Drones and You!

For some time now, the Capital Goods Industries has used global position and equipment monitoring technologies. Last week I talk about the Cloud Based Technologies that were impacting our world. I want to look in a different direction this week.

On March 22nd the following press release got my attention:

China: – Commercial drone data company Skycatch, and DJI, the world’s leading manufacturer of civilian drones and aerial imaging technology, have extended their partnership to manufacture and deliver a fleet of 1,000 high-precision drones for Komatsu Smart Construction.

The Skycatch Explore1 drone autonomously flies over job sites to create highly accurate 3D site maps and models and will be deployed on Komatsu job sites. This map data will be used for Komatsu Smart Construction’s new data service that enables robotic earth moving equipment, used in the earthwork stage of the construction process, to correctly dig, bulldoze, and grade land autonomously according to digital construction plans.

“Conducting a site survey using a drone used to take hours. However, by implementing Explore1, users can carry out surveying quickly and easily. Now it is possible to perform drone surveying every day. Taking off, landing and flight route setting are all automated. Ground Control Points (GCPs) are no longer needed. 3D data is immediately generated and an entire construction site can be visually checked with the 3D map. The Explore1 is a true game changer for the construction site,” said Chikashi Shike, Executive Office of Smart Construction Division at Komatsu.

And some of you didn’t think we were being impacted a lot by technology. Imagine?

How do we keep up? That is an interesting question for many of us. In University I took a minor in Computer Science. We learned to program in Fortran and Cobol. We used punched cards. How old do you think that makes me feel?

The last time I purchased disc drives for a computer center was in the late 1970’s and for the price of $1,000,000 I bought eight-disc drives with removable 44 MB drives and two controllers. You read that right – a million bucks for about 350 MB or storage. The current pricing is about $1.00/GB.

In the early eighties I was running a software business in Denver. They had at their peak over 450 dealers using their software. Caterpillar was offering a product from DDPD – Dealer Data Processing, that took paper input from dealers had it keypunched and returned to the dealer after processing. They did the invoicing, inventory management, everything. With Paper.

Time have certainly changed.

That is one of the challenges that we have faced in our training business. I have personally had to change and adapt. I used to teach at University. I had a classroom, a blackboard with white chalk and a room of students. I talked (some called it teaching) and they listened. In England they called it learning from the pipe smoke of the teacher sitting in a room with the students.

I started Quest, Learning Centers, in the early 1990’s and taught in a hotel meeting room to a group of 25 or so students. It was for me going back to the classroom. But first we had overhead slides. We had “text” books of about 250 pages each that we created using voice recognition software. Voice recognition is everywhere today but it was a rarity in 1992. Overheads morphed into power point presentations.

However, training was a challenge for many dealerships. You see it cost money. Many dealers didn’t want to invest in their employees. The employee was expected to arrive with the necessary skills and they would be taught about the products. That is another “Imagine That” isn’t it?

In many cases that still remains true today. Companies are not investing in employee development as they should. It is quite disturbing actually.

To go full circle, we moved from the classroom to webinars. The classroom was thought to be too expensive and the webinar eliminated travel. The problem with a webinar is that the instructor has no idea what the student is learning. I was not happy about that learning device at all.

Then we explored Learning Management Software (LMS) starting in the early 2000’s,  or what they call the “aughts.” Well the products available weren’t ready for prime time. Today they are amazing at what they can do. Now we can do some amazing things. I know more about what the student is learning using current LMS software than I did in the classroom. It is terrific.

Then we took the slides from power point with audio tracks overlaid to them and had an online webinar. Then we used an extremely capable film company to come to Hawaii and spend a week filming us. We created over 500 film clips that we have embedded into the learning products we put out in Learning Without Scars.

Paul Baumann, the owner of Xfinigen, was excellent at flying drones which is why I was do interested in the Press Release from China talking about Komatsu. He used drone shots for many of our film clips. You can see them on our web site at www.learningwithoutscars.com and select either of the two blue bars to see some film clips. The one on the left shows some of Paul’s talents with drones.

Time have changed and they are still changing. The pace is accelerating. Adapt or Die.

The time is now.

