IFS’s Mark Martin looks at the growing importance of data-sharing in the aerospace industry.
The big data generation is upon the commercial aviation industry. According to a 2016 Oliver Wyman MRO Survey, the global fleet of commercial aircraft could generate a massive 98 million terabytes of data per year by 2026. Between the big aviation players – the OEMs, the airlines and the maintenance, repair & overhaul (MRO) operators – there is a ton of interest not just in gathering data, but sharing it for a number of different benefits, such as predictive maintenance or health monitoring systems.
Some of the leading players in the industry are starting to work on their own data platforms to get in on the benefits of sharing engineering data. GE’s cloud-based Predix platform allows third party MRO operators to download predictive analytical data via the internet, store it within their own systems and share it with customers.
Airbus launched its own cloud-based data platform, Skywise, in June which collects data such as work orders, spares consumption and flight schedules from multiple sources across the industry for MRO operators to perform predictive and preventative maintenance. So far, early adopters include easyJet, Air Asia, Emirates and Delta Airlines, all of which are using the platform for predictive maintenance.
Like Airbus, many airlines and MROs will have several different customers, partners, locations and, in most cases, use different programmes for each one, which leads to data being siloed and sharing programmes being more internally focused.
Speaking at a recent MRO Europe panel, David Longridge, VP services sales for Boeing, said data collaboration between organisations is a key priority in today’s aviation landscape.
“Collaborating with data will bring more mutual benefits for airlines and MROs, but how to do this effectively between the parties is the real challenge,” said David. “No airline wants 50 different applications to look at its aircraft – ideally they’d like to use one or two.”
Collaboration at work: China Airlines
IFS customer China Airlines is one of the largest airline operators in Asia and, much like Emirates in the Middle East, provide MRO services for many of the airlines they code-share with.
Aviation safety is a top priority for the airline and it considers the quality assurance of maintenance work as the best foundation for this. Since setting up the Engineering Maintenance Optimisation (EMO) unit in 1959, the company has become a key player in the MRO sector. Currently, China Airlines helps support over 40 domestic and international airlines with over 2,300 maintenance engineers working in five different hangars across Asia, North America and Europe.
The airline’s EMO department found its legacy IT systems were hampering its safety efforts, unable to keep up with changing maintenance and safety requirements happening in the industry.
Houng Wang, responsible for engineering activities at China Airlines, said “Our network of legacy mainframe systems often could not deliver the data insights we felt were critical if we wanted to evolve the business and introduce new efficiencies. For the most part, these systems were siloed from each other, and operated by their own set of processes for capturing and storing data. This made it very difficult to access and share timely maintenance information across the organisation.”
China Airlines chose to implement IFS Maintenix to help optimise data sharing across the airline and its subsidiaries. Real-time management of line and heavy maintenance events as well as data capture at the point of maintenance was a significant benefit to growth areas of the business – especially in expanding third-party MRO services for the airline’s customers, such as Continental Airlines, FedEx, Korean Air and Japan Airlines.
In addition to reducing operating costs by $3.5 million, IFS Maintenix helped China Airlines significantly decrease its aircraft layover due to more efficient scheduled and unscheduled line maintenance, meaning aircraft spend more time in the air and less time in the hangar.
A clearer picture
The benefits of data sharing are plain to see. Better visibility into what’s happening at both the company and industry-wide level puts organisations in full control of maintenance, giving them a clearer picture of what’s happening around them to help collaboration with other industry players and benefiting from mutual efficiencies.
The gains aren’t just for airlines but for passengers too, as better vision into data will help increase aircraft availability, increase safety and provide a chance to shift cost savings onto passengers.