More and more operations are seeing the benefit of meshing their MRO software with their flight operations IT solutions. Together, the two offer more synergy than perhaps any other pairing to ensure safety, efficiency and profitability. We will take a look at how these two seemingly disparate products can work together to create amazing synergy.
Frontier Airlines has become the latest North American operator to adopt Skywise Health Monitoring as its key future fleet performance tool under a five year contract covering 111 single-aisle aircraft.
Launched in 2019, Skywise Health Monitoring (SHM) gathers live diagnostic feeds from the aircraft through its ACARS link to the airline’s information system.
Frontier will use the solution for its A320 Family fleet. Airbus’ SHM will support the airline’s maintenance and engineering teams by enabling real-time management of aircraft events and troubleshooting. This will help the airline in identifying, prioritizing, analyzing and handling in-service events, enabling quicker decision-making and minimizing AOG risks.
Using the Skywise aviation data platform, SHM collates and centralizes the alerts, flight-deck effects, maintenance messages etc., prioritizes them, correlates any faults with the relevant troubleshooting procedures, highlights operational impacts, provides the maintenance history of the system (from the logbook and MIS (maintenace information system) information collected through Skywise Core and stored in the data lake), allowing effective tracking of the alerts.
Overall, SHM saves airlines time and decreases the cost of unscheduled maintenance. Natively interfaced with Skywise Predictive Maintenance (SPM) and Skywise Reliability (SR) to provide an integrated user experience, and also ready to harness the new on-board Flight Operations and Maintenance Exchanger (FOMAX) data router which can capture over 20,000 real-time aircraft parameters, SHM enables end-to-end unscheduled event management/fixes, for example by anticipating tools and parts’ availability closest to the aircraft.
Seabury Solutions, a subsidiary of New York-based Seabury Capital Group announced the addition of a new customer for its Alkym Platform, a Colombia-based cargo carrier, Líneas Aéreas Suramericanas (LAS Cargo).
“Digital innovation continues to be top-of-mind for executives across the airline industry. The digital economy is expanding at its fastest pace and the shift to digital transformation initiatives among carriers, including cargo operators, is being accelerated by the effects of the pandemic,” noted Manuel Roché, Seabury Solutions’ VP, Sales & Marketing LATAM.
For airlines, acting fast is key. But to act faster, airlines need technology solutions that advance their digital transformation agendas and are supported by a technological partner that can implement and comprehensively support solutions for their new processes Seabury says.
Following an exhaustive selection process, LAS Cargo enlisted the support of Seabury Solutions, licensing several modules of the Alkym suite, to implement the applications for Planning, Engineering, Maintenance Control, Purchasing and Repairs, Inventory, Receiving and Dispatch, Reliability, MRO, as well as the mobile application for mechanics and inspectors.
“The implementation of Alkym in LAS Cargo allows us to advance in our technological value proposition focused on digital transformation in the processes,” asserted Juan Pablo Bonilla, LAS Cargo IT manager, adding that “we are sure that with this application in a 100% cloud infrastructure and with the support of Seabury Solutions we will be able to advance in this way.”
With the implementation process currently under way, the Alkym software is already supporting the airline’s M&E and MRO operations. LAS Cargo will continue to receive ongoing support from the Seabury Solutions team for the software’s support, maintenance, and updates in the future.
The implementation of end-to-end enterprise resource planning (ERP) software at MROs is substantially improving their ability to complete more jobs on time, while providing management and customers with real-time views of progress as these jobs move from one phase to another.
This being said, deploying MRO ERP software made by companies such as EmpowerMX, Rusada, and Ultramain Systems requires planning and ongoing management to ensure smooth, trouble-free implementations. To find out how MROS can hit all these targets, Aviation Maintenance magazine spoke to all three companies to get their advice.
Ultramain Systems: How to Achieve a Successful Implementation
According to John Stone, Ultramain Systems’ VP of Product Management, Ultramain’s MRO ERP platform has been built to adapt to different customer needs, wants, and desires, so that ULTRAMAIN operates whatever way the customer wants it to. “It is designed to support business processes in different ways because customers operate differently,” said Stone. “It is not a ‘build out’ like some offerings, but it is also not ‘must do it my way’ drop in software.”
To achieve the most performance from ULTRAMAIN while ensuring the easiest implementation, the first step begins by “selecting the right applications needed by a customer based on their needs, which is determined during the sales selection process,” he told Aviation Maintenance. “In an ULTRAMAIN implementation customers get exactly what they want, which starts with getting just the applications they need.”
Next, the Ultramain Systems team shows the customer’s IT implementation team what ULTRAMAIN can do. This ‘Familiarization Training’ is a detailed multi-week process, with its duration depending on how many apps are involved. The training process is organized by functional areas to ensure that the right customer team members are in the right sessions, based on their roles and the software functions being discussed.
“In this stage, the processes supported by ULTRAMAIN are gone through in detail, using the software itself, while being matched with the processes desired by the customer,” said Stone. “By the end of Familiarization Training, which is an interactive process, the customer fully understands what ULTRAMAIN is capable of, how it can be flexed to fit their needs, and how it aligns with what they want.”
