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Case Study: Documentation in the 21st Century
Author: Julie Steadman, Principal Airworthiness Records, Virgin AtlanticSubscribe
Virgin Atlantic, as Julie Steadman, Principal Airworthiness Records explains, migrated documentation to FLYdocs, here’s how it went.
Many companies are looking to achieve the goal of a full online paperless office, including all of the natural savings and efficiencies that such a move can generate. The reality can often be failed, flawed processes or include expensive mistakes that do not deliver as expected. However, at Virgin Atlantic we set out to avoid these problems by moving straight to the cutting edge of Aviation Records Management with the implementation of FLYdocs.
In this case study, we’ll discuss the migration process as well as the functionality gains, productivity gains and financial gains experienced since the deployment.
Choosing the right system
There will not be many more important decisions for any Airline, MRO or Lessor than that of purchasing the right software to service their business. It’s often difficult before they deploy it for them to see all available options, understand all possibilities or predict with total accuracy the long term success of the system within their organisation. Even with exhaustive tendering processes, the success of any system deployment can only really be measured some time later when the dust has settled and the expected gains start to materialise (or not, in many cases). In simple terms, the system has to properly ‘fit’ your business to deliver real change.
When we first started talking with FLYdocs in 2009, they had spent an exhaustive period developing the system. They hadn’t rushed the product to market and hadn’t pushed out a system that did not meet their own internal high standards, because, as Adrian Ryan, Managing Director of FLYdocs, explains, “Even though we could see a clear opportunity for a highly advanced Document Intelligence System to deliver real change, functionality and benefit to the marketplace, we knew it was better to take the time to make sure FLYdocs was going to really deliver significant business transformation immediately – unlike many other products available today.”
Implementing the system
After an intensive year long trial during which Virgin Atlantic collaborated with FLYdocs to make aviation history by delivering the world’s first fully electronic Aircraft Records Returns in a cutting edge and environmentally friendly paperless returns strategy, FLYdocs went live with Virgin Atlantic for the entire fleet in June 2011. The switch over involved scanning, processing, indexing and cleansing of all documentation in a structured and strategic way over a 12 month period. Whilst this wasn’t a pre-requisite for moving the records into FLYdocs, at Virgin Atlantic we felt a clean approach would bring benefits later down the line.
For Rick Daniels, Steve Sayers and myself – the key drivers at Virgin Atlantic in the decision to implement FLYdocs – the process had to be smooth and well managed. “With very close collaboration and an extremely friendly, flexible and professional approach by both parties, we’ve managed to make this a really easy move.” comments Steve Sayers, Principal Information Services Engineer at Virgin Atlantic. “We’ve built up an excellent working relationship [with FLYdocs] very quickly, which has led to being able to openly discuss issues in full confidence, safe in the knowledge that the relationship isn’t just about money. We know that FLYdocs will be flexible, which gives us great confidence as a business that we can implement the best solution for us as an operator, not a limited solution based on financial constraint or restrictions because we’re getting hit with loads of hidden extra fees wherever we need to add something into the scope of the project. For us at Virgin, it’s a hugely refreshing approach.”
Delivering real gains
Fast forward less than a year and the entire fleet has been transferred into FLYdocs with multiple aircraft returns in harmonious concurrent process, all being managed without a single Lease Consultant on-site, other than for regular project meetings.
The future for Virgin Atlantic is already here; we are already beginning to bring our documentation fully to life and make it work for the business instead of just being stored in a system. The productivity gains are already filtering through. For example, during the pressurised on-going Lease Return activities faced by many airlines, because the Lease Consultants work remotely instead of at Virgin Atlantic’s offices, the daily ‘business as usual’ duties that staff across the business have to deliver are not impacted; consequently, the Lease Returns do not run late and normal business isn’t affected.
The benefits for the Lessor team are also substantial; they get full access to all documentation and online statuses covering the entire return process without having to pay for daily expenses, hotels, flights and associated costs for every consultant, whilst at the same time being able to track everything done by each team member on a daily basis from live interactive reports built into the system.
With Virgin Atlantic’s foresight in using FLYdocs, and a fully engaged Lessor, the process of returning an aircraft becomes structured, smooth, financially beneficial for both parties and affords instant visibility for everyone. In short, with a proper approach and FLYdocs, it should be possible to deliver the records for every aircraft return on time and for it to have very little impact on the ‘day job’.
