Growth during adversity: the importance of technology
Author: Krister Genmark, director of operations Americas, Web ManualsSubscribe
Krister Genmark, director of operations Americas, Web Manuals, explores how IT investment always helps aviation through a crisis.
Every company in the aviation industry has been affected by COVID-19 but not every company has suffered equally. Why have some businesses and organizations performed better than their competitors through the pandemic? How do you maximize your chances of surviving and thriving in adversity? Can we all build for long-term progress even during a crisis? One word appears again and again in all good answers to these questions – technology.
The first key factor in making the most of technology is your attitude. You need a positive approach to the environment in which you find yourself. Don’t fight adversity. Hug it. Become one with it. And then, when you survive those challenges, you’ll come out the other side even stronger than before.
DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURE IS VITAL
Regardless of size or activity, the companies that have coped best in the past eighteen months either had a strong digital infrastructure in place when the pandemic began or rapidly and willingly embraced new technologies when COVID-19 struck.
To give a high-profile example, if your staff weren’t able to access your IT systems and work from home in Q1 2020, you needed to set up remote solutions quickly. Similarly, if you weren’t already equipped to support your customers with videotelephony and videoconferencing early last year, you had to act fast to fix that problem. Companies familiar with these technologies, and many other forms of digitization, adapted swiftly and saw the benefits when coronavirus arrived. Companies slow or resistant to change fell behind their rivals.
Technology has also helped with the most vital issue of all – health. With the priority of keeping staff safe, aviation companies (such as services provider ACI Jet) set up telephone hotlines and messaging services to ensure personnel were informed of the latest coronavirus news and, for example, opportunities for free COVID-19 testing.
AVIATION’S UNIQUE CHALLENGES…AND SOLUTIONS
Many benefits of digitization specific to aviation became clear early in the pandemic.
Online records could be used to identify maintenance work or pilot/staff training that could be carried out when fleets were grounded by lockdowns and international travel restrictions. Companies with cutting-edge compliance and maintenance technology that was easy to access and interrogate, pounced on the opportunity to quickly survey their upcoming needs and pull scheduled work forward. Everything, even just a scratch on aircraft woodwork, could and should be addressed at once. After all, who knew when maintenance centers and pilot training facilities would close and for how long? Even when those operations reopened, the backlogs might be huge. Companies using slow and inefficient IT, or worse still paper records, often didn’t see those opportunities to act until it was too late.
We’ve also seen aircraft operators, for the first time, maintaining compliance with their national aviation authorities such as the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through video calls. Unable to travel during the pandemic, FAA staff have been able to carry out aircraft conformity inspections remotely, verifying an aircraft conforms to its type design and is configured or bridged to the approved program and operations.
Positive news has been hard to find in the COVID-19 crisis but this necessary acceleration of aviation authorities’ telecommunications capabilities and digitization programs during the pandemic has been a big win.
We’ve all become experts in videotelephony in the past 18 months, from Microsoft Teams and FaceTime to Zoom. We must build on that progress to establish an era of unprecedented openness and transparency in aviation communications. And as Neil Rose, director of operations for private air travel business Jet It, says in a rallying call to the aviation industry: “We have to encourage the authorities to support us in what we are doing. It’s up to us to force digitization but by being collaborative, not adversarial.”
SAFETY AND COMPLIANCE CRITICAL
Let’s turn now to an area even more important than telecommunications.
The need for aviation safety does not disappear, or even reduce by a fraction for even a second, during a crisis. Regulatory compliance therefore always remains vital too. Disseminating safety-critical updates quickly and directly to pilots and crews, through an efficient and consolidated digital system, has never been more important. So, we haven’t been at all surprised at Web Manuals to see aircraft operators introduce and accelerate the use of our document digitization to become more agile and effective during the pandemic.
If you want to avoid being punished by aviation authorities, you need to ensure your manuals are rapidly and reliably updated to reflect regulations coming into effect. From new operational procedures to intensified maintenance and safety requirements, you must be ready for anything. If you’re not, you could be risking a financial penalty or, worse yet, an accident. And that’s not a risk worth taking.
Improved regulatory compliance (leading to improved flight safety) is just one benefit of digitizing your industry manuals. When the authoring, reviewing, revision, publishing and distribution of your operational documentation is so simple, you save time and administrative costs. What was once a laborious task – managing the thousands of pages of your entire manuals’ library – is now a fast and seamless operation. You can focus on building your business.
