Aircraft IT MRO – Winter 2012

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Case Study: Starting with your Destination Viktor Vigfússon, Manager Finance & Resources, Icelandair Technical Services View article
White Paper: Auditing makes for a Successful Implementation Sharhabeel Lone, Partner Global Business Strategy, SAKS Consulting View article
Case Study: When two become one David Marcontell, Executive Vice President & Principal, TeamSAI Inc. View article

Case Study: Starting with your Destination

Author: Viktor Vigfússon, Manager Finance & Resources, Icelandair Technical Services

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Starting with your Destination

Viktor Vigfússon, Manager Finance & Resources at Icelandair Technical Services shares the experience of an MRO system replacement; from selection through to phased implementation

When selecting a replacement MRO system it is important to identify a solution that best complements the user’s current and future business model. This case study, reviews Icelandair Technical Services’ recent selection of a new MRO software package; emphasizing the importance of a strong user-vendor relationship and a strong relationship with the user community. It also discusses the significance of identifying an implementation approach that best supports the user’s business operations.

Defining your optimized enterprise

While there are inevitably common operational factors, every aviation organization considering an MRO system replacement will be doing so in the light of various compelling events. Some will choose the time of a new fleet introduction as an opportunity for broader change, others can no longer justify the investment required to maintain legacy systems while there also will be those who believe that their current maintenance environment is incapable of supporting the organization’s future plans. Regardless of the starting point, all will arrive at the same destination: a boardroom table, pouring over technical requirements, soliciting organizational feedback and feeling overwhelmed by the task ahead.

We can’t make the process of MRO system replacement easy, but we can definitely make it easier – we just need to understand where it is that we want to end up. And there is no need to be limited by what the business is currently doing; instead we should be encouraged to consider what is possible.

So, we start from scratch by defining at the outset the optimized maintenance enterprise for the organization. What does the ideal environment look like? And how far away is the present position from that preferred (desired?) future? This is an important first step when deciding what to do next. The ability to understand where the organization is now and to clearly articulate desired end state and goals for the future will help to define requirements and evaluate future business partners in this undertaking.

Identifying the right approach

After identifying the desired end state, the next step is to identify the right approach for addressing the gaps between the current, real, and future, desired, maintenance environments. Once again, having this defined at the outset creates the necessary context and structure for future decisions.

A common approach identified by many IT vendors is to tactically address the areas of supply chain and maintenance execution without adjusting how the business manages its upstream processes. Because these represent the most repeatable, high-volume activities in the organization, it is often thought that addressing these areas first will offer quick wins and the greatest return, as it does in activities such as manufacturing. But this argument is flawed; we don’t first budget for gas if we don’t know what car we’re planning to buy or how far we intend to drive. To approach MRO system replacement from this vantage point assumes that we’re planning for consistent demand, with little to no consideration of or allowance for uncertainty.

A better plan is to focus on a holistic approach and look at maintenance operations in terms of the goal of achieving serviceable aircraft, as this is what ultimately drives the demand for parts and labor downstream in the organization. The result of taking this approach is to achieve true visibility into the organization’s operations, with accurate demand signals and an optimized supply chain. This clear chain of command also provides greater insight in to why things have happened — or continue to happen — including the reasons for aircraft delays and parts shortages.

With a clearly defined end state and starting point that is understood, the organization is now in a position to confidently connect the dots between MRO system selection and implementation.

The Icelandair Technical Services experience

Icelandair Technical Services (ITS) is the independent maintenance arm of Icelandair. Established in 1937, the organization is responsible for the maintenance and technical management of the Icelandair fleet and, since 1995, has been providing maintenance, technical services, engineering and material support to a number of other global operators.

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Icelandair Technical Services at a glance

Managed fleet size: 35 B757 and B767 supported from six operators.

Employees: 300 total – 140 mechanics, 160 office and support staff.

Services provided:

  • Maintenance;
  • Technical Services;
  • Engineering;
  • Material support.

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ITS’ legacy maintenance environment consisted of a single MRO system, but with separate database instances for each ITS customer. The system has a Windows client interface and had reached the limits of its capabilities. Although the vendor is currently introducing a new generation system to the market, ITS used this as an opportunity to explore other available options.

