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Aftermarket Platform & Signifikant w/Karishma Rao

In this episode we will be talking with Karishma Rao from Signifikant about tapping into the value of aftermarket service. 

Karishma Rao is the Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Signifikant Svenska AB. Signifikant’s mission is to provide a complete solution, for the aftermarket, that serves as one of the levers of an organization’s digital transformation. With their flagship solution, the Signifikant information platform, they enable companies to improve their profitability by supporting their aftermarket digital commerce strategy. 

Karishma believes that companies need to get started on their digital journey and she thrives on helping companies find the right solution for their needs. At Signifikant, she wears multiple hats – marketer, business and partner developer, and works alongside passionate SLM technology enthusiasts.

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Highlights

  • Signifikant is a company for the aftermarket and by the aftermarket. They offer a software solution for the aftermarket wherein they gather all your aftermarket information, including BOMs, parts, etc., which then allows you to publish the data in an organized way into different publications channels, such as PDF catalog.
  • They work with any companies in the manufacturing industry, from medical devices to forestry machinery and so on.
  • Before entering the aftermarket, Karishma recommends to first analyze your technical architecture, find out what your requirements are, and then go to a recommendable IT partner.
  • Building an e-catalogue with the Signifikant platform is quite easy: simply identify the source of your data, and the data you want to import. The platform will pull all the data from different sources, such as PLM, ERP, CRM and more.
  • Signifikant’s platform is able to recognize 30+ languages and automatically tag the new language information with English.
  • The platform has API and integrators so that it can connect to all sorts of systems, e.g. ERP, PLM, etc.
  • Signifikant Svenska offers more than a platform, rather they are trusted consultants that help their clients navigate the digital transformation.

Transcript

Myriam

Welcome to the Share PLM podcast, the show that explores the vast universe of product lifecycle management. We started this podcast to share our knowledge and the knowledge of other experts in the PLM world. In each episode, you’ll hear fascinating interviews, actionable tips and strategies that will help you choose employment and boost your PLM strategy. Your host is Myriam Jenni, the senior PLM consultant here at SharePLM. Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the SharePLM Podcast.

So in this episode, we’re going to talk about a very important part of the lifecycle that is often a bit neglected or not valued enough, but yet really contains the key of many opportunities or if not looked after, it could be potentially a risk. And this part of the life cycle I’m talking about is the aftermarket and how can companies start capitalizing on the aftermarket and what are the risk of not doing so? And so to tell me more about the aftermarket, we have invited Karishma Rao, who works for the company Signifikant Svenska, which is a platform that Signifikant’s mission is to provide a complete solution for the aftermarket that serves as one of the lever of the organization’s digital transformation.

The flagship product is the Signifikant information platform, and it’s a platform that enables companies to improve their profitability by supporting the aftermarket digital commerce strategy. And so in this episode, Karishma is going to tell us a bit more about why she believes that companies need to get started on the digital journey and how she’s drive on helping companies find the right solution for their needs. At SignifiKant, she’s wears multiple hats from marketer to business and partner developer.

So I hope you enjoyed this episode and I will see you at the end.

Myriam

Hi, Karishma, and thank you very much for being here, for being in our Share PLM podcast where super thrilled to have you here. So, yeah. Welcome. Thank you.

Karishma

Myriam, thank you for having me here. And I’m really excited for this podcast and for the conversation that we’re going to have in the next few minutes. 

Myriam

Great! So before I start asking you questions, can you explain to us in your own words a little bit more about what is Signifikant and what it is exactly that you do?

Karishma

We are a company for the aftermarket and by the aftermarket. And by that I mean we are a software company that has software solutions for the aftermarket wherein we gather all your aftermarket information, which is your BOMs, complete parts, your different information that drives different document types, images, videos, everything that you need for a complete parts and service management. We pull this into the brain of our solution, which is the product information management, part of it, is how we enhance the data, and we align it so that we’re able to publish the right catalogs for the right customer or the right product.

