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HOW TECHNOLOGY WORKS: Taking a digital solution to MROs
Author: Israel Revivo, CEO and President, IDMR Solutions IncSubscribe
Israel Revivo, CEO and President at IDMR Solutions Inc. reveals how the business has updated its solution and targeted the wider market
This article is about how an established digital documentation and workflow solution used by airlines, that has been rebuilt and updated to include capabilities designed with MROs in mind. The software vendor doing this is IDMR Solutions so let me first tell you something about our business.
IDMR is an aviation-based software house that has been trading in the aviation sector for more than twenty years. Its enterprise document management suite contains over twenty modules, with the core specifically developed for maintenance and engineering. Technical documents written in applications such as Word, Excel, pdf, etc., can be converted into a digital IDMR document. The main reason to change from paper to digital is that those paper or PDF documents don’t have proper revision control or have the essential requirements for eSign by most authorities. IDMR manages not only the document but its content as well. The IDMR system offers a full-blown Document management solution and Content management solution (DMS and CMS) platform where documents are electronically signed, routed, revised, and more… users can do everything required to get that document to a signed and approved status with complete revision control over it.
UPDATE TO THE IDMR SUITE
On our initial walkthrough with customers, we quickly see how paper-oriented they are. A tremendous amount of time is spent on printing, routing, approving, and signing documents, and more time is wasted when looking up documents after a check or event. Reducing that effort and optimizing the document process is one of the main reasons we entered this market: that and a passion for aviation. Delivering a platform that does everything the paper documents do and more allows users to create, edit, revise, route, sign, and record all via a web browser. All of the documents can be routed to mobile devices and signed on those devices, cutting the time from creation to aircraft by days.
Developing an application that mimics a paper document has its challenges. We wanted to be sure that whatever our customers needed to do on paper would be available to them in the electronic version of the document. We also wanted to ensure that regulatory requirements are met and that, when they’re using our digital documents, the records and footprints are appropriately recorded and stored in accordance with our customer’s authorities.
Why develop a production planning board? Once a work package is generated, tasks (task cards, engineering order – EO), etc.) are typically printed and placed in slots along a wall, usually grouped by areas, skills, and other categories. First, this can take up a lot of space and requires time and discipline to control the board. Second and why the digital board was born, you need to be physically in the room to manage a paper-based production planning board. The idea is to digitalize that wall of paper entirely.
We had to take a lot more than grouping into consideration; we saw MROs with colored paper, sticky notes, stapled documents, and stickers… how do we account for everything being done on paper without loss from their process or purpose. We have to optimize the process, get rid of the paper, and give the MRO all the tools they need to switch from that big wall of paper to a screen accessible anytime and anywhere.
In summary, our new digital production board allows our customers to access what was a ‘wall of paper’ on a clear and presentable computer screen.
THE ADVANTAGES OF GOING DIGITAL
There are many advantages to be gained from moving to digital. Obviously, there’s process improvement with the user being able to see and track everything that happens in real-time. The assignments of tasks can be done directly to the mechanics so that it’s possible, at any time, to see who’s working on what; also, the mechanics can communicate back to the office directly from their mobile devices, so there is no more need to for them be going back and forth every time that they need something; for instance, they can request an inspector directly from their mobile device.
The idea is first to optimize the planner’s board but also to get the aircraft out of the hangar quicker, to get it safely released faster. We highlight safely because the system ensures that everything that is required to be signed off is signed off: the QA (Quality Assurance) process is helped by the IDMR system by not allowing the mechanic to submit their task until they properly sign it. The system validates their skill requirement, RII, ETOPS, and more it also checks that all mandatory parameters are met before the tasks are submitted.
Replacing the MRO planning board with a digital solution also reduces the risk of anything being missed or forgotten or a sticky note simply falling off the board. We had a customer that had half of the paperwork rained on when the wind blew rain into the hangar. Paper can go missing, get damaged, and suffer many things that are all eliminated by going digital.
CHALLENGES FACED WHEN DEVELOPING THE SOLUTION
The biggest challenge was that every airline and every MRO does things a little bit differently. They all are trying to reach the same endpoint, but every customer we meet has a nuance that says, ‘this is the way it has to be done.’ that uniqueness or sometimes their ‘magic sauce’ has to be accounted for when delivering a digital solution. We overcome that by allowing our customers to customize the software, not full-blown customization of the platform but customizing some of the screens. For instance, where a customer is used to having a sticky note of a specific color, while it might not seem that big a thing to us, a different MRO might have that color meaning something else. So, allowing the MROs to customize items such as colors, custom holds, notifications, and ad-hoc categories will enable them to match their current process. The more we can replicate in digital form what our customers do today with paper, the easier it makes the transition to digital and training.