Traditionally, ULTRAMAIN’s Familiarization Training has been done at the customer’s site. However, travel restrictions caused by COVID-19 have compelled Ultramain Systems to find a socially-distanced alternative. “To address this issue, we enhanced ULTRAMAIN to allow the implementation to be done remotely with little to no degradation to the implementation process,” Stone said. “We believe face-to-face interaction is best, but there are advantages to remote learning. For instance, travel costs are eliminated, which reduces the overall cost of the implementation.” The company has also enhanced its use of computer-based training (CBT) to allow remote workers to learn the ULTRAMAIN system at home, at their own pace and on their own schedule.
After Ultramain Systems has completed Familiarization Training with an MRO’s staff, they move to the next stage of implementation. In this stage, which is referred to as ‘Business Process Workshops’, the MRO’s team members take a more detailed look at their to-be business processes, required forms, reports, interfaces and possible modifications to their ULTRAMAIN system, so that it meets all of their needs.
“In this stage, we identify these requirements in detail for addressing later during the implementation,” said Stone. “As each session is accomplished customer team members become more and more knowledgeable of the software. Since this is done and documented in the software itself, the results are there as well.”
Stage Four of the ULTRAMAIN implementation process is tackled during company/client ‘User Roles Workshops’, where the MRO’s various user roles are identified and mapped to Ultramain software functions. “Subsequent training and usage are based on user roles, which is how users will use the software,” Stone said. “All of this can be set up in conjunction with the customer without our people being onsite.” Once the user roles have been mapped out in the ULTRAMAIN platform, the MRO’s IT staff can take over maintaining and modifying their version of the software.
With all of this having been done in a rational, step-by-step basis, the MRO is now ready for Stage Five of the ULTRAMAIN implementation process. This stage focuses on any required data migrations, and interface/software modifications. Ultramain Systems provides assistance in this stage, with the MRO taking the lead to reinforce their control and grasp of the system.
“Following that is delivery, testing, certification and acceptance of the final system,” said Stone. “During this stage, the MRO’s IT staff learn how to modify screens, modify navigation, add data elements, create their own forms, reports, dashboards, and interfaces. There is little in the software that can’t be configured and controlled by user administrators and users. And all of this can be accomplished without any software code changes.”
The final stage of the ULTRAMAIN implementation process involves training the MRO’s ‘end users’, the technicians and office staff who will input/receive data from the system on a day-to-day basis. In today’s COVID-19 world, training is conducted remotely in classroom settings as well as by users viewing training videos at their own convenience. “User training is quickly followed by go-live activities which include a range of activities from prep to rehearsal to go-live and post go-live support,” Stone concluded.
With all this done, the MRO is now fully prepared to use ULTRAMAIN in their working environment. For those wanting to know how to deploy an ERP platform with minimal fuss and disruption, this is how it is done.
EmpowerMX: Solving Problems for EAMS
EAMS (Embraer Aircraft Maintenance Services) opened in Nashville, Tennessee in 2002. From then until 2014, EAMS was a paper-based facility, enduring all of the communication, information-sharing, and lack-of-transparency issues that accompany this traditional approach to ERP management.
The result: EAMS’ goal was to consistently complete at least 90% of all scheduled jobs on time. But its day-to-day reality was an oscillating completion rate that went from 20% to over 90% depending on the month, with an average of just 50% on time job completions.
Determined to fix this problem while improving customer service and internal resource/manpower/ process management at all levels, EAMS decided to implement an ERP platform in 2014. After evaluating various vendor solutions, EAMS choose EmpowerMX to provide its MRO Manager ERP platform to the company.
“EmpowerMX’s cloud-based, mobile-first software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions are used by the world’s leading airlines, MROs, and OEMs to more efficiently plan, execute, and optimize heavy maintenance, line maintenance, materials management, shops activities and component overhaul,” said Dinakara Nagalla, EmpowerMX’s Founder and CEO. “Prior to implementation, EAMS was facing challenges with delivery performance, maintenance efficiencies, and financial results,” he noted. In addition to this MRO’s varying delivery rate, “customer satisfaction was not the best due to the delivery performance. Financial results were where you would have expected them.”
The results of EAMS adopting EmpowerMX speak for themselves. “As presented at the April 2020 IATA Conference, EAMS improved their delivery performance from 50% on time to 99% on time,” said Nagalla. “This was achieved, in part, by improving their efficiency by 15%, which was the direct result of the EmpowerMX application. By reducing variability, enabling production control, and improving their efficiency and on time delivery, EAMS saw a direct affect on their overall financial performance.”
To help EAMS achieve these substantial improvements, EmpowerMX was took great care to make the implementation process as simple, smooth, and non-threatening to company staff as possible.
“The greatest challenge to most implementations is the cultural roadblocks that may predate the implementation process,” Nagalla told Aerospace Tech Review. “Fortunately, EAMS was well prepared for their implementation and took some much-needed steps prior to go-live that set them up for success.”
In order to make the implementation process go well, EmpowerMX’s people took some steps of their own. They included fine-tuning this MRO’s transition to an ‘electronic maintenance flow’, as it moved from stacks of paper to a digital paperless environment.
To make this transition happen smoothly, “the flow needs to be well thought in advance by getting the brightest minds together,” said Nagalla. “Furthermore, the crutch of flowing paper on the walls needs to be addressed. If these critical parts are not addressed, there can be early gaps and challenges that will present themselves as missed opportunities.”
