The Uptime Blog
Tags: MRO, aviation, aircraft maintenance, Job Cards, parts logistics, Aircraft Maintenance Manuals (AMM), Korean Air, Oracle cMRO, ERP, Enigma, John Snow
An article by David Baum in Oracle’s PROFIT magazine says, “Korean Air’s new aircraft and engine maintenance system allows production personnel to instantly create engine maintenance plans against flight schedules and to analyze maintenance costs within three hours.” That’s an impressive statistic and Enigma is proud to have played a significant role, as a partner to Oracle, in helping KAL to achieve it.
KAL’s new maintenance system went live in 2011, as reported by Gartner, and is a combination of Oracle cMRO and Enigma InService® MRO. Prior to this, KAL realized that their legacy maintenance system could not keep up with the demand for faster service, more scheduling flexibility and increasingly complex troubleshooting and repair procedures. KAL described the role Enigma played in helping them optimize maintenance execution, at the Aircraft Commerce show in APAC last year. However, the inventory part of the KAL story has not yet been told.
According to the PROFIT article, every month KAL moves about 12,000 parts through inventory as part of their normal maintenance procedures. Unfortunately, “the legacy maintenance system did not provide detailed information about required materials at the time purchase requests were made. Lack of integration with the core ERP systems limited visibility and led to inaccurate purchase requests.” But solving this problem is more complicated than integrating to ERP. The real problem stems from the way in which new/revised part requirements are communicated to the airlines. Specific parts requirements are frequently buried within several different types of documentation, and part numbers are often tied to certain tail-numbers of aircraft (tail number effectivity). As a result, every ninety days when documents are revised there is a chance that the allowable parts for any given aircraft may also change.
The traditional way of updating the allowable parts list, kept in the ERP and inventory system, is to have someone review all the new documentation and manually make the changes. This is tedious work, and over time errors can creep into the ERP system. One of the advantages to using Enigma is that it quickly identifies all the changes in each revision of the documentation. Any changes to maintenance procedures can be flagged and used to automatically update maintenance job cards. Just as important, any changes to parts requirements can be flagged and used to automatically update the ERP and inventory system.
When a maintenance organization like KAL uses 12,000 parts a month, ensuring that procurement and logistics is ordering the right parts and positioning them in the right places is critical to success. The article quotes GyooYeon Cho, managing vice president of maintenance planning at Korean Air as saying, “Thanks to the increased accuracy of the maintenance planning operation, Korean Air has reduced its cost for materials and labor…We achieved significant improvements in preventive maintenance and can better plan the capacity of human resources and material resources in advance. We always have the proper inventory of parts, components, and materials on hand. This will reduce the cost of the maintenance operation.”
While Enigma isn’t specifically mentioned in the PROFIT article (it is an Oracle publication after all) our role is well-known by Oracle and KAL executives, and we are proud to have been a part of this impressive success at Korean Airlines.
At Field Service Medical 2012 in San Diego next week, Jonathan Yaron, Enigma’s CEO, will be participating in a panel called “Exploring Best Practices to Optimize Organizational Learning & Knowledge Management.” After talking to the panel moderator, it’s clear that the panel has a single goal: to discuss ways to improve field service speed and quality.
A number of questions have been planned to spur the conversation, but audience participation will be the key to the panel’s success. With that in mind, we’ll share just two of the panel questions along with Enigma’s initial responses, just to get your minds working.
1. What are the challenges that your field service organization is facing? The companies that approach Enigma are typically experiencing one (or more) of these field service problems:
- It takes too long for field service engineers (FSEs) to locate and download the right service information (especially diagnostics, service manuals/bulletins and parts catalogs).
- The technical content needed by FSEs (parts and procedures) is frequently out-of-date or inaccurate.
- It takes too long to respond to unplanned equipment downtime (emergency/break-fix).
- After FSEs service the equipment, documenting repairs and reporting maintenance notes is time consuming (and often “off-the-clock”).
- FSEs have little (or no) visibility into similar problems that have already been resolved by other engineers (i.e., emerging trends and best practices).
2. What is a best-practice for FSE organizations? Enigma’s customers (equipment OEMs, operators and service providers) typically try to achieve the following:
- Make FSEs more self-sufficient and effective (i.e., reduce customer support calls from field engineers).
- Make sure to deliver the right information into the hands of the FSE, wherever they are working, at the moment it’s needed.
- Make sure FSEs have a faster, more accurate response to unscheduled repairs (i.e., avoid FSEs calling into the hotline):
- Deploy a single online/offline/mobile application that delivers a complete technical library of product, parts and service information.
