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.