Bobcat has equipped its dealers with a new global parts, service and labor information system built by a company called Enigma. But Enigma's ability to provide interactive, dynamic information is anything but enigmatic. The new Bobcat Aftermarket Support System II, known as BASS II, was recently introduced at 800 worldwide dealer locations, providing immediate updates on its Web-based system as well as a DVD-based version for companies without constant Web access.
What Bobcat wanted for its dealers was a system that would immediately integrate changes to product information for its worldwide dealer network. Bobcat wanted to have its 172 illustrated parts catalogs, 197 installation instructions, 15 service manuals and more than 125,000 parts numbers available online and to have the ability to communicate change immediately.
With dealers spread throughout the world, it would frequently take the company months to inform its dealers of changes, while during the interim period, many transactions and maintenance actions would have had to be made without the benefit of up-to-date information. Since Bobcat would typically put out new DVDs every six months, information was often already outdated by the time it got to dealers.
“In the past, updates didn't get to the field for 45 days or two months,” says Troy Underhill, Bobcat's technical communications support manager. “If we were launching a new machine and customers didn't see updates for two months, that was a problem. And we needed a worldwide application.”
Bobcat looked at a number of different systems before deciding to partner with Burlington, Mass.-based Enigma, going through various test phases before arriving at a functional version.
Enigma bases its system on what it calls the three C's: content, commerce and collaboration. “Content is the heart of the system,” says John Snow, Enigma's vice president of marketing and business development. “It's not just static content. It's dynamic, you can interact with it; it drives the workflow of the maintenance process. The second piece is commerce. So, for example, if I know what parts I need, how and where do I get them, are they even available? Once you know what parts you need for the repair, you don't have to write down parts numbers and transcribe them into a different system. Our system will capture that and pass it on to a dealer management system or an inventory system, so you're now automating that entire supply-chain process.”
Enigma's system interacts with the dealer's management system. “We transfer that parts list or procurement order to the dealer management system, which will tell the mechanic if the part is in stock, if an alternative can be used and how quickly it can be obtained,” says Snow.
The third “C” is collaboration, which allows mechanics, for example, to make notes and share knowledge with other mechanics within the dealership, helping the dealership to develop a best-practices communication.
Since some dealerships are located in areas where high bandwidth or persistent Internet connections are unavailable, the Enigma system developed a DVD-based program. However, that doesn't mean Bobcat must make and ship a new DVD every time there's a change to a parts number or every time a new service bulletin is issued. The Enigma system enables Bobcat to e-mail the updates for companies in the field to download.
“Bobcat has the ability to update at a moment's notice,” says Snow. “They are not updating all of the content, but they are updating bits and pieces of the content, or creating new pieces of content like a service bulletin that relate to existing content. So whenever they are within a network connection area, which could be a 56K bog, they are able to download just the pieces that are relevant, so just the pieces that have changed get stored on the hard disk and that interacts with what's already on the DVD. The reality of the situation is that most people take the DVD and download it to their hard disk. It becomes what I would call a portable Web site. Then, whenever you're within a network area, you're able to update the relevant data.” These updates typically are not multiple megabytes of information, but are more likely to be in the tens of K's.
The system is also designed to make it easy to access only that which is relevant at any given moment.
“What really happens with our system is we're building millions of hyperlinks and we simply make them inactive or active depending on what a mechanic typed into the system,” says Snow. “If you're having a problem with auxiliary components on post-hole digger attachments, we're not going to show you any information on the bucket. This is what optimizes the workflow and makes it so efficient.”