Flight Delayed? Make Sure It’s Not Because Of Broken Down GSE

June 29, 2015
With the many variables that can impact an on time flight departure, GSE must continually be in optimal condition and on standby to service and support the hundreds of flights that take off and land each day.

Most commercial airline travelers have heard the following message come over the public address system on at least one occasion, “Today’s flight will be delayed today due to mechanical issues. We will update you as we have more information on when we will be able to depart. Please stay near the gate area for further announcements.”

Commercial aviation is an amazing production. Hollywood has nothing on the airports, airlines and their army of worldwide staff when it comes to getting people from one place to another, safely and on time. While the airplanes are arguably the star of the commercial aviation show, ground support vehicles, equipment and their operators represent the many producers, stuntmen and directors whose expertise is required to ensure that the show goes on.

With the many variables that can impact an on-time flight departure, GSE must continually be in optimal condition and on standby to service and support the hundreds of flights that take off and land each day. Ground support staff do not want their service or equipment to be a factor that caused a flight delay.

According to an April 2014 reports from the Air Transport Action Group, the commercial aviation industry used 25,332 aircraft to transport 3.1 billion people to 3,864 airports worldwide. With fuel trucks, tugs, belt loaders, catering trucks and other vehicles required to help each plane get in the air, those numbers represent a lot of ground support equipment as well.


Modern enterprise asset management (EAM) solutions play a major role in helping ground support professionals be successful. With EAM systems built expressly with the needs of GSE companies in mind, personnel have the management tools needed to monitor, track and analyze the complex workflows and related data. The easy access to data helps personnel make decisions quickly, evaluate best options and share insights throughout the value chain.

A key component of successfully managed ground support operations is tracking and managing vehicles to capitalize on opportunities for productivity and cost savings. Ground support organizations require effective asset management strategies and tools to contend with the high pressure and high expectations surrounding commercial airline travel. Today’s EAM systems provide a centralized repository of an organization’s equipment and usage so company staff can always know where their equipment is and whether it is in use. Fleet management and tracking is imperative to ensure the right equipment is available with the right plane at the right time.

Another key to successful ground support operations is an effective MRO system. These systems help manage the complexity of servicing critical equipment:

  • Make sure equipment is in optimal working condition. During the safety briefing at the beginning of each flight, airline passengers are instructed to put on their own oxygen masks before assisting others. The spirit of this sentiment rings true for ground support companies as well. The successful ground support organization needs to make sure it provides the same high maintenance levels to its own equipment as it does to the aircraft they support.
  • Maintain accurate and detailed records. It’s important for ground support staff to have a firm understanding of their company’s maintenance capabilities. Extensive documentation is also important for the audit trail and reporting needed to comply with federal mandates. Accurate documentation is an effective way to communicate the kind of service and maintenance an organization undertakes for each piece of equipment. With a software-based, central repository of comprehensive equipment maintenance tracking, the facility can be confident all staff have the information available to manage service and repairs while also maintaining reporting and regulation compliance.
  • Build and monitor maintenance schedule plans. There are always going to be those circumstances that could never have been planned for in advance. However, it’s important that these instances are the exception and not the expected standard operating procedure for a ground support organization. Maintenance schedule planning allows for the building of a single look at all of the preventive and predictive service needs across the equipment fleet, while also allowing the planner to accommodate the unexpected service needs that inevitably arise.


Ground support organizations can use today's software systems to automatically schedule preventative maintenance procedures, minimize impact on operations and compensate for maintenance jobs that are completed either sooner or later than expected. Modern EAM software makes it much easier to track individual assets by their cost, lifecycle progression and position in the broader context of a company’s equipment, systems and locations. These software tools also allow companies to track usage with precision, using metering capabilities that support an unlimited number of meters across the equipment fleet. With metering information and other data collected by predictive analysis tools, ground support companies can intelligently estimate when an asset will fail and take corrective action.

By taking preventive maintenance planning seriously, ground support organizations can maintain their equipment more cost-effectively and with fewer disruptions to the service they in turn provide to the airlines and aircraft they support. A master schedule allows ground support personnel to forecast maintenance activities and identify the required material, labor, skills, tools and equipment for specific projects. With each piece of equipment on a service schedule, the right people, parts and tools can be allocated for more efficient repair and upkeep. In addition, an alternate piece of equipment can be scheduled to be in place planeside while the other is repaired.