Preparing EAMS’ various data inputs into the new system was also done early in the implementation process. For instance, “all the tables that the business will rely on need to be set up in advance,” he said. “Careful consideration of an optimal to-be state should be considered during this time.”
The EmpowerMX team helped EAMS redo these and their other processes, so that all would work optimally on the MRO Manager platform. “It’s important to avoid applying old processes to a new application just because it’s convenient,” said Nagalla. “The application is best used when ideal processes are sought after and designed into the application ahead of go-live.”
“EAMS had a good leadership team and an open-minded implementation team dedicated to improving their processes,” he added. “For this project, starting out on the right foot ended up paying early dividends.”
A further area that EmpowerMX focused on was the training of EAMS/ staff in the use of their MRO Manager ERP platform. “As far as training goes for MRO Manager, it’s pretty straightforward,” said Nagalla “The application is fairly intuitive so there’s not much classroom time needed. A typical technician can be trained in as little as four hours, although additional classroom time for leads, inspectors, and planners is necessary.”
“We also try to stress face-to-face instruction, task demonstration, and hands-on practice,” he said. “Obviously, the Millennial technicians are very comfortable with mobility and paperless. However, the older generation technical staff seem to favor the combination of classroom format and hands-on activities we offer.”
Because EmpowerMX took the time to guide EAMS’ implementation process from start to finish, the job went very well indeed. This is precisely why EmpowerMX highlighted this case study at the 2020 IATA Conference.
Reflecting on the successful EAMS implementation, Dinakara Nagalla observed that “change is always a challenge and, as such, it always requires careful management and attention. Fortunately, it was very easy to train EAMS’ technicians on how to use the new solution. They quickly realized how the solution brought to their fingertips all the information they would normally require.”
It helped that MRO Manager’s digital workflow “closely resembled the step-by-step process the technicians had been used to following previously when executing work on paper,” Nagalla concluded. “This facilitated user acceptance and the efficiency of the way technicians interacted with the system.”
Rusada: Ending the Paper Trail for HAECO
Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company (HAECO) was created in Hong Kong in 1950 through the merger of Pacific Air Maintenance & Supply Company with Jardine Air Maintenance Company. What started out as a regional MRO has since grown into a global operation with facilities throughout the Asia Pacific region, North America and other parts of the world.
In June 2017, the software provider Rusada signed an agreement with HAECO Engine Solutions to deploy Rusada’s Envision ERP software at HAECO’s site in Hong Kong. “Envision is a modern, web-based platform for the management of airworthiness, maintenance, and flight operations,” said Royston Neal, a Client Services Manager with Rusada. “Our solution is made up of 10 modules, each with a different specialty, and a suite of native mobile apps.”
HAECO Engine Services had many good reasons to implement Envision at their Hong Kong facility, and many of them were related to terminating a never-ending paper trail. “Prior to Envision, HAECO relied on spreadsheets and paperwork to track work on engines including the planning of work and resources required, executing maintenance, and recording the actual time spent on each task,” Neal explained. “This resulted in a lack of visibility as there was no single place to track progress. Management had to review documents one by one and chase people to understand what was going on in each project.”
Once hired by HAECO, Rusada’s APAC Client Services team worked closely with them transition their data, processes, and staff over to the new system over a six month period.
“Based on HAECO’s business model we implemented our Component Maintenance, Inventory Management and Human Resources modules,” said Neal. “Envision is used by maintenance providers, aircraft operators, OEMs and CAMO providers, so our modules are designed to satisfy a range of different requirements. Often customers with a specialized business model, such as engine maintenance, will only require a specific set of modules rather than the whole suite.”
Once it went live, Envision improved HAECO’s visibility over projects and their planning capabilities thanks to a number of key features. A case in point: Envision’s customizable dashboards allowed management to see the progress of all jobs and the status of key performance indicators, in real-time. As HAECO’s engineers were using Envision’s Task Execution portal to record time spent and any findings on specific jobs, this meant that everything observed in the dashboard was up to date — allowing for quick and effective decision-making by HAECO management.
That’s not all: “In terms of planning, our Task Assignment portal allowed supervisors to allocate tasks, based on engineers’ availability and qualifications, review work, and close tasks all from one place,” Neal said. “In addition, our Workshop Planning board identified capacity conflicts in planned works and allowed users to resolve them from the same screen. On top of this, we interfaced Envision with HAECO’s in-house ‘ECHO’ system to aid the smooth flow of inventory between the two.”
As well as improving HAECO’s job visibility and planning capabilities, Envision significantly reduced the company’s paper trail. Today, all actions are recorded and tracked digitally within the system, while digital copies of documents associated with related transactions and stored as well. “This was a key objective for the project,” said Neal. “It has resulted in increased efficiency throughout their operations.”
Again, moving HAECO from paper to digital took a mere six months. Rusada achieved this goal on schedule, even though HAECO had some unique requirements that had to be incorporated into Envision to make the system meet the client’s needs. To do this without delaying the implementation process, Rusada incorporated these new requirements into Envision while the implementation was underway. This simultaneous approach allowed HAECO to get their system live as soon as possible.
