|A better view of process in a paperless environment
|Neal Reagor, Director Planning and Commercial Services - EAMS
|Column: How I See IT – COVID-19: Impacts and progress
|Allan Bachan, VP, Managing Director, MRO Operations, ICF
|Looking into the future at Etihad Airways
|Borja Dosal Roiz, Avionics Engineer / CAMO Fleet Management at Etihad Airways
|IATA’s Digital Aircraft Operations Initiative
|Iryna Khomenko, Manager, Operational Efficiency, IATA SFO, IATA
|Case Study: MRO IT System Modernization at ATSG.
|Paul Harding, Director, Information Technology, Air Transport Services Group
Column: How I See IT – COVID-19: Impacts and progress
Author: Allan Bachan, VP, Managing Director, MRO Operations, ICFSubscribe
Allan Bachan, VP, Managing Director, MRO Operations, ICF
The keynote subject at the last Aircraft IT conference in Miami was ‘Optimal usage of MRO IT Systems – How do we get there?’. In recent times, ‘Optimal usage of IT Systems’ has become a stark reality across the board and in all industries as a result of Covid-19. On its last quarterly earnings call Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella said “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months”.
Over the past six (6) months, the digitalization of business processes has become a normal part of professional life at a pace exponentially faster than previous adoption levels. Interestingly, ‘Improving systems Adoption’ was featured in our September-October 2019 ‘How I see IT’ column and also the subject of our recorded Webinar on October 10, 2019.
We then showcased our philosophy on how to realize continuous improvement and internalize better adoption of technology as a normal part of operations. We now urge you to re-read ‘Improving Systems Adoption’ and ‘What’s in your Solution Blueprint’ and to again take a look at the ‘Optimizing Aviation MRO Systems and Processes’ webinar. These will hopefully provide some context and reminders on how we can avoid being reactive and become more proactive by design. Also, on how to meaningfully build on and internalize recent ‘adoption behaviors for MRO IT. Further thoughts specific to COVID-19 impacts now follow.
DEALING WITH COVID-19
In December 2019, IATA predicted that global airline profits for the year would be US$29.3 billion. In June 2020, the financial outlook by IATA projected a loss of US$84 billion. If nothing else, COVID-19 demonstrates the fragile nature of the aviation industry. With all that is going on, including reduction in air travel; accelerated aircraft retirements; a drop in workforce levels; rescheduled maintenance events and several suspended projects – what then should be the main priorities for MRO IT?
Let us first consider some of the coping strategies (in no particular rank order) to which most airlines have been engaged over the period commencing in March 2020.
Creating liquidity – converting negotiable and unencumbered assets to cash still continues to be a big push. Aircraft, materials inventory, and airport slots are all being leveraged for lines of credit with lending institutions.
Conserving cash – curbing all spending and cutting costs across the board went into immediate effect. Support divisions, administrative functions and projects are feeling the most pinch.
Reducing operations – fulfilling services only as necessary and as the market indicates. Movement of PPE (personal protective equipment), medical supplies and personnel were all that some airlines focused on for a while. Gradually adding passenger flights is only now picking up (July 2020).
Generating revenue from alternate sources – finding as many ways as possible to make money. For example, passenger aircraft are being used as freighters – ‘Preighters’ – has become the norm where both the cabin and belly space are filled with materials rather than people.
Maximizing staff productivity – optimizing people resources, roles, and assignments. Cross functional roles and responsibilities; reduction in headcounts; furloughs; reduced paid time; and redundancies are some of the methods employed by several organizations.
Right-sizing facilities, materials, and other resources – maximizing the usage of physical spaces and assets to the point of consolidating down to just a few locations from many is now common. Airlines have eliminated some network airports and facility locations completely from their foreseeable operating plans
Guaranteeing personnel safety – ensuring that all staff are protected from the virus has become a key priority for all businesses.
Behaviors and actions
In order to realize benefits from these strategies in the short to medium term, organizations now have to exercise key behaviors and to act deliberately as listed below.
|How to behave
|How to deploy
|Cooperate and Collaborate
|Adopt and go
So, what exactly does this mean?
