The Uptime Blog
I just returned from SUGAIR 58 in Palo Alto, CA. The SAP Users Group for Airlines (SUGAIR) is a bi-annual conference for experts, executives and managers of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operations in the aviation, aerospace and defense industries. Enigma was invited to provide a status update on the integration between Enigma, SAP MRO and HCL AXON’s iMRO. It was also an opportunity to share the joint strategy with some of the members who had not travelled to Kuala Lumpur in December. SUGAIR 58 was well-attended by an impressive list of airlines and defense organizations and the feedback on our strategy was very positive.
There were many meaningful presentations focusing on mobility (online/offline data access), product roadmaps/rollout plans, spare parts planning and supply chains, performance based logistics, flight ops support, and new analytics tools. All of these presentations were well received, but clearly the tablet demos received the highest “wow” factor. Enigma was pleased to be included in the tablet demo by HCL AXON. (It’s especially cool when people find Enigma’s software so easy to use that they can demo it without our involvement.)
During one of the evening events, a topic from the last SUGAIR meeting was once again raised—namely, the strategy of Boeing and Airbus to limit service and parts information as a way to lock-in spare parts sales and control who can provide maintenance and repair services. It seems the OEMs may have backed off on some of their demands as, according to some airlines, they’ve started to discover how complex the MRO IT environment really is. Perhaps Boeing and Airbus have figured out that the airlines really do know what they’re doing and that the work of 30-40 years can’t be easily replaced? That remains unclear but certainly the panel at MRO Americas in Miami hadn’t yet heard about this change in OEM strategy/behavior. (They were still pretty ticked off.)
SUGAIR members wanted to discuss Enigma’s ability to extract information from the IPC, AMM and maintenance planning documents (MPD) and to update the master parts list (MPL), maintenance requirements (MR) and job cards (task cards) in SAP. Furthermore, the ability to then quickly identify inventory problems like “dead” parts was a source of many animated discussions. Attendees recognized the huge opportunity this represents for cost reductions in inventory and procurement.
For Enigma, SUGAIR 58 was a great opportunity to participate in solving today’s (and tomorrow’s) MRO challenges. From the feedback we received, the aviation, aerospace and defense organizations that attended gained valuable insight for how to leverage SAP and partner technology to maximize their business success.
Tags: Air Transport World, Revision Management, Customer Originated Changes, aircraft maintenance, Job Cards, technical documentation, SAP, Illustrated Parts Catalogs (IPC), Master Parts Lists (MPL), Configuration, British Airways
A few days ago we had the pleasure of co-sponsoring a webinar with SAP and Air Transport World, with featured guest speakers Alun Pryer, the Design Authority Head of Engineering at British Airways, and Phil Te Hau, SAP’s Director of Solution Management for Airlines. Together, we discussed “The Challenges of Aircraft Provisioning, Configuration and Maintenance Execution,” a topic that has been of great interest lately to airlines and MRO shops.
Pryer described how British Airways is working to increase efficiency within maintenance and engineering. One challenge, according to Pryer, is that traditional IT systems require too much manual intervention for processing technical documentation and revisions. While BA’s current approach provides acceptable quality, it is very labor intensive with aspects of the process being monitored and managed using spreadsheets. There are no automated checks and balances to validate and approve data changes, which creates delays and increases costs. As Pryer stated during the webinar, “The system works well, and we produce quality, so the case for [process] change is not around quality. Rather, it’s driven by new documentation formats, and the need to modernize, reduce costs, increase efficiency and conserve resources.”
Technical documentation goes through frequent, sometimes complex revisions. Yet it’s critical to keep that content updated and synchronized with other IT systems, because technical documentation is the key to communicating important changes throughout an MRO ecosystem, and is the foundation for compliance. Outdated tech pubs information creates a ripple effect that impacts inventory, maintenance and compliance decisions. For airlines and MROs looking to make meaningful business improvements it’s essential to automate tech pubs processes. (Enigma offers solutions such as Enigma InService MRO, InService Revision Manager and InService Job Card Generator.)
But automating tech pubs is only one part of the solution. Integrating tech pubs with the master parts list (MPL), inventory and “as-maintained” configuration for each aircraft is the other key to improve efficiencies throughout the MRO environment. That’s why Te Hau from SAP stressed the importance of integration and configuration control to “increase efficiencies in the supply chain, improve compliance and reporting, and to manage down maintenance costs and inventory to best match fleet requirements.” To minimize delays and costs, it’s important to keep inventory synchronized with the airline’s fleet (provisioning). This requires configuration management to know the parts that are already on an aircraft and the parts that are allowed, which in turn affects maintenance planning, execution and compliance.
The problem for many MRO organizations today is that traditional configuration management and inventory systems don’t integrate technical documentation, and so it is difficult to compare the as-allowed part numbers (from the IPC), the as-planned parts (from the MPD/MPL), and the as-maintained structure of the aircraft (from the MRO/ERP). An integrated MRO IT system brings together technical documentation, the MPL, the maintenance planning documents (MPD) and the as-maintained structure, to provide one consistent view of configuration control, inventory and maintenance requirements.
“We want everything centered around a single, central content repository, with automated revisions, reduced paper format, and a standardized, streamlined approach,” said Pryer. “That is our vision. We are aiming to achieve an integrated workflow, automated tracking and revisions, and application directly to the source documentation.” Pryer also noted that British Airways needs a scalable solution to accommodate their growing third party MRO business, and the need to be “ready for future technologies, especially mobile.”
