With system-wide costs on the rise for US airlines, it can be difficult to balance overheads and sustain profitability across the organisation. But there can be some changes you can implement that will help make a difference and provide you with some much needed hidden value. One way is to use a document management software to help decrease costs in other areas of your organisation and help re-balance your overall spend.
In an economic analysis for airlines by IATA over the last few years has shown a growing trend in the increase in system-wide costs for US airlines (excluding any transport-related costs). System-wide costs were reported to have risen 5.4% year-on-year from 2016 to 2020. This increase consists of:
- Labour - the largest cost category for US airlines, amounting to 38.6% of network carriers system-wide costs
- Fuel - the second largest cost category
- Other - including food, insurance, commissions, advertising etc.
Below are some benefits that an effective document management software can provide for your airline.
Reduced spend on infrastructure
This is a potentially huge area of savings in terms of how much is currently spent on hardware infrastructure, such as servers, cyber-security, oversight, maintenance costs (including archiving), and not forgetting the costs of distribution management, upgrades and capital cost.
Moving to a cloud-native document management software not only means you cut costs on the need for physical infrastructure, but also maintenance, software upgrades and more.
Reduced requirement for large data downloads
Though the aviation world is slowly digitising their processes such as documentation, they still require a continuous level of incremental updates to entire documents. When aircraft manufacturers release updates to documents 2-4 times a year, airlines need to be ready to make those updates as swiftly as possible.
Once updates have been completed, staff such as pilots and cabin crew will likely need to be able to download these documents onto their devices. What may not be realised is that downloading large amounts of data requires bandwidth - another cost for airlines. If you have a A320 FCOM consisting of 5000+ pages, needing to be downloaded to 500+ users - you can imagine the amount of data costs this incurs.
However, these operational data costs can be significantly reduced if using a document management software that provides less requirement for downloading large blocks of data. This in turn means there’s a cost reduction in bandwidth requirements needed to transmit that data and the use of mobile data accounts are reduced.
Diminish spend on software
The right document management software can help reduce the spend on software. For instance, this can apply to both OEM and purchased software such as FrameMaker. Equally, if an airline is using OEM publishing and/or document management tools such as Airbus ADOC (an upwards cost of $150K per year) or even the Boeing Toolbox. Either of these tools require training and in some cases, the need for additional support from the OEM itself in order to manipulate XML files successfully. When you add all these aspects up, the costs can rack up significantly than if you were to use a document management system that also provides a service element to help you manage, manipulate and publish documents - all while ensuring your airline controls ownership at all times.
Free up technical pilot time
Ensuring enough pilot availability could be an issue for airlines, especially if current pilots are being tied in to being utilised for technical or subject matter expert roles. When this happens, a pilot’s value is massively diminished; and the airline is not necessarily optimising their value in the operational equation.
When pilots are being used as writers instead of technical supporters, the cost-benefit loss is enormous versus a technical writer. Additionally, the opportunity cost is immense as you would need to hire more technical pilots to fill in empty flying roles.
Additionally, from a recruitment point of view, it does not come cheap. The downside of using members of a pilot cohort to help deliver and support documentation is never going to be cost-effective. Based upon an average situation in any North American carrier, it could be safe to assume that the redeployment of technical pilots as technical writers could cost an airline with 100+ tails and a mixed fleet upwards of $100-$250 a year in lost utility. That amounts to at least one years’ worth of pilot workload.
However, when using a document management system such as DocuNet, you could have access to service support to provide you with technical writer help. This service element can be seen as being an extension of your publishing team, and provide expertise in manipulating XML documents - which means your pilots can be freed up and utilised in the best way again.
Speed up regulatory preparation
The relationship between aviation operational documentation and aviation compliance is becoming much more acute – and this is most relevant for those bound by the IOSA audit. This annual audit (undertaken every two years by IOSA qualified auditors) is applicable for all IATA members and is both a costly and time-consuming affair.
On average this process could take up to 10 days for a complex manual to be brought in line with regulatory requirements prior to audit.
The use of document management in this arena is having the ability to reference compliance in an airline’s documentation so that audit support and proof can be easily referenced. Therefore, IOSA audits can be referenced and supported quickly and completed.
Any document management system that can support this linkage has value for both an airline’s document management function, but also their Quality Management function (for internal auditors for instance).
BONUS: Benefit from an extended team of experts
Dealing with documentation for highly complex aircraft such as Airbus and Boeing can be a struggle for an in-house team to manage. This is when you take into consideration the complicated XML structure of the documents - not an easy feat for end users to deal with.
However, when airlines are required to maintain their documents regularly under FAA regulations, day in and day out - it’s a process that cannot be ignored. In addition to this, there could be further increased pressure during peak times. This increased pressure to deal with documents could potentially cause human error - in turn potentially affecting document management and eventually affecting flight operations as a result of incorrect documentation.
Most document management systems are only pieces of software or tools designed to help manage an airline’s document management requirements and the rest is left for in-house teams to battle with documents.
However, when you use Vistair’s document management system, DocuNet, you could benefit from having a team of XML experts at your helm. This would help do away with unnecessary extra costs, such as hiring additional pilots to fill in flying slots as well as decreasing the pressures felt by in-house staff to ensure documents are up-to-date, correct and delivered on time.
With the rising costs for US airlines trending, operators must look at other areas that can be improved such as taking a look at your current document management processes. If your current document management processes don’t quite meet your requirements and, more importantly, aren’t in any way cost-effective for your airline operations, then it’s time to look at changing them for something that your whole organisation is able to benefit from.
Find out how Vistair's leading document management software, DocuNet can help decrease costs for your airline by requesting a demo.
Image by Ekapol Sirachaina (Shutterstock)