On the subject of how to behave: we believe that recent circumstances now dictate that organizations must continually measure their performance; analyze the data from those measurements; design new and improved ways of operating from that analysis; optimize those designs and simulate identified optimizations prior to full implementations and execution. Change is inevitable moving forward and these behaviors are seen as core to doing that effectively.
Regarding how to deploy: we have historically had a much slower rate of technology adoption versus innovation in the MRO IT arena. This cannot remain the same. Fundamentally, transformation begins with being truly agile for innovation; yet we must immediately buck the historic trend of weaker adoption by being nimble in implementing solutions. No single organization currently has the full maturity and knowhow across all potential solutions so we must cross-utilize, cooperate, and collaborate for the best cumulative impact. This applies both internally within organizations and with external partners. The adopt and go approach is strongly recommended since any projects consistent with the above approach will all be improvements, no matter how small or large. Deliberating and stalling for ‘new’ information or with expectations of ‘further advancements’ will just be standing in the way of progress.
Technology and processes
No solution is truly complete in today’s world without processes and technology enablers. This is especially true when organizations now have to do much more with much less. We have therefore identified several key enablers which should form the basis of such solutions.
Accelerate digital adoption – this is now beyond digital transformation and the adopt and go philosophy applies. For example, more recently all of us have had to collaborate and execute on tasks 100% virtually and online. This adoption was mandated through circumstances, yet very successfully realized globally. The result would not have been the same had this been optional. Nor would it have been as quick. The best use of this adoption, timing and momentum should now be harnessed, exercised, and mobilized for other adoption projects.
Use real-time data to analyze, make decisions and act – this should emerge naturally as learned behavior. Business analytics as key decision support tools leading to processes (re)design and improvement is desirable as a normal consequence moving forward. Identify what and where for the maximum impact.
Automate as many tasks and activities as possible – in the era of bots and RPA (robotic processes automation); human effort should be actions prompted by predictive and prescriptive information. The more technology dependencies are identifiable within organizational processes would indicate this maturity.
Integrate disconnected applications – this acknowledges that there is no one ‘silver bullet’ when it comes down to software applications. Open architectures which allow seamless integrations yet sharing common data structures is most preferable.
Deploy standard applications rapidly – do not try and reinvent or over invent. The best way to remain agile and nimble is to optimize with minimal customizations yet leveraging on maximum configuration options. The best way to do so is to design to-be processes around available technology.
Decommission legacy and progress prohibitive software – far too prevalent today is strong internal advocacy for traditional and literally ‘old’ software applications which cloud an honest view of the future. These must be realized for what they are – obstacles to progress – and put on a firm retirement path now.
Technical Operations across the aviation ecosystem are severely challenged today. This environment however can be also seen as an opportunity for change and improvement. We have identified several coping strategies which should be employed. Applied correctly, these strategies should influence core behaviors and prompt definitive actions. For the best results on those actions, we have also listed key processes and technology approaches to be leveraged for identification, enablement, and execution on sound solutions.
It is hoped that the application of this philosophy and model will help organizations to frame how they handle the impacts and secure progress. For now, that’s how I see IT.
Simplify your choice. Book a free consultancy session with Allan to discuss the issues here, in greater detail and in the context of your business and challenges.
COVID-19 has undoubtedly set challenges for our sector but it has also identified opportunities: in particular, to leverage the necessary innovative spirit of dealing with an unprecedented event for longer-term process improvements.
Allan is a Vice President at ICF with 32 years of industry experience as an Aviation M&E, MRO and Supply Chain solutions and systems domain expert. He is responsible for ICF’s MRO Operations and IT practice and he manages the Aircraft Commerce Consulting relationship with ICF. His experience includes managing application design, development, and full cycle implementation – from selection to go-live – for strategic clients in the MRO industry using different commercially available MRO IT products. In his career, Allan has fulfilled the following leadership roles: MRO IT practice and technical lead; MRO systems Product Principal; M&E and MRO Solutions Director and Manager of Technical Records, Maintenance Planning and Production Control.