TRAINING AND APPROVALS FOR A NEW SOLUTION
Training is always involved in implementations like this, but the idea is to minimize the activity. Even in the digital world, our task cards look exactly like the paper document they replaced. Similarly, the digital planning board has the same look and feel as the previous paper-based board. Over the past two decades, we saw a considerable time reduction in training when we could replicate documents instead of sending users to applications with complex menus, multiple screens, and un-intuitive displays. Our goal is to make the transition as seamless as possible.
Regarding approvals, we, the IT vendor, work with our customers and provide aid in the documentation required to get certified. Our R&D department is continuously working on ensuring our modules meet and exceed regulatory requirements. However, it is up to the airline and MRO to obtain the proper certifications before going eSign. Most airlines are happy to get an approved electronic version of their card because they can feed it directly into their records system.
For the sake of clarity, the new function that IDMR has, which is the MRO production board, is a process improvement board and does not typically fall under a regulatory requirement, unlike the eSign of the actual cards.
THE FULL PICTURE
Of course, this new production board and task card capability will sit alongside IDMR’s established manual and document management capability. The idea is that if a customer uses the end-to-end solution in the IDMR system, they can generate, import, and customize OEM cards directly from an AMM (Aircraft Maintenance Manual). This allows the mechanic to have all the steps, including tables, images, and forms, embedded in their digital card. eSign is made available at each step and is defined by programs to optimize the work. So, from the creation of the task card, all the way to the e-signing of that card can all be accomplished on the platform. Every quarterly revision of the AMM gets reconciled by the airline and updated downstream to the mechanics.
WHAT IDMR HAS LEARNED AND WHAT WE TEACH
The most significant thing we’ve learned during this development is not to develop in silos. Initially, we would take one key Airline or MRO and ask them, as a Beta customer, to show us what to do. We then worked with them to develop the module; we figured they all work the same way, right? Big mistake! We have learned to engage a larger pool of Airlines and MROs of all sizes (large, small, and medium). As developers, we like to pretend that we know what our customers do in the real world, but that rarely happens. The biggest lesson is to go out to customers to see what they do, to learn their processes, and not to stick with just one customer but to see how different operations work. We started the production board planning with one MRO then quickly realized that while all MROs provide the same mechanical services for the aircraft, they all have different things that they need and, if we fail at those little things, that project will be unsuccessful.
During the analysis and early implementation phase, we travel to our customers and walk them through the product we listen and learn. We then take back our notes and optimize the software to exceed our customers’ requirements.
We’ve already mentioned the short-term benefit of getting the aircraft out of the MRO shop safely and faster. The long-term benefit is a big one because if an airline or MRO uses all digital task cards, they can start trending and optimizing, even at the MRO level. They’ll be able to see any trends, such as with non-routines, materials that keep getting requested, materials with long lead times, and more. IDMR’s software can start alerting on these trends and can offer suggestions. Many predictive maintenance opportunities start surfacing when a digital platform is configured correctly. Before starting a check, the system can trend which non-routines typically get raised and which materials might be needed (not already in the package). All this allows the MRO to be more efficient and get the aircraft flying as soon as possible.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Our goal at IDMR is to continue to Soar Above Paper and grow with our industry. In 1998 we started with a single Task Card document; today, we are proud to offer solutions for virtually all technical forms and documents. We are sure that this new module will reveal even more opportunities to help digitalize the MRO sector. Providing a true end-to-end paperless solution moved us into the MRO space. Developing this new module is a natural progression in optimizing and reducing the turnaround time of the aircraft.
For many MROs, going from paper to digital is a big step. One of the most important lessons we can offer is knowing the difference between a digital document that manages and controls the actual data and an electronic document like a PDF. A PDF is an electronic version or image of your paper, but it is far from providing the trending and mining of a digital platform. Often, when we go to a potential customer, they’ll tell us that they’re digital, but the question is, what does digital mean to you? PDFs show you an electronic version of the document, which is convenient and space-saving, but you cannot do anything more with a PDF than with a paper document. We spend a lot of time educating and demonstrating the differences between a PDF document and a digital platform. A more significant ROI (Return on Investment) is derived when a platform such as IDMR allows mining and reporting and help use the data to drive safety and efficiencies.
Following an executive career at major airlines, Israel (Izzy) identified limitations in the industry’s way of authoring and circulating documents and set out to streamline and improve it. In 1998, he founded IDMR Solutions Inc. dedicated to airlines and MROs’ transition to digital, paperless operations. IDMR has grown into a global software provider, offering airlines and MROs an end-to-end solution to fully e-sign documents. Izzy continues to lead the company and to develop new ideas for solutions.
IDMR Solutions Inc. develops customized airline software for maintenance documentation and is a global provider of easy to use and all-encompassing Technical Documentation Management Solutions designed exclusively for Fleet operators, MRO providers, and OEM organizations. IDMR’s Technical Documentation Management Solutions have proven success in increasing operational performance and decreasing operating costs while ensuring airworthiness, safety, and regulatory compliance at multiple airlines. They offer complete authoring, viewing, revising, eSigning, and distributing of manuals and forms.