The Uptime Blog
The Airline & Aerospace MRO & Operations IT Conference APAC, organized by Aircraft Commerce, took place in Bangkok, Thailand this week. If I’m not mistaken, this is the fifth time this conference has taken place in Asia. Aircraft Commerce holds similar conferences in the US and Europe every year.
In previous years, this conference attracted around 20 vendors and a good turnout of most of the airlines in the region (except for the Chinese, who never turn up). This year the number of vendors soared to over 30, while the number of airline delegates seems to have decreased, both in number and in seniority of participants. There were probably no more than 100 delegates, more than 50 of which were from two local airlines: Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways. This led to “thin traffic” throughout the two days of the show – fewer delegates spread over more booths.
The conference itself was very “hands on” in nature, with many of the sessions dealing with mobility. Apparently iPads are still deemed as “sexy” gadgets by many in this conservative and slow-moving industry, even if there isn’t much adoption of this new technology yet.
One interesting session dealt with “IT integration”, with panelists from Airbus, MRO system vendors and airline IT executives. It very quickly turned into an “OEM bashing” session, with the Airbus guy naturally taking the brunt of the bashing. The main complaint was that OEMs do not provide all the data the airlines need and charge too much for the little data they do provide. The cost is especially prohibitive for smaller airlines. Furthermore, the same OEM provides different formats on different, non-integrated, systems for different fleets. The Airbus answer for this was to recommend airlines pay separately to an integration company (not a surprising answer, given the recent Airbus-IBM partnership).
Oddly enough, the panelists concentrated on the symptom: not enough data and lack of integration. They did not speak about the root cause of the problem: the fact that OEMs have no interest and no incentive to give airlines too much control over the data.
Aircarft Commerce was successful in making this conference the main IT event of the industry, taking customers away from the Aviation Week conferences. But it seems that it is also becoming a victim of its own success. Many IT vendors have recognized the success and signed up to exhibit and sponsor, but Aircraft Commerce was not as successful in growing the number and quality of participants. Many airlines did not show up, or sent one junior delegate. To continue being successful, Aircraft Commerce must find a way to increase the ratio of delegates to exhibitors.
Still, the PTC/Enigma team was able to have some interesting discussions with delegates around InService MRO and the concept of PTC’s Service Lifecycle Management.
Enigma (now a part of PTC) is gearing up for the 2013 Airline & Aerospace MRO & Operations IT Conference - APAC. The conference is slated for October 16th and 17th and will be held at the Amari Watergate Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand. It’s the world's leading aviation IT conference/exhibition for MRO and Flight Operations software solutions and one that Enigma has attended for many years. It is hosted by Aviation Maintenance Magazine, touted as the most cost effective, independent, commercial aircraft research tool on the web today.
The two day event includes presentations, case studies and interactive workshops led by industry experts as well as airline and MRO IT users who contribute first-hand insight and expertise. It is the ideal place to learn about new topics and discover the latest trends in aviation and aerospace maintenance repair and overhaul.
Enigma/PTC staff will be on hand to share some exciting information. First is the announcement that Enigma has been acquired by PTC and what that means in terms of being able to provide a broader based MRO solution. With Enigma now an active part of the PTC Service Lifecycle Management group, we’re able to add agility in sensing and responding to service parts demand on a global scale. Tools like service resource forecasting, planning, sourcing, and provisioning truly complement Enigma’s existing InService MRO. That, combined with service network planning, and a global sense and respond capability make our robust system even more powerful.
We’ll also be there to share information about our InService MRO software, with our InService Job Card Generator and InService Revision Manager with airlines, aircraft operators and MRO providers. Find us at booth E36.
We have some exciting news to share. Enigma has made a strategic decision to join PTC (NASDAQ: PMTC) in order to provide our customers with a single source of service support. PTC is a leading provider of technology solutions that transforms how products are created and serviced.
For years Enigma has supported the service efforts of our maintenance and manufacturing customers with a best-in-class parts and service information delivery system. Our InService MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) software supports the maintenance, repair and overhaul of capital equipment such as aircraft, locomotives and other complex assets. Our InService EPC (electronic parts catalog) software is a superior web-native application that enables OEMs to easily publish and distribute accurate, updated parts and service information for their field service teams and dealer/distributor networks.
