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Case Study: The move to a Modern Maintenance Management System at Cape Air
Author: Isaiah Herrick, IFS Maintenix Program Coordinator, Cape AirSubscribe
The move to a Modern Maintenance Management System at Cape Air
Isaiah Herrick, IFS Maintenix Program Coordinator, Cape Air shares the experience, results achieved, best practices and lessons learned
In this case study we will review Cape Air’s implementation of IFS Maintenix. In the fall of 2013 Cape Air began its search for a modern maintenance management system to rollout across its Technical Operations Department. The growing operation needed a tool to span its entire Maintenance, MOC, Materials and Records sections. This case study will outline the process used, lessons learned and milestones achieved.
Cape Air is unique: a Part 121 and Part 135 regional airline headquartered in Hyannis, Massachusetts with its own Part 145 MRO facility. The airline is the largest operator of Cessna 402C aircraft in the world covering five regions worldwide with some 1,100 employees. The business was founded in 1988 by CEO Dan Wolf with service between Provincetown and Boston, Massachusetts. The airline saw steady growth and began expanding outside of New England in 1998 with service in the Caribbean. The airline has been employee owned since 1996 In 2004, Cape Air introduced a Part 121 operation in Micronesia, flying as United Express. Cape Air’s fleet consists of 86 aircraft: 4 Britten-Norman Islanders; and 82 of Cape Air’s workhorse, the Cessna 402C.
Cape Air carries more than 620,000 passengers annually on up to 550 flights a day. There is a North East United States hub in Boston (HQ in Hyannis) with the second largest market now the Caribbean, despite the challenges of hurricanes, operating out of a hub in San Juan with partner, Jet Blue. Cape Air serves the US Midwest, with hubs in St Louis and Chicago O’Hare. The airline’s Billings, Montana hub has been serving 6 Montana destinations since 2013.
Looking to the future, Cape Air is the launch customer for the P2012 Traveller which it partnered on development with Italian aircraft manufacturer, Tecnam. The first P2012 will enter service at the beginning of 2019.
THE SEARCH FOR A NEW SYSTEM
To start off, I want to look at why we decided to change our maintenance management system and how Cape Air came to partner with IFS. As a smaller airline, we had some challenges related to growth with the business outgrowing some of the systems that were in place. We needed a strong partner and a strong software system to help grow the operation and build towards the future.
Making the right choice
It is a principle at Cape Air that we always strive to improve and we applied that principle in choosing a new maintenance management system. We started out looking at a number of systems and asking ourselves how we could ensure that the system we chose would fit our operation? We didn’t want to have to change our culture, didn’t want to change the organization too much and needed something that would be customizable to fit our operation. It was also important to us that any partner should be an established company with a proven track record in the industry.
Why IFS Maintenix?
After speaking with a number of providers, we reached the conclusion that IFS Maintenix was the solution that best matched the needs of this unique airline. We were impressed with some of the standardized processes in the system that would help Cape Air move towards the future in a standardized, uniform way. Something we also liked was the custom feel without the need for a lot of customization and the resources that type of project can consume. Also an important factor in our consideration was the fleet management capabilities in IFS Maintenix with its ability to handle complexity and diversity, data migration and multiple aircraft types.
Equally important was the implementation strategy. Being a smaller airline, we have some resource constraints, plus our fleet mainstay, the Cessna 402C, is an aging aircraft. It was originally intended to be flown about 10,000 hours but some of the Cape Air fleet are reaching 36,000 hours flying time: so we have to customize our aircraft quite a bit and, of course, we apply our ‘strive to improve’ principle in their maintenance. It was important that whatever solution we purchased would be flexible enough to tailor to what Cape Air was trying to do with its aircraft.
A phased approach was very important. Cape Air first went live with the Part 121 operation based in Guam about nine months prior to moving over the Part 135 US mainland fleet. That phased approach worked out really well, allowing for our different fleets and fleet types to gain their own footings independent of each other.