A well-orchestrated maintenance schedule plan also allows ground support companies to maximize workforce productivity. A plan that aggregates staff and service schedules along with all aspects of work already performed on equipment — from installing new parts to issuing corrective or preventative maintenance work orders — is a very powerful tool. With a maintenance schedule plan, ground support organizations can track and manage work requests, labor, planning and scheduling to get the greatest return from their human resources and physical assets.

In addition to the staff and equipment service scheduling, a ground support organization’s maintenance schedule plan also includes advanced planning for necessary materials. This advanced planning capability allows for material management by individual warehouse and can support various replenishment methods — including in-house, manufacturing, purchasing and distribution from other stores.

Advanced planning capabilities can also be used to create manufacturing, distribution, purchase order or maintenance orders per each replenishment method — all while taking into account the required lead time. Ground support organizations can use the advanced planning features in EAM systems to dynamically initiate replenishment processes without requiring a staff member to set it into motion.

These replenishment processes may initiate based on several factors, including available inventory falling beneath a certain level or an upcoming scheduled service needing parts before the equipment enters the service bay on its scheduled date:

  • Equipment inspections as part of a preventive maintenance strategy. The aviation industry firmly understands the importance of inspections for equipment safety and reliability. This understanding extends beyond the aircraft itself and applies to the ground support equipment as well, proving to be an important part of a preventive maintenance strategy. Ground support organizations can efficiently manage inspections with EAM systems that build and manage qualitative and quantitative inspection schedules for individual assets. These schedules gather information to understand how equipment is operating so ground support can better manage the asset and materials needed to operate it. These software systems can also issue corrective work actions when an inspection result exceeds a preset limit.
  • Have only the necessary parts in stock. It is important to minimize inventory costs without impacting operations. While keeping fewer parts on hand can be cost-effective, it can result in increased costs if equipment is sidelined while waiting for a necessary component to be ordered and delivered before service can begin. With today’s EAM software, ground support companies can be sure they have the right parts available in the right quantities to efficiently take care of repairs and support spikes in their operational schedules.

Understanding part interchangeability and configuration-dependent constraints is also important for ensuring the right parts — and enough of them — are available when needed. Rather than maintaining binders of parts and configuration data for each piece of equipment, an EAM system can help manage the full parts list. In addition, these software systems go beyond just keeping track of parts to maintain a record of the interchangeability and configuration-dependent part characteristics. EAM software can be used as a configuration record library to hold the lifetime parts and installation services data for a particular piece of equipment.

Purchasing is another key component of a ground support organization’s inventory management system. With the advanced purchasing management capabilities in today's EAM systems, procurement teams can make sure the right parts have been ordered for each piece of equipment. In addition to efficient ordering, purchasing management features also help monitor on-time delivery of materials, vendor performance management, payments and receipts. Many EAM systems even go beyond part ordering and fulfillment tracking to include the ability to plan work, track parts usage, manage stock levels and replenish stock via the Internet.


Warranty tracking on critical facility equipment and components has high financial impact on GSE.

There is a wealth of cost savings available from effective warranty management. EAM systems accommodate the management of different types of warranties, including manufacturer warranties for parts, for entire component structures and for repair and services. There is no need for a ground support organization to take on an unexpected service repair itself if the equipment and repair in question is still under warranty from the manufacturer. In addition, warranty management features within the EAM system can automatically send a notice if a maintenance order is issued for material still under warranty.

Commercial aviation is an intricate and complex undertaking. From the aircraft and airports, to the weather and the travelers themselves — there are many opportunities for flights to be delayed and planes grounded. While not all of these variables are within one’s control, it’s imperative that those in the industry do their best to take care of the variables they can control. Ground support equipment maintenance is one of these controllable areas.

Takng care of the equipment that takes care of the planes is no small feat. With the help of today’s EAM and MRO systems, ground support professionals have help to keep their equipment performing well and reduce their chances of becoming part of a flight delay scenario.

About the author: Edward Talerico, is Infor's Edward Talerico, Industry Strategy Director, Aerospace & Defense, Infor has more than 25 years of experience in the information technology space. Talerico has held various roles from solutions management to consulting services. As an almost 20-year Infor employee, he has deep expertise and is responsible for industry strategy across both the aerospace and defense and high-tech industries. Prior to Infor, Edward spent 10 years at Lockheed Martin selecting ERP systems.