“We’re now firmly entering the next phase, which is very exciting for us;” confirms Steve Sayers, “Virgin Atlantic have now commenced roll out of a plan to manage almost all internal facing documentation within FLYdocs. Instead of storing documentation on multiple network hard drives, we’re now going to store all data within FLYdocs [which gives instant visibility worldwide], but more importantly, it will also be generated and managed there, which is a major step forward. We’re looking to roll out full authoring of documentation and digital signatures within FLYdocs, which dramatically reduces ancillary time required for managing these documents physically as they go through approval processes. The additional long term benefit is that these documents can then be plugged into the End of Lease modules within FLYdocs to start to build ‘lease return ready’ statuses and approved documentation in real time. The medium and long term benefit to Virgin Atlantic will be massive, because once everything is working in tandem our lease return documentation will basically build itself.
“We’re already seeing this happening. FLYdocs rolled out their interactive Engine Centre recently, which means we can now build and manage lease-ready back-to-birth documentation for our Engine fleet in real time. This process will shortly be replicated for our Gears, APUs, Repairs and much more.
“From Summer 2012 Virgin Atlantic will be able to interactively repair, map and inspect the fleet online with FLYdocs’ Repair Centre, which is used not only for our day-to-day business as usual repair management; it also interfaces with our internal design documentation and our End of Lease repair statuses so, here also, the data literally starts to build itself. By the end of the year, we expect our line engineers to be able to use Tablet devices to inspect the repairs on any aircraft in the fleet in real time. This is what we call real business gains.”
Interfacing with Ultramain
Now that the fleet is in FLYdocs, the extensive deployment of highly advanced functionality that Virgin Atlantic will come to enjoy as standard in all departments, across the entire business, on a worldwide basis can really begin. The people at FLYdocs have successfully created a live link to Ultramain [Virgin Atlantic’s M&E system] which allows FLYdocs to cross populate data for engineers to access anywhere in the world. Now that we have piloted this process with a great deal of success, it will be further expanded to other areas of the business, such as building truly live statuses in the new system where audit documentation builds itself; managing live hours and cycles and forecast reporting for Lease Returns in harmony with Ultramain. The possibilities are almost endless.
It’s important for us that FLYdocs is able to deliver this type of change to Virgin Atlantic, because, so often, a software provider will promise the moon and deliver the earth. In two years’ time we expect Virgin Atlantic to be enjoying huge gains across almost every facet of the business as standard – we know this because we have worked in partnership as a team to plan what both sides will do to make this happen, then as a team we follow that plan and make it happen.
Where there is a need to create new technology or new solutions we are confident that FLYdocs have the expertise to do it; both high level technical aviation staff and expert software developers. They have their own teams in the UK, US, Hong Kong, India and the Philippines working on different areas [either technical aviation work or software development], to offer us a truly global 24 hour coverage and to be able to deliver solutions for Virgin Atlantic.
Adrian Ryan adds, “The process of integrating with Virgin Atlantic over the last 12-18 months has been a pleasure. We’ve worked together as equal parties with common goals, solving problems and pushing boundaries along the way. Virgin Atlantic, as our flagship development partner, will continue to have our total support throughout our working agreement during which FLYdocs will deliver company-wide benefits in Aircraft Re-deliveries, Document Management, Aircraft Management, Repair Management, Engine Management, Gear Management, APU Management, Airworthiness Management and much more.
“This is a very exciting period of growth for FLYdocs and we are looking forward to leading the way globally in finally bringing some long overdue e-tech know-how into Aircraft Documentation.”
Steve Sayers agrees, “For us at Virgin Atlantic, FLYdocs represent a refreshing ‘can do’ approach which we don’t often see in the industry. To date, everything they said they would do has been done without any fuss and exactly the way we wanted it, and in many cases they’ve gone over and above what we originally wanted in order to give us an even better service or solution than the original plan required. Virgin Atlantic has a very strong brand ethos, we like to deliver excellence to our customers and give them an experience they will find hard to match anywhere else in the marketplace. This is what FLYdocs is giving to us, and we’re delighted.”