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.
Roni Pollack, Program Manager at Enigma, staffs the Enigma table at SUGAIR 57
I just returned from SUGAIR 57 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The SAP User Group for Airlines (SUGAIR) is a semi-annual conference for experts, executives and managers of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operations in the aviation, aerospace and defense industries. Enigma was invited by SUGAIR members to present Enigma’s capabilities with SAP and discuss the business impact of current and future integrations. SUGAIR 57 offered an impressive array of airline expertise and the feedback received by Enigma was overwhelmingly positive.
SUGAIR 57 was hosted by Malaysia Airlines in cooperation with SAP and HCL-AXON. Each of the attending airlines, MODs and MRO shops, delivered presentations detailing their SAP implementations, current challenges and strategies moving forward. SAP and HCL-AXON provided updates on their joint solution, as well as presentations on best practices, tactics and strategies for using SAP to maximize business success.
There was a long and intense discussion, led by several airlines, regarding the strategy of Boeing and Airbus to withhold service and parts information as a way to lock-in spare parts sales and control who can provide maintenance and repair services. The way it was reported by these airlines, Boeing and Airbus plan to limit airlines’ access to the aircraft maintenance manual (AMM), illustrated parts catalog (IPC) and other critical technical information unless the airlines agree to use the tech pubs solutions sold by Boeing and Airbus. The airlines on-hand, who had investigated these products, had the following comments about the OEM-based solutions:
- immature/incomplete functionality
- inflexible/difficult to integrate with existing M&E solutions
- limit airline’s ability to customize and control technical content
- risk exposing an airline’s confidential information and intellectual property to competitors (in the case of MRO services, competitors include Boeing and Airbus themselves).
This was a very animated discussion and I was surprised by the nearly universal anger and suspicion expressed by the airlines toward Boeing and Airbus.
For the Enigma presentation, SUGAIR members expressed particular interest in the ability to extract information from the IPC, AMM and maintenance planning documents (MPD) and then update the master parts list (MPL), maintenance requirements (MR) and job cards (task cards) in SAP. Beyond the ability to accelerate maintenance and improve compliance, the airlines, MROs and MODs on-hand quickly recognized another key implication of this functionality—helping identify inventory problems like “dead” parts that no longer apply to an airline’s fleet and can be safely purged/re-sold from stock. All the attendees commented on the huge opportunity this represents for cost reduction.
If the goal of SUGAIR is to generate meaningful discussions between companies with common objectives and to highlight topics that have implications on operations and compliance, then SUGAIR 57 was a success. Although the audience was varied—airlines, MODs, MROs, SAP and ISV partners—all the conversations I heard focused on increasing maintenance efficiency, consistency and compliance.
For Enigma, it was a pleasure to participate in SUGAIR 57 and to help facilitate the knowledge-sharing that’s required to solve tomorrow’s aftermarket and MRO challenges. This was a valuable opportunity for aviation and aerospace operators from around the world to learn how to maximize their business success using SAP, HCL-AXON and Enigma.
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.
Enigma and Korean Air at MRO IT conference in Bangkok, Thailand
From left: Yeon-Kweon Lee, Deputy General Manager, Korean Air; Asher Gabbay, VP of EMEA & APAC, Enigma;
Sung-Yeon Park, Deputy General Manager, Korean Air
Last week I attended the Airline & Aerospace MRO & Operations IT Conference in Bangkok, organized by Aircraft Commerce magazine.
This show, which focuses on IT solutions for the airline MRO business, was held for the first time in Asia. (It’s been held in Europe for a few years now.) For the most part, airlines in Asia are growing faster than their counterparts in Europe and the US, and most are in dire need of IT solutions to support this growth. As a result, Aircraft Commerce magazine made a smart decision to add an Asian venue for this show. My impression is that the decision paid off. Throughout the two days of this event, attendance at sessions and exhibition floor “traffic” surpassed those of the European show (held last June in Frankfurt).
About twenty companies were present on the exhibition floor, primarily comprised of the “usual suspects”—mostly small- to mid-sized vendors. Conspicuously absent were the two “gorillas” of the MRO IT market: SAP and Oracle. In the future, if the show organizers wish this event to become significant for the industry, SAP and Oracle need to be there. This will attract bigger airlines and will highlight a critical decision facing many airlines and MROs: whether to choose an ERP-based MRO solution or a best-of-breed MRO solution?
This issue came up several times during the conference but the absence of the big ERP vendors made it a lopsided debate, with the niche MRO vendors continuously bashing SAP and Oracle. In most cases, the rhetoric was nothing more than preaching to the choir (i.e., competitors and small airlines that don’t think they can afford an ERP solution anyway).
One exception was a presentation by Bill Lewis, the former “interim CIO” of Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies (ADAT). Mr. Lewis spoke passionately about the “500-day journey” to implement Oracle cMRO at ADAT. His main message was that an ERP-based MRO implementation should not take years, as is the case at so many airlines. But when asked why ADAT chose Oracle and not SAP, Mr. Lewis had a strange response. According to him, cMRO is “five years away” from being a competitive alternative to SAP MRO, and that currently it only covers 60% of required MRO functionality (compared with 95% coverage by SAP/iMRO—the joint SAP/HCL-Axon solution). These comments seem somewhat disingenuous because cMRO is either a fit for ADAT or it isn’t, and since he was involved in the decision something seems amiss. Assuming ADAT selected a product that meets the needs of their business, it is impressive that it was implemented successfully in a year and a half, and Mr. Lewis should be congratulated. On the other hand, if ADAT selected a “half-baked” product that has many gaps, it leaves in question the IT leadership for this decision. I guess we’ll need to wait and see how the solution works after the scheduled “go live” later this year but either way, 500 days to implement a working ERP-based MRO system is impressive. Suspiciously so.