“Other than that, the implementation was fairly standard in nature,” Neal said. “We planned and scoped the project, defined process flows, trained staff and migrated their existing data over to Envision.”
When it came to training staff on the Envision platform, Rusada worked closely with HAECO’s maintenance planning staff, engineers, supervisors, and maintenance control personnel to make sure they were all comfortable on the system, and also provided customized user manuals for future reference. “Following go-live, we provided onsite support for two weeks, so that we were on hand to address any teething issues that occurred,” said Neal.
The takeaway: From 2018 on, HAECO Engine Solutions has been enjoying the efficiencies, cost-effectiveness, and real-time transparency made possible by running their business using Rusada’s Envision — and saving trees from being cut down for paper in the process.
Global Aviation software provider Ramco Systems announced that it will implement its Aviation M&E MRO Suite V5.9 at Draken International, a leading provider of tactical fighter aircraft for contract adversary air (ADAIR) services to the defense industry, across its global operations in both CONUS and OCONUS locations. Ramco Aviation Software will offer a one-stop solution for managing Draken’s global operations as well as a scalable software platform that will support the company’s rapid expansion plans.
Ramco’s next-gen, Defense/ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) compliant Aviation Software, will offer Draken modules covering Maintenance, Supply Chain Management, Flight Operations, Safety & Quality, to help in managing diverse training fleet & defense operations seamlessly. The solution will provide a holistic overview of entire operations with its real-time dashboards and analytics, which will help Draken’s tactical fighter aircrafts achieve a higher mission readiness rate.
In addition, with its digital enablers like state-of-the-art mobile apps, digital task cards, HUBs, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Dashboards, Ramco will also help Draken in its overall digital transformation journey, thus realizing paperless operations, improving process efficiencies, and reducing costs.
Bill Tart, COO, Draken International, said, “At Draken, we constantly drive efficiency and innovation to provide our DoD (Department of Defense) customers with the best value. As we looked at our long-term requirements, we identified the need for a tool that could deal with the complexity of multiple aircraft fleets, geographically dispersed sites, future government compliance issues, large workforce quality and training tracking – all in a package which minimized workload and could scale with our global expansion plans. No easy task for a next generation Aviation MRO software package. Ramco Aviation Software was the solution to all our requirements. The one stop solution, offering capabilities to address the demanding requirements of the Defense segment, will help us achieve and maintain high mission readiness befitting our customers. We are happy to embark on a digital transformational journey with Ramco.”
Virender Aggarwal, CEO, Ramco Systems, said, “Securing the trust of the top four ADAIR operators in the U.S.A is a landmark achievement, and we are thrilled to achieve this within a short time of entering the Defense Asset Management segment. Our partnership with Draken underscores our experience in implementing solutions for ADAIR operations, and we are excited to be supporting them on their journey of digital transformation.”
RwandAir selected the TRAX eMRO system in October of 2020 as part of its efforts to enhance its efficiency, lower its costs, and expand its operations. The airline saw an opportunity to replace its legacy system with a fully integrated technologically advanced web-based MRO software product. TRAX congratulates the RwandAir team for successfully implementing eMRO – and even more so for accomplishing this goal amidst a turbulent year for aviation.
The TRAX eMRO product enables communication and data flow between the various facets of the operation using leading edge technology. The airline anticipates that real time data means reduced turnaround times and increased time to report and repair issues. TRAX says this gives users the benefit of being able to stay connected to their key aircraft maintenance management data from anywhere using the device-agnostic eMRO solution. Their users can rapidly find spare parts/tools and electronically sign off tasks at any location, such as from the hangar or when carrying out crucial time sensitive line repairs.
TRAX says eMRO is an application designed to cater to every aspect of aircraft maintenance and fleet management. Deployed via any web browser, this technology lets users stay connected no matter where they are. Through this application, maintenance operations can be managed from a desktop or remotely from a phone or tablet. eMRO is a fully integrated product which allows complete information flow between the modules throughout the system. The software provides the means to manage and maintain all information generated by a maintenance organization. TRAX says this solution “gives operations the accessibility that maximizes productivity.”
iBASEt announced the launch of a Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS) program that is intended to simplify resolution of customer support inquiries. As a self-service support program, its aim is to improve support productivity as iBASEt continues its growth trajectory.
The KCS methodology, as defined by the KCS Academy, establishes a knowledge platform to accelerate the successful outcome of customer support issues. By documenting and sharing issues as they arise, a valuable repository of usage intelligence will be available as a customer
Over the past 90 days, overall iBASEt says customer satisfaction has increased to 91 percent, an improvement that was made possible by this and other new programs launched by the company over the first half of 2021.
“By simplifying how complex customer support knowledge is captured and shared, we can be sure our customers can have their needs taken care of in the fastest way possible, and on their schedule,” said Scott Baril, chief customer officer at iBASEt. “This is further testament to our continued investment in business systems and processes that improve our customers’ experience, while at the same time support the company’s scale of growth now underway.”
ATP announced that CFS Aeroproducts has chosen the company to be the exclusive source for technical publications supporting the recently acquired ALF502 and LF507 series engines.
