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Right Sizing in Aviation Business & The Importance of Right IT Solution - Part 2

The Right IT Solution

As discussed in my earlier blog “Right Sizing in Aviation Business & The Importance of Right IT Solution – Part 1”, having different operating models warrant varying maintenance strategies and right sizing models.

Essentially being a cost cutting measure, airline going through right sizing operations would want to reduce maintenance costs which would involve moving most of the maintenance outside organization, especially higher labor intensive checks. Also they would want to reduce costs by opting for a leaner business process and activities. This would involve stricter operational demands, with focus on higher availability and better operational metrics. Needless to say a large part of achieving all this would depend on the right MRO IT software. Not only the software should be fast and reliable, it must have processes and practices to help users to quickly address their needs without needing to navigate umpteen screens and entering lots of information. The software must be able to provide efficient communication and alert mechanisms and also support the user’s decision making process via intelligent searches and notifications.

The right strategy for investing on an IT system is all about choosing one that can efficiently consolidate all the various operational processes - choosing the right IT system that can support and simplify the decision making processes and empower the users to understand the situation quickly and act efficiently. It is also pertinent that the investments in these systems are taken with considering not just today’s needs but to the future planned growth. Wrong choices in IT systems cost organizations millions of dollars and also takes an eternity to implement and generate an ROI.

Looking Ahead

For any airline MRO operations, the maintenance organization must balance airline operational goals with maintenance cost control/reduction, and focus is to maintain the highest standards of safety and quality.

With emphasis on cost reduction and right-sizing, one of the major challenges would be finding the right mix of resource requirement and planning and scheduling the right activities that needs to be performed as part of daily operations. In order to help organizations in achieving this the IT solution needs to have quick and efficient Planning and Optimization frameworks which are basically algorithmic problem solving engines that can be used for solving complex planning, scheduling and optimizing problems in nearly any field. These frameworks can then be adapted to solve some of the typical planning and scheduling problems faced in the aviation industry like Hangar Production Planning, Line Maintenance Planning, Resource Optimizations, etc.

One of the requirements to meet the operational and revenue goals in aviation is to reduce delays and cancellations.  This would require the IT solution to be nimble and responsive, allowing users to respond quickly to changing situations and easily manage the complexities of aircraft maintenance operations.

The proliferation of faster, powerful and cheaper mobile devices have created a paradigm shift in how the day to day users look at their IT systems - now the mechanics can simply click the image of a crack or dent she observes on an airframe rather than writing a long description of what she is looking at, she needs to just sign in to her company mobile application to see what current work she is assigned to and can perform the tasks assigned , raise requests and finally sign off her work orders right on the mobile device. The warehouse clerks, can now literally see the current location and count of inventory in the palm of their hands and can quickly service requests

Mobile applications thus must be designed to simplify the day to day process of every role in maintenance value chain. It is a known fact that some of the key roles in the maintenance ecosystem add waiting times to the processes as, though in general they work in Silos – independent of each other, they still require to communicate and collaborate while making critical decisions. This necessary evil can add unnecessary holds placed on priority work, which in turn affects the customer satisfaction index, ultimately impacting the bottom lines negatively. With the mobile applications we envisage that the data would be recorded as and when the work is completed, and the specific user and roles would have information readily available in their mobile devices, right at their fingertips, allowing them to action almost instantly.

But then, this is just another passing trend, and soon in the near future software design principles like Zero UI & BOTS are going to proliferate the market place. IT systems would then be used like a big brother, who would be a passive listener/observer & suggest and direct the users when they need his help. We are not far away from seeing J.A.R.V.I.S like technology (from Iron Man) where mechanics would talk and communicate to his IT system, like he would to his colleague/personal assistant.

The power of these systems lies in their computational capabilities and ability to understand and process natural language. Analysts predict that these systems would make a huge difference in how maintenance is carried out.

Let’s take a simple example – A mechanic observes a slight crack on his landing gear strut. He looks at is structural repair manual and understands this is due to abnormal stress, but however is not very sure about the repair procedure. He needs to get a go ahead from his engineering team, that being the case he writes an Engineering Service request and waits on the advice note.

The engineering team, looks at this and understands a similar defect was raised by another mechanic on a similar model few weeks back, they pick out the same advice note and send it to this mechanic. We are taking an optimistic route that the mechanic and the engineering team have an integrated system & the mechanic is able to attach an image of the crack along with a fairly good description of the defect observed. However, still it would take the Engineering team a few hours to track the previous advice note, validate it and send it to the mechanic.

Now, in future the mechanic would be talking to a BOT who has the power to not only sift through the thousands of advice notes doled out to the other mechanics and can identify a pattern within seconds, but also has the power to integrate with the OEM, exchange data and suggest the best possible repair in the shortest time. We are talking about reducing the TAT from possible hours/days to minutes & seconds.

Mechanics thus would be empowered to the nth degree to ensure the quickest turn around for the aircraft – A corner stone in ensuring the success of any right sizing strategy

Connecting the Dots

Forward looking leadership, clear and concise vision, practical innovation and leaner processes are the four main building blocks of any efficient organization – and is more the same for any organization that is looking to right-sizing their business.

That being the case, there is a lot of onus on the IT system which binds these principles together with execution. This becomes especially prominent in the right sizing scenarios, where the IT systems are looked upon as a tool to streamline processes and a glue that binds the organization into one cohesive unit.