And then you’re able to publish this along your different publication channel. So this could be a PDF catalog. This could be a catalog on the Web. This can be an e-commerce catalog wherein people are able to buy the product immediately or see the service. We are based out of Sweden with offices in India and we work with clients globally. We’ve been in the industry for about 17 years, since 2004 with experienced founders.

Myriam

And just a question, typically, do you work only in specific industries or what kind of industry do you do you work for?

Karishma

Right. So it’s a very broad spectrum. If you are a manufacturer and you manufacture a product that requires servicing, that requires some sort of repair we are in that industry. So, by that, I mean we’re and our customers are within heavy manufacturing machines. We love to explore medical devices, consumer goods, tooling, forestry machinery, agricultural machinery and even distributors of these manufacturers who are trying to sell and service these products. So, it’s a vast area within the manufacturing.

Myriam

Well, that’s great. So now I would like to to ask you a question that may also provide some value to our listeners that might be also at a stage in the company that such a platform to be interested. So I was wondering, what would you recommend to someone who is just starting with their service lifecycle value journey right now?

Karishma

Our recommendation usually is to look at the market, look at the commercial value in it for your organization. Yes, the aftermarket is a huge part of the revenue for companies. But what is the potential for your company and specifically what are your business cases once you identify that it’s important for an organization to put together your requirements. It sounds very basic, yes, everybody does requirement gathering, but, very few companies start with them. They actually say, «Oh, look at our competitor X, they have implemented this and they are doing better this year than last year. So maybe it’s a way for us to go forward. Let’s try that.»

But that’s the wrong approach. So what we recommend to everyone is to sit down, evaluate what your technical architecture or your landscape is like, assess your processes in place to notice any gaps, and then put down your entire requirements, have that in place, figure out what you’re trying to achieve, and then reach out to an IT partner. And make sure to go to a partner, somebody who can handle you through this journey from identifying the right process for your organization to implementing the correct aftermarket solution so that you get the full value from this sort of an implementation project.

Myriam

That’s good advice. And typically, what are some of the biggest challenges that someone or an enterprise can encounter when implementing an aftermarket platform? Would you say it is typically more technology or people or what is your experience with that technology and people?

Karishma

Yes, but also processes. So organizations, many organizations have a very conservative approach when it comes to the aftermarket. You still find many big manufacturers who still don’t have an online catalogue or ordering system where they prefer their customers going through a catalog, picking up the phone, calling the customer service, saying, I need product X, I need part X for my product. Then the customer service goes through the catalog, tries to identify if you have the right machine. And it’s a whole large process, but it’s something that works for them and they don’t want to change that.

So that’s a challenge. Another challenge is definitely people. People are the ones who set the strategy. They have different priorities because there are multiple organizations, multiple departments within an organization. So as an aftermarket manager, your goal is to sell more parts, to be able to sell your machines better. But somebody who is within the sales organization, they want to sell more parts. So for them a typical e-commerce solution is of more value than an aftermarket platform. So I think these two are one of the biggest challenges. And obviously technology companies need to have the access to the right data.

Do they have all this data to their own it? Do they have all of this data cleansed and in a format that’s ready to be consumed and also technological shift in terms of how their consumers are consuming this information? Do they still prefer getting a catalog in the post and then reading through this whole booklet? Or is it more of a millennial buyer who wants something on the net, on the go to be able to see videos available readily.

So, it’s a combination of these three: people process with the technology, which are the biggest challenges.

Myriam

Mhm.  Yeah, I can see, I can see that it’s typically always a combination of those three forces of people process and technology. 

Karishma

Exactly. And many points that intersect with each other. So you can actually say oh this is just a process issue, but it’s a combination of these three in most organizations.

Myriam

Yeah, totally. So, could you tell us a bit as well about what are the steps to build an electronic catalogue for product?