“ATP has a long history of supporting the ALF502-L series engine, and we are excited to see that support grow to include the ALF502-R and LF507-1F and LF507-1H series engines as the exclusive partner of CFS Aeroproducts,” remarked Tim Taylor, senior vice president of business development at ATP. “As the leading platform for accessing technical publications and regulatory content, we are committed to helping CFS deliver a superior customer experience on our ATP Aviation Hub.”
As the exclusive provider for CFS and the ALF502-L, ALF502-R, LF507-1F and LF507-1H series engines, the Aviation Hub includes all maintenance, illustrated parts catalogs, service bulletins, service letters, and supplements – as well as EASA and FAA regulatory libraries.
“By exclusively offering our technical publications through the ATP Aviation Hub, we are able to deliver a superior global customer experience as Type Certificate holders in the US while focusing on our continued commitment to operator support through the maintenance, repair, and overhaul of engines and components through our UK facility” commented David Newhouse, CEO of CFS Aeroproducts Inc. “ATP’s track-record of delivering great service and support means our customers will continue to receive high-quality care and attention while remaining compliant and operating at the highest levels of safety.”
New and existing ATP Aviation Hub customers can easily browse and add the engine’s technical publications on the ATP Store to create a new account or quickly add them to their existing account on file.
Ramco Systems announced it will implement its Aviation M&E. MRO Software V5.8 to digitally transform the maintenance and engineering operations of Bristow Group. one of the largest helicopter operators providing offshore transportation, search and rescue (SAR) and aircraft support services to government and civil organizations worldwide.
Ramco shares a decade-long relationship with Era Group (Era). Bristow’s merger with Era makes them the largest civilian offshore, SAR solution provider and the largest operator of helicopter models S92, AW189, and AW139. Ramco will deploy its aviation software to track inventory and manage maintenance, engineering and operations on a single integrated platform.
Compliant with global regulatory standards, the multi-country roll-out of Ramco Aviation Software, complying with multiple regulatory bodies, will provide cost savings while increasing efficiency and reducing potential for human error, helping Bristow achieve their goal of paperless engineering and operations. Bristow’s staff will also be able to interact with the solution on Ramco’s mobile application, Ramco AnywhereApps and operational Electronic Flight Bag features, which will enable them to manage their operations and receive alerts on the go, providing greater flexibility and quicker response time. Bristow will also be able to create a collaborative network of suppliers with real-time visibility and seamless performance tracking, thereby helping them improve their power by the hour (PBH) and consignment tracking abilities.
Ramco says the implementation will enable Bristow to achieve smart inventory, maintenance management and streamline organization-wide warranty tracking processes. The seamless integration of the solution with Bristow’s financial application will help the company achieve on-time billing and financial closure.
“When Bristow and Era merged, we had a decision to make on the go-forward software,” Stuart Stavley, senior vice president, Global Fleet Management, Bristow Group Inc., said. “Era shared a decade-long partnership and has been pleased with Ramco’s robust compliance and inventory management solutions. Our experience with Ramco’s proven global solutions was key in our selection. We look forward to our journey with Ramco.”
Virender Aggarwal, CEO, Ramco Systems, added, “Our partnership with Bristow underscores Ramco’s track record as a leading software provider for the rotor wing segment. By harnessing the innovative features of our software, we are confident Bristow will be able to optimize its operational efficiency and accelerate its digital transformation strategy.”
The U.S. Navy selected Lockheed Martin and enterprise applications company IFS to deliver an intelligent maintenance solution that will help power its digital transformation of multiple legacy systems into a single, fully modernized and responsive logistics information system. The solution will ensure personnel spend more time focused on the mission and less on aircraft and ship repairs.
The IFS solution comprises capabilities for planning and executing maintenance, repair, and overhaul of more than 3,000 assets including aircraft, ships and land-based equipment. The Naval Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (N-MRO) solution combines artificial intelligence (AI), digital twin capabilities and predictive analytics to anticipate and react to potential equipment failures before they happen, which will contribute to the enhanced support of maintenance, supply logistics, real-time fleet management and other business functions for more than 200,000 sailors.
The U.S. Navy selected Lockheed Martin together with IFS’s industry-specific functionality already used by aerospace and defense organizations. With the added support of software developer Beast Code, the solution will initially be fielded at multiple U.S. Navy sites to help sailors and Marine Corps maintainers break down operational silos and work towards a common maintenance workflow across all ship and aircraft platforms.
The digital transformation of the U.S. Navy’s maintenance systems will see a consolidation of assets and parts data in a central repository visualized to the users through what IFS says is an intuitive, mobile-friendly experience. This initiative will lead to increased data accuracy, streamlined workflows and ultimately less asset downtime and fewer unscheduled maintenance events. Enabling Total Asset Readiness through N-MRO will ensure information is always readily available to help the U.S. Navy achieve its desired materiel readiness and operational availability objectives. Navy personnel will be empowered to document faults, request parts and report work completion at the point of maintenance, thereby reducing asset downtime while increasing data accuracy as an enabler of enhanced planning and procurement.
“Our goal is to provide capabilities that create real value across the Navy’s complex, multi-site operations and optimize its mission-critical maintenance processes,” said Reeves Valentine, Lockheed Martin vice president of Enterprise Sustainment Solutions. “We want to empower Navy personnel with tools that are easy and effective to use with intuitive interfaces, streamlined workflows and timesaving, intelligent features. IFS distinguished itself by providing all of these capabilities through a single, commercial-off-the-shelf solution.”
