The Uptime Blog
Gartner recently published a case study about Oracle’s success at Korean Airlines (KAL) titled, “Case Study: Benefits and Pitfalls of Seeking Faster Financial Close and Better Management Information.” This case study describes the processes that KAL used to overhaul their IT infrastructure and implement new, state-of-the-art enterprise business systems across their military and commercial business units. While the case study focuses on the challenges of improving KAL’s financial, procurement and sales activities—classic ERP-based environments—it also highlights the importance of extending those enterprise solutions to Maintenance & Engineering (M&E).
Flight safety and regulatory compliance play a critical role in flight operations. As a result, M&E sits at the heart of KAL’s aircraft operations and is based on the Oracle cMRO (complex maintenance, repair and overhaul) product. MRO systems are essentially a more powerful version of enterprise asset management (EAM) systems, which are designed to improve the ROI of capital equipment. cMRO is designed to excel in the highly regulated and highly mobile business landscape of travel and transportation (T&T). (Essentially T&T industries require detailed maintenance and compliance documentation, even though the assets move from place to place and get maintained by multiple organizations.)
Here are some interesting comments/observations from this case study:
- To ensure success at KAL, Oracle utilized four Oracle cMRO experts and ten experts from Enigma who understood the airline industry and the required technology.
- cMRO and Enigma were rolled out to manage military aircraft maintenance in January 2010.
- cMRO, Demantra and Enigma were rolled out for the commercial maintenance and engineering division in January 2011.
- KAL was reporting results and performance in the M&E division in the second half of 2011 for the following functionalities:
* Support for line/heavy/engine/component maintenance shops.
* Job card generation and loading of new/revised maintenance manuals.
* Forecasting work volume and packaging for the aircraft/engine products.
* Implementing a forecasting system for maintenance costs.
* Implementing a reliability system.
* Planning human resources related to a production/ maintenance plan.
- Some of the critical success factors:
* KAL accepted ownership to cleanse M&E data (with support from Oracle and Enigma).
* Tight, integrated efforts for various internal global and regional groups to work closely together.
* Senior-level involvement and accountability from Oracle and Enigma.
While the Gartner report focused on the big-ERP message at KAL, a critical detail that was somewhat overlooked is the role played by Enigma within the M&E implementation. Essentially, Enigma acts as the “glue” that brings everything together in M&E. When KAL gets revised manuals and parts catalogs from the OEM, Enigma processes this information and develops reports that are used to update the inventory, revise the maintenance plans and deliver accurate job cards (task cards) into the mechanic’s hand. While Enigma is one of many software products that were deployed at KAL, it plays a critical role for achieving the automation that was required within the Maintenance & Engineering department.
The story of KAL, according to Gartner, is that it is possible to completely overhaul an airline’s enterprise IT operation, without shutting down the airline. It takes the right technology, careful planning, executive commitment (from all sides), and strong, knowledgeable partners. With those pieces in place, the implementation can move forward in a timely, efficient manner and airlines can realize better visibility and significant cost reductions.
While the enterprise solution at Korean Airlines is far bigger than Enigma’s footprint, we are honored to have played a key role in helping Oracle deliver a successful ERP and M&E roll-out.
Public transit authorities are strapped for cash but, then again, I can't name a public sector that isn’t these days. The problem is that public transit is facing problems that aren’t “public” at all. When public safety budgets are running low, there is often a lot of media coverage about the problem and sooner or later more funding is found. After all, most voters don’t want more crime or slower police/fire/ambulance service. But public transit is different because it's very maintenance intensive so a lot of money is needed just to keep trains and buses moving. People that live in a city will say they want trains and buses to run on time, but not many voters are willing to pay for it.
One problem is that although railcars and buses are pretty durable, they’re also subjected to an incredible amount of abuse. Just as rough roads cause damage to cars, trucks and buses, poor tracks and rail ties (sleepers) damage locomotives and railcars. On top of that, the APTA (American Public Transportation Association) reports that in 2010 Americans took 10.2 billion trips on public transit and over the past 15 years public transportation ridership increased 31%, which is more than the growth in population and highway usage. For buses and trains that’s a lot of stopping and starting on deteriorating streets and rails. Yet, how often is this equipment being properly serviced? Not often enough according to industry sources.
