Technology In Mro - Building A Business Case For Investment

Technology In Mro - Building A Business Case For Investment

We are working on the forthcoming special edition on MRO. You could share your valuable insights on how recent technological trends such as Artificial Intelligence, Cloud, AR/VR, Cybersecurity, Blockchain, and GPS, among others, have transformed the A and D industry.

I was asked to write something espousing on the benefits of blockchain, AI, paperless, cloud, all the buzz-tech, and how they are transforming the A&E industry. But I’ll summarise my position -I don’t believe they are transforming our industry. Nor can they.

I will also clearly state my views on ‘why’, up front. These technologies are just elements or enablers in a technology strategy, and in their own right, they quite possibly don’t have a business case. And if there is no business case, then they won’t fly.

It is not that they aren’t valid technologies, but then so are keyboards, and bar code scanners. It is about meshing all these things together to support your strategy and make your business more successful in whichever way you choose to measure success. Normally, profitability.

So, back to that technology or digital strategy. It is not tech for the sake of tech. This must be your business strategy. It must be where you want to take your business in the future. This strategy can be at one or many levels, corporate, airline operations, airline technical, or within a team or department.

This strategy development process can then explore the vision. How do you want to operate? How can you tangibly improve safety? How will you become more efficient? Where will you drive out cost? How will you make peoples jobs easier and more enjoyable? What is it your customers want and how will you delight them?

Translating this vision, you will build a ‘jigsaw’ where the pieces are all the deliverables. These pieces may be technology; but they will also be people and process changes. Nothing will be different in your business unless you make change. This process is likely to be ‘bottom-up’ and highly cross functional, requiring very senior level commitment. Hearts, minds, and investment. And if you deliver, it will be transformative, and provide a return on that investment.

These deliverables will provide benefits. And all those benefits need to be identified in some detail, then quantified. This will often be challenging. For example, what really is the benefit of making an aircraft serviceable thirty seconds faster?

Very much simplified, once you have formed this business strategy, then how do you disaggregate the pieces, likely to be individual systems or technologies, new processes, and plan and implement them in an agile way?

The costs will be much less complex. Systems, hardware, data engineers, project managers, calculating costs is easy.

Taking stock – you have an overarching vision –you have a business strategy to deliver it – you have identified the pieces – the deliverables and benefits – and then how you will implement, the plan, the structure and the costs, and the return on investment. This is your business case. And most importantly, this will bring the hearts, minds and investment.

But Aerospace, like all industries, has a poor record of implementation success. Therefore, the execution must be taken one bit at a time; think of it as a portfolio approach and these pieces are individual projects, whereby the sum is greater than the parts. The devil will be in the detail; planning this implementation is critical.

"Translating This Vision, You Will Build A ‘Jigsaw’ Where The Pieces Are All The Deliverables. These Pieces May Be Technology; But They Will Also Be People And Process Changes"

Now some reality. Across the landscape of types of technology and systems within an airline technical function you would normally see:

• A core M&E /CAMO/MRO/supply chain system (Amos, Rusadatrax etc) - a ‘must have’ - very likely to be bought ‘off the shelf’.

• OEM systems (Airman, Toolbox etc) – again a must have

- records management (Aerdata, flydocs, Airvault etc)–an area of much development recently, driven and supported by the costs of aircraft transition

• mobility solutions (E-Techlog, Amos mobile, e-sign etc)– much debated – tough business cases – more below!

• predictive/data tools (Skywise, AHM etc) – starting to get real and interesting!

• maintenance or supply chain planning optimisers (Lokad, Armac, Aerogility etc) –an area of great promise

- Ad-hoc efficiency tools – Apps – point solutions (cabin survey, structural survey tools, drones, fan blade optimisers etc)

• some excellent solutions are available at low cost with strong business cases

• data ‘lakes’ or warehouses, dashboards, KPIs, analytics, Tableau, Power BI etc–normally reliant on all of the above but this is often, day-to-day, the most valuable element.

This list is not exhaustive. Revisiting the business strategy–this is where everything above first comes together. This will blend these real-life systems, tools, ideas and business changes into a portfolio that delivers on your vision.

Considering those ‘tough business cases’ such as an E-Techlog. For an incumbent airline, driving out cost and efficiencies that justify this type of tool is tough. You may save a lot of paper, but paper isn’t expensive. BUT –if this E-Techlog forms part of your business strategy and has ‘hearts and minds’, it enables digitisation, it removes errors, it avoids that 3-hour delay, this may be that piece of jigsaw that brings everything else together.

The buzz-tech is coming; your parts may be tracked back-to-birth using blockchain; artificial intelligence may allow a technician to bring up the aircraft maintenance manual on his Apple AR Glasses, perhaps that expensive engine stand didn’t go missing because of GPS, and of course your aircraft records are possibly already in the cloud being shared with the less or none of these alone are transformational. But that business strategy just may be.

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