ADAC LUFTFAHRT TECHNIK (ALT) is an MRO business maintaining over 55 rotary wing aircraft. The company was founded in 1963 in Cologne, Germany as Air Lloyd, Deutsche Helikopter Flugservice GmbH. Initially operating as a crop dusting service in the vineyards of Germany and in Africa, the business maintained its own fleet of Bell helicopters. In 1970, Air Lloyd moved to its current base at St Augustine and started to maintain the Air Ambulances of ADAC (Germany’s main motoring organization) in 1983. ADAC became a shareholder in Air Lloyd in 1992 and bought the whole business in 1996. In order to better serve the ADAC Air Ambulances, two branch sites were established in Bavaria and Saxony. Since 1997, Air Lloyd has also provided maintenance services for aircraft of ANWB Medical Air Assistance, the Air Ambulance operator of the Dutch Automobile Association. At the outset, Air Lloyd was maintaining three MBB BO-105 helicopters whereas today the company has over 55 helicopters of varying types under contract. These are: 37 x EC135; 12 x BK117; 2 x EC145; and 4 x H145
SITUATION PRIOR TO ‘GO LIVE’
This case study is about how ALT has made the most of an MRO IT solution that was selected more than eight years ago. However, to introduce a context, it will be useful to look first at the situation ALT was in prior to go-live with the new MRO. In a nutshell, there was a lot of paper generated for and by the correct handling of aircraft maintenance. Each business unit, such as maintenance for line and base operations, the logistics department, maintenance planning, and accountancy, used its own system but without any interconnection between them. IT, before 2007, was a DOSbased software application named dBase. State-of-the-art in its time but dating from the 1990s, dBase (see below) covered most of the maintenance activities and, while it was an isolated system, it allowed planning staff to monitor aircraft usage-based and date-based parameters.
Entering correct data into the system was very demanding of time and of personnel resources. Also, multiple sources of data entry led to a high input error rate. The dBase application was and still is used to generate pilots’ information on ‘next due’ inspection items while an electronic flight bag solution is still under development.
A big issue was the problem of paper accumulation and the consequent disadvantages. Looking at the business units involved, ALT found a disappointing situation. Accounts issued their invoices manually using an SPS system to meet the company’s legal requirements under Germany’s fiscal law. Logistics staff was handicapped, having to use handwritten material requests, which often traveled with the technician over nearly a week prior to delivery to the stores. Maintenance planning issued work orders by hand plus work reports were also written by hand and individual handwriting styles often made the documents less than useful. There was no interconnection between the different systems. In the same vein, purchase orders and releases to service were all handled manually.
Consideration of all these issues lead ALT, in 2006, to think about a solution for an IT upgrade and change-over.
IT WISH LIST
A wish list of desirable outcomes and capabilities was assembled bearing in mind the expected business benefits to be gained from an MRO IT system; including anticipated benefits across materials, maintenance, planning, reliability, and other areas. The fundamental concern in the research that supported the identification of the correct application was to achieve the realization of a comprehensive system that would satisfy the needs of all involved departments. The main focus was on hangar maintenance, logistics, sales, maintenance planning, procurement, stores, accountancy, staff, and, if possible, the introduction of a barcode system. The secondary focus, but no less important, was the wish to realize modules covering quality management, document management, electronic time registration, and accessibility to the application by customers. Project management, fleet management, and performance management were set aside for the time being.
EXPECTED MATERIALS BENEFITS
There were some specific benefits that the business hoped to achieve in the materials division. These included:-
- Automatic replenishment of consumable aircraft parts; this was identified as a quantum leap;
- The ability for materials forecasting and planning was a must;
- Improved and faster materials request processing was desirable;
- Improved repair order processing was also wanted;
- It was expected that the new solution should be able to manage vendors and suppliers;
- ALT was especially interested in improvements in stocktaking actions – at the time, taking stock was insufficient, people-intensive, and imprecise;
- And, last but not least, the business wanted improved monitoring of life-limited parts (LLPs).
EXPECTED MAINTENANCE BENEFITS
From a maintenance point of view, ALT also set targets that it aimed to achieve through a new software solution.