- Filter all technical information by equipment serial number (or product configuration) providing the most relevant parts, procedures and bulletins for the problem.
- Collaborate with other experts using that same technical library—ask questions, document errors, verify procedures and write maintenance notes and best practices.
- Integrate service and parts information with the back office—ERP, EAM, FSM, SPP (service scheduling, parts planning, inventory availability and alternates, ordering and logistics).
All of these topics, and more, will be addressed next week in San Diego. We hope to see you there; if you go, please attend the panel session and stop by the booth to get a live demo. Enigma’s panel session is scheduled for 3:25pm on the 24th, and we will be demonstrating our solutions in booth #2.
A recent blog post in Mass Transit magazine titled, “Hidden Cost Savings in Your Transit Operations,” discusses a common problem for transportation agencies: they have millions of dollars of unused inventory sitting in warehouses.
Service and spare parts inventory ranks among the largest assets on the corporate balance sheet. Our research indicates that eight of the largest transit systems in North America (ranked by ridership) have approximately $850 million in materials and supplies inventory, of which about $650 million is invested in service and spare parts sitting in their distribution centers, stocking locations, and repair facilities. While much of this parts inventory is essential, some parts are over-stocked, some are under-stocked, and others are simply obsolete.
The blog author is Charles Smart, the CEO of Smart Software, and his point is that inventory problems can be solved with better demand forecasting which, not coincidentally, is what Smart Software provides.
Enigma agrees that transit agencies have inventory problems, and it’s directly related to their inability to accurately predict which parts will be needed and when. Certainly demand forecasting software can help but let’s look at some other reasons why transit agencies suffer bloated, costly inventories.
- Outdated ERP content. Maintenance planners often complain that their ERP systems contain parts information that is out of date and inaccurate. In this situation, planners don’t know which parts to keep in inventory, which ones need to be added, and which can be safely re-sold or discarded.
- Mis-ordered parts. Misorders are typically the result of old parts catalogs and service manuals that are no longer accurate. In other cases, service bulletins may be missing or maintenance and parts information may not reflect the current equipment (configuration). Sometimes, mis-orders are the result of human error when manually submitting part numbers on order forms. What happens to mis-ordered parts? If they aren’t returned to the vendor, they get added to the existing inventory.
- Over-ordered parts. Maintenance technicians not only order the wrong parts, they also often order several similar parts, hoping that one of them will “do the trick,” with the rest either returned or added to inventory. (Again, this is the result of poor data for the ERP and equipment.)
In all three cases, the transit agency ends up spending more money than necessary buying and shipping incorrect parts and either 1) returning parts that aren’t used or 2) accumulating extra parts in inventory. Enigma InService EPC can improve the situation by ensuring parts and service information remains accurate. As new information is received from vendors (i.e., updated parts catalogs, maintenance manuals, service bulletins, etc.), Enigma automatically updates the information used by planners and mechanics so that the right parts are ordered and installed.
To reduce the number of mis-ordered and over-ordered parts, InService EPC can be integrated with the manufacturer’s ERP or e-commerce system. In this way, parts orders no longer have to be filled-out and submitted manually, rather parts are selected from within the service and parts catalog and automatically submitted for procurement. As a result, technicians spend less time—and make fewer mistakes—ordering parts.
Enigma can also help companies keep their ERP and EAM systems accurate and reliable. InService EPC can be further integrated with back-office systems, allowing any revisions to the parts data (from the OEM) to be compared with current databases so that inventory and parts requirements can be synchronized and updated.
Should mass transit agencies focus on monitoring and managing parts inventory and logistics, or should they ensure the quality of their parts catalogs and service information? The answer is, they should address both sides of the issue. That would be a truly “smart” parts and service strategy to reduce costs and improve inventories.
Airlines and MRO shops are increasing investments in IT solutions that integrate and improve three critical aspects of MRO operations: inventory planning, maintenance scheduling and maintenance execution. This blog post looks at the opportunity for leveraging technical content to optimize inventory and the challenge of integration.
Inventory is a major priority for airlines and MROs because the carrying costs are so high. It’s a no-brainer that carrying the right inventory, and having the right amount of inventory in the right places, can cut costs and improve aircraft availability.
To properly plan maintenance and inventory, airlines and MROs rely on the ERP system, expecting it to be up-to-date and accurate. The information in the ERP system comes from maintenance manuals and parts catalogs. With each revision of the technical documentation, someone needs to evaluate and approve any changes before adding them to the ERP. This is a time-consuming process that typically involves 1) side-by-side comparisons to understand what changed and 2) manual data entry into the ERP. The result of this process is that the ERP system is frequently out-of-date with regard to latest parts and service recommendations. At the 2010 Air Transport Association eBusiness Forum, GE admitted that it’s not uncommon for airlines to be two or three revision cycles behind the OEM updates. Why? The conventional process of reconciling and implementing OEM changes takes too long.