This was one the most important components for Cape Air and we encountered some hiccoughs along the way. For instance, at the point where we were ready to move forward with the Part 135 go-live with IFS Maintenix, we received some concerns from front-line personnel that they weren’t sure whether they were ready for the task or had received enough training. So we really took that to heart and developed a strong training programme in which we train and then train again to ensure that everybody has a familiarity with the product and what they are expected to do with it.
Training was conducted in small groups, specialized to each employees role and what their team was trying to achieve and what their mission was, how they fit in to the larger operation – their ‘piece of the puzzle’ so to speak. We wanted them to understand how we would move forward with their part of the business. That training strategy ran alongside our internally developed, clean, concise, easy to follow process documents; centrally located and immediately accessible to Cape Air employees. It’s very important to also have that type of resource available for reference and to refresh some of the initial training.
RESOURCE ALLOCATION AND COMMUNICATION
It is, of course, very important to keep the operation running while transitioning to a new system. A key part of this is gaining the cooperation of the legacy system management on issues such as what types of data could be accessed and how much cooperation they’ll provide, which can be critical to success. Communication is also a vital component in this process: it should be often, clear and informative so that everybody, from aircraft cleaners up through executive level employees know what is happening and feel involved in the process. They have to feel like part of the team and feel that they own a piece of the project.
Cape Air had an implementation team of 4-5 people during the transition period; not a large team but one that was dedicated to what we were doing and were trying to achieve. The team included subject matter experts from every area. We looked at all the different departments whose work would be impacted by the change to IFS Maintenix, took a subject matter expert from each department and moved them all to the internal implementation team. Launch of the new system was successful across all fleet types with all personnel working live in IFS Maintenix across Cape Air’s Technical Operations Department. MOC (Maintenance Operations Control), Front Line Maintenance, Materials and Technical Records were also fully functioning, as well as our Finance Department. Cape Air looks at its finances in quite a different way from the rest of the industry so it was very important to have a partner that moved forward with us, helped us to format the system to meet our needs and didn’t try to change our organization too much. We enjoyed strong and vital collaboration on all fronts with IFS representatives available for support at all stages of the transition. They were receptive to questions that arose and worked with Cape Air on solutions to any problems throughout the process.
WHAT DID WE LEARN?
This is, perhaps, the thing that readers will find most useful; what did Cape Air learn from the whole process?
We learned that one has to manage the business challenges as well as the system challenges: make sure that everything fits in order to get buy-in to the proposed plan. Baseline accuracy is very important, i.e. how you configure your aircraft in whatever system you use to make sure that everything will flow uniformly and is accurate. Similar with data availability: Cape Air had a great deal of data in the legacy system which we didn’t want to abandon but we needed to make sure that data was clean and usable, which entailed cleansing the data and making sure that we didn’t load dirty data into our new system. Change management is also very important; we undertook our internal change management to ensure that everybody was on the same page with what the business was doing, what we were trying to achieve.
Listen to the fleet
This is especially important operating the fleet types that we have at Cape Air and some of the aging aircraft. Continuous review is very important from a maintenance standpoint but it also goes hand-in-hand with IFS Maintenix or any system that readers might use; make sure that you’re listening to what your fleet is telling you, see if you can find trouble spots with your configuration and how it’s set up in the system and, when you do find a trouble spot, take immediate action to rectify it. That is something that we had some challenges with at Cape Air but that we’ve really taken to heart recently, making sure that configurations are set up exactly as you want them to avoid any trouble spots, whether at the front end of the system with front line employees or with the records department to ensure that everything’s maintained accurately.
Listen to your employees
Being an employee-owned company, we try to engage our front-line employees as often as possible; so it’s very important for Cape Air to solicit user feedback. We want to make sure that our employee base is feeling heard, make sure that there is a venue where they have a voice and take immediate action to rectify concerns when feedback starts to be received on a specific area: or retrain where necessary. Anything of that nature is very important to Cape Air and to implementing any new system.
It’s also important to lay out for your employees exactly what you’re trying to achieve, the direction in which the business wants to proceed, in order to make sure that you get their buy-in and that everybody is in line and heading towards the same mission goal. Employee buy-in is critical.
