The Uptime Blog
Here’s a two-minute podcast demonstration of the Enigma InService EPC (Electronic Parts Catalog), highlighting the product’s capability to locate detailed part data using interactive illustrations. Solutions Engineer Rob Bannerman provides a quick overview of how drawings and schematics can be used to drill-down and find the right part, assembly or kit. Synchronization between the graphics and the table of contents and parts list help ensure proper part selection.
Why is this important? Simple: when a parts manager is looking for a part or a service technician is making a repair, graphical representations of the part/assembly will accelerate the process .
InService EPC allows users to filter service information by equipment type, model and serial number, ensuring that only relevant parts and procedures are used in the maintenance process.
A recent article in Aviation Week noted that Goodrich Corporation released its fourth quarter and 2007 overall earnings report, in which its “commercial aftermarket sales rose a healthy 16 percent in 2007, and the company said its aftermarket growth may hit double digits again this year.”
Well, we can’t take all the credit for their aftermarket sales, but we do believe we played at least a small role in that success. After all, Goodrich has been using Enigma 3C for the past few years to streamline the production of its aftermarket parts and service catalog. In the process, Goodrich reaps the benefits:
- Saved roughly 1.5 million dollars in production costs alone each year
- Reduced the time needed to produce and deliver its parts catalogs by six months
- Reduced the wait time for catalog updates from three months to a few hours
- Reduced parts misorders.
You may ask, how does Enigma 3C so dramatically reduce the cost of producing a catalog? The answer is, by making it easy for companies like Goodrich to bring the process of catalog production and updates back inhouse, rather than compiling and sending raw information to a third party catalog producer. The Enigma 3C administration environment lets users point and click to update the parts catalog with new parts data, drawings and service information.
Surely, these things help the bottom line. The more effectively an OEM can provide real-time access to updated parts and service information, the more effectively it can sell parts—and make money. This validates what we’ve said over and over: a company’s aftermarket division is critical to its revenue and profit scheme. While the profit margin on product sales is generally shrinking, the margin on aftermarket remains steady, if not growing. The aftermarket accounts for 20-50% of revenue opportunity but about 60% of bottom line profitability. Perhaps it’s time more OEMs started getting serious about improving aftermarket business processes.
We encourage you to read our Goodrich case study.
In the maintenance world your goal is to minimize downtime, which almost always improves profits. Too often, incorrect technical content slows down the maintenance process. Therefore, a key to success is to provide mechanics with the most up-to-date content. However, a major problem is that the practices of airlines and OEMs are different. The OEM revises its manuals 1 – 4 times per year, whereas the airlines capture best practices all year long in the form of COCs (Customer Originated Changes) or supplemental content.
It is often assumed that airline COCs are incorporated back into the OEM manuals, but this is a matter of business process and money. Not all operators are interested in sharing their best practices with others, and when they do share they have to pay the OEM for this service. Even when the OEM incorporates some of the COCs , the operator needs to know which ones were included and which were left out.
Back to square one – at the end of day the operators don’t know if they have up-to-date content. They need to reconcile OEM changes with their COCs at least 4 times a year for each of the major manuals (AMM, IPC, WDM) and 1-3 times per year for others. The question is how to do it in a smart manner.
The guidelines we followed when we developed a solution were the following:
- Automation – Fast turnaround of content (evaluation and reconciliation)
- Off-the-shelf/out-of-the-box – to avoid custom solutions that are expensive to maintain
- Modularity – Separation between comparison, reconciliation (automatic and/or manual merging), approval workflow and publishing processes
- Auditing and Traceability – provide traceability for the source of content in a published airline version and record actions taken (auto-merging or manual)
- Agnostic – handles all types of content common to the MRO industry: XML, PDF, Binary files (such as images).
How it works…
Step 1 – Find the important changes
The solution identifies changes between versions by comparing the existing content to the OEM revision. The output of the comparison process is a simple log file that lists all the identified differences.
But there is a trick to it. In fact, an operator wants to identify only the relevant changes. For example, it is pretty obvious that “revision date” (REVDATE) is going to have a different value between two consecutive OEM versions. This is a type of change that needs to be filtered out to minimize confusion. Therefore the solution is configurable to let you include or exclude elements, attributes, instructions, control case sensitivity, etc.
Step 2 – Auto-merge the new OEM revision with existing content
The second step is to merge the approved OEM content with the existing operator version. This can be accomplished using the log file from Step 1 and a set of rules which are configurable. For example, a rule might say: “whenever there is a new OEM version and there is no COC – use the newest OEM version” or “whenever the OEM version is unchanged and a COC already exists – keep the COC”. These rules can go deep into a sub unit level to give the most complete control over the merge process. For example: “merge subtasks within a TASK and create the rule at the subtask level.”
Step 3 – Workflow
The result of the reconciliation is a set of files, divided into different cases based on the defined rules from Step 2. Each case then follows a publishing workflow that is either automatic or manual, depending on the results of the rules. This process creates the feed for your DMS (Document Management System).
