Espen Olsen, European Director for Aerospace & Defence at IFS puts on his Google glasses and predicts the top five trends he sees making a big impact on civil aviation MRO in 2015
With every New Year it is traditional to take a moment to look forward and consider what the year ahead will hold for us. This is particularly pertinent in a fast moving and technologically critical sector such as MRO IT. So I’ve looked at what is happening and used the information available today, plus mine and my colleagues’ experience in the sector, to predict what 2015 holds for civil aviation MRO IT and, in particular, what five big trends will change or contribute to the way we work in the year ahead.
1. MOBILE COMES OF AGE WITH MAINTENANCE ‘AT-THE-ASSET’
We’ve talked about it a lot but 2015 will be the year when mobile technology is going to have a seriously huge effect within aviation MRO. 2015 will see significant strides in the integration of mobile apps as part of a full Information System (IS) across all MRO operations.
Maintenance ‘at-the-asset’ will become the expected norm, with airline maintenance crews equipped with essential mobile apps to access relevant information at the time of need, rather than having to take the long walk to the back office or standing in line to access the terminal to get the relevant information. But this new generation of mobile devices will have apps that are targeted on maximizing effectiveness, minimizing user overhead but avoiding complexity in this complex operating environment.
2. FIRST GLIMPSES OF ROI FROM ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING
It has been widely predicted that additive manufacturing – or 3D printing – will become ubiquitous within the aerospace and defense (A&D) industry. Indeed A&D is already a huge trend setter in terms of adopting additive manufacturing, contributing 10.2% to the industry’s $2.2 billion1 global revenue in 2012; and all indications are that this will continue to grow. Rolls-Royce and General Electric have already announced2 that they plan to produce parts for aviation engines that are lighter and faster to produce through additive manufacturing.
In 2014 we saw the huge potential for this technology in aviation. I believe that, in 2015, as a recent Deloitte University Press3 report highlighted, additive manufacturing will really show its worth in terms of reducing material costs, decreasing labor content, and increasing availability of parts at point of use, having a dramatic impact on the supply chain. We will start to see real RoI (return on investment).
3. A REAL BUSINESS NEED FOR WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY
In 2014, wearables promised much but delivered little in terms of practicalities. Gartner has predicted that the wearable market will be worth $10 billion by 20164 so if this respected analyst group is right, things need to get a shift on in 2015.
In civil aviation, the business need is there and crying out for wearable technology. Witness the example of Japan Airlines with its use of Google Glass in the maintenance process5. The glasses are worn by engineers working around the plane on the tarmac. Images of the aircraft are sent to maintenance specialists for assessment who then feed any issues they see back to the engineer on the ground. Work is completed promptly, can be assessed in real time and all information is recorded to assess further issues down the line.
So forget the ‘trendy’ aspect of wearable technology – its potential to reduce complexity and workload for aviation operators is a clear business benefit. If the industry gets it right, and I believe it will, 2015 will see the major and widespread use of wearables in civil aviation become a practical reality.
4. BIG DATA HOLDS THE KEY TO PREDICTING THE FUTURE
‘Big data’ is a concept that has been around for longer than I can remember, but unlocking its secrets has still to be tackled.
In civil aviation there’s huge potential for using the secrets of data to enable everything from predictive analytics to greater inventory optimization, better monitoring of usage patterns and the essential tracking and analyzing the health of equipment in real-time. But so far there has been little in the way of answers for its key uses, or more importantly, the means of identifying which data is useful, and which is not.
In 2015 the civil aviation industry will and must tackle big data head on. In particular, I think, in using big data for Predictive Analysis. By providing key data around asset failures, this can then be integrated into logistics systems to help inform and improve future designs, in order to optimize usage and lower the total lifecycle cost.
5. SMALLER VENDORS NEED TO INNOVATE
The unprecedented numbers of commercial aircraft being produced as the industry grows at 4.7 per cent annually – coupled with an ever increasing demand for more affordable products and greater reliability – has seen an acceleration of a new trend in the aerospace supply chain. Companies at the top of the supply chain are shifting responsibilities for increased productivity and innovation to their smaller second tier suppliers to absorb the continuing price pressures from end-user customers. This means that in 2015, smaller vendors will be forced to radically overhaul their operating costs while driving innovation in order to protect relationships with their major OEM customers.
IT holds the key. A new generation of modular Information System (IS) solutions are available that will allow these smaller Tier 2 players to easily and quickly increase or change their production processes, show more transparency in their production controls, and give instant visibility of their margins.
Modularity means they can pick and mix the applications to meet their particular points of need and, to avoid the expenses traditionally associated with full blown ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems, they can even opt for an OPEX (operating expenses) rather than a CAPEX (capital expenditure) model by deploying through the cloud.
Whatever they decide, they need to build a springboard for the future, and innovation is a must. So the pressure is on.
European Director Aerospace & Defense, IFS
Espen is responsible for Business Development and Sales in A&D at IFS, and has a background in the Royal Norwegian Air Force. In his 15 years with IFS he has worked with a variety of clients across the A&D sector, both in Civil Aviation as well as in defense, and has been working with defense logistics and issues related to the transformation of the defense sector in Europe. He has also been working very closely with IFS’ focus on Complex Assembly MRO (aka Engine overhaul), and has taken part in both sales as well as implementation with customers such as Finnair Technical Services (now GA Telesis), Alitalia Maintenance Systems (AMS) and more recently Emirates.
IFS Applications offers flexible, module based business solutions that manage the entire civil aviation lifecycle of contracts, projects, MRO, assets and services. Applications include functionality for contract and project management, risk management, budgeting and forecasting, engineering, material management, sub-contracting, document management, fabrication, service and maintenance management, as well as financials and human resources. Being component-based, it is easier to implement and can be incremental to align with the growth and scope of a business.