We’ve built quite an impressive list of national and international customers – Ford, FedEx, American Eagle (a network of American Airlines), Korean Air, Rolls-Royce Defence, Bobcat, DitchWitch, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), and the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy to name just a few. For all our customers, Enigma has become an integral component of their core service operations.
Our decision to join PTC was driven by a desire to provide our customers with a more complete system for managing their products and aftermarket service efforts from start to finish. Enigma will become a vital part of PTC’s existing service lifecycle management (SLM) solution to thoroughly address the organizational, operational, and technological change which companies must tackle to emerge as competitive service-driven enterprises in the global marketplace.
Existing Enigma customers will benefit from the combined resources of Enigma and PTC – two global organizations with the common goal of delivering more value across the full service lifecycle of complex equipment. New customers will get a more complete solution to their product and service lifecycle by combining InService MRO and InService EPC with existing PTC SLM offerings. Distributed manufacturing industries worldwide gain a striking competitive advantage to keep them ahead of competitors with technologies that span the planning, delivery and analysis of service operations.
As we integrate into the PTC business structure and blend our parts and service software solutions into the more comprehensive offerings of PTC, we’ll continue to communicate with customers and partners. Customers can still contact technical support through the Enigma Support Portal, where you’ll reach the same trusted technical team that you already know, have built a rapport with, and have come to rely on. And of course, you can contact your Enigma representative, who is available to answer any questions you may have.
We’re excited to be joining PTC and hope you share in our enthusiasm. We’re looking forward to being part of a larger team of global leaders in the service lifecycle management space in which parts, service and aftermarket support of complex equipment thrives.
That’s the suggestion of Bob Williamson, contributing editor for Maintenance Technology, who published an interesting article titled “How to Improve Maintenance.” In it, he suggests that “implementing maintenance activities in the hopes of improving performance often misses the mark.” Simply implementing a new maintenance procedure or program alone does not guarantee results. Changes in maintenance have to be observable and measurable. Without a means of measurement, it’s difficult to determine if the activity resulted in an improvement and is worth continuing.
Bob looked at a number of maintenance activities – some that resulted in benefits and others that resulted in failures. He concluded that effort should be first spent in those areas that result in solid measurable results.
The article made for interesting reading as it reinforced what Enigma has experienced in the maintenance marketplace over the years. Companies absolutely know that maintenance is an area where improvements can (and need to) be made. This is especially true given the current economic climate where cost-cutting and profits are at the top of everyone’s agendas. The challenge though comes with implementation – not all companies know how achieve solid measurable results.
So how can companies achieve efficiencies and improvements in maintenance?
For many, streamlining maintenance processes seem like an intuitive place to start. But that alone may not be enough to produce measurable results, especially if companies have lots of disparate systems that don’t support the new streamlined processes. On the other hand, introducing new systems without looking at the processes themselves is equally as ineffective. Enigma has found that the most productive path to maintenance improvement success is through the combination of process evaluation along with the adoption of the appropriate maintenance technology.
We reviewed the list of Bob Williamsons planned maintenance activities to see how well Enigma’s software offerings address systematic maintenance inefficiencies. We compared results from using InService MRO while considering “failure modes” commonly associated with maintenance improvement:
- Failure modes: Inaccurate, incomplete, or vague work instructions; lack of training and/or accountability to follow instructions; sub-standard replacement parts…
- Our solution: Ready-availability of up-to-date, detailed OEM or Operator work instructions that support the maintenance tasks; option to include training materials alongside the maintenance instructions or parts information so that mechanics have all relevant information at hand – whether working at a base or remotely.
Predictive or Condition-based Maintenance
- Failure modes: Improper data collection; insufficient analysis, reporting and trending; lack of timely corrective action; deferring recommended maintenance interventions.
- Our solultion: Option to integrate with equipment diagnostics systems to help drive condition-based fault tracing, leading to rapid corrective action; ability to gather mechanics or field service inputs to feed back to the primary system of record and assist in building up a true knowledgebase of cause/action analysis.
