The Uptime Blog
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.
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.
In October, Enigma was a guest speaker at the ATA e-Business Forum and delivered a presentation about tablets on the tarmac, which focused on helping aircraft mechanics get the information they need while out on the flight line. But the story of tablets is applicable to any industry where technicians must work in remote, restricted or challenging environments.
Tablets promise higher productivity for just about everyone involved in aftermarket service and parts: technicians, inspectors, engineers, parts managers, planners, etc. Tablets promise that maintenance tasks will be performed faster and more accurately, which will decrease mean time to repair (MTTR), increase first time fix (FTF) rates and reduce no fault found (NFF) events. The problem is that it takes more than tablets to deliver on those promises. For companies to realize these benefits, the tablet-wielding workforce must also be rewarded for their achievements, otherwise any efficiency gains might get spent on longer lunch breaks. Furthermore, industries that rely on organized labor may run into contractual issues before they get buy-in from mechanics and engineers. And so tablet promises come with some strings attached.
This raises an interesting question, “Do tablets offer any benefits that are independent of workforce cooperation?” In a word that benefit is “visibility.” Tablets offer visibility into the parts, processes, products and people involved in service and parts decisions – visibility into how people approach maintenance tasks and visibility into why some are successful and others are not. Tablets allow the collection and analysis of “big data” straight from the field (i.e. at the point of service). Such passive data collection provides insight to part selection, purchasing and service processes, and to problems with training and product quality, without being a burden on the workforce.
Despite all the hype about tablets improving maintenance and repair, the real opportunity is less about service productivity and more about sales strategy. Tablets provide the necessary link to understand aftermarket parts and service workflows. By exposing bottlenecks, inconsistencies and missed opportunities, companies can fully optimize their parts strategy and streamline service offerings. And that represents a much higher value than simple mobility.
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.
In late September, Aviation Week hosted an event in Miami called MRO IT. AvWeek claimed almost 400 people were in attendance (including exhibitors), but it didn’t feel that big. There were a lot of software vendors, a number of airlines and manufacturers, and quite a few consultants and analysts roaming the premises. (Like last year, it seemed that the software and consultant audience outnumbered the airlines and OEMs.) The presentations had some good content, but did not seem as deep or insightful as last year. On the positive side, the exhibit hall was more accessible which promoted conversations and demos.
The exhibitors represented a broad range of MRO(ish) technology vendors. PTC was a premier sponsor this year, which was curious because they seemed to be focused on pitching CAD/CAM and Arbortext. I talked to the guys manning their booth about aviation maintenance and repair but they seemed intent on steering the discussion back to technical authoring and leveraging whatever data the OEM was willing to share (which as we know isn’t much). It made me wonder if PTC was aware that airline engineers often modify the OEM’s parts and maintenance recommendations. They seemed unaware of the complexity of regulatory compliance, the challenge of aircraft effectivity, and the amount of non-OEM data that permeates every maintenance activity. Boeing had a significant presence in the demo area and was actively hyping their Edge offerings to anyone that would listen. Oracle was also well represented with their cMRO offering and the out-of-the-box integration to Enigma was viewed as a key differentiator by many attendees.
The conference presentations this year lacked the edginess of last year’s event. Last year Jim Keenan talked candidly about the challenges of integrating the United and Continental MRO systems. Also there had been a panel presentation about supporting legacy and next generation aircraft fleets, a panel presentation that challenged the wisdom of going “all S1000D”, and a closing keynote from Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat (formerly COO of Delta) about technology adoption and aviation.
In comparison, this year’s theme seemed to be all-iPad all-the-time combined with talks about the technology and security procedures needed to make it all work—on the ground and on an airplane. There were however a few presentations that got the audience thinking about how best to support mechanics and technicians.
Eash Sundaram, EVP & CIO of JetBlue delivered an informative opening keynote, highlighting the importance and opportunity of technology in the cockpit, the passenger compartment, and MRO/ operations. In his (somewhat ironic) words, technology implementation in MRO is all about “improving the most regulated organization in a deregulated industry.”
