With its ability to increase productivity, improve safety and reduce costs, cloud computing is transforming aviation maintenance and, in the process, improving aviation safety. It also is revolutionizing business by allowing users to access applications and information from any device with Internet access, such as tablets on the maintenance shop floor, or laptops out in the field. Consequently, users no longer are tied to a desk or workstation to do their work.
Simply put, “cloud computing” is defined as a service provided over the Internet. Anyone who has ever used Facebook or accessed email online has used cloud computing. In both of these examples, the application and the data are accessed over the Internet as a service without being installed on a PC or local network.
All software and information are stored remotely and managed by the cloud-based service provider, so users (including their company IT departments) don’t have to worry about security, data corruption caused by viruses, computer theft, equipment malfunctions or software glitches. The provider of the service manages and updates all information stored online.
Cloud computing also protects critical data from the risks associated with any variety of disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes or long-term power failures at your place of business. User information is safely stored in a secure, remote location rather than on a computer hard-drive or business network server. Data and services can always be accessed wherever and whenever an Internet connection is available.
How the cloud benefits maintenance operations
For maintenance operations, cloud computing offers new ways for accessing and managing critical information. Gone are the days when maintenance publications required rooms full of books, stacks of CDs, or dedicated workstations. Cloud computing provides access to this information from any Internet connected device, anywhere. Furthermore, cloud computing improves processes for handling work orders, parts requests, compliance reports, and even customer information.
Cloud computing also is a productivity enhancer and time saver. New users and users at new locations are quickly added without any additional software installation or IT department intervention. The DOM, or someone he/she designates, can assign who has access to individual libraries, improving how user licenses are allocated. It is even possible to monitor in real time who’s accessing information and log them off the cloud-based system remotely if desired.
Cloud computing also improves business reporting. Real-time reporting allows the business to quickly demonstrate currency and compliance – regardless of the number of mechanics, the number of maintenance locations, or the variety of aircraft being serviced. Managing reports and forms in the cloud makes it easy to access and share information for business intelligence, customer service, compliance, or information control.
Easy maintenance library management
With cloud computing, the service provider organizes technical publications and service information into a logical library system that makes it easier to find information. Combining libraries from engine, airframe, propeller and avionics manufacturers, along with required regulatory information, in one cloud-based system increases productivity. Additionally, updates are quickly processed and automatically added by the cloud service provider every day. Since all updated information is available from any computer with an Internet connection, DOMs can be confident that all users have access to the same information and that it is always current.
Managing and monitoring workflows and checking on the status of a job are suddenly much simpler with cloud computing. DOMs know immediately when a job is started or completed. The application provides insight into parts requests and whether the part was in stock or placed on order. Since the information is taken directly from the technical publications, the DOM can be more confident in the accuracy of parts requests. The status of everything is available in real time.
How cloud computing aids the mechanic
Perhaps no one in the maintenance operation benefits more from cloud computing than the mechanic. Having real-time, immediate access to the most up-to-date libraries and regulatory information right on the shop floor is a tremendous improvement over older processes that required a dedicated workstation, or even a special room for maintenance and regulatory libraries.
Technical publications, service information, STCs, compliance tracking, parts availability, customer info, the latest regulatory updates, the most current maintenance procedures, forms, business procedures - all of it is available the second it’s needed. Having all information available in one cloud-based system from one source also provides commonality across manufacturers and publication types, which simplifies the job of searching and cross-referencing information.
Mechanics also have immediate access to the right information in the right way. They don’t need to worry about currency or whether someone has installed the latest revision disc. With cloud computing, mechanics always have access to the most current documentation, even when they are traveling or out in the field.
Parts lists can be generated by copying and pasting information directly form the technical publications, and can be electronically sent, reducing the time spent and risk of errors that were possible with old-style, handwritten parts requests. Productivity improves, as does safety and compliance because the information mechanics need is available when and where they need it.
Improved collaboration and learning
Via the cloud, aviation maintenance professionals can more easily and efficiently manage and share information with fellow workers and the company. In fact, improved collaboration is one of the greatest benefits offered by cloud computing. It’s easy for multiple users to access the same application and data at the same time and easily share information about the data. Notes with specialized information can be attached to documents. Company procedures and processes can be added to any publication.
Jeff Seiler is ATP director of product management. In January, ATP introduced its ATP Aviation Hub, powered by ATP Navigator technology, which can bring the benefits of cloud computing to any aviation maintenance operation. This online portal offers a wide array of valuable applications that empower users with functionality that is customizable to their specific business. For more information, visit www.atp.com.