Case Study: Integrated quality and safety management for Icelandair
Author: Björn Guðmundsson, Icelandair and Florian Lis-Srajer, Project Manager, ASQS GmbHSubscribe
Björn Guðmundsson, Icelandair and Florian Lis-Srajer, Project Manager, ASQS GmbH share Icelandair’s implementation of a new quality and safety management solution
Founded in 1937, Icelandair is the Icelandic flag carrier with its main hub at Keflavik Airport, Reykjavík. The 43 strong fleet includes Boeing 757, 767 and 737 types with Bombardier Q-200 and Q-400 aircraft for regional operations. Having been a member of the Flight Safety Foundation since the early 1960s, the first safety management system was introduced to the airline in 2010. Icelandair operates all year round from Iceland, offering flights between Europe and America with stopovers in Iceland. The airline has a rich history with regard to safety being part of organizations such as IATA, European Regional Airlines and Airlines for Europe which all have a mission to bolster safety. Icelandair has an IOSA Certification with an IOSA audit every two years from which they get an accreditation for the airline’s safety management processes and systems, and how they work. It’s something of which Icelandair is proud and which gives the opportunity to learn from others if there are ways to improve on some aspects of safety. Icelandair has two AOCs for the regional and international operations as well as the domestic business. The airline has undertaken some ACMI work around the world.
WHY A NEW QUALITY AND SAFETY MANAGEMENT SOLUTION WAS NEEDED
Within Icelandair, there is an integrated safety management system overseen by a unified Safety and Compliance department. The initial problem was that the airline was using two different types of software, an audit application and a safety management system (SMS) but from two different providers and they, in essence, divided the processes even though everything that Icelandair writes and does is unified. At the end of 2019, the airline started to look for replacements with the aim of getting a fully integrated safety management system software with which they could work on the reporting culture, risk management, quality and compliance monitoring all in one place, as well as bridging a gap for the future to use Icelandair’s flight data monitoring system and transferring them into this management system, in order to be managing risks and information in one place.
SELECTION AND IMPLEMENTATION
Icelandair started looking around to see what there was available and there was some fantastic feedback from some of the airline’s auditors regarding IQSMS from ASQS and how the software works and integrates with the organization. A private demo was arranged to gauge the scope and the specs and what was being offered and, at the end of that, the Icelandair team decided to partner with ASQS.
Software suppliers are all different but, as Icelandair is not a large airline if compared with, say, Lufthansa, it was felt that to go for a very big software provider with a huge solution would mean that the airline would have little chance to have any say over the development of the software: they were trying to find a bridge between a small and a large business, somewhere in the middle where the airline might also be able to have some say regarding the future development of the software. ASQS offer, in this case and with other airlines and users, opportunities to discuss and to influence in part the development of the IQSMS software. It was a big part of Icelandair’s selection priorities is that they should actually have a say in the solution.
Icelandair took account of different aspects of the solutions available including cost of hosting and, very importantly, customer service. Especially with maintaining a strong safety culture, there needs to be a customer service that will respond promptly if there are any problems with reporting or any risk assessment management issues going on. Also important was the community feedback. Icelandair talked to a lot to colleagues in other Northern European airlines such as Finnair and SAS who use ASQS solutions and there was positive which helped with making the decision. All that said, it took Icelandair a year to go through the whole selection process and make a decision. But they’re glad, now, to have the system in place.
When the contracts had been signed, ASQS allocated a project manager, Florian, to the job and both parties agree that the work was conducted in a very positive atmosphere starting with the kick-off. The kick-off is where ASQS finds out about the needs and requests from the customer’s side, the scope of the implementation, the customer’s priorities, the timeframes when to implement and go-live with the different modules. Typically, that phase uses the waterfall method starting with the configuration phase where ASQS provides the customer with the documentation for IQSMS in order to let them become familiar with the system. Next, the workflows for IQSMS are discussed so that the customer understands and so that ASQS understands the customer’s processes in order to try their best to integrate the new processes with processes already used in the customer’s organization. Then the whole set-up of the system is done and, in the Icelandair case, ASQS decided to launch the Quality Management module, which is us used for auditing and compliance, a little bit early which turned out to be a very good idea because ASQS was able to get some experience of the key users who were using the system and adjust the processes, make sure that the users were happy with the system.