FedEx and UPS both highlighted their desire to get paper out of MRO but that caused Air Canada to ask a contrarian question, “Why?” Air Canada then went on to say that sometimes a piece of paper is the perfect content delivery tool.
A speaker from the FAA gave a presentation that reminded the audience how they create technology regulations and who/what is involved in getting certified. Basically the FAA said they were trying to write broad specs that govern outcomes, thereby allowing airlines and MROs flexibility regarding how those outcomes are achieved. The FAA leaves much of the certification decision in the hands of local inspectors to interpret the regulations to determine if a technology implementation is allowable and safe.
With regard to the usage of iPads, while a lot of conference attendees were carrying them around, many of the airlines said they were waiting for a Microsoft solution that would be better suited to highly regulated industries—offering faster adoption, more API’s and customization, and better data partitioning and security. (iPads were viewed as being too consumer oriented and insecure with regard to controlling the UI and data access.)
The best presentation of the conference however was by Alan Butterfield, VP Maintenance & Engineering for Air Canada. He delivered a straightforward, no-nonsense talk about how Air Canada is transforming the maintenance and engineering (M&E) department. Air Canada has budgeted $54M to do the task and not a penny more—if some functionality is missing after all the money is spent…oh well. (Alan said that keeps the go-live team focused on critical items.) For implementation they chose to follow the Spec 2000 standard because (even if it isn’t perfect) without strict data definitions even small deviations could slow down the project with endless debates. Another key to Air Canada’s M&E process is a rigid focus on what needs to be done, how it's done and why it's done, without ever defining which job function does it. Alan has been adamant about this distinction, even with the unionized workforce. And after much debate, and some concessions, Alan got the union to agree to the model in way that is a win-win for Air Canada and their aviation maintenance technicians (AMTs).
Aviation Week’s MRO IT conference was good but not great. I think it will be a better event next year drawing a larger audience and hopefully more thought-provoking presentations when it gets integrated with the larger MRO events (MRO Americas, Europe, Asia and Middle East).
Autumn is smack dab in the middle of trade show season and Enigma is right there too. We’ll be exhibiting at two Aviation/MRO related events during the month of October.
If you’re in the aviation, aerospace or the MRO field, you may want to check out these events and swing by the Enigma booth while you’re there.
October 17 -18, 2012 in Bangkok, Thailand:
Airline and Aerospace MRO & Operations IT Conference APAC 2012 by Aircraft Commerce
Touted as the world’s leading aviation MRO and Operations IT software solutions, this event, according to the Aircraft Commerce website “provides a one-stop solution for airlines, aircraft operators and MROs seeking to implement or discover more about how new technology can streamline and increase their MRO and Flight Operations efficiency as well as reduce costs dramatically. For those companies who already have systems in place, they will be able to view and demo the latest add-ons and learn how new software can be incorporated and provide further benefits.”
The event provides opportunities to see software demonstrations, listen to industry experts speak about the latest key issues and trends, and network with other senior management colleagues from the airlines/MRO industries.
Enigma will be on hand to share our latest InService MRO, InService Job Card Generator and InService Revision Manager software updates with airlines, aircraft operators and MRO providers. Find us at booth E24.
October 22-24, 2012 in Scottsdale, AZ:
ATA e-Business Forum by ATA e-Business Program
The ATA e-Business Program website reports that this event is “the industry's premier event to learn about the latest developments in information exchange to support engineering, maintenance, materiel and flight operations. This conference is the most comprehensive event dedicated to information exchange standards and technologies in the global aerospace industry. This educational forum provides a high level overview of the ATA e-Business Program and the many specifications and industry initiatives underway to facilitate effective and efficient information sharing between trading partners.”
At this event, attendees will learn about the industry's most widely accepted e-business specifications (Spec 2000, S1000D, iSpec 2200, Spec 42 and Spec 2300), and gain insight on how the industry has earned significant savings and operational efficiencies through the use of global standards.