To view the entire webinar presentation, we encourage you to playback the recording.
Tags: MRO, Customer Originated Changes, aircraft maintenance, Job Cards, technical documentation, OEM content, SAP, AMM, Aircraft Maintenance Manuals (AMM), Illustrated Parts Catalogs (IPC), Maintenance Planning Documents (MPD), Master Parts Lists (MPL), SAP/HCL-Axon
I just returned from the 2nd Annual SAP Airline Solution Summit in Dallas, which brought together professionals from around the world from airlines, OEMs, MRO shops, software vendors, IT consultants and even rail professionals. It was an impressive group with a lot of give-and-take between the presenters, the exhibitors and the audience.
During the afternoon breakout sessions, Enigma presented on the topic “Maintenance Scheduling and Integration to Technical Information.” It was a topic that drew a large audience, since we described the impact of OEM revisions on airlines, specifically on the efficiency, consistency and cost of MRO operations. Within this context, Enigma introduced a strategy for improving revision management and adoption through better technology and integration with ERP, tech pubs and maintenance planning systems.
The fact is, how OEM revisions and engineering orders/modifications are managed and integrated into scheduled and unscheduled maintenance activities affects the speed and compliance of aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO). Since we are talking about revenue-generating assets, MRO efficiency and quality affects the very core of business operations. As a result, for many airlines keeping tech pubs and ERP/MRO systems up-to-date and synchronized has become a full-time job. (This is not unique to airlines but affects every transportation company and transit authority.)
Of particular interest to this audience was that Enigma automatically extracts information from the OEM’s illustrated parts catalogs (IPC), maintenance planning documents (MPD) and maintenance manuals (AMM/EM) and then updates the master parts list (MPL), maintenance requirements (MR) and job cards (task cards) in SAP. This ensures that service and parts data is always in-sync across the airline, whether it is used in a hangar/depot or in the field/flight-line. Since OEMs revise and update their technical documents frequently, airlines consider data accuracy and synchronization to be a huge benefit in terms of maintenance productivity, quality and compliance.
Another consideration is that because technical content directly impacts an airline’s second largest workforce (mechanics and engineers), the quality of that content, more than almost any other factor, determines if an MRO/ERP system succeeds or fails. When Enigma shared some industry metrics regarding the number of OEM changes, and the impact on maintenance operations, it proved the point and highlighted the need for an integrated solution of SAP, HCL-Axon and Enigma to improve aircraft MRO.
The audience in Dallas was very receptive to the insights Enigma was able to provide. Following our presentation, we had a number of conversations regarding the application of this solution beyond airlines including: rail, maritime and freight. We appreciate SAP inviting Enigma to participate in this annual event and hope to have similar opportunities in the future.
According to a Fact Sheet on Airworthiness Directive Compliance, “The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is strengthening the procedures used by air carriers, manufacturers, and the FAA to ensure that air carriers comply with Airworthiness Directives (ADs).” If the FAA is worried about airlines’ compliance with ADs, perhaps you should be too. Whether you’re an OEM, airline or passenger, this issue has an impact on you. The FAA issues ADs to ensure aircraft remain flight worthy. (That’s a fancy way to say that the government insists any airplane that takes-off must be safe to do so.) With so many different makes and models of airplanes, different airlines, routes and airports, and so many mechanics, that’s a tall order. Nevertheless, the safety of the public (both in the air and on the ground) requires it. (Thanks to Lee Ann Tegtmeier of Aviation Week for highlighting this in her MRO blog.)
ADs come in a variety of flavors. Some address potential problems that must be inspected/resolved during the next scheduled maintenance, while others address urgent issues that must be inspected/resolved before the next flight. Regardless of the circumstances, the FAA wants to make sure that ADs are implemented efficiently, consistently and, in certain cases, very, very quickly.
The problem is that aircraft are complex machines and each airline configures and operates each airplane just a little bit differently. As a result, each aircraft is unique, and ADs can be issued that apply only to specific airplanes within a fleet. (For example, some twin-engine aircraft must adhere to ETOPS rules (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards) and some don’t. It all depends upon the mission/route of that airplane.) This makes it difficult for airlines to know which of the 250 different ADs that get issued each year require their compliance. In fact, after investigating a situation in 2008 that resulted in thousands of cancelled flights the FAA wrote, “The team found that problems in service instructions, workmanship, communications within industry and with the FAA, and FAA inconsistencies in determining AD compliance all contributed to the cancellations and service disruptions.”
Of course, I probably wouldn’t be writing about this if I didn’t think there was a solution. The solution, quite simply, is Enigma. On this blog I try hard not to brag but, as they say, “It ain’t bragging if it’s true.” Furthermore, this is a serious situation (at least the FAA seems to think so). Enigma has already deployed the technology allowing airlines to retrieve ADs from the FAA and automatically connect them to the Aircraft Maintenance Manuals (AMM), Engine Manuals (EM), Illustrated Parts Catalogs (IPC) and any other relevant documents. Furthermore, once this information is in Enigma, the Maintenance Planning Documents (MPD), Master Parts Lists (MPL) and Job Cards will automatically reflect the new requirements within the AD, thereby assuring safety and compliance. (Last week’s blog, about a roundtable with JAL and United, described how they can now immediately deploy critical maintenance information.)
This is a blog post, so it’s meant to be short and sweet. Let me just say, we understand the problem, we have a solution, and we’d love to speak with you about how to quickly fix this situation.