Analytics Enter Big Picture At Mitsubishi Digital

Large-screen television manufacturer Mitsubishi Digital uses business intelligence to improve warranty-related business services and boost performance across its service supply chain.
On the consumer side, the warranty process is simple enough. A product breaks down. A service provider fixes it. The repaired item is returned in 7-10 business days, free of charge. For the manufacturer of the product, however, the process is far more complex. And warranty-related issues can have a negative impact on both cost-effectiveness and overall "service supply chain" performance, which includes the management of product repairs and related services within the warranty process. Mitsubishi Digital wanted to avoid such problems while keeping its edge in the highly competitive consumer electronics industry -- specifically large screen televisions. So it turned to business intelligence.

In 2004 Mitsubishi Digital deployed Service Intelligence Suite, a warranty analytics program developed by Fairfax Va.-based ServiceBench. While it boasts all the capabilities of one, Service Intelligence Suite is not your typical BI tool. Utilizing on-demand data stored in ServiceBench's back-end warehouse, the program operates on two levels: process automation on the bottom to manage supply chain issues and collect data, and the analytics component on top to handle BI analysis.

Before the deployment of Service Intelligence Suite, Mitsubishi Digital, like other manufacturers, received warranty claims from service providers throughout the country. The information from the claims was then pulled through the company's in-house system and massaged by various groups to suit their specific needs. As a result, it could take weeks, even months for a group to receive the data it needed.

"The biggest problem was timing," says David Velasquez, national warranty manager for Mitsubishi Digital. Before the deployment of Service Intelligence Suite, the company's efficiency in utilizing data quickly -- as gauged by Mitsubishi Digital's metric for receiving processed information and making timely corrective actions based on it -- was between 40 and 45 percent. Now, according to Velasquez, that number is holding steady at 90 percent.

It's important for manufacturers to identify trends within their service supply chain early on, and to find the ever important factors that contribute to those trends. This way they can improve cost effectiveness, boost quality within their service network, and anticipate problems that may arise based on results.

For its part, Mitsubishi Digital began employing the program to analyze everything from service provider performance and parts failure to fraud. By applying specific domain knowledge, the program allows users to zero in on problems and find a resolution. A user, for instance, may want to view trends based on parts usage. By analyzing a specific service location against an established national average, the user can see if the location's part usage is consistently higher over time. This could represent either a training issue or fraud. The company says this type of actionable data is what was missing in the past.

Keith Gile, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, sees Service Intelligence Suite as being "targeted enough that the analytics will be meaningful to manufacturers for products covered under warranty."

Mitsubishi Digital is apparently taking full advantage of the program's BI capabilities through its action-oriented dashboards. The company says users can view information that may have been overlooked by another group. Someone in finance, for example, can view activity in the field service or engineering groups. If there is a quality control or warranty cost issue that went unnoticed in the past, it can be resolved.

According to Velasquez, the lifecycle of a high-end home theater system -- Mitsubishi Digital's specialty -- is only about a year. As the technology bar is raised, this year's hot plasma television will probably be old-hat by the same time next year. This gives manufacturers a small window of opportunity to operate in. "In the digital world, picture quality is not an issue. Longevity and performance of the product are what offer the edge," he says. The emphasis, he says, is on taking immediate and corrective actions.