Cloud Based Technologies

Recently I read an excellent article on the IoT regarding cloud based technologies and the impact that they are going to be having on all of us.

The cloud is impacting all of us gradually and some of us rather strongly and quickly. The technological capability enabling this shift—often referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT), which is essentially an advanced version of the sensor and gateway combination used for years now in other Industries is changing the OEM business model from one of item-by-item sales transactions to an outcome-based service model.

Amit Jain, senior director of product management at ServiceMax, says it this way. “As the old saying goes, what you want is a hole, not a drill. We’re seeing OEMs move into what we call outcomes-based service models where they sell a service-level agreement tied to the desired outcome the equipment generates. So, instead of light bulbs, a company sells guaranteed lumens as a service. Instead of a jet engine, an airline buys guaranteed flight time. We’ve even seen some printer companies selling guaranteed page output versus ink and the device. Customers don’t care about the [OEM] product; they want the outcome those products provide.”

As most of you realize the traditional reactive service model employed by dealers has not taken maintenance seriously. Neither has the Industry been quick to adapt to standard charges and standard repair times. The customer in many cases views the dealer shop as a “black hole.” A machine goes in to the shop for repairs and we are not given accurate completion dates nor accurate quotations. As a result it appears to the customer that we would rather have them call the service department and a few days later a technician shows up to fix it. Because of this, field service has become the main source of service for owners of construction machinery.

For over a decade now we have had global positioning systems in place and that moved to having electronic control units on the machine. Now, like the Automotive Industry we have fault codes reported on the equipment. Going back to Jain: “the capabilities provided by cloud-based mobile technologies enable remote equipment monitoring, automated service requests, technician dispatching and work order closing, which are creating new revenue streams for OEMs by adding value to post-sale warranties.”

He goes further “The indirect effect of proactive service like this is that OEMs get happier customers, which of course has bottom-line impacts across the board.”

Dealers ignore these advanced technologies at their peril. This is not going to be a passing fad. This will become more and more embedded into our equipment and we will be able to do much more accurate remote diagnostics in the very near future.

Every Dealer Business System provider is going to have to adapt their systems to this New Reality.

Every major company in the capital goods supply chain is going to have to change as well.

This is but one more piece of evidence that “the world around us is changing at a rate greater than we are.” The individual who made that quote famous was Jack Welsh. He went further and said that when that happens “the end is near.”

It is time to pick up the pace of change in our businesses and our lives.

The time is now.

Change #MondayBlogs

The past two weeks I spent reviewing two great dealers in Europe. One was in Norway and the other in Belgium. They were both family owned businesses with a strong history and terrific presence in their markets.

What I wanted to point out, however, is not how good they are at what they do, nor how skilled their employees are or how well their leadership executes strategies. No, it is how they view change.

Each part of the world seems to view change through a different lens. In North America one would think that American Companies would be right our front about innovation and change. Not so fast. In Canada you might be thinking about the conservative Canadian being more entrenched in tradition and not that open to change. Hang on there. Europe with all the centuries of tradition would be another case. Similarly, the South and Central America, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, Russia and Africa. All areas approach the need to change differently.

Change is difficult and except for a very small number of us would not be part of our lives. We love predictability. We struggle to learn how to live on our own, or the changes required when we get married or have children. We struggle to learn our jobs and get good at them. And once we get comfortable with our lives BAM along comes change.

I grew up in the late fifties and sixties, the 1900 version folks. Do you think the “baby boomers” see and have seen change? For starters think about this: The “Baby Boomers” were the first generation to have credit cards. No matter what you think about credit cards they have had a dramatic impact on the lives of everyone in the developed world. But the element of the credit card that I want to focus on is the unintended consequence of debt. We all have too much debt. Right? Look at governments, then look at credit card debt, then look at student debt. Need I say more?

