Mobility Buzz Dominates 2012 MRO & Ops IT Conference, Bangkok
The 4th Asia Pacific Airline & Aerospace MRO & Operations IT Conference, organized by Aircraft Commerce, took place in Bangkok, Thailand this week.
Attending the conference were mid-to high-level managers from airlines and MROs in Asia with about 30 solution vendors vying for their attention (and future IT budgets). Conspicuous in their absence were delegates from the largest airlines in the continent – the Chinese – but this did not seem to impact the lively atmosphere in both the conference rooms and the exhibition space.
The mobility “buzz” dominated the conference proceedings, with EFBs (Electronic Flight Bags) leading the pack. I counted no less than six presentations with the words “EFB” or “iPad” appearing in the speaker summary notes. The proponents of mobile solutions also made sure they were creating a parallel “buzz” on the LinkedIn group “Aviation Service Lifecycle Management” by commenting to each other about the greatness of mobility in the cockpit. Given all this background noise, a visitor from Mars sitting in the conference ballroom would surely have reached the conclusion that the aviation industry is obsessed with one topic only: how to put iPads in the hands of pilots, and fast.
But if one were to turn from this hypothetical Martian in the conference room to an even more hypothetical fly on the wall in the exhibition room, the conclusion would have been markedly different.
When the managers and executives of the airlines actually sat down for serious discussions with each other and with the IT vendors, the issues that came up were very far from the “sexy” image of pilots in crisp uniforms holding an iPad in one hand and navigating the airplane with the other. The issues discussed were, alas, more mundane and down-to-earth: how to make maintenance mechanics more efficient, how to reduce unnecessary overhead in maintenance operations and how to make the multiple MRO IT systems work together in an integrated environment. As one sober industry executive put it recently: “The iPad is a basic, consumer product with limited built-in connectivity and content upload capability. It was never designed to be used in an aircraft environment and is not manufactured with aircraft-grade components. It is a consumer device, not an aircraft device”.
So it was encouraging to see IT and M&E managers sitting down for serious evaluation of the solutions available on the market. The hard times that have been hitting this industry for the past few years have helped introduce some rationalization in the airlines’ approach to MRO IT solutions. We no longer see extreme approaches to IT projects, with some airlines embarking on ambitious, all-encompassing, paradigm-shifting, multi-million dollar projects, with other airlines sitting on the sidelines and doing nothing for fear of change. It seems the approach today is more focused on achieving tangible results for a reasonable investment.
A welcome new vendor on the exhibition floor this year was Enigma’s partner, Oracle, offering their cMRO solution. Mr. Sook Hyun Cho, leader of the MRO ERP project at Korean Air gave a keynote case study presentation of the implementation of cMRO and Enigma’s InService MRO at the airline’s M&E organization, a project that went live almost two years ago. Mr. Cho highlighted the tight integration between the Oracle and Enigma systems, enabling KAL engineers to generate thousands of job cards daily. He stated KAL has met its project goals and can already boast efficiency improvements in MRO operations.
Kudos to Aircraft Commerce for organizing another successful Asia Pacific event.