How does this affect inventory? Each updated illustrated parts catalog (IPC) can contain over 5,000 modified parts lists. That’s over 40% of a typical IPC! While some changes may be specific to certain operating conditions, like ETOPS, airlines must evaluate every change to understand the impact; and any approved changes must be updated in the ERP. Since the IPC defines the valid parts for each aircraft, if revisions are not processed quickly then the ERP documents that drive inventory decisions will not be accurate—Minimum Equipment List (MEL), Master Parts List (MPL) and Maintenance Planning Documents (MPD). In fact, if an airline gets two or three revisions behind on maintenance manuals and parts catalogs the inventory and ERP system will no longer reflect actual fleet requirements, and inventory will become bloated with “dead” parts.
The solution to this problem is Enigma InService Revision Manager, which simplifies the process of reviewing and integrating OEM updates. It turns a labor-intensive task measured in weeks or months into an automated procedure often completed in hours or days. Revision Manager compares new maintenance revisions to existing information—previous OEM data as well as the airline’s own best practices—and uses customizable logic to accelerate the reconciliation process.
After the content is reconciled, the next important step is to make sure changes flow seamlessly into the ERP system. Airlines and MRO shops have seen the need for ERP integration for years but until recently, the technical hurdles were too high. Now the technology exists to automate this process.
Accurate technical documentation is needed throughout the MRO lifecycle, and across maintenance planning, engineering, technical publications, and line and base maintenance departments. In particular, maintenance technicians and parts managers need relevant, updated IPC content to guide procurement decisions; without it, they risk using the wrong parts and carrying excess or obsolete inventory.
Stay tuned for more posts related to this topic; we’ll discuss how to synchronize various maintenance documents, including the IPC, the MPD and the aircraft maintenance manual (AMM), to drive productivity and lower costs. We’ll also explain how effectivity filtering helps to manage logistics by helping identify which parts go with each specific aircraft and fleet.
Organizations that maintain complex machinery try to keep accurate maintenance records because the assets are highly valuable and because there are often warranty implications and compliance regulations for such equipment (e.g. aviation and public transit). In addition, complex, machines typically have long life cycles, with numerous service checks and repairs over time. The ability to keep accurate maintenance records for corporate assets is critical to configuration management, service planning and inventory.
When an asset/vehicle is acquired, its initial service and parts data is entered into an EAM or ERP system of record. This can be a time-consuming process, as the critical components for each machine are loaded into the ERP system and the maintenance procedures and service schedules are converted into maintenance plans in the EAM system. Usually assets are represented as a unique configuration of parts (Bill of Materials, or BOM), but in the case of similar equipment the BOM for one asset may start-off looking the same as another. That however, changes over time.
One of the challenges of asset maintenance is that the BOM for each asset evolves; it doesn’t match the original factory-built BOM. As soon as equipment comes in for service, and parts are replaced, the asset no longer reflects the as-built configuration, and its BOM continues to change, as additional repairs and modifications are performed. The history of maintenance and parts for each asset is usually recorded in the EAM system, but not always to the level of detail necessary for compliance and warranty requirements.
In such cases, the equipment owner/operator must often be able to identify the specific method of repair and the specific parts that were removed/installed (sometimes down to the component serial number). This raises some critical questions; how does this detailed information get back into the EAM and ERP systems for configuration management? How is unscheduled (break-fix) maintenance identified and recorded in the systems of record? What happens when an OEM sends out new service bulletins, catalogs or manuals that call for different parts and procedures? How does revised information get updated into the EAM and ERP system so that inventory and maintenance planning/execution can be improved? Without a fast and easy way to address these questions, equipment owner/operators will always be at risk for compliance and warranty violations. Such violations cost companies millions of dollars per year, on top of the cost of manually loading and updating EAM and ERP systems and the cost of using incorrect parts and maintenance processes.
Enigma understands the challenges of using service and parts documentation for configuration management, service planning and inventory optimization, and currently supports various types of solutions across multiple industries. In future blog posts we will outline some of the ways our customers are reducing the costs and risks of warranty, compliance and aftermarket service and support.
For more information, download our white paper on Deriving Greater Value from Enterprise Asset Management Investments.
Accelerating mean-time-to-repair (MTTR) and turnaround-time (TAT) requires a new approach that hinges on activities at the beginning of a service visit. Much can be done to improve the inspection and analysis of equipment—trains, planes, automobiles, oil rigs, etc—which is when the scope of the job and the work plan is being established. This phase of the service visit will determine if the repair is fast or slow, and most maintenance solutions can't do a thing to improve it.
