practices.

Don’t Always Trust Product Support Enterprise Financial Data

Jul 23
2010

Recently General Motors (GM) reported their 2009 new-condition light vehicle sales warranty expenditures. In calculating the warranty expense per vehicle sold, the results were $357. Utilizing this per vehicle cost in calculating the average price per vehicle sold to the dealer network, this would indicate that GM sold each of their vehicles at an average price of $14,300…appears to be a very low number relative to all its major competitors…and common sense.

With US sales about 35% of GM’s overall unit sales and the average US vehicle sold to dealers at around $23,000, GM is implicitly indicating that the average price of the remaining light vehicles sold in the EU and Asia would be about $9,000 each…not likely. The warranty expenditures have a material impact on overall earnings for GM, thus this “cost conflict” is important.

It may be that GM, currently controlled by the Federal Government is applying “creative” financial accounting, similar to that of the Federal Government has been employing for decades…but that is another story.

Lesson Learned: When performing financial analysis of a Product Support Enterprise (PSE), warranty is an OEM’s cost incurred by the PSE, always validate the results by employing a secondary calculation for at least a selected group of costs that are material….a bit more work, but important in delivering accurate results.

Saving on COTS Parts – The Airline Industry’s Secret

Jul 14
2010

There are many ways to reduce the unit cost of parts employed in the Product Support Enterprise (PSE). Each industry sector end-users take a different approach at parts cost control, based upon the materiality of parts relative to overall costs. The airline industry is one sector that has identified parts as a major cost, specifically for jet engine Product Support; from parts employed in the organizational/line maintenance level process, to the overhaul process to the modification process.

An airline’s jet engine PSE can take the following steps at controlling the cost of parts:

  1. Acquire surplus new-condition parts directly from other airlines; bundled package of parts at large discount from list price
  2. Acquire not-new-condition parts from distributors: overhauled/ remanufactured, repaired and certified/as-is
  3. Acquire reversed engineered manufactured parts that are like-kind to that of original manufacturers; the FAA provides the manufacturers of these parts a Parts Manufacturer Authorization (PMA) in order to sell these parts
  4. Acquire and disassemble not-new-condition products for parts, also known as cannibalization
  5. Acquire new and not-new condition piece parts that are employed in a LRU and assemble LRU
  6. Develop multi-user LRU exchange pool with several user of same product; decrease depreciation of reparable LRUs

Aggressively finding ways to reduce parts cost can pay large dividends in reducing the Total Ownership Cost (TOC) of a product. Check out this Aviation Week story that touches on many of the points above.

The “Miracle” of COTS Products

Jul 09
2010

The Department Of Defense and its research organizations have always been touted as working on the “bleeding edge” of a multiple array of technologies. This is often true, leading to more effective (i.e. lethal) mission capabilities, but rarely are these initiatives more efficient (i.e. cost per outcome) in completing a mission.  See Undersecretary Carter’s comments regarding this issue here.

When we move to the COTS product world, the employment of COTS products in the processes of everyday life has resulted in both improvements in effectiveness and efficiency. In a recent article in the Journal of the American Enterprise Institute,  a striking comparison of what could be purchased in 1964 and today with the same purchasing power (price as a % of average salary) was illustrated below based upon an average one month salary.

1964:
 A moderately priced Radio Shack stereo system.

2010:
Panasonic Home Theater System, Insignia 50″ Plasma HDTV, Apple 8GB iPod Touch, Sony 3D Blu-ray Disc Player, Sony 300-CD Changer, Garmin Portable GPS, Sony 14.1-Megapixel Digital Camera, Dell Inspiron Laptop Computer, TiVo High-Definition Digital Video Recorder.

Also note that a personal computer in 1978, the Radio Shack Model 1, with 4K of RAM, a tape recorder as a data storage device, a green screen and little application software cost $600, or equivalent to about $3,000 today.

The above are stunning testimonials as to the value of COTS products and the inevitable greater and greater employment by DoD. Though our enemies have the same access to COTS products, it is the Acquisition corps that has to use their prowess at COTS product integration in developing solutions for the Warfighter. The US is second to none when it comes to integration and our enemies will never be able to duplicate our COTS products integration efforts resulting in our remaining the most efficient and effective military force of all time .

Outcome-Based Pricing Offerings, Industry Leaders Agree

Jun 03
2010

Traditional pricing models of cost-plus and transaction-based for system/equipment product support offerings are changing today. This is being driven by end-users wanting to materially shift their risk of unfavorable availability, reliability and Total Ownership Cost (TOC) to their suppliers. This new pricing model is referred to as outcome-based. It can be quite profitable for a supplier, if the operational aspects are managed well, as well as be highly advantageous to maintenance organization…or it can generate significant levels of red ink if the supplier doesn’t do its homework, and the maintenance organization’s operations may become less effective. These pricing programs can be offered in the following packages:

  • Fixed price per unit of system/equipment output (i.e. Power By The Hour; customer doesn’t pay for reliability problems)
  • Fixed price for a period (i.e. extended warranty; customer doesn’t pay for reliability problems)
  • Fixed price for performance (i.e. pay for uptime; customer doesn’t pay for reliability, nor for materiel availability problems)

The above presents revenue recognition issues and cost accrual challenges for the finance organization of the supplier providing the above offering; the financial analysis should be done by a managerial accountant and not a financial accountant; from my experience financial accountants will often destroy an outcome-based pricing program due to their lack of the knowledge of the operational drivers for such a program.

Giuntini & Co. isn’t the only one to agree that these pricing models are the way of the future. Read further on the general subject matter related to pricing models from TATA Consulting’s website: http://www.tcs.com/offerings/platform_BPO/resources/Documents/Platform_BPO_White_Paper_Transaction_Based_Pricing_in_BPO_05_2010.pdf

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