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Go Paperless with Digital Aircraft Technical Publications

Aircraft Maintenance Mechanic Inspecting and Working on Airplane Jet Engine in Hangar Using What He Learned In Aviation Technical Publications

THE TAKEAWAY

With the pace of change accelerating, print simply can’t keep up. Digital aviation technical publications and mobile work instructions save aircraft maintenance technician time, improve production and quality, expedite staff onboarding and support better data collection. Technicians coming into the workforce welcome – and expect – this proven technology and want to optimize its use to the greatest advantage. The time has come.

THE PROBLEM

Airlines waste more than a million dollars a year using traditional, paper-based technical publications and work instructions. An even bigger problem is that these paper publications are routinely not as up to date as their electronically delivered counterparts. Maintenance procedures can be years and multiple revisions behind the current original equipment manufacturer (OEM) recommendations. An airline’s aircraft maintenance manual (AMM) and illustrated parts catalogue (IPC) have greater than 10,000 pages and are used every day, while the minimum equipment list (MEL) manual could easily be more than 1,000 pages long – and need to be viewed by multiple parties including pilots, technicians, managers and directors prior to publishing each revision.

THE SOLUTION

Maintaining high-tech systems makes it necessary to have the latest information at your fingertips. Too often, aviation technical publications – the foundation of aircraft maintenance – are still thought of as paper manuals. These mission-critical publications are not just disseminators of task instructions, just as task cards (or job cards or work instructions) are not simply paperwork to be printed, assigned, carried, read, signed when completed, then filed.

Everyone’s moving toward a data-centric approach, why aren’t you? More to the point, you should be asking your team, “How do we take advantage of digital aircraft content in our operation?” Delivering process instructions and documentation digitally gives maintenance teams access to a complete, continually updated ecosystem of tools. These include human factors, feedback, reliability and interaction with other content and systems. Going paperless offers substantial environmental and business benefits as well, from reducing waste to driving efficiencies. Less paper shuffling means more time to actually do the work.

The Barriers to Implementing Digital Instructions Don’t Hold Up

Some providers erroneously assume that, given the technology involved, the switch to digital aviation technical publications would be too expensive and too distracting from the core focus of operating an airline. The following list of concerns are more generally the obstacle – most of which are not grounded in real-world experience or can be mitigated.

1. I already have a maintenance and engineering (M&E) system.

  • A single system to do everything across an M&E operation is sought, but rarely achieved. Nor is it optimal. There are many reasons for this.
    • Specialized apps and plugins perform specific tasks better. No one software provider on any mobile, personal computer or laptop does everything well enough. That includes those with the largest market cap and resources.
    • Software is increasingly designed to integrate.
    • System integrations are more successful than ever in bringing together best-of-breed functionality and reusable data.

2. My workforce is not ready.

  • Aviation’s aging workforce is retiring and being backfilled by younger technicians who are mobile ready and expect digital, mobile implementation of technical data.
  • In a tight labor market where demand for technicians is high, whether an airline embraces technology may influence its ability to attract and retain the best talent.

3. Aviation technical publications work as they are.

  • No, they really don’t. They’re just what we used first, so they have the comfort of familiarity.
  • The benefits of digitally delivered aircraft information are many.
    • Helps operators remain current, unlike paper technical publications, which play an endless game of catchup with revisions to manuals (AMM, IPC, MPD, MEL, etc.).
    • Maintains the history of changes over time, eliminating the burden of revision management.
    • Offers ready availability of related data such as materials and tooling needs, required skill level, direct link to manual references, views and analysis of diagrams, interfaces to airline planning and material ordering systems.
    • Eliminates the burden of getting plans and tasks onto paper, getting the paper to the technician, rekeying data off paper, and storing paper.
    • Generates new data around the use of work instructions, manuals and insights.
    • Addresses human factors associated with the end-to-end process from manual production, revision, task packaging, planning/production control, task assignment, task execution for base/line/workshop locations, and signoff/certification.
    • Helps quantify human factors benefits, which require experience across multiple implementations.

4. The case must not be proven, or the industry would have acted already.

  • The global pandemic necessitated a focus on case preservation and operational basics. Preceding periods of high demand reaped record profits, which led to investment in the highest value projects. For some airlines, that included adopting digital concepts and systems for routine work activity.
  • Digital aircraft technical publications, while not a regulatory requirement today, have become the accepted best practice among aviation industry leaders.
  • The push for sustainability in all areas of aviation operations creates a renewed sense of urgency for going paperless in the hangar.
  • Success by the early adopters will cause many airlines to assess and embrace digital technical publications over the next five years. Projections call for most North American airlines to be operating with digital technical publications by 2030.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN DIGITAL AVIATION TECHNICAL PUBLICATIONS

The future end state for every airline will be an effective mobile technical data ecosystem. The baseline state of the aviation technical publications process informs the direction and steps required.

Technology Option Differentiators

  • How efficiently is content reused? Are AMM tasks easily reused in work cards?
  • Ease of integration with hangar planning tools
  • Provision for multiple signature levels, such as extended range twin operations approval (ETOPS), required inspection items (RII), inspector, mechanic, cleaner, left/right positions and more, with each enforced by learning management system (LMS) qualification and role
  • Ability to customize content, such as conditioning for effectivity; line or hangar environments; maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), etc.
  • Degree to which they are human factors friendly – consistent, intuitive and enforced – and complete across all work card types and delivery platform

A JOURNEY TO SUCCESS STARTS WITH ONE STEP

Effective mobile technical data ecosystems succeed. The journey can be taken in a single step or many. Each path delivers value and improves the operation.

Turn to SeaTec for the following support:

  • Consulting services that define current and future states to enable your strategy
  • Implementation services that outline the path then lead and support the journey
  • Subscription services that deliver desired outcomes and can be operating cost neutral, without the investment
  • Support in overcoming people’s natural resistance to change

Choose the Option Right for You

SeaTec and its technology partner, Fieldlogs, offer custom solutions that maximize value at every step along the way. Depending on the desired future state, the journey can consist of up to four discrete phases.

Basic

  • Cards offered in Fieldlogs
  • Delivered as PDF to enterprise resource planning (ERP)


Low-Cost Mobility

  • Cards authored in Fieldlogs
  • Workorder has QR code for work card
  • QR code scanned, work card delivered on mobile device in Fieldlogs app


Full Mobility

  • Publications, revisions and cards authored in Fieldlogs
  • Fieldlogs integrated with ERP and internet of things (IoT) via application programming interface (API)
  • Maintenance work order opened in Fieldlogs app


Turnkey

  • End-to-end AMM revision incorporation process (author, edit, audit and publish)
  • Custom task cards ready for transition to digital delivery and signoff
  • Edit and customize
  • Conditioned task cards adapted to changing fleet
  • Enhanced reliability reporting and review

SeaTec serves as the authorized implementation partner for Fieldlogs, helping with change management, training and education. SeaTec is widely recognized as an industry leader in technical publications, industry standards (iSpec 2200, S1000D), maintenance programs strategy/management, and reliability programs including advanced analysis systems.

SeaTec actively participates in the ATA e-Business Technical Data Working Group (TDWG).

For more information about technical publications or related topics, contact or the author and follow us on LinkedIn.

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