In today’s technological age, it’s unsurprising that digital transformation is one of the most fundamental drivers of change, presenting a unique chance to shape the future. For this reason, a large proportion of the airline industry is looking to digitise their technical documentation and maintenance operations to make for easier document management. However, the digital revolution, particularly for MRO (maintenance repair and overhaul) has been slow for a number of reasons, such as:
- Complexity and size of the OEM manuals
- Legacy data standards such as I Spec 2200 and next generation standards such as S1000D
- Different countries may implement rules regarding digital techniques (i.e. electronic signatures)
- Rules regarding the ownership of data (e.g. how much data can be shared, with whom and what kind of sharing policies should be put in place?)
Whilst many organisations are still handling MRO the traditional way, using pen and paper, clipboards, spreadsheets or even fixed workstations, these practices don’t support the ability to deliver predictive maintenance and can only take an airlines operation so far in terms of reducing downtime, managing maintenance, assets and spare parts.
There’s no doubt that going digital is the only way forward for the aviation sector. There are more organisations than ever embracing the many benefits of technology, such as the cloud, looking into the potential of Blockchain for the aviation industry or even where digital technology like biometric data is being put to use in airports.
Airlines that digitize and transform maintenance operations will be positioned for growth. They can gain visibility into the scheduling needs and compliance of maintenance requirements, maximize aircraft maintenance yields, improve agility to adapt to operational business process changes, increase the productivity and job satisfaction of their workforces, and offer a superior experience for passengers by reducing aircraft delays.
So, for MROs, going digital may help form quicker, more efficient ways to review maintenance records.
In the rest of this article, we discuss four more benefits on why MROs should be going digital with their documents and how it could improve relationships with airline operators and other third parties.
1. Reduced RISK OF HUMAN ERROR
Human error is, well, human nature. Paper documents can often prove to be cumbersome, especially when you take into account the long maintenance history behind some legacy aircraft. It is highly probable that the maintenance history may not be complete, due to loss of relevant documents over time. The more operators that become involved over time can add to the risk of missing documents - however, by digitising records, it could mitigate this risk significantly.
2. DIMINISH SAFETY HAZARDS
Aircraft technicians have the utmost responsibility for integrating maintenance instructions from manufacturer manuals, airworthiness directives, service bulletins and other sources. However, this is not always the case.
In 2012, an analysis of the FAA enforcement database for actions taken against mechanics regarding 14 CFR Part 43 Section 43.13(a) showed that technical documentation is a challenge. More than 850 actions from 900 cases were taken against mechanics in 2010. 36% were associated with not using the proper technical documentation. The data revealed this to be the number one cause for Enforcement Investigation Reports (S. Hodges-Austin, personal communication, April 4, 2012).
Another analysis showed that 64% of all incidents registered in the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) are related to technical documentation or procedural challenges or both.
As much as technical and maintenance documentation is created to help ward off future safety risks (for aircraft, crew and passengers alike), complex paper-based documentation has posed itself to be more hazardous than helpful.
On the other end of the spectrum, airline operators dealing with paper-based processes means they’ll have the hefty task of managing and maintaining records and having to prove they are compliant whilst doing so. The overwhelming nature of paper documentation is a struggle in itself for in-house teams. This is without having to worry about other issues such as delays in obtaining information from other MROs, missing historic records, the complexity of manipulating those documents and more.
Digitising MRO documentation can make the steps towards a safer, efficient and more compliant aviation sector for everyone involved.
3. IMPROVE MAINTENANCE DELAYS
Inaccurate, incomplete or even missing documents could cause a whole host of issues. Specifically, without the correct and fully intact documents, there could be cases where components may be re-exchanged or repairs are done again. This results in delays and ultimately - unplanned expenses. Digitising MRO documents could change this significantly and introduce more standardised ways of containing all historic documents for aircraft in one centralised repository.
4. IMPROVE INFORMATION FLOW BETWEEN DEPARTMENTS AND DIFFERENT PARTIES
Silos of information between numerous parties can be problematic, especially where technical documentation is mixed between paper and electronic. You could then have an issue with standardisation and legibility - causing delays, non-compliance and potentially risk serious safety risks.
Digitising maintenance documentation, however, would greatly improve how information is shared between different parties. The use of cloud systems and increased network security would also help contribute to breaking down these silos and make this sharing process much more effective, manageable and standardised.
Additionally, unlike shipping large amounts of paper halfway across the world, digital documents can simply be sent with ease - a great advantage for when aircraft come off lease and get sent to another airline operator.
The Challenge for the Future
There’s no doubt, updating the current technical documentation culture is a layered, complex challenge. There are many things that currently stand in the way such as various organisational and regulatory processes. However, it’s up to the aviation industry, from aviation technicians (AMTs) and corporate executives to manufacturers, suppliers and regulatory bodies, to come together to tackle this challenge for a more standardised global industry. Such a shared responsibility would ensure something as important as technical and maintenance documentation pose less of a safety risk.
Learn how introducing better document management processes can help further improve the link between departments, MROs and third parties in our free insight.