The Uptime Blog
Because it’s that time of year when thoughts turn to shopping (for those of you in the United States, the infamous “Black Friday,” the shopping day after Thanksgiving, is just 7 days away!) it seems apropos to do a podcast that illustrates how easy it is for dealers to use the InService Electronic Parts Catalog shopping cart functionality to order OEM parts.
The InService EPC shopping center is user-friendly and intuitive; simply search by models, part number or name, create a shopping cart, then fill it up by selecting on parts. The Shopping List displays those parts being ordered by the user and is associated with a specific shopping cart. Users can update a shopping list by removing parts, changing quantities, or adding additional cataloged or non-cataloged parts. One can even create multiple shopping carts that can be defined and re-used to accelerate the creation and submission of parts orders.
The shopping cart also supports a variety of dealership information, such as a unique logo, billing address and shipping address that is included in each parts order, whether electronic or hard copy. In terms of e-commerce integration, dealers may be allowed to track their parts order by connecting to an eCommerce site from within the Enigma shopping center (access to the e-commerce site is dependent on the level of customer authorization.)
For more information, download our InService EPC fact sheet.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of helping mechanics to fix rare problems faster—accelerating the repair of systems that don’t fail very often. Today’s post follows up on that theme as it relates to the aviation MRO industry. Because aircraft systems are generally quite reliable, when something fails unexpectedly it is called a non-routine event (NR). (It should be noted that aircraft systems have multiple redundancies, so an NR is not necessarily a cause for concern. But it still needs to be fixed.)
Non-routine events are a major source of unscheduled aircraft maintenance. (Other industries may refer to this as a break-fix event because something failed outside the normal maintenance schedule.) The question therefore is, “What to do about NRs?” The idea of planning for unscheduled maintenance seems like an oxymoron. After all, how can you plan for something that you can’t predict? And that is really the point; on any complex machine—and an aircraft is really complex—you know something is going to break, you just don’t know what it will be.
To explain the difficulty of the problem let’s look at some real customer data. In a fleet of wide body, long-haul aircraft over a two-year period, an airline found that there were over 3,000 non-routine events that could be traced back to almost 300 different systems. 10 systems caused almost half of the NRs. (In fact, 1 system alone caused 20% of the NRs.) But the majority of the NRs (51%) were caused by failures in one of the other 270+ systems.
When this data is plotted on a graph (above) it is easy to see the trend. The top 10 causes of NRs occured much more frequently than the rest of the systems. (The number 1 cause needs unscheduled maintenance almost once a day and number 10 occurs at least every other week.) The rest of the systems in this study (97%) occurred an average of 4 times per year, forming a long tail on our statistical data. However, since the top 10 problems account for less than half of all non-routine events, if an airline wishes to reduce the overall impact of NRs, then it must address the long tail.
Several conclusions can be drawn from these numbers:
• Most of the systems on an aircraft are quite reliable. (Given the complexity of an airplane and the physical stresses it endures, this is a great testament to the aircraft manufacturers.)
• Mechanics can quickly gain experience fixing the top 10 causes of NRs.
• Mechanics do not gain significant experience fixing the other half of the NRs. (They just don’t see them often enough.)
A typical maintenance approach is to focus attention on the most frequent failures—the top 10. Training to fix the top 10 is pretty straight forward however, the long tail consists of many different problems that happen infrequently. (These are individual systems that rarely break but, when added together, account for the majority of the unscheduled maintenance.) The only way to deal with such a wide-ranging set of problems is to improve the mechanic’s ability to respond to the unknown. Better training is not the solution, automating information systems is.
It should be obvious but when time is tight and a repair is urgent it’s best to bring service information to the mechanic, rather than the other way around. This can be accomplished by integrating maintenance information systems with maintenance planning, inventory and other back-office systems to provide a fully integrated scheduling and execution environment. Then, no matter what type of problem the technician uncovers they can quickly obtain the information they need and begin the process of repair.
Along with our partner Oracle, I’ll be co-presenting an Air Transport World magazine webinar on this topic in a few weeks (December 9, to be specific); if you’d like to attend that webinar, sign up here.
The October 2008 issue of Air Transport World includes an article titled “Mechanics Wanted,” regarding the challenges of recruiting enough aviation service technicians to meet the future needs of the aviation industry.
According to the article, the demand for aircraft maintenance technicians is expected to more than double in the next two decades, to support fleet growth and replace retiring technicians. This echoes what we’ve referenced in a previous blogs about the graying of the workforce and the need to accelerate the education of new service technicians.
Why can’t the industry recruit the number of technicians they need? First of all, it takes a long time to complete maintenance training, typically five years to be licensed to sign-off on repairs. Second, service technician jobs often don’t pay as well as other professions (both inside and out of the aviation industry). The opportunity to work on aircraft is just not appealing to enough people.
To make matters worse, once recruits are in place it has become harder to train them because there aren’t enough planes on the ground to provide the hands-on experience they need. (This is a good thing for travelers but makes training a challenge.)
“It’s getting more and more difficult to get access to a real maintenance environment for training purposes because the planes are always in use, the maintenance schedule is getting tighter and tighter, ground time is getting shorter and shorter.” —Klaus Schmidt-Klyk, Director of Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service, Lufthansa Technical Training.
Since Enigma is in the business of reducing maintenance delays, we are happy to hear that aircraft uptime is increasing, and customers tell us that our aircraft maintenance solutions are part of that improvement. But we sympathize with the MRO shops and airline operators that are trying to train technicians and believe that technology plays a strong role in achieving further improvements.