SCALEABLE AND FLEXIBLE SOLUTIONS
Adaptable digitization also allows companies to respond to rising and falling market demand easily and efficiently without, for example, having to manage wildly fluctuating staffing levels and the consequent risk of expensive organizational chaos. Sadly, some airlines have suffered continuously through the pandemic but many companies in private aviation saw business surge and fall and surge again. Flexible and scalable digitization such as scheduling systems helped those companies keep working smoothly, responding quickly to dramatically varying demand, without major and disruptive organizational changes.
PROGRESS, NOT PAPERWORK
Automation allows staff to focus on what really matters to your business – serving your customers – rather than forcing your teams to spend far too much of their precious time preparing and organizing paperwork, from invoicing to compliance documentation.
This key point deserves repetition – many of the businesses that have outperformed their competitors over the past eighteen months have done so largely because they were already operating with a strong IT infrastructure when COVID-19 struck. Their business models already supported remote working. These companies (such as Solairus Aviation in the private jet sector) weren’t just lucky; they had built their working practices understanding the importance of technology.
PLAN YOUR IT ROI
When the seriousness of the coronavirus crisis began to become clear in early 2020, many aviation companies were understandably anxious but smart businesses didn’t panic. No one was sure what would develop in the year ahead but, looking back at what we have now learnt, what advice can we give moving forward?
Calm thinking is always essential in business, not just during a crisis. Don’t simply invest in any technology to provide you and your company with a false sense of security.
Finding strong, mature IT in the private aviation sector, for example, can be challenging. After all, the size and value of the market means demand for these technologies (and the consequent levels of investment developers are able to make) hardly compares to the demand for, say, Microsoft Word or, indeed, commercial airline IT. Does this fact mean there are no good technologies for the private aviation sector? Absolutely not. But you must choose carefully to avoid immature IT that simply won’t provide the real-world results and return on investment (ROI) you need.
Take your time and take advice to ensure you only invest in the right IT for your business. Understand your needs and your clients’ needs. How are those requirements likely to change? And what if an unexpected crisis happens? Spend time and money wisely on IT now and you’ll be saving time and money across your business for years to come. And those savings could be the difference between success and failure.
THE eVTOL REVOLUTION
If you still have doubts about the importance of technology to the future success of the aviation industry, in adversity or prosperity, consider the aircraft themselves.
The advance of ‘electric vertical takeoff and landing’ (‘eVTOL’) aircraft (sometimes known as ‘autonomous aircraft’ or ‘urban mobility solutions’) continues. During this pandemic, one of the key reasons why passengers have chosen private jet flights over commercial airline travel has been to minimize human interactions for health and safety. That fact alone proves the desire for pilotless passenger aircraft can only have grown in the past 18 months.
INVEST WISELY, PREPARE NOW
Planning for the unpredictable is a challenge we all face every day in aviation. When any corporate emergency hits, despite the urge to act dramatically at speed, a strong first step is often to do nothing more than look around; assess the situation and calmly decide if you need to move in a new direction or not.
Coronavirus has shown us yet again that the companies best placed to take composed, correct decisions in an unavoidable crisis are the companies that went into that crisis with a strong digital infrastructure. Wherever you need to go, the right IT will always help you get there as quickly and efficiently as possible. Be ready for anything. Put that technology in place now.
Krister Genmark is the Director of Operations for the Americas at Web Manuals, the world leader in aviation document digitization solutions. In his role, Krister is responsible for managing the day-to-day business for the US organization of Web Manuals, including sales, support, training and partner relations. Prior to joining Web Manuals in 2016, Krister successfully developed and managed training, safety and quality systems for different companies in the aviation sector, including Nordic Aero and Aviation Port Services.
Web Manuals specializes in developing digital document management solutions for the aviation industry. It is revolutionizing aviation manuals and regulatory compliance by making the digitization, authoring and distribution of operational documentation easy and accessible to operators of all sizes. What used to be a laborious manual task is now made simple: the rapid authoring, reviewing, publishing, distribution and control of an entire manuals library is now a seamless operation. This brings significant savings in time and administrative costs, while improving regulatory compliance and flight safety.