- Failure modes: Lack of defined and integrated maintenance work processes; software & system functionality a priority versus desired maintenance work processes; limited end-user input.
- Our solution: Have the “know-how” of maintenance tasks linked to the planned maintenance tasks so that users have access to both the planned maintenance information (hours, skills etc.) and the technical details on how to perform each work process; ability to capture end-user inputs ready for sending to the Maintenance System, thereby ensuring that a knowledge-base of expertise is being built up within the organisation.
Total Productive Maintenance
- Failure modes: Lack of focus on eliminating major equipment-related losses; overemphasis on operator-performed maintenance; limited interdependent application of five basic TPM “pillars.
- Our solution: Integration with other interdependent applications and incorporation of operator-specific processes and procedures in a way that support the operator’s way of working and lead to improved equipment effectiveness.
- Failure modes: Generic craft skills/knowledge training; little or no equipment and task-specific training; informal or unstructured OJT; seniority versus job-performance requirement based; not provided to operators; no performance demonstration or qualification.
- Our solution: Incorporation of training materials, ensuring that both online and offline mechanics have the support required to perform required maintenance in situ.
Based on our customer’s experiences, it is clear that InService MRO improves the maintenance process and provides real measurable results – so managers can focus on areas that are most effective – and mitigates failure modes for more sustainable gains. It provides critical process expertise and automation experience to improve preventive maintenance, predictive or condition-based maintenance, maintenance management, total productive maintenance and maintenance training.
IETMs – Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals – have been around for a few decades now. The road for widespread use of electronic manuals in the military was paved by a set of standards issued in the United States in 1992: MIL-M-87268, defining the content and style of the manuals; MIL-D-87269, defining the database requirements; and MIL-Q-87270, defining quality assurance procedures.
Traditionally, IETMs have been categorized into five classes based on the level of functionality they provide to the end user. Class 1 IETMs are simple “page turner” applications that provide basic navigation and search capabilities. On the other end of the spectrum are Class 5 IETMs, offering fully integrated and dynamic database functionality. In practice, for many years most IETMs in the market were in the lower classes, as the efforts required to develop Class 4/5 IETMs required heavy customization. In recent years, IETMs have been defined using a functionality matrix rather than a 5-category classification, allowing clearer definitions of the functionality needed by the end user (and blurring the boundaries between the Classes in the process). The relatively new S1000D standard has further enhanced the reusability of data used within IETMs.
Enigma has been supplying defense customers with IETMs for more than twenty years. As with all our solutions, these IETMs have been developed with the end user in mind. That is, what does the user in the field – the soldier, the sailor, the airman, the marine – need in order to perform necessary maintenance in the most efficient manner? As such, our IETMs have been designed to offer an easy and intuitive user interface, the ability to find and order parts quickly and the integration to other systems to ensure a smooth and complete workflow. This functionality was not developed specifically for the defense industry. Our military IETMs are based on the Enigma 3C platform, which offers the necessary open and scalable architecture to produce these IETMs almost “out of the box.”
Most recently, Enigma’s IETM technology has been selected by the Norwegian Defence forces in their SAP Logistics project. Norwegian Defence is able to deliver fully-functional IETMs to the field based on a myriad of formats, from simple PDFs all the way to structured S1000D content. Other Enigma IETMs have been implemented by US and European defense customers.
For a deeper look into the Enigma IETMs for the military, we invite you to download our updated white paper: The Advantages of Integrated Military IETMs or IETPs in the Field.
For software vendors like Enigma, doing business in the aviation industry – with OEMs, airlines and MROs – almost always means answering RFPs (Requests for Proposal).
The scenario is a familiar one. Business and IT managers decide it is time to check what is the “latest and greatest” out there. They sit down (or pay a consultant to sit down for them) and fill out dozens of Word pages and Excel spreadsheets specifying all the requirements and features they would like – real and imagined. They send the RFP to several companies, usually a mix of loosely connected software vendors and systems integrators. Even though the process of writing the RFP will take them months to complete, they will invariably ask the RFP recipients to submit their responses within a ridiculously short time frame, say two weeks. The process then typically entails on-site workshops with shortlisted vendors, followed by several months of back-and-forth discussions about requirements, scope, commercials, terms and conditions, etc. A year or so down the road, assuming internal budgets are approved the two exhausted parties – customer and vendor – finally sign a contract and kick off the project. By this time, strong imaginative acumen is necessary if one is to find strong resemblances between the original RFP requirements and the project SOW (Scope of Work) document.
