All project managers are working to the same goal — working within the budget constraints set up for each project while assuring that work flow meets schedule targets. The best organizations understand this situation and minimize its effects by assuring that each aircraft line receives adequate support and that each line team works together. It does them little good to have one successful line while three or four others are marginal or failing due to resource hogging.
Cost and quality
So what does all this mean to the operators maintenance representative? Well, it means a lot. Maintenance representatives from the operator often are charged with assuring that work moves to the agreed schedule. Cost and quality are a concern. Good management of the internal pressure and processes of the project addresses all of these attributes. The key is to assure that your aircraft is defended by either the repair station’s procedures or your own to mitigate or neutralize errors and poor performance.
Here are some rules that may prove helpful to heavy check management and quality.
- Avoid extended absences from the hangar — the maintenance representative should be monitoring the aircraft and the paperwork daily. Capture of quality issues early in the check can prevent expensive rework or other quality failures that will impact schedule.
- Understand the repair stations processes and be aware of their impact on your own. Operators have airworthiness requirements that must be met. Work with the MRO to address inconsistencies early in the check and get solutions in writing to avoid misunderstandings.
- Get regular updates on activity from the project manager or crew supervisor. Follow up on the briefing by visiting the aircraft to check the facts and the actual work discussed.
- Contractual agreements covering the project charges should be discussed prior to the start of the project. Contractual elements are best communicated by itemizing where the itemized points are shared with the project manager and his team.
100 percent buy back
Many MROs provide 100 percent buy back for all work performed. That means that every routine and/or non-routine work card must be inspected by an assigned inspector. This individual is generally well qualified on the aircraft. For operators this often includes required inspection items.
100 percent non-routine buy back sounds good for assuring that work was done correctly but there is a down side. The buy back process can become a bottleneck to work progress.
Work stops until the buy back occurs. Inspection checks the area and, if OK’d, the area and work-card is closed. That’s if all is “text book.” However, mechanics can become lazy and use inspection as the gauge for work adequacy. They depend on the inspector to catch problems rather than double checking that the work is correct. Hence the responsibility for good work performance creeps over to the inspector who is kicking back work in an effort to assure that quality standards are maintained. As this occurs the work will slow as a backlog occurs. The inspector takes more time because he knows that they are making him account for work correctness. If the repair station cautions or reprimands an inspector for missing something rather than the people who did the work then transfer of work responsibility has taken place. You now have only one line of defense for maintenance errors. Critical path items that depend on buy back, should receive close attention when this transition becomes apparent.
Time to take action
Talk to the chief inspector and production managers if you feel this is present. Look for rejections as a gage for quality. Good production quality should show a low number of rejections but there should be some findings and evidence that it falls to the worker who accomplished substandard work. If there are a lot of rejections; investigate why. If there are no rejections make it a point to verify that the inspector is qualified and that they are doing the work. Work with the MRO’s quality unit or management to resolve any discrepancies. Bring in your own quality unit if necessary.
The hangar floor
The MRO hangar is an industrial environment. A&Ps are often treated like industrial workers rather than aircraft maintenance professionals. An operator’s attitude and relationship with the mechanics on the aircraft can have an impact on the quality and progress of the heavy check. They rise to the occasion when treated with professional courtesy and respect.