“It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and reality of tomorrow.” — Robert Goddard

These days, “changing change” has become the “hope of today” with limitless choices enabled by big data, the internet of things and artificial intelligence. “What is possible” has become a fallacy, replaced with “what is impossible.” Changing change is now the rule, rather than the exception to the rule.

For aircraft maintenance, today’s industry characterization of changing the change needed to transform the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) provider to digital seems inadequate and somewhat inept. The focus seems largely weighted towards the development of “owned data” and is not collaborative among the various MRO operations (i.e. airline, independent and OEM MRO providers).

Today’s data schema is lacking the digital collaboration tools that include the actionable interoperability insights and recommendations that can be created, described, owned and published to the operation stakeholders. An example of this conundrum is the MRO provider’s digital enablement of a risk-based, data-supported solution to validate real-time technician and mechanic maintenance decisions as they deliver the maintenance activities to the aircraft. Another example: The implementation of software with actionable insights that mitigate the risk of those maintenance activities.

Laggards or Leaders

Aircraft MRO providers have been laggards in adopting the digital technology to create actionable collaborative insights to prioritize data for the maintenance & worker activities. These insights are needed to help the MRO operation more efficiently set priorities, make choices, plan regulatory audits, analyze data and implement corrective actions.

Image: Shutterstock

Today, aircraft technician and mechanics are assigned jobs using old technology and solutions. They have little visibility into their own work and often don’t relate well to why they are doing what they are doing. They have few operational touchpoints to influence the people, purpose and process to realize safe and compliant on-time performance.

Compounding this plight are maintenance jobs assigned to new aircraft. The new generation of aircraft may have new materials (composites, etc.) that require a different type of repair and also may use new tools to safely return a compliant aircraft to service. The technicians and mechanics are often stuck without the needed digital tools. Unexpectedly, I have seen MRO operations that have developed uncollaborative workaround solutions to return an aircraft to service.

As a laggard in the transformation to digital, MROs are experiencing overwhelming challenges resulting from dismal outcomes. Here are a few MRO areas of focus for continuous improvement:

  • Rising labor costs
  • Poor labor productivity
  • Increased labor demand
  • Increased maintenance costs
  • Poor communication insights from one location to another
  • Increased cost of training with poor flexibility, accessibility and execution constraints
  • Lost productivity and capacity
  • Poor continuous improvement
  • Poor opportunity to scale, automate and exceed productivity realized by their “owned” data.

Realizing Tomorrow’s Digital Reality, Today

Image: Shutterstock

Tomorrow’s digital reality for the MRO is actually here today. The MRO industry is experiencing an alarming shortage of technicians and mechanics, forcing overtime and fatigue, minimal oversight and poor software tools. To adjust for this shortage and achieve desired outcomes, operational stakeholders appear to be prioritizing the management of focus areas based on factors they can actually measure.

Becoming a digitally smart and safe MRO operation necessitates an investment in reactive, preventive, condition-based and predictive tools that promise actionable insights for the operation stakeholders. Simply having the data without the actionable insights is futile. Also, the MRO operation must have a seamless path to setting priorities, making choices, planning regulatory audits, analyzing data, selecting and implementing corrective actions. This is not only a regulatory consideration, but it also makes sense—and cents.

“Bolt-on” agnostic solutions, such as ServiceMax, will help to realize the operations desired outcomes, increase efficiency, recover capacity and mitigate safety risks.

To learn more about the ServiceMax solution for aircraft maintenance, click here or watch this short video about the delivery of compliant aircraft maintenance for MRO providers:

About Jay Shears

Jay ShearsJay Shears is the Aviation & Transportation Product Marketing Leader at ServiceMax from GE Digital. He’s focused on helping operations learn more about ServiceMax field service management software for aviation, airports, rail and mining. He is also a FAA-certified flight instrument instructor, commercial pilot and FAA safety representative.

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