Aircraft IT MRO – February / March 2015

Aircraft IT MRO – February / March 2015 Cover


Name Author
Wearable M&E Devices – The new era of hands free computing Suresh Subramanian, Principal Consultant-Aviation, Ramco View article
Column: How I See IT – 2015: The year we (finally) go mobile Paul Saunders, Solution Manager, Flatirons Solutions View article
Ask an Expert Michael Wm. Denis, President, Aviation Wikinomics, Inc. View article
Flexible MRO IT Systems for CAMO Mark Rogers, Commercial Manager, McLarens Aviation View article
Case Study: American Airlines: Mobility for Mechanics Blair Gregg, Managing Director of Technical Strategy For Maintenance & Engineering, American Airlines View article
TAP M&E RFID Case Study: Achieving visibility and traceability Fernando F. Matos, Head of Information Technologies, and Carlos Quinta, Head of RFID Competence Center, MEGASIS TAP IT View article
The top five key Civil Aviation MRO trends to watch out for in 2015 Espen Olsen, European Director for Aerospace & Defence, IFS View article

Ask an Expert

Author: Michael Wm. Denis, President, Aviation Wikinomics, Inc.


Ask an Expert

A new idea from Aircraft IT… you ask the questions and we’ll source the answers

We’ve asked long-standing Aircraft IT contributor, Michael Denis, to undertake a fresh new contribution in which you ask the questions currently on your mind about MRO IT; and he will answer. So, if you want an answer, you’ll have to send your question for Michael at Send in your question now and we could be publishing Mike’s answer in the next issue.

To get a proper answer you’ll have to…

Ask an expert

Question, from a large African airline: “I just want to know what it takes to go in to paperless environment.”

Answer: It Takes a Village to Go Paperless.

In 1996, then First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote a book and made an infamous statement, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The title of her book is attributed to an ancient African proverb roughly translated into English. Both the proverb and Mrs. Clinton’s book advocate that a child’s upbringing and both individual and societal success is attributable to more than just one’s family.

I often get asked what it takes for an airline or maintenance organization to achieve paperless operations. Hopefully my answer that it takes a village will be less controversial than Mrs. Clinton’s.

To answer the ‘what it takes’ question requires answering several more detailed questions which are often specific to an organization’s business model:
  • What is the ‘scope’ of paperless operations?
  • What is the ‘value’ of achieving paperless operations?
  • What ‘entities’ are involved in delivering and operating paperless operations?
  • What are the ‘regulatory’ requirements of paperless operations?
  • What ‘technology’ is needed to achieve paperless operations?
  • What is the best ‘method’ to start and complete a paperless transformation?
The scope of paperless operations
Before one can define the value, processes, regulations, internal and external participants, or anything else, the scope of how paperless the organization currently is and desires to be must be defined, documented and agreed upon.
Most technical reference documentation comes in electronic format, including AMM, AIPC, MEL, EMM, TSM / FRM / FIM, SRM, CMM, CRM, eieioM. This statement immediately identifies the first scope issue – the differences in content data format. Technically, a pdf is an electronic digital document and therefore meets some capability maturity level for being paperless. But as everyone knows, even the most robust pdf is not supportive of full paperless operations relative to XML content management. Normally, airlines and MROs are looking to include routine tasks, authorized release certificates, non-routine tasks and repairs, and logbooks in their scope for achieving paperless operations as this constitutes the bulk of paper documentation that negatively impacts effective and efficient operations.
The value of defining scope becomes obvious, since each of the documents listed above have regulatory, intra-organizational, technological, return on invested capital (ROIC), business to business, training and sequencing impacts. For instance, MEL/MMEL and aircraft logbooks would require flight operations coordination, whereas routine task cards are wholly under the control of the maintenance department.
News flash – you can’t be paperless if you aren’t mobile.
Whether the device of choice is a phone, tablet, laptop or kiosk, ‘paperless’ means delivering information and content at the point of execution. And since the point of execution is always mobile and often times out of WiFi or cellular connectivity, asynchronous operations are a requirement.
As a result of scoping the degree of what the organization wants to move to a paperless environment, the ‘who’ – which entities will be involved – is readily defined. At a minimum, there will be coordination with your OEMs, regulator, MRO providers, lessors, technology providers, and internally with operations, IT and finance.