Can things be done differently? This article, recently published in Inc. Magazine, suggests a radical approach for vendors who receive an RFP: just say no. The article lists seven reasons why companies should walk away from RFPs, the more salient ones being:
- Diluted differentiation. Because the RFP goes out to vendors whose solutions and value-adds differ widely from each other, the result is an “apples vs. oranges” comparison that is doomed to fail. By responding to the RFP, vendors are thus agreeing to be judged almost exclusively on price.
- Playing by the customer rules. Yes, the customer is king. But does the king always know best? Most of the requirements and features are, at best, “nice to have” and in many cases totally unnecessary. To get to the short list, vendors answer “yes” to essentially all of the requirements, knowing they will find a way down the road to eliminate or modify them.
- Most RFPs are rigged. This might sound a little harsh, but even if they are not rigged, in many cases a vendor close to the customer lent a “helping hand” in shaping the RFP requirements and conditions to favor its own solution. This requires the other “competitors” to jump through hoops just to qualify through to the next stage.
So what is the alternative to answering the RFP? The article suggests sending a short, polite letter to the customer extolling your solution’s value and proposing a direct discussion. Chances are, concludes the article customers will circle back to you after failing to implement the cheap solution they selected in the RFP process.
Can this approach work in the aviation industry? Can software vendors ignore RFPs from OEMs and airlines, placing their faith solely in the merits of their solutions? A colleague of mine pointed out that this approach is wishful thinking when it comes to the conservative aviation industry. Innovation is slow, regulation is binding and procurement rules mandate the issuance of an RFP. For a vendor to win business in this industry, RFPs are the only way in.
I agree. It is indeed almost impossible to do business in the aviation industry without answering RFPs. But after many years of selling into the aviation industry (and countless hours working on RFP answers), I believe vendors should adopt a more sober approach to RFPs. Gone are the days when customers would issue an RFP for an IT system and expect software vendors to jump to attention and do their bidding, costs be damned. In these harsh economic times, when customers expect heavy discounts and concessions from vendors, the “my way or the highway” approach no longer works. Vendors simply cannot afford it. Too many vendors have been driven out of business because they had no choice but to play by the rules dictated by the RFP processes. No more.
A sober approach to answering RFPs means qualifying directly with the relevant stakeholders if this is a real opportunity or just an exercise in knowledge gathering or idea fishing. It means stating clearly in the RFP answer which requirements are nothing but fantasies that will cost a lot to implement but will deliver precious little benefit. It means scheduling more online demos and conference calls and fewer on-site visits. It means not caving in to terms and conditions that guarantee financial loss in project implementation. And, most importantly, it means knowing when to walk away from an RFP and nurture direct relationships instead, thus foregoing the immediate (and probably imaginary) opportunity for a future (and more real) opportunity.
I know; easier said than done. As writing and receiving RFPs remain an inevitable part of aviation maintenance business, I urge you to download our free RFP sample, here: MRO: Requirements for Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul, to make the task less formidable.
Norwegian Defence, the Nordic country’s armed forces has embarked on an ambitious, all-encompassing installation of an SAP-based logistics management system. The project spans various facets of the air, land and sea operations, from the acquisition of equipment to its deployment, operation and maintenance and finally its sale/retirement. While the focus is on core functional areas, such as finance or maintenance, the documentation related to all Norwegian Defence equipment is a critical piece of the puzzle, as it is needed at all stages of the equipment lifecycle.
Sap and Enigma have been chosen to collaborate on the integration of our InService MRO with SAP software to ensure the logistics readiness for the Norwegian Armed Forces.