That done, the next step was to implement the reporting module which is used across the entire organization so that more users will be using the system in the future. But the experience with the earlier launch of the Quality Management module had ensured that the new system would work in the airline’s processes. There was then a kick-off workshop which was a great idea because, when the project was started back in early 2021, with Covid is was not easy to travel so ASQS couldn’t undertake on-site training for the first modules. That’s why the decision was taken, having implemented one of the core modules, that there would be a workshop on site in Iceland where the two sides could discuss the reporting module and a quick Q&A session for users of the Quality Management module. ASQS was able to present the system to users at Icelandair, open up discussion about the functionalities and, most important, to be able to meet and get to know each other in person.
After the configuration phase, we started the training which was also conducted remotely because of Covid travel restrictions; it was easier to carry out training on line. Next, the launch was started which was a soft launch with a soft transition in order to get everyone on board and, since then, the reporting module and the whole SMS part of IQSMS has become active.
THE IQSMS SOLUTION
IQSMS is a modular, web-based system for safety, quality and risk management based in and on compliance with national and international regulations. As it’s a web-based and a modular system, it’s up to each customer organization as to which modules should be active in their IQSMS implementation. For example, the Safety Reporting module, which is one of the core modules with the Risk Management and Quality modules; the Reporting module is used, in an organization, supporting the reporting process with reporting into the webpage or via the mobile Application. Of course, it’s not only about reports, the users also have to do something about those reports, investigate what happened, take corrective actions or do a root cause analysis and then the team starts working with the report. At the end of the report/action cycle, it very important that there should be feedback and a conclusion for the person who originally raised the repot.
The Quality module, ASQMS supports the audit and compliance processes in an organization; for example, all airlines are obliged to comply with national and international regulations and, with the Quality Management module, they can set up audits in their organization for compliance or inspections, to run through the audit process. With that, there is also the possibility to handle any findings with investigation and corrective action.
The Risk Management module is in three parts: the predictive part, the proactive and the reactive parts. For example, there is the facility to set up a change management project in order to analyze possible events or risks in case of some changes in an organization. The module includes a risk register, a hazard log where identified risks can be documented along with relevant controls, consequences, etc. All of this can also be connected with the reporting modules.
In addition to those three core modules, there are expansion modules available such as the FDM (Flight Data Monitoring) Risk module which links events from the FDM to be imported into IQSMS.
There were some delays, not because the implementation process wasn’t clear – there was a great plan with target dates for each phase – but Icelandair, like any airline at the time, was coming out of a sort of hibernation. They were getting aircraft out of storage and bringing them back up to service standard which all meant that resources were at a premium in the period leading up to the implementation process. Microsoft Teams has helped and has become a staple for meetings. Remote working was the biggest Covid related challenge as far as training was concerned. Of course, training can be managed online but it’s not the same as face-to-face because when training is on site there are opportunities for live interactions during the breaks and after the sessions. That was why the in-person workshop (see above) was organized. The implementation schedule took account of potential Covid related delays and so the target dates were able to be met.
Other than Covid, challenges included the usual suspects like data migration for which we had to think outside the box because the legacy system had a different structure and methodology from that in IQSMS.
IQSMS includes a built-in Training module. Icelandair did initial training, web-based training on Teams for management teams and then, for reporters, followed those with on-site training for key stakeholders with ASQS people going to Iceland to go through the processes which really helped because a lot of the people who had been on the initial meetings on Teams where, when the meeting is large, not many questions get asked, now had the chance to really engage with the people from ASQS. Then, there was training with all the crew personnel as well as in-house teams. Icelandair feels that the in-built training module in the system helps where, for instance, an individual might have done their training a while ago and wants to refresh their understanding, they can just log in and do that training on their own. It’s a big plus point for the system.
USING THE NEW SOLUTION
As with any new system, there was a certain amount of having to get used to it and there were a few cases rather like, when you go into a new house and put the milk on the wrong shelf in the fridge! As people were used to a different reporting process, it was a bit of a change and took some getting used to but there has been great feedback. Of course, when things go smoothly, people don’t comment: they only say something when things don’t work out. There were some frustrations expressed but then slowly but surely, the pilots and cabin crew, the maintenance technicians and ground operations personnel began to really get the hang of the new system.