For ITS, the compelling event to begin the search for a replacement MRO system was driven by a requirement for a future-proof system able to support the on-going strategy of the business. This, coupled with the approaching end of life (EOL) of the legacy system, provided the catalyst for the organization’s search for an MRO software solution provider able to meet anticipated and evolving needs.

At the outset, ITS established clear and measurable goals for system replacement; these included a modern solution able to support business objectives, as well as defined productivity enhancements, improved material utilization, and other quantifiable cost reductions.

Advantages expected from the new system:

  • Modern, user-driven design (web-based);
  • Broad functionality and features;
  • Flexible with customizable user interface;
  • More efficient processes and task automation;
  • Strong vendor, good support and continued development.

The selection process

Eight systems were evaluated with four eventually selected for further consideration. Because the vendor was being evaluated as much as the software, ITS took every opportunity to build a relationship with the shortlisted organizations through attending conferences, participating in web presentations, and facilitating face-to-face meetings and demonstrations in order to familiarize the organization with each potential partner.

Based on the stated goals and requirements, the experience with each vendor, and the level of confidence in their systems, ITS selected Mxi Technologies and the Maintenix software to conduct a proof-of-concept pilot to assess the vendor’s and software’s fit with ITS and their ability to meet the organization’s needs for system replacement.

Elements and advantages of the pilot project:

  • Walked through selected usage scenarios with ITS data;
  • Allowed the organization to consider and assess data migration and cleanup effort required;
  • Identified any gaps or areas of concern;
  • Engaged people and assessed the vendor;
  • Obtained references from questionnaires, phone calls and on-site visits to existing customers of the vendor.

Why Mxi Technologies and Maintenix

The comprehensive functionally, advanced architecture, and future product direction of Mxi Technologies’ Maintenix software strongly paralleled ITS’ internal requirements for system replacement and quickly emerged as the solution of choice to enable the future direction of ITS. This, coupled with a strong vendor, is what led to ITS’ ultimate decision to choose Mxi Technologies as partner in the on-going evolution of the maintenance organization. Furthermore, Mxi Technologies’ approach to aviation maintenance is guided by five principles that, in the opinion of ITS, form the basis of an optimized maintenance enterprise:

  1. Business Model: Model the whole business down to the component level in software.
  2. Organizational Process: Include the entire maintenance organization within one disciplined process.
  3. Real-time Targets: Capture real-time data to enable dynamic planning, immediate reaction to events and the ability to take advantage of opportunistic maintenance.
  4. Data Model: Maintain information in a granular information model that enforces accurate, detailed, and compliant asset maintenance records at all times.
  5. Continuous Improvement: Continuously drive the process toward 100% predictable maintenance to minimize the impact of unplanned maintenance.

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Mxi Technologies at a Glance:

Founded in 1996.

  • An established vendor with strong support and development divisions.
  • Provider of Maintenix® and Maintenix® CE software solutions.
  • Solutions offer a workflow-oriented system with modern user interface and strong configuration control.
  • Comprehensive functionality and sophisticated product Roadmap.
  • Serving the Commercial Airline, OEM & MRO Service Provider, and Defense markets.
  • Serving emerging to large scale global aviation organizations.
  • World-class services and support.
  • A knowledgeable team with extensive implementation services.
  • A field-proven system with a solid customer base and engaged customer community.
  • Over 1600 commercial aircraft are supported by Maintenix Solutions worldwide.
  • Enterprise wide implementations of Mxi solutions with fleet sizes ranging from five to 700 aircraft.
  • Reference customers across six continents.

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The implementation process

In order to minimize the impact on operations, ITS selected a phased implementation with the first phase focused on the implementation of back-office activities or those processes which are not time sensitive. Consequently, this first phase concentrates on the introduction of Engineering, Planning, and Technical Records modules of the Maintenix software. Phase two of the project will focus on production activities or time sensitive processes, including Materials, Maintenance Execution, Finance and system integrations to flight following’ and finance. This phased approach to implementation was based on comparing the benefits, of a smoother and risk-reduced implementation, with the costs of running two systems in parallel during phase one. The latter will be kept to a minimum by clearly defined interim processes and a clear split of functional areas for which each system is responsible. The expected ‘go-live’ timeline for the first phase of implementation is April 2012 with end of 2012 scheduled for the complete introduction of Maintenix.

