A few things to consider
By Joe Escobar
There are many computer applications available nowadays for aircraft maintenance facilities. If you are in the market to purchase a product, there may be many questions running through your head. Where to start? What to look for? This article will help jump start your search and help you make the choice that best fits your needs.
Should you invest in software?
Chances are, if you haven't invested in some sort of maintenance software program, you probably will soon. Computer systems are an efficient and easy way to keep track of maintenance hours, inventory, scheduling, and other structured processes. They save you time by storing the information and being able to call it up quickly or by eliminating paper and filing areas. Even if you have an older product, there may be others out there now that can make your life a whole lot easier.
Do I have the equipment to support this product?
Keep in mind that your computer system may not be up to the task of supporting a new software application. As you start to look at products, the vendor will recommend a certain type of computer or network. If in doubt, ask. Better to know ahead of time that you need additional hardware rather than being surprised at the end.
What is my goal?
The most crucial part of the initial investigation is "what kind of application are you looking for?" Do you want a maintenance library? Do you want to track work orders and labor costs? Will an internet-based system be a benefit? With so many products on the market, you can find one that is tailored to your needs; you just need to do a little legwork. Take a good look at all the job processes in your company. Mark the ones you are looking at improving by implementing a new computer-based application. You should have a clear idea of what you want it to do and what features would be nice to have, but not necessary. Make sure the benefits of implementation will outweigh the costs because in the long run, the money that you invest in the new software will need to be justified against those expected benefits.
Some application features
Now that you are ready to start talking to individual companies, here are some different features that many of them offer.
Maintenance tracking. This allows the user to track maintenance on their aircraft. When was the aircraft last in the shop? When is its next scheduled inspection? In addition, it can help track maintenance and fault histories.
Technical/regulatory reference. It seems like the days of paper manuals are going away as more and more aircraft are supported by electronic maintenance and parts manuals. But even if your aircraft is not supported, there are AD/TC libraries now on CD to make life easier. No more filing microfiche every couple of weeks. Just put the new CD in the computer, throw away the old one, and you're updated.
Electronic work orders/work cards. There are numerous ways to keep track of work orders/work cards electronically. Some systems let you enter the information into the computer, but you then need to print out the discrepancy and sign it off manually. Others have electronic signature capabilities where user preferences are password protected in order to allow them to sign off work cards. The FAA has bought off on electronic signatures so long as control can be established such as swiped ID cards or password protected logins.
Personnel/labor tracking. This is the ability to track labor hours. It can be a beneficial tool when working with multiple work orders. The labor on each aircraft is immediately accessible. This aids in labor tracking and budgeting. You can also ensure maintenance personnel are not overbooked for repairs.
Accounting. As the name implies, this offers accounting tools to help the bean counters see where all of the company's money is going. As with the maintenance side of things, if accounting is one feature you are looking for in your application, be sure to get someone from accounting involved in the process to get their input and buy-in of the product.
Tips for the aviation professional
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