The difference between the two processes was that Icelandair used to have a very simple system with reporters just having a text box to write in and little classification of events; whereas now they get the opportunity to help with the incident, the reporter is often best qualified to judge what has happened, how it should be classified – ‘bird strike?’ ‘hard landing?’ ‘unruly passenger?’ or whatever. The reporters are able to classify an incident using very short steps and that can help with statistics to monitor trends and so forth. IQSMS represents a different approach which is why ASQS accompanies the customer running up to and beyond implementation, in order to be able to answer questions, help with bedding in and, as importantly, learn for themselves. That was a big change for reporters and there were some protests at the beginning but feedback is now increasingly positive.
From Icelandair’s point of view, the regulators were very happy. The IQSMS solution offers an opportunity to simplify the process of reporting to the aviation authority. There is a mandatory occurrence reporting scheme that requires particular information and, with this new solution, the reporter and the safety officer investigating an incident cannot send the data to the authority until they have completed the mandatory fields, which avoids frustration all-around.
The risk management process is much easier, it’s more intuitive and the visual representation from the system helps with the regulator who gets a better view of how the risk assessment was conducted. That’s important because, no matter what work goes into a risk management report, the regulator just wants to know that it has met the requirement, it needs to be clear. The solution sets out change management in a simple and clear way which helps
THE KEYS TO SUCCESS
For Icelandair, having a great project manager from ASQS was the key to success for the project. Also, the project team at Icelandair were essential contributors to success and their achievement of getting the necessary jobs done and on time was critical plus their clear decisions at points in the process made it much easier to make the transition. They were also supported with weekly updates on the status of the implementation and progress. Of course, one can never account for the unplanned or human factors such as sickness, IT issues that arise across the business but overall, Icelandair was very happy with the implementation.
The problem for any IT program and process is to have all systems talking and acting together. Safety management systems are now mandatory within Europe covering from maintenance to flight: however, those systems are sometimes different. So having an integrated IT and safety management system as well as a solution that offers the possibility to let several disciplines within the airline work together is key to everything. Icelandair has also found the App in IQSMS invaluable. Pilots and Cabin Crew find reporting easier with a user-friendly App that is accessible wherever they are. The App is easy to use and intuitive; a real benefit. In this respect, both parties gained with ASQS learning from the experience of Icelandair crews. It was interesting how, although many processes are the same from airline to airline, ASQS was able to add to its own store of experience.
For Icelandair, the cooperative and collaborative nature of the project gave the confidence that they could influence the project and make it their own with a flexible solution that can adapt to the needs of user organizations. That extends beyond the implementation to the user conferences inviting users to make their own suggestions for changes. That interchange of ideas will be good for the future.
This implementation is still in its first year but the feedback from end-users is good, management finds it good to work with and it helps with overview from the nominated post holders and management since the solution is integrated with compliance, and safety and risk, together with a dashboard which is really valued making it easy to see in a couple, of minutes what is the compliance situation, what issues need to be resolved, what risk assessments are outstanding, etc. Safety and quality levels at Icelandair as well as the culture around them have been improved by the adoption and implementation of this new solution.
Björn Guðmundsson, Icelandair
Icelandair operates flights to both sides of the Atlantic, within Iceland and to destinations in Greenland, making use of Iceland’s location, midway between North America and Europe, to build a network of international routes, with Iceland as a hub. The fleet includes Boeing 757s, 767s and 737 MAX 8 and 9 (the latest additions to the fleet, combining less fuel use with less noise) for international routes; Bombardier Q-200 and Q-400 for regional routes and five De Havilland Canada aircraft for domestic services.
ASQS (Advanced Safety and Quality Solutions) is a global supplier of QMS and SMS software for the aviation industry, supporting more than 200 large and small operators, ground handling agents/FBOs, airports and maintenance organizations, in creating a safe and productive work environment. Specializing in intuitive, integrated, web-based solutions with exceptional customer support, ASQS’s core product IQSMS allows clients to manage operational data 24/7 online and offline with a single integrated tool.