Transforming Processes Is Key in MRO System Modernization

In our series on maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) system transformation, we are discussing the major milestones in the journey and the common pitfalls and pain points operators typically experience. In this entry, we explore the critical role that business process transformation plays in modernizing an MRO system.

The MRO Transformation Series

A Starting Point > Selection > Business Process Transformation > Implementation > Data Migration > Stabilization > Continuous Improvement

Business process transformation is essential in selecting and implementing any MRO system. See how SeaTec can help.

THE TAKEAWAY

Business process transformation is essential to successfully modernizing airline MRO IT solutions. First-generation MRO systems sought to digitize paper processes, but with more modern, purpose-built systems airlines must do more than just migrate existing processes to the new application.

Business processes for the maintenance of aircraft must be well documented, well understood, consistently employed, and aligned with the MRO system’s functionality. Having effective processes promotes compliance, standardization, efficiency, scalability, and decision-making. They are foundational and fundamentally important.

THE CHALLENGES

To understand the downsides of not investing in business processes during system modernization, it helps to look at instances with negative impacts:

  • An airline relied solely on unwritten business processes that were institutionalized many years earlier. As the airline grew and suffered attrition, it couldn’t successfully scale due to a lack of documented SOPs (standard operating procedures) and its inability to train new employees. The results were incorrect data entries, frustrated new employees, MRO system backlogs, poor operational performance and system workarounds such as spreadsheets and e-mail that circumvented the MRO system’s capabilities and built-in workflow.
  • An airline’s records department recorded compliance using a secondary system that existed outside the MRO system. When the airline began to integrate its legacy system into a new MRO system, there was significant debate over which data source was accurate. It was determined to be a mix of both. This inconsistency complicated data migration and resulted in questionable compliance.
  • An airline lacked documented SOPs, including in its engineering, configuration, and maintenance program departments. When the airline audited its MRO system against its program, it discovered numerous discrepancies in the set-up of tasks, intervals, effectivity, interchangeability and more. This created a major compliance concern, an operational impact, and a lack of regulatory confidence. Cleaning up the system was costly, distracting, and time-consuming.
  • An airline migrated to a new MRO system but never fully built out its SOPs and training. This resulted in a lack of understanding of how the system operates, along with several methods to accomplish tasks via unsanctioned processes. The consequence was years of compliance issues, lack of critical data or gaps, incorrect data, multiple workarounds, and an overall lack of reliable business intelligence. These issues, combined with growth, created a challenge and expense to redefine its baseline processes and break old habits across thousands of employees.

THE PAYOFF OF INVESTING IN BUSINESS PROCESSES

A large airline migrated from a mainframe MRO system to a web-based system. It mapped current processes, envisioned ideal future processes, identified known risks and fulfilled vision requirements including scalability, enhanced compliance and mobility. Robust SOPs with governance and controls were developed. Training incorporated the SOPs, which are periodically reviewed and updated to address process improvements.

THE STEPS AND THE SOLUTION

Business process transformation starts with having a clear understanding of current state processes, which are not simply what is described in a manual or procedure. They represent what people and systems do; who stakeholders are; when and how they do it (inside or outside of a system); where dependencies exist; and what data they create, change and use for decision-making. Documenting current state processes establishes the baseline for determining what must, will, may or would benefit from change.

SeaTec subject matter experts (SMEs) work directly with technical operations personnel to fully understand the steps they take to perform their jobs. Methods we employ include:

  • Stakeholder interviews
  • Reviews of policies, manuals, SOPs and lessons-learned documentation
  • Day in the life exercises
  • Process mapping
  • Identification and validation of stakeholders, dependencies, and risk

Future state process definition comes next. We work with technical operations leadership to craft an end-state vision, leveraging:

  • Industry best practices
  • Industry standards and ATA working group initiatives
  • Vision for the organization with respect to performance, processes and systems
  • Organizational capabilities required to achieve the vision
  • New system capabilities and best-of-breed system alternative

 

With the two states defined, a gap analysis can be performed detailing:

  • Issues, root cause and gaps categorized by function and process
  • Actions categorized by criticality, means and owner
  • Recommendations grounded in best practice

 

Common issues and root causes we have addressed include:

  • Lack of standardization across teams or locations
  • Ineffective documentation, such as outdated or incomplete SOPs using language that does not align with actual practice
  • Current system shortcomings, with the absence or weakness of functionality or integration spawning spreadsheets and custom databases that result in multiple versions of the truth.
  • Data cleanliness, fidelity, fit, flow and timeliness, with incomplete or inaccurate data arriving late (or not at all) affecting analysis, decisions, and actions.

A well-executed gap analysis is a goldmine of information for process recommendations that take into consideration safety, regulatory compliance, quality, value, operational disruption, employee adaptation and impact, system integration challenges, and intended and unintended consequences.

The recommendations translate the vision and current and future states into an implementation roadmap that balances possibility and practicality as well as risk and reward. Recommendations include change prior to, during, or after the new MRO system is implemented. Visions we have helped clients realize included electronic signature, improved materials management, predictive maintenance and aircraft health monitoring.

Business process transformation is a necessary activity when selecting and implementing an MRO system of any type. It is also a cost-effective enabler of continuous improvement.

In a dynamic MRO and technical operations environment, achieving process improvement is a multifaceted activity with many stakeholders. An independent, solution-agnostic perspective is critical, and SeaTec has a proven method and team for process transformation, whether for an IT change or a continuous improvement initiative.

SeaTec teams delivering process transformation have deep aerospace and aviation experience and expertise in maintenance and engineering; manufacturing; supply chain; change management; and technical services including maintenance planning and reliability. We have consistently improved project and operational outcomes for airlines and MROs.

This is part of a series of articles on MRO system transformation. For more information about our engineering, technical services, MRO capabilities or related topics, please contact us or the author and follow us on LinkedIn.