Aircraft IT MRO – April/May 2013

Aircraft IT MRO – April/May 2013 Cover


Name Author
Case Study: MRO IT as a key enabler of your vision Mesfin Tasew, Chief Operating Officer, Ethiopian Airlines View article
Insight into the creation of the new manage/m® WebSuite 2.0 Dr. Falk Kalus, Director of the manage/m® department, Lufthansa Technik Maintenance International, and Timo Herster, Project Manager, Internet Based MRO, Lufthansa Technik Maintenance International View article
Column – Why pay billions for smart aircraft only to plug them into dumb IT? Michael Wm. Denis View article
Case Study: Point of Maintenance Acquittal Michael Killeen, Project Marlin Project Manager, Qantas Engineering View article
Inventory Management – Taming the Chaos Saravanan Rajarajan, Consultant – Aviation Practice, Ramco Systems View article

Case Study: Point of Maintenance Acquittal

Author: Michael Killeen, Project Marlin Project Manager, Qantas Engineering


Six awards including Best First Class Cellar and Best Business Class Cellar at 2011 in Sky Cellars Awards.When Qantas set out to reform its process management framework and update its IT landscape, writes Michael Killeen, Project Marlin Project Manager at Qantas Engineering, it achieved a transformational force multiplier

Qantas’ Airways is Australia’s largest domestic and international operator. Its network spans 46 countries across Australia, Asia and the Pacific, the Americas, Europe and Africa with operations that include over 6400 flights per week domestically and over 920 flights per week internationally to over 40 destinations using a fleet of more than 150 aircraft. Furthermore, the Qantas brand reputation has been confirmed by a range of awards …

  • Good Design Award by the Chicago Athenaeum for the A380 First suite and…
  • Australian International Design Award of the Year for the A380 Economy seat.

From an engineering perspective Qantas Engineering completes about 1.6 million tasks per annum, employs over 4000 people and is making the transition to Civil Aviation Rules 1988 (similar to EASA regulations) this year:

  • Old CAR 30 (combined asset owner and maintainer) to be replaced by EASA style regulatory structure comprising CAR 42 and CAR 145
  • Mechanical and avionics trades replaced by EASA style B1s and B2s (Cs and A licenses to come)

However, like many legacy operators, Qantas was confronted with the consequences of its heritage. The procedures manual, which had been developed over 90 years, comprised more than 800 chapters and its Maintenance Information System was written in 3 and 4GL COBOL over 20 years ago. The broader engineering IT landscape comprised over 300 applications. The current procedures manual had evolved over 30 years with bits added on everywhere (normally in response to a quality finding):

  • There were 815 chapters in random order and no process taxonomy to draw it together;
  • Standard industry processes and process taxonomies had not been adopted;
  • Policy and procedure were merged.

From an IT perspective, the maintenance information system (CAMEO) and materials management system (SUPPLY) had been written in-house during the 1980s using 3 and 4 GL COBOL. These were delivering low levels of process enforcement, were not user-friendly, were difficult to train people to use them and comprised a system that was difficult to support. Moreover, the system achieved poor integration with the company’s enterprise architecture which is Oracle 11i suite.

A transformation was required but it would need to be so comprehensive and ubiquitous that it was determined it would be best achieved as a major project in its own right.  As part of the enterprise transformation, Qantas embarked on a journey to reform its process management framework and update its IT landscape under the guise of ‘Project Marlin’.  The process transformation included a complete re-write of the procedures manual that not only formalised the procedural framework using a standardised taxonomy but also reduced the number of chapters in the procedures manual to 340. Whereas in the past the procedures had been disseminated via pages of wordy descriptions, the new procedures manual comprised flow charts and information mapped documents. The IT environment was completely revamped. At the core of the IT environment changes was the implementation of a new MRO IT solution, Maintenix; the old green screen environment was replaced with a completely new HTML environment in Maintenix.

The vision for these reforms was ‘point of maintenance acquittal’. Under point of maintenance acquittal, the aircraft must be declared serviceable in Maintenix before it can depart – the transactions to update work performed and configuration are acquitted in real time prior to aircraft departure by the aircraft engineer that performed the work.

Whilst Qantas chose not to roll out tablets as part of Project Marlin, one should not under-estimate the effort required and the impact on its people of transferring 150 aircraft in 12 months from the legacy to the new system. In getting ready for the move to Maintenix and ‘point of maintenance acquittal’ Qantas:

  • Deployed over 200 PCs and laptops, wireless networks and 4G access points to support the PCs; and…
  • … expended over 4000 thousand training days on both its own people as well as over 500 contract staff who handle Qantas Aircraft;
  • Created over 6 million tasks in Maintenix, many of which were migrated from the COBOL environment.

As a result of Project Marlin and the changes that it brought about in the overall operation, 14 IT applications were decommissioned as their functions were absorbed into the MIS at the heart of the IT architecture.

Project Marlin was a major undertaking for Qantas. The project ran for over three years and, at its peak, had over 250 people on board. With a project of this size and complexity governance was a significant contributor to success. Project governance, which included Board Reporting, was based on ‘8 keys to success’.

Key to success ‘Catch phrase’ In practice this means…
Scope Scope is controlled. Scope is the enemy of schedule and cost •Small discrete projects are better

•Don’t build the windows version of the DOS system (Conways law)

•‘Tell me why we cant use standard functionality in a system we have’

Work & Schedule Work & schedule are predictable

•Apply and stick to proven project lifecycle methods

•Set the schedule and stick to it

•Resource level

Team Team is high performing

•Networking mediocrity doesn’t create excellence; keep project team small (Brooks’ Law)

•Project team needs to stay flexible

Risks and Issues Risks and issues are managed

•Robust process & tools

•Be disciplined; regular reviews of open risks and issues

•Use daily scrums to shorten decision cycles

Business benefits and costs Business benefits are realised

•Push cost management down to stream leads who are creating change requests

•‘Speed to market’ reduces the risk that the business moves on

Stakeholders Stakeholders are engaged

•Use working groups to keep the project team small

•Keep it practical

•Ensure there is executive sponsorship

Integration management One project, one team working together

•Manage solution interdependency risk; there needs to be a business solution architect

•Have a robust PMO and manage the schedule

Supplier Relationship Management Suppliers are managed for mutual benefit

•Use the right contractual framework to obtain accountability and match your skills; only prime if you can!

•Manage the vendors

Project Marlin was not always plain sailing but some of the lessons we learned might be useful for those who could be newly embarking on a similar exercise.

  • The fundamentals still apply…
    • Apply the basics of systems engineering to the technical solution:
      • Understand the requirements;
      • Stick to standard functionality;
      • Be flexible on the solution – a 90% solution 100% implemented is better than a 100% solution never implemented.
    • Projects still need to be governed against the 8 keys:
      • Scope is the enemy of schedule and cost – keep it tight;
      • Get stakeholders engaged at all levels with a practical approach;
      • Keep the issues and risks management feedback loop short and effective; make a decision;
      • Each person on the project needs to be individually necessary and collectively sufficient; smaller is better.
  • Being a project manager is more than just applying the process – there has to be a vision for the future, technical leadership and people leadership.

Whilst Qantas encountered some challenges, the transformation of its processes and IT environment serves as a platform for the enterprise to re-invent itself from a legacy airline to an agile customer focused organisation. No one should under-estimate the effort that these sorts of transformation activities take but, if airlines are to continue to deliver increased levels of safety and efficiency, point of maintenance acquittal and the process and IT transformation that Qantas has implemented, will surely be a step along the way.

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