Enigma has had many successful InService MRO implementations in the defense sector including U.S. Department of Defense with the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy. In the commercial aviation industry we've worked with top airlines such as Korean Air Lines, Air France Industries KLM Engineering and Maintenance, and AtiTech to name a few. But our involvement with the Norwegian Defence project poses some new and interesting angles. The technical documentation issues may be familiar, but the mission critical nature of the documents and the various user groups in the organization add a complexity layer not present in commercial airlines.
All organizations rely on equipment uptime and availability of accurate information, all the more so when that equipment is mission critical. There are several core challenges that Norwegian Defence must tackle on the road to equipment uptime. Many of these challenges are related to documentation:
- Different processes and governing body regulations exist within the various groups, so achieving a “one-size-fits-all” solution is not easy
- Different types of technical documentation formats exist within the armed forces, ranging in structure from PDFs to the latest S1000D XML standard, as well as various MIL-SPEC SGML/XML standards; interestingly, unstructured PDFs constitute a vast majority of the data
- While some groups really care about official S1000D documentation, others have absolutely no concern for it and would prefer to be working with PDFs that give access to the information they need in the simplest way; therefore, intelligently handling PDF content and overcoming PDF limitations has become a crucial success factor
- The management and delivery of technical documentation are sometimes perceived as one and the same thing; in fact, delivery relies on easy access to information needed to perform operational or maintenance tasks in an optimised manner, while management relies on maintaining and retrieving previous versions of the documentation. Just having access to the managed information is not enough, particularly for the maintenance community
- Almost every process in maintenance is related to a technical document: maintenance manuals, parts catalogs, job cards, engineering orders, to name but a few. While important job information (such as when the job will be done, where it will be done, what skill is required for it etc.) can come from the SAP MRO System, one cannot perform maintenance without good and ready access to the documentation
Aside to these challenges relating to documentation, there are “generic” challenges that come with a project as complex as this. The sheer scale of the project has mandated continuous changes to scope as well as the timeline. SAP project methodology is being deployed across all solution providers, even if SAP is not the underlying architecture or methodology for that provider. This makes for continuous (and sometimes arduous) adaptations to well established processes.
Perhaps most importantly, communication is key in such a project. The nature of the business is that not all team members are available all of the time, and some are assigned to other projects. Continuity in design processes and customer requirements becomes difficult, so establishing clear and open lines of communication and periodical reviews is crucial in ensuring everyone is on the same page. Having previously worked with defense organizations, and our experience and long-standing partnership with SAP uniquely positions Enigma as the ideal provider for this complex logistics challenge.
When it really gets going, I believe this project is going to be one of our most interesting and challenging ones to date. Bring it on!
Involuntary servitude is a thing of the past, right? Think again.
Airlines operate some of the most sophisticated and advanced pieces of equipment invented by mankind. They pay up to a quarter of a billion dollars for a new aircraft, and then spend many millions of dollars every year to maintain it. They must follow strict regulatory procedures just to stay in business. They operate in an industry that is facing huge challenges to achieving sustainable profitability: volatile oil prices, depressed world economy, entrenched unionized workforce, etc. You would think that in such an environment airlines would do anything to become more efficient, liberating themselves from unnecessary yokes and burdens that weigh them down.
Yet when it comes to decreasing costs in maintenance operations through the use of advanced IT systems, many airlines seem to be happy in continuing to fetter themselves to inefficient systems forced upon them by the aircraft and engine OEMs. This is especially true when it comes to the utilization of technical content in MRO operations. Most airlines still use outdated, underperforming software to handle technical content only because the software comes bundled with the equipment they buy from the OEMs, or because they are too time-pressed to properly evaluate superior offerings from specialized software vendors.
Almost every step in maintenance operations has a connection to a technical document. In most cases the connection is direct: the use of a procedure from the Aircraft Maintenance Manual, the list of parts pulled from the Illustrated Parts Catalog or the need to follow instructions contained in a Job Card or an Engineering Order. In other cases the connection is indirect, necessitating a reference to some document in order to complete a certain maintenance task. Technical content is not just boxes of paper stored in the Technical Publications library. It is the grease that oils maintenance operations and makes sure these run smoothly. When the IT systems handling technical content do not provide up-to-date information, or when they are not properly integrated with the MRO IT systems running the business, inefficiencies and higher costs of operations are guaranteed.