I bring this up for two reasons: 1) the inspection phase determines the work to be done and so plays a critical role in accelerating MTTR; 2) inspection consumes about 30% of total service time, which is a significant portion of TAT. (30% for inspection time has been reported by aircraft MROs and office equipment OEMs, so it seems like a reasonable value to use.) However, none of the EAM/MRO/ERP vendors offers a good solution for accelerating the inspection process. While optimizing maintenance schedules, work assignments and resource allocations is great functionality, it doesn't make equipment diagnosis any faster or more accurate. EAM/MRO/ERP software is based on a relational database that tracks discrete machines, tasks, people and parts, so while it's good for tracking progress and procuring resources, it doesn't help much for inspections. When a mechanic needs to verify a problem, they want service documents, not a database.
Once a problem has been confirmed, a maintenance plan must be established—typically consisting of one or more job cards (work cards). Most companies modify the OEM's job cards to suit their specific needs and manually load the tasks from each job card into the EAM/MRO/ERP database. (Loading this data brings more automation to the scheduling process.) While the lack of integration between OEM job cards and the maintenance database is bad, job card tasks are frequently superseded by service bulletins, engineering orders and regulatory requirements, which is worse. When that happens, the EAM/MRO/ERP database must be updated—a manual and time-consuming process. And the more equipment in the database, the more often updates are required. As a result, keeping the service database accurate becomes a full-time job—for a team of people.
For the foreseeable future, inspection will remain a manual process. Equipment with on-board diagnostics and remote monitoring will help, but it takes a long-time to develop, install and calibrate all the different electronic sensors that would be required to catch more than a fraction of the maintenance problems. To improve the situation, two things are needed: 1) interactive solutions based on service manuals that help mechanics interpret the condition of the equipment, compare it to the maintenance requirements, and feed that information into the database; 2) a way to compare updates (new revisions, SB, EO, TR, AD, MSDS, etc) to the current maintenance process and drive any approved changes into the EAM/MRO/ERP database. Companies need solutions that understand documents rather than databases, schematics not schedules.
Enigma provides this type of software. Enigma augments the EAM/MRO/ERP system by providing updated, integrated service and parts information, which accelerates the process of equipment inspection and delivers faster MTTR and TAT.
As more companies pursue lean and six-sigma for service, it's important to recognize that one of the largest bottlenecks to productivity sits at the very beginning of the maintenance process. Get the diagnosis right, ensure the job cards are accurate and then let the EAM/MRO/ERP software set the optimal schedule. That's how you improve uptime.
(Previous blog posts discussed lean/six-sigma in service and the "long-tail" of complex equipment maintenance for high-tech equipment and for aircraft.)
While this blog post does not include any direct quotes, the topic was inspired by an article in the October/November 2009 issue of Aircraft Commerce, "Improving the efficiency of hangar check planning & execution".
by Jonathan Yaron
In the manufacturing world, electronic parts catalogs (EPC) are a critical business system because they hold the key to aftermarket revenues and profits. The strategic function of an EPC is to manage the parts and service relationship between manufacturers (OEMs), dealers and customers. A modern EPC includes complete parts information (BOM), drawings, and different types of maintenance and troubleshooting manuals. The EPC also contains a pick list that will populate a shopping center/order management system. This means that the EPC essentially connects the point-of-service to the supply of spare parts, which are maintained by an ERP system like Oracle or SAP. (Spare parts can be either mechanical or software components.) This blog post is the first in a series that will discuss the pros and the cons of deploying your EPC using a SaaS (Software as a Service) model or as an in-house enterprise software application.
When you compare a SaaS EPC to an enterprise EPC, the major considerations are: cost, time-to-market, return-on-investment (ROI), integration to OEM systems (ERP), integration to dealer management systems, IT involvement and software customization, protecting intellectual property, initial data migration and ongoing revisions/updates, and ongoing customer support to the dealers. The final topic in the series will be my recommendations for deploying an EPC strategy.
Cost, time-to-market and ROI are directly tied to the OEM business model. As a result, this is the first topic to be discussed. SaaS and enterprise applications are at opposite ends of the implementation spectrum; one is an outsource model, the other keeps things in-house. For a division-level EPC, SaaS allows a very fast deployment (a few months) and a relatively small initial investment. On the other hand, an enterprise EPC will be a significant investment and will take a longer period of time (minimum of 12 months). SaaS costs can be covered by the operational budget while an enterprise approach typically requires a CAPEX investment (with a long and tedious budget process). Over time, SaaS will cost more (5-10 years horizon) however, even in the short term the enterprise approach can have a lower total-cost-of-ownership (TCO). (It is important to compare apples-to-apples with regard to EPC functionality, integration, and recurring data update and transaction costs.)