- As has already been mentioned, the prevention of paper accumulation was one of the most important enhancements sought;
- There was also a wish to achieve speed, accuracy, and ease of work for everybody involved by linking part numbers to every single task on a task level;
- As maintenance staff were traveling to line maintenance stations located at hospitals throughout Germany and the Netherlands, the new application would have to be capable of using equipment for electronic signatures;
- All involved business units were aiming for standardization of reports;
- With regards to external customer business, improved labor tracking was a must;
- It was particularly important to be able to differentiate between mechanics’ and inspectors’ skills through the sign-off;
- Finally, document linking capability was identified as an asset in order to have fast internet access to the manufacturer’s approved maintenance library
Rotary aircraft maintenance in an air ambulance environment is challenging in areas such as ‘robbing’ components from one helicopter in order to install them in another one to ensure the availability of that helicopter. For this purpose, aircraft and component configurations defined in the application would enable the planning department to easily monitor parameters. Short-term and long-term maintenance planning activities should benefit from aircraft and component maintenance programs adapted to the manufacturer’s master servicing manual. ALT expected an improvement from the introduction of maintenance forecasts and the establishment of a fully functional ‘aircraft next due’ report. Reliability of data had to be achievable with a single data repository and single source entry of data.
SOFTWARE SELECTION STEPS AND MILESTONES
Having established to its own satisfaction what qualities, capabilities, and features were required in any new system, ALT management was now able to proceed to a software selection process based on that ‘wish list’
In 2006, ALT conducted some market research from which 14 vendors who were supplying an appropriate MRO IT solution to match the above business requirements were identified. Requests for proposal (RFPs) were issued to seven of those vendors and, based on those proposals, four vendors were invited to product presentations and workshops.
On the graphic above, it is possible to see the key aspects that ALT had in mind for its new application. Participating vendors were assessed in respect to the degree of correlation with ALT’s main functionality requirements within their standard software and their consultancy competence. The chart shows the different positions in respect of these factors for the invited vendors and whether they were conducting a presentation or a workshop. In the end, Ramco Aviation Solutions fulfilled most of ALT’s expectations and, following this process, was selected to supply the new system. The selection of Ramco was for a number of reasons.
The benefits that had been identified as desirable or required from the new system were met by Ramco and their consultancy competence was impressive. Also impressive was the range of their applications across a number of business areas as confirmed by the experience of a number of their customers and users around the world.
Specifically, the factors on which ALT decided to go with the Ramco solution were:
- As a web-based system, the Ramco solution is accessible from all of ALT’s maintenance facilities;
- It offers the possibility of monitoring over 10 inheritable parameters, especially those for engine, generator, and turbine cycles, and for rescue winches – a specific issue with rescue helicopters;
- There is the ability to show a modifications status history for the aircraft and components;
- It facilitates the implementation of an automatic forecasted ‘maintenance due’ report;
- The solution offers high coverage of all business processes;
- The expected quantum leap for logistics with respect to material requests, orders, procurement, stores, and accountancy
IMPLEMENTATION AND MIGRATION
This schematic (above) demonstrates to what extent function modules of the new MRO system are in use at ALT. In summary, it shows that modules for engineering and programs, materials management, maintenance, sales, and finance and accounting are more than 90% operative (blue boxes indicate a process handled by the new system). Still out of the scope of the Ramco system is flight operations: which is why ADAC and ANWB are pursuing their own electronic flight deck solution. In addition, standard reports, embedded workflow, eSignature, and auto-uploads are operative.
One fundamental element of the migration process was the formation of a qualified ‘key user’ team (see below). The ’key user‘ team consisted of an in-house advisory board and various business unit key users and co-key users. It represents the interface between the Ramco team and every single user in ALT. It soon became clear that the key user function is a full-time job during implementation and migration. After go-live, the key users were still active, but the good progress of implementation and the spread of know-how across the end-user community over the post-go-live period reduced the direct involvement of ’key users’ as Ramco Champions.
A Consultative Approach
In terms of maintenance planning, the new system offers a high potential as all inheritable parameters are updated on the line and base stations and entered into the database over the Internet; also, all aircraft and component times are automatically kept up-to-date. This has an influence on the aircraft and component maintenance programs where, after issue of the electronic sign-off all related work units are scheduled to the next due value. The forecast is generated automatically in an overnight job by activation of an SQL (structured query language) scheduler routine. This provides an updated aircraft and component ‘next due list’ which is useful for maintenance planning.
There are some actual measured benefits that have been realized post go-live across materials, accountancy and maintenance. In the materials area ALT has achieved a 50 per cent time saving for initiating repair orders and over 99% stocktaking accuracy. Accountancy benefits have been realized from improved payments in different currencies and coherent processes for all business units. In the maintenance area, users have gained the ability for quick and easy searching of maintenance data and of related parts. The business is now able to make simple comparisons between estimated and actual man hours (a real plus with regards to external businesses) and has managed a 30% saving in the time taken for the preparation of maintenance events
Future IT goals at the moment are to migrate to Ramco release 5.7 which is planned to go live in 2016. We understand the latest release is aligned more to the usability and accessibility perspective. We are keen to continue the relationship with Ramco and look forward to implementing and benefitting from the latest release.