Getting it right – best practices from Icelandair Technical Services

Throughout the implementation process, ITS has put a heavy emphasis on ‘getting it right’. What this has meant to the organization is the establishment of a project office with dedicated key subject matter experts, vendor engagement on the implementation, and stressing the current and on-going importance of clean data – all of which are key elements for a successful transition and for reaping the benefits afforded by the new system.

Much like the situation framing the decision to replace a legacy maintenance system, the situation for implementation will also vary widely. However, there are commonalities and opportunities for shared experience that stand to benefit both the individual operators and the industry as a whole as we begin to evolve our maintenance operations.

In the ITS experience, the keys to ‘getting it right’ fell into six categories:

  1. Data cleansing. There cannot be enough emphasis put on the importance of clean data when replacing a legacy MRO system. As the project progresses, corrupt data stands to become a significant bottleneck in the achievement of efficiencies and measurable ROI. To a large extent, this issue can be addressed independently of system replacement, but the most realistic approach considers a detailed data migration strategy and a mix of data cleansing before and during migration. Following system go-live, the benefits of clean data will be immeasurable in supporting confident decision-making and continuous improvement.
  2. Data migration. Again, investing time and effort into establishing a sound data migration strategy will be of significant benefit to the organization as the project progresses, because this is a key area where one does not want to underestimate the amount of effort required. Although it is difficult to anticipate everything that could happen during the process of data migration, a solid strategy will better prepare the organization to address unexpected events. Things to consider in the strategy include using legacy data vs. OEM provided data and which source is best for a particular asset.
  3. Project resources. The biggest challenge faced by many organizations will be assigning and keeping the right caliber and number of people engaged throughout the life of the project. ITS’ original plan was very aggressive and did not reflect the actual resources that the organization had available when, for instance, peripheral activities, including new aircraft introductions, required a redirection of effort. However, this can be offset through partnership with the vendor who should be able to provide the project resources with the industry knowledge and experience to continue to drive the project forward.
  4. Processes and use cases. MRO system replacement offers an excellent opportunity for the organization to properly document and evaluate their existing business processes and use cases. Although it might be a challenge to introduce business process re-engineering in tandem with system replacement, this could be required and it is important to stay open to the possibility of changing current processes in support of future efficiencies. It is also important to consider tools for managing processes and system use cases to ease training and facilitate workflow improvements after the go-live.
  5. Phased implementation. Choosing a phased implementation supported ITS’ objectives for system replacement and accepted level of risk. Deploying the software in phases also provides the opportunity to polish the setup of baseline data and support processes before launching maintenance execution. However, the downside to a phased implementation is the interim duplication of work and temporary workflows. Ultimately, the choice to implement in phases or via a ‘Big Bang’ approach will come down to the culture of the organization and the accepted level of risk, but it is important to weigh the pros and cons of either approach before settling on one over the other.
  6. Cooperation among users and vendor. Any vendor will have a varying customer base with a range of operational profiles; however, it is important to strive for standardization and to build a consensus around the product and a future roadmap that meets the needs of the user community as a whole. Mxi Technologies has a strong user community with ongoing engagement activities targeted at building out the breadth and depth of the software and establishing shared industry best practices.

Conclusion

The aviation industry is in a constant state of evolution. New aircraft, new technologies, and new ways of doing business coupled with strategic growth or mergers have meant that the industry is constantly transforming. Fortunately, the technology exists today to achieve measurable efficiencies now and well into the future with adaptable MRO software that allows users to adhere to regulatory requirements and respond to this steady flux. Given this environment, the benefits of modernization and new ways of doing business quickly outweigh the effort of MRO system replacement.

When evaluating the present and future operating environment and the desired business direction for the maintenance organization, it begins to emerge that adapting to change makes more sense than delaying the adoption of new technologies until change is unavoidable. Dated legacy systems, disparate point solutions, and complex work-arounds are not sustainable options for modern maintenance organizations. Any costs avoided by not implementing a new system will quickly disappear as the labor required to manage or work within older MRO solutions begins to outweigh the projected savings.

Next-generation MRO software offers today’s operators an opportunity to look at the maintenance function differently from both a technology and business-process perspective as a key element in enabling their overall business.

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