5 Steps To Unlock Value In Engine Maintenance Process

Aircraft engine maintenance service providers recognize that their operations and maintenance processes are unique and complex when compared to hangar, line, and component maintenance processes. If you are a part of an engine maintenance organization and find yourself nodding to the points mentioned below that have caused inconvenience, then you are not alone.

  1. You have a team of dedicated persons to process the OEM technical documents and customer workscope documents, especially to manage PDF-based contents.
  2. You work with disintegrated systems with suboptimal interfaces to carry out core processes of planning & scheduling, work execution, technical publications, technical sales, and finance. 
  3. Your mechanics & engineers are tied to desktops to carry out most of their regular tasks like accessing technical documentation, reporting defects & findings, requesting parts, etc.
  4. Your team spends a lot of time and effort to pull data from siloed systems to abstract and report KPIs and business analytics to enable decision making.

So, read on to see the 5 potential areas that will simplify and also add value to this entire process.

Step 1: Digitization of OEM and internal technical documents

The engineering and technical records department put in loads of effort and time to process the OEM’s technical documents (such as Service Bulletin and Information letters) and manuals (ESM, SPM, etc). This can range from occasional induction of a new set of technical documentation for a particular engine type to continuous and incremental revisions to these documents. As the formats of these documents vary, so does the effort required to process them. The XML/SGML-based document formats are efficient to ingest and render the output in HTML for an interactive experience to the users (refer to Fig. 1). PDF-based documents need extensive efforts to process.

Fig. 1: XML/SGML-based documents processingXML/SGML-based documents processing

Having the right content management system that is well integrated with the core M&E system increases the operational efficiencies, by reducing the time and effort required to process the technical contents. The table below lists the capabilities that a content management system must have that will help the organization gain efficiencies in this process. Engine MRO looking to embrace digital transformation will be challenged downstream unless this area is completely equipped with robust and intelligent system capabilities.

Capability Efficiencies gained through...
Ability to process the PDF-based technical documents
  • Automating the process for splitting the files, extracting the data, diagrams, tables based on the rules or Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
  • Transforming or classifying the extracted data according to the business context and automatically detect the changes and initiate the workflow
Ability to process XML/SGML-based technical documents
  • Predefining the templates for task cards and importing the content from OEM documents into the appropriate sections. Rendering task card in an interactive (WYSIWYG) editor for customization of additional contents in the form of text, tables, formulae, and graphics
  • Automatic retention of customization during the document revisions
  • Ability to cross-refer the documents (external, internal) and enabling smart search options for users
Direct Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) capabilities with OEM sites
  • Ability to access the OEM’s technical documentation library from the place of work through secure logins and API interfaces
Digital enablers
  • Leveraging OCR technologies to process scanned PDF, and leveraging RPA / NLP to process unstructured data like information letters

 

New task cards related to SB/AD (Service Bulletins / Airworthiness Directive), which does not have a baseline reference, need user intervention to collect standard manhours from external sources and applying the MRO factor to arrive at the planned manhours.

Part lists are also compared with the existing part library and new part number which needs to be created are listed separately. This creation process is semi-automated as it requires additional data both from intelligent defaults and user-specified.

(If you want to know more about this, you can read a detailed blog on this here.)

Step 2: Smart automation by leveraging data

Engine maintenance processes typically generate a wealth of data pertaining to the aircraft engine defects, parts consumed, labor hours, elapsed time to carry out the repair procedure, etc. Accumulated over time, this data can be utilized to gain insights through AI/ML, automate the core operations and ultimately gain an edge over the competition. Legacy applications may have the advantage of accessing the rich data accumulated but their ability to derive advantage is limited due to the existence of data silos and lack of advanced capabilities to harness the data.

The following table indicates the areas that can leverage data and AI/ML digital capabilities to provide key business benefits.

Core Process Potential Automation Areas
Workscope planning & estimation
  • Ability to compare various configurations and templates, and arrive at a potential target configuration based on applicable SB/AD and customer/performance targets
  • Ability to arrive at overall cost based on the planned labor hours and potential non-routine labor hours based on the target work scoping requirements
Production planning & scheduling
  • Automated adjustment of production plan and scheduling based on the real-time feedback from shop floor that depends on workscope changes, new findings, defects, etc.
  • Rebalancing options of the production plan & schedules based on the real-time shop floor dynamics on the workscope due to labor, parts, tools, machine capacity approvals, etc. 
Supply chain management
  • Ability to derive the accurate part forecast for scheduled maintenance based on the historical data
  • Automate the piece part routing to route internally for another shop, route externally to repair vendors or trigger exchange based on customer, supplier contracts

 

Step 3: Mobility-enabled shop floor work execution

Empowering the shop floor mechanics with mobile-based work execution tools (refer to Fig. 2) is a proven way to reduce the non-production hours and enhance productivity. This is primarily due to a significant reduction in physical movements that are needed for accessing the required support. Mobile-based work execution enables the mechanic to book time, report findings and record measurements, request parts and tools, and access the technical documents from the place of work. With the required regulatory approvals that were easily acquired through mobile apps, task and work compliance can be complied with through a digital e-signoff.

Fig. 2: Mobility-based shop floor execution Mobility-based shop floor execution

Mechanics can raise technical requests, collaborate with the technical teams through voice and video chat in real-time to get feedback or advice on resolution. Well-authored task and process sheets can intuitively guide the mechanics to report their observations, measurements, and tolerances at the appropriate sections. The reported data are checked with the standard or OEM reference to assist the mechanics to take decisions. This data is even stored and leveraged for analytics and ML-based recommendations.

Step 4: Enabling Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) between the ecosystem partners

The seamless flow of data between the ecosystem partners (refer to Fig. 3) is essential for augmenting operational efficiency. The engine maintenance process involves routing the engine sub-assemblies to external repair, exchanges, and purchase of the parts with suppliers. By leveraging industry protocols (Spec 2000), the processing time and quality of data exchange can be significantly improved. Processing real-time data on shipments improve marshalling and production control efficiencies.

Fig. 3: Seamless flow of data between ecosystem partners

Fig. 3

Enabling a robust EDI connection with customer systems provides an engine MRO with the dual advantage of boosting efficiency and also improving the delivery of value to the customers. The possible avenues of the EDI exchanges are work scope, configuration snapshots, additional work requests, and out-of-scope approvals. These information exchanges can also be achieved by enabling the customer portal. Pivoting all the communications within the system framework enables the comprehensive data source for business and KPI measurements.

Step 5: Real-time KPI monitoring & Business Analytics

Having an integrated system that assures paperless operations ensures that the data collected are entered at the point of source. Key KPIs related to TAT, quality, cost, resource utilization, and warranties are computed dynamically without any need for manual consolidation and preparation. This makes way for a transparent and timely availability of insights for better decision-making.

Future-proofing the Engine Maintenance organizations

Faced with the twin objectives of operational efficiency and reducing costs, engine MROs need to embrace an integrated platform and digital technologies to future-proof their business. MROs need to rethink their improvement projects and should instead consider these 5 steps in their digital adoption strategies to unlock the maximum value.

This blog is a part of the Digital Aviation MRO blog series. You can check out the previous blog in this series here and here. For any further clarifications, you can reach out to us at contact@ramco.com 

 

 

 

 

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