Putting a value on going paperless
The value proposition for moving to paperless operations is one of the highest in the industry and building the business case is straight forward. I’ve seen sufficient ROIC based solely on physical paper cost reductions. If we then add in labour productivity, turn time reduction, supply chain efficiency, technical dispatch rate improvement, lease return savings and regulatory compliance, getting an initial and final approved budget is easy. Obviously this is a scaling function, that is, more aircraft and a longer period results in higher returns. Planned properly, even small airlines can achieve good results in short time periods.
What entities are involved?
And don’t forget that other entities get a return on your investment too. This includes third party MRO providers, lessors and OEMs. A paperless solution can drive down their costs of operations; so the question should be how much they are willing to invest in your initiative. If the answer is nothing, then maybe it’s time to find a new MRO provider or lessor! And with respect to OEMs, operational data is very valuable; don’t share it unless there is a quid pro quo.
Regulations and the regulator
Regulatory guidance for acceptable means of compliance for electronic manuals, electronic recordkeeping systems and electronic signatures is given in FAA AC 120-78 (dtd 2002) and TC AC 571-006. Depending upon scope, when you get to making the flight deck paperless the following are governing regulations: FAA AC 120-76C (re-written in 2014), AC 120-64, AC 120-74, or EC 859/2008, EC 956/2012, AMC 20-25/2013 and JAA TGL 36.
Bringing your regulator into your solution village needs to be properly timed. Too early in the process and it will appear that you don’t know what you are doing, whereas, too late in the process and you may have to change your solution, which will result in delays and cost overruns.
The technology that makes ‘paperless’ possible
So this brings us to the technology side of the village. Don’t be afraid of IT but also don’t let a business initiative turn into an IT led project. IT departments are well trained in Enterprise Architecture (EA). EA encompasses four domains: Business Architecture, Solutions Architecture, Data Architecture and Technology Architecture.
By assigning the right people to each of these architectural domains, your teams will move expeditiously and coordinate more efficiently in building the village. Of the four architectures, the one that gets the least attention but is the most critical to both getting to a successful solution and getting regulatory approval is Data Architecture.
Data – Data – Data, there are multiple data standards (iSpec2200, S1000D), multiple data formats (manuals, tasks, forms), multiple data hand-offs / integrations, so the sooner you come to the realization that no one in the industry has a single solution to the data (and content) interoperability issue, the better.
Document – Document – Document, if you can draw a line from receiving authoritative data, normally in the form of content, through each system and application, to final airworthiness records, then not only are you assured of getting a successful solution, your regulators will be assured too.
The path to your paperless work environment
There are multiple systems involved in getting to paperless. A common mistake operators make is trying to save capital investments by having software that isn’t designed to perform a certain capability do those things that it wasn’t designed to do. The most common of these mistakes is attempting to have an MRO IT system manage content. Let me be blunt here – in my 27 years of experience, I’ve yet to see a MRO IT system reconcile and parse XML schema documents.
There are a lot of partial solutions on the market from different OEMs, software vendors, and airlines that have gotten into the software business. Take a bit of time to play the field, see what each of them have to offer and meet with their customers; this is the best indication of the quality of their products and services. Also invest a little time and money in an independent advisor who isn’t selling software or a solution.
‘We’re all intelligent and experienced engineers or technologists, so given enough time and money we can figure this out – right?’
Wrong – an aviation enterprise architect with hands on experience in paperless mobile MRO solutions will more than pay for their costs. If nothing else, their knowledge of solutions pricing and contract negotiations will return dividends.
So, what does it take to go paperless?
It takes a village that is unique to your operations and business model.

About Our Expert

Michael Wm. Denis, President, Aviation Wikinomics, Inc.
Independent advisor, author and speaker.

With twenty-seven years’ experience in aviation, aerospace, defense, software and high-tech industries, Michael has held positions of responsibility across diverse functions including corporate strategy, market analysis, scenario planning, mergers and acquisitions, enterprise architecture, technology implementation and process re-engineering. He founded the Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) Forum for the global open mass collaboration of industry issues, with over 6000 members.
Michael is currently focusing his practice on servitization strategies and collaborative outsourcing business models combined with disruptive technologies.

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