E*-nable Your Shop Floor
Maintenance personnel feedback is critical for software and hardware product selection and development
By Michelle Garetson
One of the most powerful and valuable tools in a maintenance operation may not be in anyone's toolbox, but rather, only a few feet from it.
Computers and computers with Internet access have proven to be invaluable assets in the maintenance facility. How they are used within the operation can greatly affect that shop's efficiency, quality, safety, and profitability. Do you know if the computers in your facility are being used to their full capacity?
To fully appreciate what computers in the maintenance facility can do to eliminate paperwork aggravation as well as accounting misadventures, managers should get feedback from their maintenance personnel as to what software and hardware features are important to technicians.
Maintenance personnel know what they want
Michael Lentini, owner of Aero-West Specialties, an aircraft full service center at the Santa Maria Airport in Santa Maria, California, did just that. The feedback from technicians proved instrumental in the development and production of EBis, a billing information system software that also provides maintenance tracking and a contact database of customers and vendors. Lentini, along with Eric Baal, a college sophomore studying Computer Science, took suggestions — usually daily — from the technicians on the floor to fine tune this software to provide a seamless interface with the shop floor, the parts department, and the front office.
EBis is a complete billing system. It will track all time on any discrepancy and allows up to three technicians for each discrepancy. Work order estimates will show total time for each squawk, as well as the time to complete the whole work order automatically. EBis keeps a complete parts inventory and automatically deducts for all parts billed to any work order. Also, every time a part is used, the system marks a product usage file so that parts used can be tracked for inventory. And, every part on the customer's invoice has a discrepancy number next to it to show just where each part was used.
Lentini explains, "Basically, this software was designed by IAs — it's simple to use and works the way a shop really works — not the way some CPA thinks it should."
Aero-West technicians, Adam Halop, Ron Martinson, and Mitch VanOsdel, who all helped with feedback for the software, are thrilled with how EBis has made their lives on the floor easier. They are able to file their logbook entries while working on the aircraft from laptop computers hooked up on their toolboxes and can print out a cost status report or final invoice for customers. All three are impressed by the fact that they can do everything from their toolboxes.
Tap into your resources
Maintenance people have a good track record for being resourceful in devising and developing tools to perform the tasks at hand. Bill Morrison, Chief of Maintenance for Dad's Products in Meadville, Pennsylvania, and recently appointed Chief of Maintenance for Channel-Lock, maintains two Falcon 20s. He uses a system designed by another A&P and IA, Angelo Conti of ATS in Atlanta, Georgia. This system, available since 1988, has recently been modified to a Windows-based application. The newer Windows version also includes a parts inventory system and allows for logbook entries.
"The key feature for any computer system setup in the maintenance shop," says Morrison, "is that it has to be user-friendly. It's no good if you have to sit down and read a big manual before logging on. With 10 to 15 minutes of instruction on our system, you would be able to understand it and perform the functions."
Morrison also has the system on his laptop that enables him to update records and tasks, as well as print out new cards and due lists from remote printers. Search capabilities are very important to Morrison. He feels every system should include the ability to search by part number, serial number, ATA code, and card number code
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