The Enigma 3C® Revision Manager does everything listed above, and more. By tracking changes and resolving conflicts between multiple OEM revisions and between OEM versions, technical revisions (TR), COCs, and other equipment supplements, Enigma’s Revision Manager facilitates faster turnaround of technical content in your maintenance organization.
I just read a story in Aircraft Commerce about the future of MRO technology. It was a good article, without any stunning insights. It mentioned a lot of the usual suspects: Jouve and Corena for content management; Ultramain, Mxi and Trax for maintenance planning and execution; Boeing and Airbus talked about RFID, and there was some ink spilled about Boeing’s proprietary maintenance systems. On the whole, the article didn’t say much that was new and certainly nothing controversial. After all, everyone knows the airlines are pretty conservative when it comes to adopting technology. (Who can blame them when every move must be approved by a government regulator?)
For me, there were two places in the article that hinted at an important issue that could be solved quickly and would drive radical innovation. Did I mention this issue requires the cooperation of Boeing and Airbus? (Therefore, we know it won’t happen.) After talking about the need to go electronic (i.e. paperless) the author writes, “While some airlines and MRO facilities have succeeded in implementing partial solutions, fully integrated solutions are rare. This is one area of change that needs to accelerate to reap the full benefits of investing in MRO technology.” At the end of the article, after describing the need for integrating aircraft monitoring systems with maintenance systems, the author writes, “The integration with electronic documentation sits alongside this as another area of opportunity ripe for exploitation.” These two comments frame the key obstacle to developing fully integrated systems. It’s the content, stupid.
Enigma has created fully integrated systems, as have others, but it takes more work than it should because Boeing and Airbus make it way too difficult to use their content. The issue that sits like an elephant in the room is that Boeing and Airbus don’t offer usable content unless airlines agree to use their proprietary systems (or pay a steep price for the SGML/XML data).
And don’t be fooled, they understand exactly what they’re doing. Boeing and Airbus seem to believe that since they create the manuals they have the right use this content like a club to try to push their own inferior maintenance solutions. How do I know their technology is inferior? Simple, they give it away for free if you buy enough airplanes. When something costs nothing, that’s what it’s worth: nothing.
Unfortunately, the result of Boeing and Airbus’ “generosity” (giving away technology) is to actually increase the cost to the airlines (their customers). Even for airlines with a single-vendor fleet, using a Boeing or Airbus system locks critical maintenance data into a proprietary system, which limits flexibility in the spare parts supply chain, limits shop floor productivity and makes it difficult to integrate with ERP systems.
After much frustration, many airlines and MROs give up and ask the real software vendors to deliver a fully integrated maintenance system that actually helps them control their business.
What’s holding back innovation? It’s not vision or ability, the software industry has plenty of that. It’s not need or desire, the airlines and MROs are screaming for help. The thing that’s holding back maintenance innovation is Boeing and Airbus.
The November issue of Air Transport World has an article titled “Balancing Act” that analyzes the MRO industry in the midst of the current uptick in airline business (a welcome change, indeed, from the years immediately following 9/11). The article spans a range of topics, from globalization and outsourcing, geographic growth trends, and rising investment from the private equity market.
Here’s a stat you might find interesting: According to AeroStrategy, air transport spending on MRO totaled $40.8 billion in 2006, up from $38.8 billion in 2005. The consultancy forecasts spending will rise at a compound annual rate of 3.6% over the next decade to $58 billion in 2016.
It’s not rocket science (or even aerodynamics): a huge aircraft order book, more aircraft flying, bigger loads, planes coming out of moth balls, an aging fleet and overall profits for carriers mean that MRO shops and airline maintenance facilities are busier than ever. But they are also pressured to do their jobs faster and cheaper. Just because airlines are flying in the black again does not mean they are spending freely. Rather, having weathered some lean years they are more cost-conscious than ever, according to this article.
To do more, better, faster, airlines and MROs need technology that streamlines maintenance and engineering processes and helps technicians perform more efficiently and consistently. Here’s where software vendors make such a vital contribution; with products that tackle issues like interactive electronic technical manuals (IETM), job card automation and content revision management, software vendors have new solutions that help airlines run their business. Unlike solutions from Boeing and Airbus, experts like Enigma provide tools that fit into the airlines existing infrastructure and help planners, engineers and technicians get the specific data they need, when they need it. (We’ll have more on Boeing and Airbus solutions in an upcoming post.)
Enigma is so focused on reducing turnaround time and maintenance costs, that after reading the last paragraph of this article we couldn’t agree more:
Of course, some things don’t change regardless of who owns the asset. “The way we look at it, the problems faced by the airlines now, tomorrow, last year, remain turnaround times and prices. They will insist on reduced turnaround time and more affordable maintenance.” — Jean Massot, Snecma Services VP-Strategy and Business Development.
Well said. We encourage you to read the article and let us know what you think.