Mr. Rashidi Saidin, Malaysian Airlines (left) and Mr. Takashi Sasaki, Japan Airlines
AviationWeek held their annual MRO Asia show last week in Hong Kong. Enigma's CEO, Jonathan Yaron, moderated one of the sessions: "IT Considerations in a Modern MRO Facility". The panel included representatives from two airlines - Japan Airlines (JAL) and Malaysian Airlines (MAS) - and from one MRO shop - Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services.
Mr. Takashi Sasaki, Staff Director at JAL Engineering & Maintenance, spoke about the implementation of Enigma and SAP at JAL and how the airline is now starting to reap the benefits of these new IT systems. The Enigma implementation at JAL went live in mid-2008, enabling thousands of engineers, inspectors and mechanics 24-hour access to the most up-to-date technical documentation. Mr. Sasaki stressed the seamless integration between the Enigma system and JAL's Engineering Workflow System (based on Documentum), enabling fast and efficient review of technical manual revisions from Boeing and the fast publishing of JAL Customer Original Changes (COCs) into these manuals.
Mr. Rashidi Saidin, General Manager of Engineering & Maintenance at MAS, outlined the considerations of implementing advanced IT systems in MRO from the perspective of an airline that is still using old legacy systems. He spoke of the troubles arising from the current setup: too many systems that are not integrated properly and contain inaccurate and out-of-date data. Significantly, Mr. Rashidi noted that engineers and mechanics waste 60% of their time searching for information about the appropriate part or maintenance task.
Mr. Bernard Hensey, CEO of Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services, spoke about the need to utilize generic IT systems in an MRO environment, implementing lean projects that avoid a footprint that is too wide. He urged airlines and MROs to "take a serious look" at the IT systems offered by the OEMs (i.e., Boeing and Airbus) when evaluating a new system.
What Mr. Hensey neglected to mention is that most major airlines have either already moved away from OEM-provided technical documentation systems or are seriously considering doing so, in favor of implementing a "best of breed" solution. Indeed, what may be a good system for a small airline operating a Boeing-only or Airbus-only fleet, does not work for an airline operating a diverse fleet from various OEMs. This is especially true when the airline also wants to benefit from integrating the technical documentation to the planning system and produce dynamic job cards.
Generally speaking, and in line with the times, fewer companies attended this year's show. It also seemed like the delegate attendance at the conference sessions was markedly lower. Last year, after the MRO Asia show in Singapore, I wrote that most speakers expressed uncertainty about the future and warned to expect bad times. This year, there was no uncertainty; everyone spoke about how they were licking the wounds from 2009 and expressed hope for better times ahead. The fact that some vendors did not even show up at this show (see pictures below) is an indication of how deep and painful these wounds are.
Empty booths at MRO Asia 2009