Mr. Lewis made one particularly interesting point. It seems that ADAT analyzed all the tasks performed by an MRO organization and broke them down to thousands of processes. What they discovered was that almost every single process has a “touch point” with a maintenance document—an OEM document, an ADAT document or a regulatory document. His conclusion was that no MRO IT implementation is complete without a “digital documentation” solution. A message Enigma has been speaking about for many years.
Another frequent topic during the conference was “the blame game.” It is standard procedure for some airline representatives to blame the IT vendor (or the system integrator) for project delays and unexpected additional costs. But more experienced (and perhaps more honest?) airlines admit that the blame for delays deserves to be shared. M&E departments are typically conservative—the result of regulatory oversight and the long tenure of many MRO engineers. Change is difficult for any organization, but resistance to new IT systems seems more prevalent in an MRO environment. Combine these factors with the general complexity of enterprise IT implementations and the classic issues will inevitably delay the roll-out: inability to properly define project scope and requirements; difficulty “drawing the line” on supposedly critical functionality (that can’t be disregarded); unwillingness to change old work methods; and unreasonable expectations from a “phase one” solution. To avoid these problems, airlines/MROs and technology providers/integrators must work together to keep the project on time and on target.
Starting next year, Aircraft Commerce plans to hold a show in the US as well. With global coverage, this can become the premier event for airlines seeking MRO IT solutions.
I just came back from the SAP Airlines Summit in Texas, which assembled over one hundred airline and MRO professionals from around the world: an impressive cross-section of the commercial aviation industry.
Jonathan Yaron, Enigma’s CEO, sat on a panel with Yasushi Suzuka, Vice President – Maintenance Corporate Planning & Administration, Engineering & Maintenance at Japan Airlines, Paul Noah, Project Manager for Application Development at United Airlines, and Phil Te Hau, Director Solution Management, Travel Services Industry Solutions at SAP. It was a roundtable discussion on “Maintenance Scheduling and Integration to Technical Information” and there was significant interest regarding the role of service information in MRO scheduling, and hangar and line maintenance.
The fact is, while most large airlines use software for maintenance scheduling, they still rely on paper for maintenance execution and approval. If you look closely at the entire maintenance environment you will see that technical information affects nearly every activity. So, in an environment where electronic information is driving everything from maintenance scheduling, to inventory, to supply chains, productivity is being de-railed by the paper trail. There is so much technical information required to properly service and repair an aircraft that paper-driven processes can’t keep up. This is the challenge that these industry experts discussed—how airlines and MRO shops can enjoy the benefits of moving to electronic processes while improving safety and compliance.
Before integrating technical information into the MRO scheduling environment, some airlines reported a 2-6 month lag between receiving revised OEM manuals and delivering approved changes into the hands of technicians. Panel members indicated that modern systems can accomplish this very complex process in a matter of days. (That includes comparing the new revision against current practices, resolving potential conflicts, processing approvals and delivering to the field.)
In another example from the panel, preparing documentation necessary for a D-Check (a major maintenance event), which used to take months, can now be accomplished in minutes. Other issues that were addressed include: supporting 3rd party MROs in this environment; lack of synchronization between Maintenance Planning Documents (MPD) and Master Parts Lists (MPL); configuration control (especially for ETOPS aircraft); and the ways in which PDF and SGML/XML can work together.
The audience seemed to appreciate the insights provided by these aviation experts. This was a candid conversation between airlines and solution providers that discussed current technical challenges as well as future opportunities. We appreciate SAP inviting us to participate in this event and hope to have similar opportunities in the future.
MRO Asia 2008 concluded today in Singapore. Here are some of my impressions from this year’s show:
1. The prevailing mood was definitely on the somber side. Every speaker mentioned the “financial crisis” or “market turmoil” at some point or other in his/her speech, some more than once. The presentation from the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) included one slide that had several bullet points all saying, in diffferent words: “expect bad times ahead, we have no idea what to expect”. The continuously falling oil price was small consolation in the general feeling of uncertainty.
2. The exhibition floor was comparable in size to last year’s show in Shanghai, but some of the players in the MRO IT space were conspicuously absent. While most of the best-of-breed MRO providers were there, Swiss Aviation Software was absent. The two “gorillas” in this space – SAP and Oracle – were also absent, although Axon Global was there, with their new iMRO offering, which basically is to replace SAP MRO. From the content delivery players, OpenConnent was not there. Perhaps the European players do not view Asia as a market they need to invest in.
3. As for the attendees, most Asian airlines and many of the non-Asian ones, were represented. However, there seemed to be fewer delegates compared to last year, definitely fewer representatives from Chinese airlines. I know for a fact that one of the airlines planned to send five senior delegates but, with the recent upheavals in the world economy, decided at the last minute to cancel the trip and send two junior delegates instead.
4. Any vendor that attends a major show like MRO Asia carefully monitors the topics that customers and prospects want to discuss. In this regard, Enigma InService Job Card Generator drew a lot of attention from attendees. It is clear that airlines and MROs view the ability to provide intelligent job cards quickly and easily as a key component to accelerating maintenance. Several airlines were seeking even greater automation, and took great interest in Enigma InService MRO. In this regard, it was nice to have important customers, like KLM, at the show that can verify the cost reductions and productivity improvements that are available through advanced technology.
Next year’s show is in Hong Kong. See you all there!