Karishma

Sure. So the first and most important step is to get a grip on your data. By this, I mean have a complete information model that is set with all the rules, identify the sources of your data, identify what data you want to include in this catalogue of yours, once you have this. In our platform, we have a simple import engine where we import all of your data from your different sources, your PLM, your DNM and your ERP, CRM, all sorts of backend sources. We pull it into the Signifikant manager. And here is where we help you build on your SBOM. For many manufacturers today, they have a very defined EBOM and an MBOM where they mention the product structures in detail. But the SBOM is lacking in many aspects that they do have the product part mentioned.

They have the assembly is mentioned, but they lack information on the kits required, on the tooling required, on maintenance protocols and documentation required for servicing, so they don’t have a complete defined structure for service. So what we do in the Signifikant engine is that we help you complete this. We tag the right documentation for the right part, the right tools required to fix the right part on to the right product. So all of this information is enhanced in the same part of our solution, which is the heart of the solution, and then we help you publish it. And this publication, like I mentioned before, is a PDF, something you can view on the web, depending on how you want your consumers or your customers to access it. Basically, the idea is to have a single source of data with all of this so that you’re able to publish the correct UP-TO-DATE information to your users.

Myriam

Of course. And do you work with templates of e-catalogs?

Karishma

Yes, we do. So most of our catalogs are based on templates. We have a very flexible portal and platform and the templates are multiple. So you can decide what kind of template you want to use, what kind of catalog you want to produce. Is it for customers or machine? Is it by serial number? So we have all of these that you can just pick and choose. And if it’s not that way, then we work with the organization to define it.

Myriam

And also, I was wondering, how do you handle all translations in electronic catalog? Because I can imagine that most of your customers, they have global operations. And of course, translation is always one of the trickiest parts of e- catalogs.

Karishma

So it’s perfect what you said, that our customers work in multiple geographical zones and they do need to showcase their data in multiple languages. So what we have is a text storage database that within we’re able to take in all the translated data that you have in your backend system, put it all together, create the catalogs and map whatever’s required in your primary language. And then we have about 30+ languages in our solution wherein it automatically tags the new language information with the English one and it’s automatically able to tag that. Unfortunately, we don’t do the translation on our system, but we do the matching and the validation so that the right information is published.

Myriam

Nice, I can imagine that that must be very helpful for some of your clients. And can you share a success story from one of your customers that has implemented one of your solutions?

So if you can tell us a bit, maybe you can take like a typical kind of customer. So, what kind of situation they were in and what were the typical maybe challenges and and how you helped them transform digitally.

Karishma

Sure. So let me take the example of one of our customers and also mentioned some other points around it. We work with Domestik, they’re a large producer of home appliances, but appliances that are used on mobile vehicles, mobile homes. So in a caravan, in a yard, sometimes in hotels as well. So they have mini fridges. And the stovetop that you use in these vehicles. They were actually a part of the global company Electrolux, and they broke off from Electrolux a few years ago and they reached out to us because they wanted to create their own web portal and their own platform for managing the aftermarket data and to plan to, to actually separate the data from Electrolux and have their own systems. So our goal was to create value and improve efficiency for them through the development of a new and flexible aftermarket ecommerce system that can handle their almost half a million items that are mentioned.

So the idea or the objectives for them was to simplify and integrate ordering system, publishing platforms, configuration of a strong backbone of the data system to make a single aftermarket source of information that is available both internally and externally. And obviously they wanted to break away from the historic parent ERP. So they wanted to increase the flexibility that they have in order to cross-sell and upscale within the aftermarket. So what we did at Signifikant is that we integrated multiple backend systems from the ERP, their existing PIM system.

So product information, legacy data, because companies have data of products that was sold 20 years ago, 30 years ago, and they’re in different formats across the globe. So we need to consolidate all of that from ERP systems. We’ve got information from xsl files that we use and different formats. And they also have to integrate information from multiple factories they have around the world. And each factory was working on a different platform, but many factories had a similar background, while the others were still on a PDF format.