THE SYSTEM IN SERVICE
Supporting our employees is very important at Cape Air because, of course, being an employee owned company, it means supporting ourselves. We have a controlled internal helpdesk process. We needed a resource that, when a technician working on a ramp in Montana, has an issue concerning a specific process within the system, there is a venue where they can reach out and ask for help. So we developed our own internal helpdesk process to rectify any issues they might have. It’s also a great training opportunity; we logged certain trends and started to look into some of the analytics: that’s very valuable data for the back-end of the system to look at where our employees are having trouble and take actions to address some of those spots where employees are consistently having difficulty. This feedback loop has allowed for a 93% decrease in monthly helpdesk submissions since we went live with IFS Maintenix.
We like to say that we’ll never be finished integrating IFS Maintenix; we like to continually drive it forward to the greatest extent possible within our operation. That means that we are constantly turning on different functionalities and diving deeper into the system. Some of the things that we got into right away included to improve live system use; make sure that technicians are using the system in real time and make sure that we have high availability of the product, so that, wherever our technicians or storeroom staff are located, they have access to IFS Maintenix. This was very important. We went about that with iPads and made sure that all of our maintenance locations were equipped with those resources and that they were able to be taken on the road as well for supply to some of our smaller destinations.
It was clearly a huge undertaking to bring about change with a system of this scale: but it was worth it for what we gained. We gained the ability to manage our fleet configuration in a way that had not been possible before. The new system is fully customizable for fleet sub-types (also important for Cape Air). We now have in our hands modern, user-friendly planning tools so that we can begin to forecast our usages and maintenance events and make sure that we’re operating in an efficient way. We can now generate data driven strategic objectives and have data supported decision making, something that was not possible with our legacy system. In fact, sorting through the data that IFS Maintenix gathers and generates provides an insight into just how much data there is and how much we can access to support data based decisions, analyse trends and continue to drive Cape Air forward.
We also gained financial visibility that was not there before. There’s a purchase order tracking system with financial accountability which is a big thing for Cape Air. Just having a Min/Max level based purchasing system, which we didn’t have with our legacy system, with the real-time visibility as to what is actually sitting on our shelves was very applicable to us as well as the benefit of having a really reliable warehousing tool. We have greatly improved our ability to manage our inventory and maintain our fleet.
Reporting features were a real gain for us, offering increased visibility into all aspects of the operation. Some of the analytics which can be accessed through Jaspersoft to help drive our reliability program for future progress. We are also moving to electronic record keeping at Cape Air, launching electronic task cards by the end of 2018 and taking steps towards e-signature. And, as well as full quality control, we also enjoy safeguards at all stages of our processes so that, when an MOC controller releases an aircraft for service, we can be sure that he’s able to follow the clean concise process laid out within the system.
At the end of the day, as an airline that continues to grow and to evolve, and is poised to take some major steps into the future, Cape Air now has a strong foundation to build upon with new aircraft types being introduced and to really begin to expand our operation. In short, we have gained a strong, scalable platform for future business developments.
Isaiah began his career in aviation with Cape Air in 2014, and is responsible for managing and coordinating the Cape Air IFS Maintenix integration project as well as overseeing the daily operation of Maintenix across the Cape Air organization. Passionate about providing IT solutions to help solve operational difficulties, Isaiah strives to streamline processes and drive efficiency wherever possible, including engaging Cape Air’s frontline employees to grow their Maintenix skill set.
Since 1989, Cape Air has served some of the most beautiful destinations in the world, to include southern New England to Hyannis, Nantucket, New Bedford, Martha’s Vineyard and Providence, RI. In 1993, the airline began offering flights in South Florida and in 1998, a Caribbean operation. In 2004 a Micronesia service was launched with two ATR 42s. Cape Air operates 83 Cessna 402s, 4 Britten-Norman Islanders and is one of the largest regional airlines in the United States.
IFS is a provider of both enterprise-wide solutions and best-of-breed point software products designed specifically for the global aerospace and defense (A&D) market. IFS’s solutions support project and program-centric manufacturing for the A&D industry as well as a complete spectrum of mission-critical maintenance management capabilities for sea, land and air assets, from heavy, complex, and component MRO, to line maintenance or at-platform/asset support.