Enigma’s John Snow, VP of Global Marketing and Strategic Alliances will be an industry expert speaker delivering presentations on both days of the event. His topics are (presentations will be posted following the live presentation):
- Tablets on the Tarmac - Connecting MRO Diagnosis, Planning and Execution to Minimize AOGs
- When Standards Collide - Case Studies for a Unified MRO Process that Supports S1000D, iSpec2200 and PDF
If you’re in engineering, maintenance, or material and flight operations, be sure to stop by the Enigma booth to learn about our latest InService MRO, InService Job Card Generator and InService Revision Manager software updates with airlines, aircraft operators and MRO providers.
We’ll see you at the Shows.
According to an article in Aircraft Commerce magazine, airlines are increasingly looking for fully automated Engineering & Maintenance (E&M) systems. The author claims that airlines are trying to establish paperless processes that automatically stay up-to-date, ensuring that all E&M systems (MRO, CMS, ERP, etc.) remain synchronized with the latest parts, procedure and effectivity information—pulled from AMM, SRM, IPC, FIM, EM, CMM, etc.
The magazine quote says, “The ultimate goal for airlines and MROs may be to achieve a paperless process, by: eliminating or minimising the manual management of data inputs and migration into M&E systems; fully automating revisions to documents and data, and reconciling changes; automating task and job card generation; publishing and distributing job cards electronically; and recording the completion of maintenance tasks and associated findings; and keeping maintenance records electronically.” That goal may sound ambitious, but large carriers like Korean Airlines (KAL) have accomplished it and it is now achievable and affordable for smaller carriers as well.
IT initiatives to integrate the whole E&M environment are not new; the largest international airlines launched such programs many years ago and similar projects are now being pursued by national, regional and low-cost carriers (LCC). The reason is a need for higher efficiency, lower cost, and greater quality/compliance for airline and MRO maintenance and operations activities. All carriers face these problems, even those that try to standardize on a single vendor/fleet often find themselves operating multiple aircraft types, engines and components.
To properly support any kind of mixed fleet requires IT systems that handle a variety of data formats, document types and workflows. While OEM-based solutions, like Boeing’s Maintenance Toolbox and Airbus’ AirN@v, may be buzzword compliant (i.e. they use all the right terminology), they have yet to prove themselves in real world operations supporting mixed fleets.
Airlines that understand the complexities of technical content and fleet requirements want their E&M systems to handle any data format that’s thrown at them (SGML, XML, PDF, etc.) in any data standard (iSpec 2200, S1000D, etc.) from any vendor (Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, Embraer, GE, RR, PW, etc.). E&M system flexibility is necessary for current operations as well as future growth and potential mergers. Furthermore, airlines don’t want their E&M system to be limited to one file format/data standard (e.g. XML in S1000D v4.0.1) because such an approach would require an airline to convert all their technical content before it could be used within their E&M system—and that conversion (and QA process) would be required every 60-90 days for each revision of every OEM manual. (It’s actually worse than this because S1000D is so flexible that it allows OEMs to implement the same standard in different ways yet still be compliant.) No, most airlines understand that a truly automated and integrated E&M system must utilize technical content in its native format, just the way it came from the OEM.
Maintaining an aircraft fleet requires so many sources of technical content that the responsibility for keeping all the E&M systems synchronized can’t be achieved by the IT department. The difficulty of this task was highlighted by GE Aviation at the 2010 ATA e-Business Forum when they admitted that the manuals in use at many customers are 1-2 revisions behind and as much as 12 months out of date.
Without up-to-date and synchronized technical information an airline’s line, hangar and heavy maintenance cannot become more efficient and consistent. Some airline and MRO IT departments are trying to synchronize the E&M systems using manual labor (or a lot of custom code). Others simply require the maintenance planners and technicians to use multiple IT systems and figure out for themselves which pieces of information are relevant. However, modern software systems have emerged that can automate much, if not all, of this process. To that end, the Aircraft Commerce article highlights many of the concerns that airlines and MROs face when putting together an E&M IT strategy.