Scott Helmer, president, Aerospace & Defense, IFS, added, “We are proud to be part of N-MRO, which will set a new global standard for Total Asset Readiness and the way defense organizations manage asset maintenance and logistics, both ashore and afloat. A&D has been a key focus industry at IFS for decades and this landmark deal stands as testament to the success of our long-term strategy and determination. Working with Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Navy, we are already making great strides and look forward to a long and successful collaboration.”
In December 2019, Aerospace Tech Review published, ‘Twinning: Digital Twins Show Their Power’ by Louise Bonnar, one of ATR’s regular contributors. (It can be found online at www.aerospacetechreview.com.) This article explained the concepts of digital twins and digital threads, and how the aerospace industry is using them to significantly improve equipment design, performance, and maintenance.
Two years after publishing ‘Twinning’, ATR contacted aerospace companies who are using digital twins/threads to update us on their progress. Here’s what they told us.
A Digital Twin/Thread Refresher
Before delving into this progress, it seems sensible to reintroduce the concepts of digital twins and threads, so that the updates that follow are in context.
According to Dale Tutt, vice president of Aerospace and Defense with Siemens Digital Industries Software, “the digital twin is the precise virtual representation of a physical product or process. In aviation, the digital twin is being used to help design new products or make changes to existing products faster, because engineering teams have a rich, robust understanding of the product and how it performs.”
Although digital twins are virtual representations of physical products, they are more than just 3D models residing in cyberspace. To faithfully recreate these products and support realistic testing to aid their physical counterparts, digital twins incorporate “all of the data and models needed to represent the different aspects of the products’ behavior or production process,” said Tutt. “This can include requirements, simulation models, analysis models, bills of materials, and any other data that is needed to define the product or process. Most importantly, the comprehensive digital twin evolves over the full product lifecycle so that it can be used to simulate, predict and optimize the product or production system.”
Meanwhile, the digital thread “is the interconnection between all the different representations and models, linking all of the digital twin’s capabilities and providing digitalization and traceability throughout the product’s lifespan,” Tutt explained. “In aviation, the digital thread provides seamless transitions from the product design to production to maintenance and support, establishing the flow from ‘as-designed’ to ‘as-built’ to ‘as-maintained’.”
Now that we have refreshed the concepts of digital twins and digital threads, here’s how they are being used by OEMs and MROs.
Boeing Using Twins/Threads in Commercial and Defense Aircraft Sectors
Boeing has adopted digital twinning/threading as fundamental tools to advance aircraft manufacturing and maintenance operations in both its commercial and defense businesses.
“In the commercial aircraft sector, our data analytics team uses digital twin and model-based engineering tools in working with airline customers to address issues, for example, the air-conditioning system,” said Darren Macer, Predictive Maintenance and Health Management technical fellow with Boeing Global Services. “The team has created and currently maintains operational digital twins of components to track each individual component’s unique characteristics and detect degradation rates.”
Boeing has the capability to create digital twins whenever new physical components are installed. It can then use digital threads to update these digital twins to reflect changes to physical components when the data exists. “With this capability we can identify proactive removals of components that have degraded and are able to suggest targeted maintenance actions, such as heat exchanger cleaning, to prolong the on-wing time of other components,” Macer told ATR. “In short, operational digital twins can prevent unscheduled or reactive maintenance with scheduled, targeted maintenance actions.”
In the defense aircraft sector, the U.S. Air Force is using Boeing’s digital twin methodology in the B-52 Stratofortress’s Commercial Re-Engining Program, (CERP), in which the BUFF’s legacy Pratt & Whitney TF33 engines will be replaced by yet-to-be-chosen modern commercial alternatives. (The B-52’s popular BUFF nickname is short for “Big Ugly Fat Fellow” according to the USAF, or something less polite but equally respectful in common parlance.) “These 3D and mathematical models of all physical hardware allow us to evaluate airplane performance without ever touching the airplane,” said Macer.
Meanwhile, Boeing is using digital twinning to predict and find possible fatigue maintenance hot spots in the F15 Eagle. “Using crack and corrosion findings from the fleet, depot maintenance, and customer feedback, we’ve created a digital twin to plot the data and identify or modify inspection areas more accurately,” Macer explained. As well, “Boeing built the new F-15EX on a digital thread to maintain low operational and maintenance costs: By analyzing identical processes and infrastructure as other F-15 variants (supply chain and maintenance procedures), we’ve developed a digital twin to predict depot maintenance and aircraft fatigue.”
GE Aviation Harnessing Twins/Threads to Increase Aircraft Availability
For GE Aviation, the true power of digital twinning/threading lies in its ability to improve the management and maintenance of components, aircraft, and fleets, all with the common goal of increasing their reliability. This approach should ensure that aircraft are available more often, while unpredicted maintenance events and their consequences are reduced.
“Digital twins enable us to exercise and understand the behavior of an asset in states/situations likely to be encountered in its lifecycle,” said Dinakar Deshmukh, GE Aviation’s vice president of Data and Analytics. This intelligence is then used by GE Aviation to maximize the performance and reliability of an asset in-service, optimize asset/component in-service life and maintenance, and forecast/balance shop visits for overhauls while optimizing repair/overall workscopes.