Next look at Technology. I took a minor at University in Computer Science and learned how to “wire” Unit Record equipment. That is true. Most people would think about Unit Record computing in the same way that they would think about an “Outhouse” and indoor plumbing. But look how far the “computer” has come in the last seventy-five years. The last set of disc drives that I had to purchase cost over $1,000,000 that is right one million dollars. There were two banks of disc drives each four drives requiring a control unit. Each disc drive held a removed 44-megabyte storage unit. That eight-disc drive set up gave me 352 mega-bytes of disc storage and the cost was more than $1,000,000. Imagine that. Today I can buy a thumb drive with 8 GIGA-BYTES of storage for less than $20.00. How about that? Then we have cellular telephones. They are everywhere. They didn’t exist a short ten years ago. And what about AI, Artificial Intelligence? Big Blue, from IBL, beats the best chess player in the world. Watson wins Jeopardy. The self-driving car, the Roomba Robot vacuum, photography and on and on and on.

Jack Welsh, when he was CEO of General Electric is famous for saying “when the world around you is changing at a rate faster than you are, the end is near.” Look around you. The world is changing very quickly and shows no signs of letting up anytime soon.

We need to embrace change as difficult as that might seem to many of you. To resist change is to be run over. So, look around. What could you do differently? What do you do that you don’t even need to do anymore? The world will be a better place and your job will be more enjoyable if you do things more effectively. The only thing in life that we don’t have enough of is time. Take advantage of all the time you are given. Make you job and your world a better place.

The Time is NOW.

Multi-Media #MondayBlogs #marketing

For the past eight days, we have been in front of the camera. That is a scary thought, isn’t it?

Let’s go back to some history. When we offered webinars to the market we did things quite differently. We followed the usual format of a slide and discussion about the slide. Where we were different is that we projected the slide onto an eight by eight screen and used an HD camera to project the image used for the webinar. This meant we had the opportunity to stop the projection and have me walk into the image. I would do that six to seven times per hour so that there was some dynamism in the webinar. It got rave reviews.

With our Internet Based programs, we are now doing the same thing – with the exception that we are using film clips to create the dynamism.

I am really excited about this. We worked with a company called XFinigen. The company founder is Paul Baumann and along with his production crew led by Leanna Crumpler we have been recording film clips for the past seven days. It is quite a chore. We have created nearly fifteen minutes of film clips for each of our fifty-five Learning On Demand Programs. Caroline will be selecting the clips to use and where to insert them so that there is some excitement injected into the online learning.

So each of the Learning Programs we have currently available will be updated over the next few months. We will also include Socrates on each of the slides.

We have also added to the learning offerings.

You are aware that several clients asked that we create specific programs for specific jobs. We call these programs PSP’s. That stands for Planned Special Programs and we are setting these programs up to offer four course segments which will run for about eight hours each. We now have three such offerings and are expanding this all the time. The offerings now are for the Parts Telephone and Counter personnel, the Service Foremen and the Service Writers. We are working on a program for Product Support Sales which will be the Fundamentals of Selling.

Finally, with all of the films we will have available we will be creating a Vimeo channel and offer a wide array of easily accessible information for you to be able to see more of the Learning Without Scars programs.

Of course, we don’t want to leave out Socrates so we will be starting a “Socrates Says” blog so keep your eyes open as that will start soon.

That’s it from here for now. Aloha.

Now it is your turn. What have you folks been up to? Drop us a line and keep us posted on your needs and wants in the world of parts and service training. Remember we are here for you. Our goal is to provide the most content rich, cost-effective learning offerings in the Industry. It requires your input and help. Thanks for all you have done to date and we look forward to hearing from you more.


The time is now.

Training Tidbit – for the Service Department

Service has changed. Have you? Are you staying current? YOU must maintain your skills and knowledge. That is accomplished through reading and attending learning opportunities. We have management seminars in Dallas in a few weeks. Don’t miss out. The following might provoke some more thinking on your part.

I recently viewed a show on YouTube from BMW showing a technician replacing a radiator core. Nothing very fancy, right? Well, this technician walks up to his tool box and puts on a pair of glasses. Makes adjustments and pushes on them to start. He is standing in front of the car and an image is transposed over the engine compartment and shows in color the items to be worked on and then tells him vocally what to do. When he has completed a step he says “next step.” What a wonderful use of technology. As our world becomes more of a remove and- install of components and things, the technical skills needed from mechanics is reduced; at least for some categories of the work.