In most cases, a SaaS EPC will only need approval from the business manager, and will not require significant IT involvement. (However, it comes at the expense of back-office integration and automation.) The SaaS approach may not require an RFP or a bidding process and can be implemented as a pilot project that grows into a larger rollout. Because there is very little IT involvement, there is no internal budget of any significance. The only involvement of IT may be the initial data migration effort and help setting the upload of ongoing data updates. (In many cases this process is controlled by the business as well).
An enterprise EPC will typically require a RFP, or at least a bidding process, with a well-defined requirement document. The enterprise approach will require a complete budget process including external budget (for outside vendors) and internal budget for project management, IT integration and hosting (including hardware and software related to enterprise apps i.e. web servers, web services, database etc).
Both SaaS and enterprise EPCs have advantages and disadvantages. Beyond cost and time-to-market, a critical aspect of success is achieving business goals for ROI and TCO.
In my next blog, I will discuss integration of the EPC pick list to OEM back office systems (including single sign-on), integration to local dealer management systems, and IT involvement and software customization.
"Flying fortress" was the nickname of the Boeing B-17 WWII bomber, and indeed it was. It was a high flying, long range, durable, versatile, complex (and in many ways beautiful) piece of machinery.
Today's modern airplanes can be compared to a flying fortress, factory or retail store. They consist of multiple complex systems that must work seamlessly, and continuously, to produce value. Keeping airplanes flying is hard work. However, it's the word "flying" that makes airplane maintenance more complex than a factory or retail store.
Just like a large factory, airplanes need to be serviced and replenished so that they can keep generating revenue. For that, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems exist: managing inventory, resources, planning and scheduling. In simple words, the ERP determines "who does what, when, and where?" Unfortunately, the technical documentation provided by manufacturers, which describes "how" to fix the airplanes, is not built to support modern airlines and their ERP systems. Using the B-17 analogy, it seems that OEMs care less about the "flying" and more about the "fortress."
The OEM maintenance applications are built like a fortress, or a prison, designed to protect those critical user manuals. Boeing and Airbus assume that airline customers are willing to work inside their private little dungeons. In fact, even the very latest "tool box" by Boeing is a closed application that's difficult to break into, and even harder to break out of.
The problem is that most airlines have a diverse aircraft fleet including Airbus, Boeing and other brands. Airlines need a single maintenance system to manage them all, rather than a separate maintenance application for each fleet. Further complicating the situation, airlines use the OEM documentation as "reference only" with best practices constantly being written and implemented by the engineering department.
The reality is that each airline has different maintenance practices that reflect their own needs, and every airplane in their fleet is handled differently—different missions, different options, different repair history, different configuration. Airlines need to load the OEM information into their own ERP systems to manage inventory and maintenance processes across locations—including those provided by 3rd party MROs.
Outsiders may find it surprising to learn that airlines have better maintenance knowledge than the OEMs. Airline maintenance plans are based on the real-world experience of daily operations, as well as the heavy responsibility of ensuring passenger safety. Airlines need an easy way to connect or import OEM maintenance information to the ERP system so that they can quickly implement an "as maintained" view of maintenance requirements that augments the OEM data.
Unfortunately, the document fortresses built by Boeing and Airbus don't make this easy to do. Whether this stems from poor programming or is done as a way to force airlines to use OEM parts, the fact is that the data required for airlines' ERP systems is not readily available. As a result, it costs airlines a fortune (in money and time) to load maintenance data into their ERP systems, which creates a fragmented maintenance information system.
The ATA spec that governs the presentation of maintenance information covers most of the data needs for ERP integration. It's the ability to actually implement the OEM data according to these specs, and make it portable, that is the issue.
In future posts, I will discuss issues pertaining to ERP-based aircraft maintenance and how it is supported, or not, by the OEM documentation. We will cover maintenance requirements, maintenance tasks and equipment lists, forecasting and inventory management, as well as the lack of alternates (AIG) information, which is critical to the master parts list and drives every aspect of the ERP. Airlines need all of these processes to be based on "as maintained" practices, reliability, cost and distribution across multiple locations.
Maintaining a plane is a non-stop operation—around the clock and around the world. Unlike the B-17, the new "flying fortress" built by the OEMs is not a defender of liberty and freedom, it is a prison for maintenance information. In today's world, the complexity of airline operations cannot survive under such constraints.