Point of Maintenance
Streamlining the paper process for improving efficiencies in time, money and effort
By Michelle Garetson
All too often, aircraft maintenance technicians and management alike become exasperated with the speed at which events need to happen and the speed at which they actually do happen. Paperwork seems to be a usual suspect in the lineup of perpetrators that inhibit progress. Fortunately, given the technologies now available and those being designed and developed for the future, aircraft maintenance and all of its trappings are being finessed into a steady stream of efficiency that was lacking with an intensive paper process. Electronic logbooks and signatures are becoming more prevalent and the FAA is moving toward a unified acceptance of this technology. (Please see sidebar on pg. 77).
Moving a paper process to an electronic process can be a daunting task; however, a maintenance shop doesn’t have to buy high-end servers, computers, and software and hire several IT (Information Technology) personnel to reap the benefits of time-saving technology.
Bringing data to the point of maintenance. Frontier's technicians have access to everything right at the aircraft.
Do you just need to have the technical publications and regulatory data more readily available to the people on the floor? Many documents are on CD-ROMs as well as the Internet and can be accessed on a laptop computer or PC. The time and money saved from having data located at the point of maintenance, as opposed to the various quadrants of the shop, might well offer a quick return on investment for the product purchase.
To find out if such an upgrade would be a benefit to your operations, consider a time study of personnel’s trips to the maintenance library or the parts department in a day to validate the price of the software and hardware necessary to bring things to the point of maintenance. Time spent traipsing to and from various stations means time away from the task at hand, and the ones to follow — resulting in higher labor costs and time costs. Discovering that it takes 15 minutes to accomplish ancillary tasks such as data research and follow-up, parts ordering, tracking, and pickup, could mean a lot to an operation — especially when faced with half-hour turnarounds.
Digital and Electronic Signatures
In July 2001, the FAA released a Handbook Bulletin for Air Transportation HBAT-01-06 – Recordkeeping, Digital, and Electronic Signatures; OpSpec A025; Order: 8400.10, Appendix 3. This bulletin provides updated guidance on the acceptance and use of digital and electronic signatures and on applying electronic technology to electronic recordkeeping. This guidance is applicable to certificate holders conducting operations under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) Parts 121, 125, 135.
In an effort to comply with the Government Paperwork Elimination Act, which was enacted in 1998, the FAA has developed internal procedures to provide for "the option of electronic maintenance, submission, or disclosure of information as a substitute for paper, when practicable as well as for the use and acceptance of electronic signatures, when practicable."The FAA hopes that "acceptance of digital and electronic signatures will encourage the use of electronic recordkeeping and document transfer, to comply with record retention and record entry requirements because records may be authenticated using a digital and/or electronic signature."
The bulletin also offers guidelines for approval or acceptance for computer-based recordkeeping, legal requirements of electronic signing, and which digital signatures and certificates are acceptable to the FAA. Definitions of digital signatures and electronic signatures are also included as there are distinct differences.
For more information regarding electronic signatures and FAA acceptance of these and other electronic records, please contact Mr. Tom Penland, AFS-260 at (202) 267-3764 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Concentrating the data
Advances in technology now bring maintenance libraries, technical publications, parts ordering, work orders, and more, right to the technician at the aircraft — either via a laptop computer at the toolbox, a bank of PCs on the shop floor, even through PDAs (personal data assistants). An added benefit is the limiting of distractions for technicians. By not having to navigate the entire facility, collecting data, parts, and tools, the technician can concentrate on the work at hand — instead of risking mistakes brought on by distractions.
One of the more recent implementations of a full-fledged technological upgrade was the one done by Spirent Systems of La Jolla, CA for Denver-based Frontier Airlines.
In early August 2001, after a year in the making, Frontier went "live" with Spirent’s AuRA™ Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul software that will incorporate the airline’s fleet of Boeing 737-200/300 and Airbus 319 aircraft.
How it works
"Within the line maintenance and hangar environments AuRA is run on either PCs or laptops equipped with RF (Radio Frequency) technology," explains Jim Jarvis, Spirent’s project manager for Frontier Airlines. "The computers are out at the aircraft with the technicians. This allows all AuRA transactions to be accomplished at the point and the time where the maintenance action actually occurs."
One of the newer features of the product is a line maintenance form, which allows the line maintenance mechanic out on the line to log discrepancies and order parts when banks of aircraft arrive at the hangar.
Form and function
"A lot of effort and study went into the development of this software suite," says Spirent’s IDT (Implementation Delivery Team) Director, Gerry Booth. "Although everybody in the organization has aviation experience, we didn’t have the full knowledge and experience of the different roles within an airline MRO environment. We recognized that high-level management experience alone did not provide the right level of knowledge to build a complete user application. Additionally, we understood that the application must deliver the necessary cost savings and operational improvements that the airlines require. We tackled these issues by creating a ’mini-airline’ internally and tasked them to develop industry best practice business processes. We then validated these with outside MRO experts and a number of commercial airlines. This resulted in developing new functionality, amending existing software and developing a new look and feel. The final step was to tailor the software, in a cost-effective manner, to complement the industry best practice business processes."
Training and implementation
"Spirent’s training methodology is to train the client ’super users’ for two weeks on all aspects of the system," says Jarvis. "In addition, there is OJT throughout the implementation. These super users then become the ’go-to’ person for each of the areas of the business after the implementation is complete." He continues, "We also train the masses. Before we go ’live,’ we provide general functionality training, as well as training in the specific areas of each persons job, such as Maintenance Programs, Planning, Maintenance Control, Materials/ Stores, etc. It’s all process-driven — we actually teach the users to walk through the whole process of doing their daily job."