So we needed to cleanse this information. And get this all together, to have that strong backend that they’re required and also work with their marketing and sales teams to get the right digital assets into the system as well, so that they could showcase everything to the end user. So we imported in the beginning 50 thousand plus products and today it’s almost half a million products. We created a lot of customizations for them in order to have all of this data published onto a very good e-commerce platform, which could be accessed by the dealers and resellers. 

We made a very enhanced search engine where they could search for their kits using the PNT number, not just the SKUs. And we extended it to service kit offerings as well. And in the end, today, they have a platform that’s available to all their distributors across the globe. It’s self-explanatory, very easy to use with a lot of tips and bulletins that come up with a lot of pricing information, depending on how you login or who you login as.

So in the end, we were able to accelerate that aftermarket sales process and support them in that helped them lower their stock levels across divisions and also manage the data and coordinate and streamlining of this process.

Myriam

Wow, that’s a very great start. And just I just want to come back to a little point you made just to make sure I understood clearly. So is your solution connected to their ERP tool? Is it connected?

Karishma

Yes. So we connect to all systems, ERP, PLM. We have APIs and integrators that are already connected, that are already available, that can pull in data and export data to all of these systems. And if it’s an ERP we have not heard of before, if it’s not the usual ones, we’re able to create the connector.

Myriam

That’s amazing. And as for your platform, to use it, from your clients’ point of view, does it provide some kind of training or is it, like is it quite easy to use? How does that work in terms of the implementation within the enterprise?

Karishma

Right. So in terms of training, we do provide training. It’s a very intuitive system. But however intuitive the system is, you do need some sort of training. So we have training and we have testing along with them so that they’re fully aware of how everything works. We train usually we train the super users and then they train their trainees.

 

Myriam

Oh, OK, great. Now I always ask about training because I think it’s such a key and important factor and that oftentimes is a part that we overlook and well…

Karishma

No yeah, training is important for us and we’re there for support as well. So anytime someone needs additional training, we’re available. Previously we used to do it on location, but thanks to 2020, it’s more and more remote and it’s working now

Myriam

obviously at SharePLM and we are quite passionate about training. So it’s always a topic we like to ask about.

Karishma

And just for us to understand how you do it and what  are your outside perspectives for us on this?

Myriam

That’s for sure. Be nice to have a talk about it. Karishma, is there any other thing you would like to add? Is there any any question that I didn’t ask that you wish I had asked you?

Karishma

Yes. I would love to talk about our role as a company in digital transformation with our partners

Myriam

Yeah! Very great question. So can you tell us more about that?

Karishma

So besides the tool, which is obviously a very important aspect, we like to believe that we could be trusted consultants or any organization that we work with, we work with them from the start. Where can we help them dig deeper in their processes, understand what their ideal landscape and software scenario is, and do an analysis analysis on that. And obviously after that, implement, train and support the organization which we do either directly or through partners. But one thing that we believe stands out for us is that we handhold the customer through all of this.

We never leave the customer saying, oh, we’ve done the implementation so we’re no longer involved, and we keep the connection going and try to understand from them if they face any new challenges or they would like to fix anything other. We’d like to incorporate that in our platform for them. So signifikant as a platform is a one solution meet for all, but not in the sense that you can plug and play in every organization. Every organization has different needs, different processes, and our platform is flexible enough to incorporate these tweaks and changes that are required so that it’s in the end a specific solution for you, even though it’s one size fits all.

We also have something called the Customer Advisory Board when we sit down every two years with some of our most trusted customers and we actually have a whole day of sessions with them and workshops where we try to understand what positives from the solution in the last few months has been. What do they see as gaps? We allow them to discuss it with each other and to learn from each other. And by the end of it, we believe that we’ve got much richer with needs from the aftermarket and we’re able to enhance our product.