Fully integrated and automated E&M systems do exist for airlines and MROs. When evaluating such systems the challenge is to differentiate between necessities and luxuries. Enigma put our thoughts on this subject into a sample RFP (request for proposal) that represents 15 years of implementation experience for multiple airlines, IT systems and data formats/data standards. This tool is extremely useful for airlines and MROs that are seeking to upgrade their E&M systems, and can be downloaded from our website.
As airlines and MROs grapple with the challenges of operating and maintaining mixed fleets, it’s good to know that the “ultimate” MRO IT system can be achieved. We hope that airlines seeking to bring their E&M system into the 21st century find this and other resources on the Enigma web site to be most useful.
Tags: MRO, Airbus, aviation, Boeing, technical documentation, ATA, S1000D, SAP, PDF, Tablet, Enigma, John Snow
Last week, the Danish Defense Forces sponsored SUGAIR 60 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The SAP Users Group for Airlines (SUGAIR) is a bi-annual conference for experts, executives and managers of MRO operations in the airline, aerospace and defense industries. Enigma was invited to describe the challenges associated with moving to the S1000D data standard and to discuss the opportunities for tablets in the hands of technicians. It was also an opportunity to update SUGAIR members on the SAP-Enigma integration strategy. (The deep integration with SAP has made Enigma the de-facto standard for delivery of technical information in SAP projects for A&D.) SUGAIR 60 had an impressive list of airlines and defense organizations in attendance and the feedback Enigma received was very positive.
SUGAIR attendees found the S1000D discussion very enlightening. The audience came to realize there is a lot of cost and effort required when implementing a functional S1000D environment; more than previously understood. Many of the “features” touted by S1000D vendors and consultants require custom implementation because OEMs (Boeing, Airbus, et al) have implemented the standard in different ways. (New standards often seem to make matters more complicated, as vendors try to establish or retain a perceived competitive advantage.) The attendee’s reaction reflects the concern expressed by airlines at last year’s Aviation Week MRO IT in Chicago. It turns out that because certain S1000D attributes are considered optional, or vary by OEM, most airlines and MROs won’t be able to reap the benefits of S1000D without a customized solution. However, Enigma did demonstrate some of the potential benefits of S1000D including:
- Fault isolation decision trees – dynamically generating the next information set based off the technician’s inputs, and recording the user’s path to feed a symptom/resolution knowledge base
- Truly interactive maintenance operations – where each maintenance step performed is passed back to the system of record
The next topic generated a huge amount of interest, which is the ability to make PDF data behave like XML...no conversion required. Enigma demonstrated the extraction of text fragments from PDF documents and the dynamic (on-the-fly) creation of job cards based on that PDF content. Furthermore, Enigma demonstrated the ability to link back and forth between XML and PDF documentation so that PDF functions essentially the same as XML. Given the amount of PDF that resides in aviation technical libraries (and the amount of PDF continues to grow) this capability helped many in the audience wake up to the opportunities to leverage existing data (without a complete data conversion initiative).
As in the past, the topic with the greatest “cool” factor was Enigma’s discussion and demonstration of a tablet-based solution. This is not a special tablet-only implementation of Enigma; it is standard InService® MRO using style sheets that have been tailored to the unique requirements and capabilities of a tablet device. The demo showed how single source access to the complete technical library can support routine maintenance as well as non-routine maintenance disposition and correction, and seamless, enhanced maintenance turnover events. By this point in the presentation, Enigma had run over the allotted time but the attendees readily offered more time to complete the demonstration/discussion.
For many attendees, the social highlight was a boat tour of the canals around Copenhagen, which was sponsored by Enigma. It was a great opportunity for members of SUGAIR to connect in an informal way, and for the many defense and airline organizations to get acquainted and compare notes.
Throughout the three-day event Enigma reinforced the strong bonds we've developed with many SUGAIR attendees, and we extend a heartfelt thank you to the members of SUGAIR and to the Danish Defense Forces for their gracious hospitality. Enigma believes that participating in SUGAIR 60 allowed us to help solve today’s (and tomorrow’s) aviation maintenance challenges, and from the feedback we received the airline, aerospace and defense attendees gained valuable insight for how to leverage SAP and partner technology to create success.
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