Overall, “GE Aviation is using these technologies to invest in improving the accuracy of our Off-Wing/In-Shop analytics,” said Deshmukh. “We are continuing to monitor our deployed digital twins, and are embedding advanced machine learning techniques to adjust/adapt the analytics automatically, using statistical and reinforcement learning methods.”
A case in point: GE Aviation’s Analytics Based Maintenance (ABM) software collects sensor data from physical engines and inputs it into their digital twins to better predict unscheduled maintenance issues before they occur.
“Unscheduled engine removal (UER) and in-flight shutdown (IFSD) of engines are one of the drivers of delays and cancellations,” Deshmukh told ATR. “While delays and cancellations adversely impact profitability, having engines running longer on aircraft improves profitability. Operators expect to maximize ‘Time on Wing’ (TOW) and have predictable engine removals for service (to avoid UER). GE has made this expectation a reality for some of their customers through ABM. In ABM, digital twins of key engine parts have been developed, and these individual twins are aggregated to ‘predict’, well in advance, the likelihood of engine removal.”
The power of the ABM approach speaks for itself. “By using digital twinning, GE Aviation has been able to improve the overall efficiency of engine monitoring by double digit percentage improvements in coverage, lead time and false positives,” said Deshmukh. “One of our customers has acknowledged that ABM has improved their TOW by 20%, and reduced their UER by one-third.”
IFS Boosting Aircraft Uptime
Enterprise software developer IFS takes a Big Picture view of digital twinning/threading. “Digital twins, alongside AI (artificial intelligence), IoT (Internet of Things) and more, is all about gathering key data insights into a digital thread that will enable predictive maintenance to make even greater strides in the coming years,” said James Elliott, IFS’ principal bbusiness architect of Aerospace & Defense. “For example, as of 2020, Rolls-Royce — supported by IFS — is using AI forecasting to help airline customers automatically update predicted maintenance deadlines for every life-limited component inside their engines. This is a key part of the Rolls-Royce Blue Data Thread strategy, a digital information thread connecting every Rolls-Royce powered aircraft, airline operation, maintenance shop, and factory.”
IFS has also been assisting in the development of Rolls-Royce’s IntelligentEngine concept, “a form of cyber-physical service where the physical engine, the services that surround that digital engine and Rolls-Royce’s digital capability are indivisible,” Elliott said. In the IntelligentEngine universe, a physical Rolls-Royce engine is in constant contact with its digital twin, updating it with data about the physical engine’s operating conditions and flying environment. This provides operators with the data they need to make smart decisions to maximise aircraft availability, while minimising engine maintenance costs and flight disruptions.
“By mapping the data on how an airline expects to fly a particular engine and combining it with the airline’s specific data on expected part life and so forth, IFS can use this technology to provide companies with accurate predictive maintenance deadlines right down to individual part and serial numbers,” said Elliott. “The stats tell the story: Data from IFS aviation customers over the last five years shows that 45 percent of all airline parts removals were unexpected, so the industry is in serious need of more intelligent predictions for maintenance on AOG faults, remaining operating life and repetitive defects.” Based on IFS’ own data, migrating engine maintenance to AI-based aircraft analytics such as digital twins can lead to a 30 percent increase in aircraft uptime.
ATR’s 2019 Twinning article spotlighted Lufthansa Technik’s (LHT) AVIATAR platform as a digital twins pioneer. “We launched AVIATAR in 2017 as the independent platform for digital products and services developed by Lufthansa Technik and as the digital twin of aircraft fleets,” said Peter Isendahl, LHT’s senior customer success manager of Digital Fleet Services. “AVIATAR combines fleet management solutions, data science and engineering expertise to provide a comprehensive range of integrated digital services, applications and products for airlines, MRO companies, OEMs and lessors that seamlessly integrate with physical requirements in TechOps and beyond.”
Four years later, AVIATAR’s suite of 50-plus predictors are delivering value for its users. “For instance, the IDG (Integrated Drive Generator) Predictor avoids up to 30 percent of unscheduled removals for some airlines and could generate several hundred thousands of Euros saved each year for a fleet of 100 A320s,” Isendahl said. “Meanwhile, the digital AVIATAR Technical Logbook reduces manual efforts by up to 80 percent compared to a paper logbook and reduces the defect closing time by 50 percent on average, which improves turnaround time and maintenance efficiency.”
AVIATOR doesn’t just use digital twins and other advanced digital tools to alert customers to possible problems before they occur. The system offers technical solutions to address these problems as well.
In addition, “AVIATAR’s ability to interface and combine this data with other digital solutions — such as Maintenance & Engineering systems like AMOS or TRAX or ERP systems like SAP — allows our customers to create a single source ‘digital truth’ network of systems,” said Isendahl. “Digital Threading is a key element in this context and already in operation at Lufthansa Technik with AVIATAR.” Recent signups to LHT’s AVIATAR program include United Airlines and Sichuan Airlines.
Siemens Committed to Digital Twins/Threads
Siemens has fully embraced the concepts of digital twinning/threading and made them integral to Siemens Digital Industries Software’s Xcelerator portfolio.