Computer Hardware and Software Product and Services Listing
The following is a listing of companies that provide computer hardware and software products and services to the aviation industry. Please contact them directly for more information.
Advanced Aviation Services
8241 Sharkhead Cr., Pensacola, FL 32514; (850) 476-5805; www.aasii.com
Aircraft Maintenance Planning Service provides decision makers with an easy to work with format — a cost-effective maintenance planning service available for all types of aircraft operations.
Aircraft Technical Publishers
101 South Hill Dr., Brisbane, CA 94005; (415) 330-3726; www.atp.com
Maintenance Director system enables users to track every maintenance function and part for individual aircraft and fleets. Enables technicians to search recent ADs, Service Bulletins, and maintenance manual updates.
125-K Trade St., Lexington, KY 40511; (859) 388-9465; www.airlogimaging.com
Backs up your critical aircraft maintenance records to CD-ROM, allowing you to view and search through each logbook page, tag, work order, inspection, work cards, and all other records.
ARM Group Inc., The – A division of Zexix Corp.
7710 Bell Rd., Windsor, CA 95492; (707) 838-1240; www.thearmgroup.com
Provides a multi-purpose software product designed for turbine and piston aircraft repair stations that offers reporting and database management including maintenance report, invoicing, purchase orders, and more.
340 Morgantown Rd., Reading, PA 19611; (800) 998-8857 or (610) 796-2383; www.Avantext.com
Provides electronic publications for the aviation industry and electronic document conversion and archiving services. Aviation publications include regulatory libraries and aircraft technical manuals for Cessna, Piper, Mooney, Lycoming, Maule, and Bell – with more to come.
Aviation Learning Inc.
One Airport Way, Rochester, NY 14624; (888) 458-5040 or (716) 328-5000; www.aviationlearning.com
Provides computer-based training products for commercial and corporate operators. Courses cover powerplants such as PT6, PW100, JT8D, JT9D, PW4000, PW2000, CFM56, V2500, and AE3007.
3090 S. Jamaica Ct., Aurora, CO 80014; (303) 745-5588; www.avtrak.com
Avtrak’s GlobalNet Maintenance Management System provides aviation professionals with Internet accessible applications backed by a comprehensive maintenance database – includes compliance and quality assurance tools for maintenance facilities, owners, operators, brokers, and investors.
1731 Kettner Blvd., San Diego, CA 92101; (619) 696-5400; www.componentcontrol.com
Developer of ERP software solutions. The core product, Quantum Control, provides advanced aviation management support to part brokerage companies, component repair and overhaul stations, FBOs, and aircraft completion centers.
Conklin & de Decker
PO Box 121184, Arlington, TX 76012; (817) 277-6403; www.conklindd.com
Releases the latest version of its maintenance management software, MxManager™. This version offers many of the administrative items that users previously had to set up themselves.
Continuum Applied Technology Inc.
9801 Anderson Mill Rd., Ste. 206, Austin, TX 78750; (512) 918-8900;www.continuumapptech.com
CORRIDOR software is designed for FBOs, Repair Stations, and MRO operations. Modules include inventory, purchasing, work orders, part sales, rotables, line service, and accounting interface for maintenance, overhaul, avionics, and refurbishment.
First Floor, Hamworthy House, New Quay Rd., Poole, Dorset, BH15 4AD, United Kingdom; +44 (0) 1202 649000; www.engineering-office.net
Engineering-Office’s innovative aviation software experts have developed a sophisticated system to manage all maintenance/engineering aspects of aircraft.
21111 N. 19th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85027; (602) 436-5528; http://aiswlbs1.ais.honeywell.com/products/maintenance
Offers AMOSS, a system of software programs that help lower operating costs by reducing delays/cancellations, No-Fault Founds, spares inventory, and increasing maintenance personnel productivity.
Horizon Business Concepts Inc.
21910 E. 71st St., No. C, Broken Arrow, OK 74014; (800) 359-9804 or (918) 355-3469; www.hbcinc.com
TotalFBO™ Accounting & Business Management software — in its 14th year. Complete Windows-based business management software for the general aviation industry. No other accounting software needed, reducing workload and increasing productivity. Fully integrated, modular, and easy to use.
15 Inverness Way East, Englewood, CO 80112; (800) 716-3447 or (303) 397-2896
AV-DATA is your single source for aviation regulations, safety and advisory information. Whether you are at your desk, in the hangar, or at a remote site, AV-DATA is easily accessible via the Internet or on CD-ROM.
Micro Computer Systems
303 S. College Ave., Fort Collins, CO 80524; (970) 493-6886; www.computrak.org
Launched in 1979, CompuTrak aviation maintenance software offers complete component tracking, inventory control, invoicing, FAA ADs online, discrepancy resolution, and cost analysis for maintenance of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
Professional Software Associates Inc.
PO Box 679, Gig Harbor, WA 98335; (253) 851-4697; www.psa-solutions.com
Columbia2000, Windows, enterprise maintenance and inventory tracking programs for airlines, large and small fleets and ColumbiaRS for heavy repair station management.
7590 Fay Ave., La Jolla, CA 92037; (858) 729-2300; www.spirent-systems.com
A worldwide aviation group providing aircraft and ground-based maintenance information software, data displays, aircraft servers, engine instruments, flight data recorders, air data computers, and FOQA applications.
60 Grace Dr., Powell, OH 43065; (614) 885-1169; www.tdatacorp.com
IApproach is regulatory research software that searches and tracks FAA Airworthiness Directives (ADs) for small aircraft and business jets. Software is updated bi-weekly, and is provided on CD-ROM format. IApproach version 6.0 now offers an aircraft equipment list, which keeps detailed records on aircraft and components. Other new features are: advanced searching, menu-driven navigation, improved electronic FAA forms, and more.