The Uptime Blog
I’m looking forward to my first visit to Budapest, Hungary, not only to sample the goulash but to attend the ATA e-Business Forum in October. If your company has any responsibility for aircraft maintenance, it’s worth sending someone to this event. I’ve been focusing on aftermarket service and support technology for eight years, but last year was my first ATA e-biz show and I have to tell you, the people that attended impressed me. They knew their stuff and were very involved in the technical sessions. What I really liked was that they wouldn’t let the speakers give easy answers to hard questions.
Of course it wouldn’t be an aviation technology event without the inevitable hype regarding S1000D and how it’s changing the world. There were plenty of vendors trying to convince airlines, MROs and OEMs to buy their solution and get a jump on the competition in moving to the new standard. But in between all the hype, there were a lot of people talking about how to improve the use of information they already had, without S1000D. (For the record, Enigma is a strong supporter of S1000D but we think airlines, MROs and OEMs need solutions that work with legacy data as well.) These people understood that at the end of the day, even though the new standard holds a lot of promise, it will take years (decades?) to get all the relevant information converted. After all, we’re talking about Terabytes (Petabytes? Exabytes?) of information and in the meantime the airlines, MROs and OEMs have businesses to run.
With that in mind, many of the people attending ATA e-biz were more interested in how to improve their business processes today…with the assurance of supporting S1000D tomorrow. These people wanted to accelerate job card processes, to ensure maintenance crews have the right information all the time, every time. They were looking for ways to improve non-routine job card processes, so that aircraft maintenance could stay on schedule, or ahead of schedule. They wanted to improve the efficiency and consistency of one of their largest workforces.
The people I met were realists who understood that, for their current fleets, it will be a long-long time before all the maintenance manuals, repair manuals, engine manuals, component manuals, illustrated parts catalogs, service bulletins, technical revisions, planning documents, equipment lists, schematics and other configuration information is converted to the new format (if ever). All the airline folks agreed that S1000D was gaining acceptance with the 787 and A380 (some, not all of the manuals will be S1000D) but that didn’t help them with the rest of their Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, Embraer, ATR, Fokker, BAE, GE, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce, CFM, IAE and Honeywell fleets.
The best thing about ATA e-biz is that a lot of really good issues, that seem to be hidden but have far-reaching consequences, are brought under the microscope, inspected, discussed and in some cases resolved. What I learned from last year’s ATA e-biz was that it’s a bunch of smart people having honest discussions about applying technology to current maintenance issues and future business opportunities. I hope this year’s event is just as good.
In asset-intensive industries like oil & gas, energy & utilities, mining and transportation, capital equipment downtime can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per day. One of the primary challenges to keeping assets up and running is the daunting complexity and various configurations of the equipment: maintenance planners and service technicians must reference enormous volumes of documentation, some of which is spread across multiple locations; some in paper form, others in online databases.
Many companies in asset-intensive industries have made substantial investments in Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) systems or Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS). While these systems can have a wide range of capabilities, broadly speaking they try to improve maintenance planning by indicating what to do and when to do it. This often includes job scheduling and assignment, preventive maintenance (PM), inventory control, and other activities associated with asset availability, reliability and operational safety.
Largely beyond the scope of EAM/CMMS applications is direct support for how to perform maintenance activities—particularly unplanned maintenance activities—in the field. While some EAM systems can generate work orders, and perhaps material lists for various maintenance tasks, the primary purpose of these systems is to support the maintenance planner, not the mechanic.
That’s where Enigma’s technology comes into play, because it delivers the how to content as a fully integrated maintenance solution: fault isolation/troubleshooting manuals (how to diagnose), service manuals (how to repair), service bulletins (how to incorporate the latest procedures), parts catalogs (how to find the proper parts) and collaboration (how to share maintenance history/experience). Improving the efficiency of mechanics has a major impact on reducing asset downtime and thus on bottom-line profitability and competitiveness; it’s common sense to increase the value of EAM by integrating Enigma into the equation. In future blog posts we’ll provide specific examples that show companies how to further leverage EAM/CMMS investments.
A recent news clip on AviationWeek.com noted that KLM-Air France is in preliminary talks with French transportation company Veolia about a potential rail partnership.
What’s this about air and rail transit companies getting cozy with each other? They don’t usually share resources; they compete against each other, on short-haul trips at least. Ah, but trains and planes share one thing in common: they move people and goods. This potential partnership may be a case of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mentality, which makes sense in a lot of ways, financially.
In some areas, particularly Europe and the northeastern U.S., high speed rail is providing stiff competition for airlines, especially for transporting people on short-haul routes. When you factor in the time necessary to get to and from an airport and pass through the security checks, it is often faster—or just as fast—to go via high speed rail, if your destination is a short distance away (for example, Paris to Frankfurt). Furthermore, it costs about the same amount of money for the ticket holder/user, and the train stations are usually located in convenient downtown urban locations, near businesses and other transit infrastructure. Veolia does not yet use high speed rail, but that could change, since the infrastructure is in place throughout much of Europe, and in some parts of the United States. (It’s worth noting that Veolia, though headquartered in France, is the largest transportation (bus and rail) provider in the US, and operates services on behalf of over 5,000 local, regional and national authorities around the globe.)
Rising fuel costs are no doubt a factor that is prompting Air France-KLM’s conversations with Veolia; certainly both industries face the challenge of rising fuel costs, but it probably takes less fuel to get a train from point A to point B. One must also consider how much weight/volume (people and cargo) can be hauled for the same amount of fuel.
But which mode of transport costs less to maintain? Is the cost of rail maintenance lower than aircraft maintenance? That’s hard to calculate, given the variety of differences between the two transportation modes. In general, jet aircraft machinery is more complex than that of trains, so it’s fair to assume that maintenance costs are much higher for airlines. However, rail transit must spend a substantial amount of money to maintain thousands of miles of track and hundreds of stations.
Enigma already has a strong track record (pun intended) for reducing costs and improving efficiency in aviation maintenance by providing parts and service information. Because most people and some cargo must reach far-off destinations quickly, there will always be a need for airline transport. But we fully expect to see growth in the rail industry, and along with it a growing demand for products such as Enigma 3C, InService MRO and InService EPC, which are currently implemented in rail transit companies to help them achieve similar benefits in their maintenance depots.
Rail travel seems to be making a bit of a comeback; according to the American Public Transportation Association, in the first quarter of 2008 there was a 3.42% increase over the same quarter last year in unlinked transit passenger trips (which includes light rail, heavy rail, buses and trolleys). Furthermore, CNN just reported today that U.S. cities are racing to cope with ever-increasing demand on public transportation as gas prices remain at record levels.
Several airlines probably sense a need to diversify to capitalize on this trend. After all, both airlines and rail are in the business of transporting people and cargo from one location to another. Therefore, it seems logical for the two industries to become closer. Don’t be surprised if you soon hear more airlines calling “ALL ABOARD!”
The Enigma InService Electronic Parts Catalog (EPC) is a “one-stop shop” application that combines product and support information from multiple divisions and product lines, from multiple sources/systems, in multiple document formats. This podcast offers a mini product demo of the InService EPC solution and its service information functionality.
In a nutshell, this functionality enables service technicians to look up a part, then reference the corresponding service documents and the links between them. By clicking on the service information icon, installation instructions—including illustrations—appear for that part or assembly kit. The end result is that service technicians are more efficient; they can more quickly find the relevant service documentation and make the necessary repairs.