A few months ago, I was watching a hockey game on TV when I discovered I was sitting next to the VP and GM for Rail Operations of one of the largest transit authorities in America. This guy ran the show and he told me exactly what was going on in terms of transit maintenance. What I learned was pretty sobering. To meet increasing ridership demand, his agency has been forced to run its equipment so hard that they skip most preventive maintenance intervals because they can’t afford to take the railcars out of service. In fact, his agency is now replacing entire fleets of equipment because it’s too expensive to fix the damage to existing buses, locomotives and railcars. While he acknowledged that safety checks were always performed and critical problems corrected, with regard to recommended maintenance schedules his agency’s motto was “run to failure.”
Run to failure. That’s the maintenance strategy for many transit organizations. Keep the trains and buses rolling for as long as possible, for as little money as possible, and don’t let them stop until they break. And when the buses and trains do finally break, get them back in service as fast as possible. In Enigma’s business, we see that a lot, and not just in public transit but in all sorts of asset intensive operations. While Enigma believes that transit authorities should follow the recommended maintenance plans, the reality is they can’t. Public transit gets too little money and has too much politics. (i.e. Politicians redirect critical maintenance funds to more popular programs, and are unwilling to support increased fares.) In the meantime, the cities and towns need those trains and buses to keep rolling.
Enigma’s products are designed to help transit authorities maintain their equipment, whether the service visit is scheduled or unscheduled. In that regard, Enigma is perfectly suited for run to failure environments. Run to failure forces mechanics and parts managers to quickly determine what's broken and the parts and procedures needed to fix it. Enigma ensures that accurate service and parts information is available online or offline, in the depot or out on the tracks, so that proper parts are ordered, proper work is performed, and safety and compliance is preserved. And we do it very quickly.
Future posts will revisit the idea of run to failure and how companies can improve their performance in this environment. In the meantime, if a run to failure environment describes your company give us a call. We’ve got some great solutions.
Would you ask a third-party (intermediary or agent) to manage your most important customers? According to Dictionary.com, the word intermediary is an intermediate agent, a go-between or mediator, and an agent is a person or business authorized to act on another's behalf.
With these definitions in mind, would a manufacturing company (OEM) rely on an intermediary or agent to manage their most important customers? For most OEMs the answer will be “it depends.” Allowing a go-between to influence customer decisions about buying products, how much to buy and whether to buy more in the future carries risk. Unless the intermediary is more skilful and reliable than the OEM’s own resources, the lack of account control may result in lower revenue or profits. This is why so many OEMs prefer to maintain direct relationships with important customers.
This begs another question, “Since OEMs strive to manage key customers directly, why do they let third parties control the critical service and parts information sent to their customers, dealers, distributors and field technicians?” This question is important because there is a tight relationship between technical information and aftermarket profits. Assuming the OEM’s product functions as expected, service and parts information plays a key role in determining customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. It's the technical information that drives decisions about replacement parts and required service, both of which are huge profit centers for OEMs and their dealer networks. That’s why it’s so surprising that OEMs regularly outsource the creation and distribution of service and parts catalogs.
Outsourcing service and parts catalogs (including service bulletins, parts supersession and kitting, cross-sell/up-sell, accessories, diagnostics, etc.) limits an OEM’s ability to ensure proper customer support. Third party catalog providers typically restrict the number and frequency of changes to service and parts data, which makes it difficult/expensive for OEM’s to keep technical information up-to-date. Numerous customers have told Enigma about spending months gathering revised product, service and parts data and shipping it off to the catalog vendor, only to wait weeks/months to get a completed catalog back and ready to distribute (online or offline). In the meantime, the OEM's engineering department has implemented more service and parts changes so the new catalog is already out-of-date.
The answer to this problem is disintermediation. Merriam-Webster defines disintermediation as the elimination of an intermediary in a transaction between two parties. In other words, disintermediation is when an OEM gets rid of the go-betweens, the mediators and the agents so they have direct communication with customers, dealers and field technicians. OEMs that eliminate third parties and bring the production and distribution of service and parts catalogs in house can deliver more accurate product information and real-time support.