For example, just to say that we started off just as a solution that was doing the BIM aspect for streamlining and collating this information, which was started off with our initial customers. And we then we learned that there is a need to publish this in various formats. And that’s how we started the offline publishing, the online publishing, just not just the PDF or print publishing. And since the early 2010s, 2011, 2012, 13, 14, there has been more of a need to have a web shop or a web presence.

Where they could just log in and look at a product, so we modified where we developed a product to include that aspect. And while working with our clients, we understood the the intricacies of the difficulties of e-commerce personalization. And with another customer of ours, we’re working on how zero number tracking can be incorporated into our system. We also work with the European Commission on certain projects and we’re working one with a consortium of software solution providers, a goods manufacturer and university partners to be able to create, let’service-based, a platform for service based business models, wherein we’re able to get information from Iot products and track access and the usage.

So we believe we’re constantly evolving. And this information that we get from each customer of ours is what we share with our new customers or our existing customers. So everybody’s learning from everybody. And this is I think at the beginning I mentioned that we are a company for the aftermarket by the aftermarket. And this is what I mean by this.

Myriam

That’s very impressive. Thank you so much, Karishma, for coming here and sharing all of this information with us. I’m sure it’s going to be very useful for our listener because, yeah, I think the aftermarket is is something that is starting to become more important that people are starting to see that they can capitalize on this value. And, yes, I think it’svery relevant nowadays more than ever. And and also, it’s not something we hear a lot about it.You know, it’s not all that known. And yet they can bring so many benefits

Karishma

For sure. And so just to add another point is I was having a discussion recently with someone and we were speaking about the year that was 2020 and COVID and how it’s changed everything. And this is where they had a very interesting insight saying people in the last 12 months have realized that it makes more sense to maintain and repair a machine than buy a new machine, cost wise and for the environment reasons. So I think it’s getting more and more important than organizations do need to evaluate whether they do something that they would like to invest in and start streamlining the process and integrate that, say, the SLM process into the organization.

Myriam

Yeah, totally.  And I mean, as you mentioned, I think that also the environmental factor is something that, you know, is becoming more and more important. And I totally agree that ultimately there are so many things that and we buy new, we can just fix them. And if we can make this process easier and that for, you know, like clients that they can easily order parts. Ultimately, sometimes people rather buy new just because it’s too complicated to find the parts or, you know, repair it.

And that’s that’s that’s a bit silly. You know, when you think that it can be still functioning for the next five years or so or more.

Karishma

Exactly. And then everybody has gotten so familiar with an Amazon or an online buying structure to this, and they expect that kind of a service even from the manufacturer, even if it’s a boring B2B transaction, they prefer to do it now in this moment

Myriam

And talking about Amazon, I kind of I’m not sure, I heard that they are going to do also a platform for spare parts. Is that correct? Or do you know about that?

Karishma

Yes, that is true. They are in the market now as a marketplace for spare parts, which is why we have many people trying to pull up their socks saying, OK, now we can’t let that come into our zone. We will lose the relationship that we have with our customer. So still, in case they’re going to go to an Amazon Alibaba to buy them.

Myriam

But I mean, it’s not the same like it’s not going to be specific to their needs, to their own e-catalog. You know, I don’t think it’s connected to the ERP whatsoever.

Karishma

It’s absolutely not. It’s not you and you and me can understand that. But I think if we were in a situation where my machine has broken down, I need to search for it. And I can only find the part easily on Amazon. I’m going to buy it. It’s going to be a problem for the manufacturer to check. They’d ask me maintain MBOM, which is very important. Small wake up call.

Myriam

And we can’t let Amazon take over everything. Anyway, Karisma again, thank you so much for coming here. It was really nice to have you and to talk more about the aftermarket. It’s very interesting and I learnt a lot today and I’m sure our listener will have learnt a lot as well. So, yeah. Thank you so much.

Karishma

Thank you so much and to SharePLM. And you are all doing a fantastic job and especially with the content that you’re putting out to educate readers. So it’s a great job.

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