One of my many complaints about the operations of a service department that many of you have read over the years is that we have a peanut butter mentality to the work. We charge the same price no matter the skills of the technician, nor the tooling required, nor the degree of difficulty of the work— did we spread it equally, like peanut butter. We don’t schedule labor but we do give completion dates to customers for much of the work. How do we do that when we have variable skills required for the work and variable skills available from the technicians? Peanut butter. This is why we rarely meet completion dates and have lost so much of the available labor market.

We now have new technological tools and new uses of longstanding technology. Who will buy this technology and have it available for use?

We now have new technological tools and new uses of longstanding technology. Who will buy this technology and have it available for use? Hopefully it will be the authorized dealers and distributors.

In another direction, we also have technology roaring to our assistance but it isn’t loud enough yet, as I don’t see many dealers rushing to implement it. It seems that the rental industry has leapt ahead of the authorized distributors in how they treat their technicians. How so?

Well, the technician can stay in the bay and look up on a computer terminal and determine their parts requirement. Okay, some of you are saying that you already do that. Now, let’s start from the make, model and serial number of the machine they are working on and automatically go to a library of schematics and select the appropriate one that will allow them to select the parts they need. Do you do that, too? Oh, and they do that with a touchscreen. You do that, too? Well, then the parts list, which is in a “shopping cart,” is processed as an order in their computer system and prints a pick ticket in the warehouse, their store, so that the parts group can pick the part and deliver it to the technician in their bay. Do you do all that too? I didn’t think so.

It is long past time that we start putting technology to better use. These two illustrations are examples of where and how we can improve labor efficiency on the job. My estimate is that this will increase in labor efficiency by 30 to 60 minutes each day for each technician. Yes, that is right. The time that a technician spends each day walking back and forth to the parts department wastes that much time every day. If you think I am wrong, go watch the floor for a while. In the field it is worse because the technician has to drive to get the parts. And all that time the technician is on the clock.

I think we better get serious, and what better time than now?

The management of a service operation is aimed at two specific major elements: labor efficiency and quality. If we can keep the technicians in the bay where the work is done we can improve their labor efficiency. If we can deliver current accurate schematics from which they can order the necessary parts we will improve the quality.

Are you ready for that? This is not a question of if you will use technology effectively; it is a question of when. This is coming to us and we don’t have any control over it. In this market and these conditions I believe the sooner that we implement these technologies the better. The choice is yours.

Technology Tidbits 1.0

The current crop of Dealer Management Systems (DMS) mostly provides process management tools rather than business improvement tools. This appears to be the continuation of the evolution of systems from the service bureau days when computers were overly expensive and out of reach for most dealers.

The system would put the image of the “old” paper forms on the screen and the dealer personnel would fill in the blanks. This was an incredible cash machine for the companies providing these services.

Today we seem to finesse the issues with “portals;” an interesting approach to say the least.

When the customer knows the part numbers they want and are calling in for parts they have two basic questions on their mind; Have you got it? How much is it? Yet typically the DMS starts with the question – “who are you?” Have you got your customer number of give me your name is where we have to start into the parts process and it is the same for the other departmental order and inquiry processes. Not a particularly good way to start a customer service process is it?

With the ease of program development today and the needs of the dealership; with the “size” of the current crop of DMS offerings in machine usage and process time; with the customer opportunities of doing their own ordering increasing I think it is time a “radical” rethink takes place at both the service providers and at the dealer/manufacturer level. What is it we need and want from technology? Do we want to continue to do what we have always done or do we want to step out into the sunshine.

The time is now.


We comment on a series of subjects related to the capital goods industry supply chain; from parts to service to management and to my take on filosophy. I am introducing a new one this week – Technology.

I will attempt to address various areas of the use of technology in the capital goods supply chains whether from the dealer or the customer perspective. I am sure this will be controversial at times and I invite your participation in the discussion. The more the merrier. It is never important that we all agree on a subject or a topic but it is critically important that we hear and understand other positions.

Management is about communication. It is about three major pillars – understanding, accepting and committing. I hope you will participate in the discussion.

The time is now.