“Xcelerator provides solutions across the full product lifecycle, from the earliest concept design through certification and into production and maintenance operations,” said Dale Tutt. “It provides the most comprehensive digital twin for the product, production process and maintenance operations, connected by digital threading in a flexible and open ecosystem that provides seamless transitions and traceability across the full lifecycle from engineering to production and maintenance.”
“Aerospace companies that are embracing the digital twin and thread are seeing transformational business results,” Tutt added. “They are developing new products faster, improving production line quality while reducing the time and cost to build aircraft, and reducing the time required to maintain aircraft.”
Based on Siemens’ own data, aerospace companies who are using digital twinning/threading are achieving an improved first pass yield of 75 percent for engineering designs, resulting in fewer design revisions. At the same time, these companies are able to reduce physical test programs up to 25 percent by using virtual testing.
Other advances driven by twinning/threading include improved engineering productivity due to 60 percent fewer hours being spent on projects “by using the digital twin and thread to minimize data management and automate updates for design changes,” said Tutt. This process also leads to a 50 percent reduction in assembly hours on manufacturing lines — with a 90 percent reduction in change orders and quality issues — and a 25 percent reduction in scheduled maintenance hours through optimization of maintenance processes.
Advances to Come
It is clear that digital twinning/threading is already providing substantial benefits to the aerospace industry, from component manufacturers and OEMs to operators and their MROs. But according to the companies we spoke with, the future promises bigger and bolder advances. Here are some of their predictions, again on a company-by-company basis.
Let’s start with Boeing: “As we continue to develop and enhance our analytics capabilities, we anticipate integrated products that support airline operators,” said Darren Macer. “By integrating the various applications airline engineers or crew use to complete their daily tasks, we can deliver efficiency and analyze local data to derive insights in real-time. This will move prediction models beyond day-of operations to weeks or months in advance.”
With digital twins constantly monitoring and mirroring the performance of physical aircraft systems, operators will be able to predict and prevent a far larger range of issues before they occur. This will result in significantly enhanced uptimes and aircraft availability.
“Already, digital twin technology bolstered by AI and machine learning tools is enabling us to offer more prescriptive maintenance,” Macer said. “This prescriptive maintenance goes beyond individual recommendations to enable all the maintenance necessary to maintain operations from predicting and identifying parts to replace (as Airplane Health Management already does today), to automatically updating maintenance task cards, notifying the technicians, and automating requests to order the parts ahead of the next landing.”
The best part: “These preventative maintenance diagnoses can take place while the plane is still in the air to ensure everything is ready to go for the maintenance crews before it even lands,” he told ATR. “We are already seeing scenarios like this happen with the technologies we have available today, and this will continue to improve as we incorporate newer technologies into airplane maintenance applications for airlines.”
At GE Aviation, Dinakar Deshmukh foresees a number of exciting applications for digital twinning/threading. They include deploying more Near-Wing and On-Wing monitoring/predictive solutions to improve aircraft availability, and using AI-enabled systems to “learn” from new data as it comes into digital twins. “These technologies also create new datastreams and metadata, which can be further leveraged in future to build advanced AI solutions forming a close loop cycle,” he said.
Citing Rolls-Royce’s Blue Data Thread as “a prime example of how technology is transforming aviation,” IFS’ James Elliott underscores the benefits delivered by this OEM’s digital twinning/threading approach. “By providing a digital backbone it not only allows exchange of critical engine health and maintenance information, but also provides the analytical insights to truly realise the potential of predictive maintenance,” he said. “This translates into daily improvements, significantly less unexpected failures and maximum possible time on wing.”
“As the aviation industry moves towards a greener future, digitalization and predictive maintenance will play an important part,” continued Elliott. “For Rolls-Royce, the Blue Data Thread programme aligns perfectly with these priorities. By reducing the need for maintenance interventions, part replacements and overhauls, manufacturing use of energy and resources is reduced, and the emissions footprint of part and engine logistics is minimized.”
For LHT’s Peter Isendahl, digital twinning/threading is not only a growing trend in aviation, but an absolute necessity for MROs to effectively support the world’s expanding aircraft fleets. “Nothing is changing the MRO industry and is driving the development of new solutions more than digitalization,” he said. “It is the only game changer of this decade. With 50 times more data being generated by new aircraft types and approximately 50 percent of airline operating costs consisting directly or indirectly of MRO services, further cost reduction can only be accomplished through MRO and operational optimizations. Before the next generation of aircraft technology after 2030, no major other cost savings potentials are to be expected.”
“We are in the midst of a very exciting transformation, as we partner with companies that are obtaining significant reductions in manufacturing time by 50 percent through digitalization, and seeing similar results with maintenance operations,” concluded Siemens’ Dale Tutt. “This transformation will continue to grow in coming years as more companies and suppliers adopt digitalization.”
In 2019, ATR’s Twinning article introduced many readers to the concept of digital twins and digital threads. Two years later, this update shows how much progress has been made since that article was published. And by 2023? Given the clear economic, operational and safety advantages offered by this approach, it won’t be surprising if digital twinning/threading has become an integral aerospace industry practice by that point in time, like Lean Management and Just-in-Time Delivery did in previous years. Check this space in two years to find out! THE LATEST ON VIRTUAL MODELS