Enigma enables disintermediation. With Enigma’s EPC (electronic parts catalog) technology, OEMs can publish and update technical content at will, ensuring customer’s service and parts decisions are always based on the latest information (online and offline).
Disintermediation is the key to increasing OEM profits in the service and parts business. Only by staying close to the customer, and providing the very best technical information, can OEMs expect to succeed in the hyper-competitive market for service and parts. Enigma plays a key role in achieving this goal.
PDF documents comprise the majority of service and parts information, yet it is difficult for IT systems to extract data from a PDF file. This limitation negatively impacts parts and maintenance operations for all industries; this post addresses the impact on aviation, but in future posts we’ll look at other industries beyond aviation.
The Role of Task Cards
Task cards (or “job cards”) are documents containing detailed instructions that guide aviation technicians as they perform maintenance on airframes, engines and components. Task cards are critical to ensuring fast, accurate maintenance and regulatory compliance. Task cards may be physical (paper) or virtual (electronic) documents, depending on the business process of the airline or third-party maintenance shop (MRO). Each task card contains the information (parts, procedures, tools, skills, etc.) necessary to work on a specific piece of equipment (by tail-number/serial-number) and must be signed-off when the job is complete.
PDF Maintenance Documents
The parts and procedures defined on task cards are based on OEM maintenance manuals but also include airline best practices, in the form of customer originated changes (COCs) or customer supplements. The ATA (Air Transport Association) recommends that these OEM maintenance manuals use SGML or XML as the data format; however about seventy percent of the manuals currently in use are PDF. (Component maintenance manuals, which make up a high percentage of the serviceable items on an aircraft, are provided almost entirely in PDF format.) This is a problem for maintenance organizations because SGML and XML are highly-structured formats that simplify data extraction; however, the lack of structure in PDF makes it difficult to convert the text into task cards.
Another issue is that OEMs update aircraft, engine and component manuals on a regular basis (typically quarterly), and often specify different parts and procedures for individual aircraft tail-numbers (or equipment serial-numbers). To ensure accuracy, each new OEM revision must be compared to previous maintenance manuals and combined with the relevant COCs and supplements before being converted into updated task cards. With so much PDF data being modified so frequently, airlines and MROs have difficulty synchronizing technical content for maintenance planning and execution.
Aviation maintenance manuals and parts catalogs are broken down into tasks/subtasks and assemblies/parts, which are readily understood by engineers and technicians. Regardless of the data format used for this information (SGML, XML, PDF, etc.), end-users will see little difference. It is when a software system (ERP, EAM, MRO, etc.) tries to utilize this data that the limitations of PDF become clear.
Maintenance manuals that use SGML or XML employ special identifiers that call out tasks, subtasks, parts and other relevant information. These data elements (TASK, SUBTASK, PNR, etc.) allow text within SGML/XML files to be recognized and utilized by other business and IT systems. PDF, on the other hand, is a linear stream of text without any content identifiers or embedded data elements (only formatting rules and a few metadata fields). As a result, for an IT system to extract data from a PDF file it must first search the document and the results must be interpreted to identify the proper information. This is a slow, error-prone process that eliminates the benefits of automation. To effectively use PDF, maintenance organizations are forced to cut-and-paste the necessary data from PDF into whatever planning and inventory systems they are using. To make PDF useful for maintenance automation, the SGML/XML data elements that are missing from PDF must be “inserted” in a way that allows it to act more like the other, richer data formats. Only then can the maintenance organization realize the potential of fully integrated IT systems.
Overcoming PDF Limitations
Enigma has the ability to overcome the limitations of PDF documents, processing them in a way that enables this relatively flat file format to act almost like SGML and XML data. Enigma’s tools enrich PDF files, allowing them to be leveraged by maintenance planning and execution processes, like automatic generation of task cards. With PDF data comprising well over half of the airframe, engine and component documentation, airlines and MROs are finding Enigma’s PDF tools to be critically important to improving maintenance productivity, accuracy and compliance.
To learn more about how Enigma enhances PDF, download our fact sheet, "Putting PDF to Work – Making PDF Data Interactive."