Most of the OEMs know that what they do best is manufacture airplanes or engines, not write software code. But they also understand that to hold sway over their customers after the initial sale of the equipment, they must take the airlines hostage for the long term. One of the best ways to keep this dominant subservient relationship is by making sure the airlines use their IT systems for technical content. By offering these systems at a low price (or for free), the OEMs ensure that the airlines do not become independently efficient in their maintenance activities and remain tied to what the OEM feeds them. This strategy is perfectly understandable from the OEM’s point of view. It is much less understandable why the airline MRO’s would continue to accept this predicament, when the obvious alternative, breaking free, produces clear and immediate benefits.
One can only conclude that the airlines are suffering from a hostage mentality, exhibiting symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome. They have been under the gun for so long that they are simply unable to conceive what it means to be free, believing their captor knows what’s best for them. Waking up one morning and deciding to break with known routines is not something that comes easily to anyone, let alone big organizations. The few airlines that managed to overcome this hostage mentality and break free cannot fathom going back to being in the power of the OEMs. If only there was an easy way for other airlines to see the light.
Tags: MRO, aviation, aerospace, ATA, S1000D, PDF, Tablet, John Snow, aviation maintenance, InService MRO, iSpec2200
The 2012 ATA E-Business Forum was held in Phoenix this week and drew in almost 300 attendees consisting of airlines, OEMs/vendors, and technology providers. Phoenix was a great location with perfect weather and the topics being discussed—tablets, specs, 3D and RFID—were for the most part well-presented. The two most popular topics seemed to be: tablet opportunities in aviation maintenance; and the continuing conflict between S1000D and every other data spec.
Consistent with every aviation event this year there was a lot of talk about tablets. To listen to the technology providers, tablets represent a tidal wave of opportunity and airlines need to either buy their products to catch the ride of a lifetime or be lost under the crushing power of ridicule by being labeled old-fashioned.
Needless to say, talking to the airline attendees about the opportunity for tablets yielded a different story. Once you dig into the details you realize that each airline faces multiple potential issues/concerns including:
• IT support of multiple tablet brands (especially for BYOD)
• Security of airline and personal data that resides on the tablet
• Data synchronization and update schedules (revisions vary by content type)
• Digital signatures (most airlines aren’t yet authorized)
• Suspicion from maintenance unions (is this a ploy for more work with less pay/fewer mechanics)
According to the airline executives I spoke to, there’s a lot of interest in tablets but how soon they’ll be willing to implement is an open question.
Enigma delivered a presentation called “Tablets on the Tarmac – More Than Mobility” that introduced a benefit that’s been largely overlooked and offers significant ROI for maintenance executives.
The other hot topic was the slow-motion collision that’s unfolding between the S1000D standard and every other data standard used for aviation maintenance and operations. Most presentations were promoting S1000D and vendors were promising to convert an airline’s legacy SGML data into the latest version with low-cost and high accuracy. (Notably lacking was any discussion about converting PDF into usable XML.) In fact, one vendor tried to explain that they were “transforming” old data into new formats vs. “converting” old data into new formats. Despite this vendor’s best efforts, most in the audience were left asking, “You’re changing the data, which causes concerns about speed, quality and consistency, so who cares what you call it?”
Enigma also delivered a presentation called “When Standards Collide – A Unified MRO Process Across S1000D, iSpec2200 and PDF” that described challenges and offered solutions for working with multiple standards within a single MRO technical library. Many attendees claimed this presentation helped them understand why OEMs refuse to comply with standards and what airlines should do about it – STOP complaining about the lack of compliance and START owning the solution.
Based on attendee participation and detailed subject matter this was one of the better ATA E-Business Forums of the past several years. However, the ratio of airlines to vendors/suppliers is still somewhat disappointing. It may indicate that many airlines still don’t understand that controlling their data is critical to controlling their future. Since technical content is part of every MRO decision, and MRO is the second largest cost center in an airline, it’s time for airlines to get serious about managing the MRO technical library without relying on the OEMs.
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