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For a civil aviation MRO engineer, working in confined spaces is a common occurrence. These cramped conditions and uncomfortable climates or environmental conditions are often aggravated by aspects such as poor lighting or having to wear protective apparatus.

So overloading MRO engineers with full information system (IS) solution functionality, while working with their hands on a repair job with limited room for manoeuvre, simply doesn’t make sense. Enter the development of next generation, app-based ERP systems.

Mobile devices offer one solution and are now starting to be used by airline operators for maintenance operations. A prototype of wearable technology has already been trialled by Boeing and Aviation Australia. Using a headset and glasses to connect experts with on-site operators, the technology is able to provide real-time assistance from specialist engineers across the globe without having to fly over and provide assistance in person.

But you still need hands…

Mobile applications offer a better platform than full ERP functionality on a mobile device for recording and viewing easily accessible information in a fast-paced environment. Data such as asset history, records of parts used or parts needed for repair, and any notes of maintenance performed, are displayed on an easy-to-understand interface. This allows engineers to be more efficient and effective as it gets rid of the current process of ‘downing tools’ and reporting information back at base.

So mobile devices have significantly improved agility by placing role-specific applications, processes and information directly into the hand. However, while offering a solution to the problem of gaining essential feedback of specific operational information, mobile devices still require engineer’s hands to be free – hands that are also needed to carry out essential maintenance.

Look – no hands

Enter voice control technology. Until recently, the idea of holding a conversation with a computer seemed pure science fiction. Now, this consumer technology is used in smartphones, TVs and vehicles to send emails, search for directions or find information. So will voice technology bring new ways of interacting with the ERP system in the aviation industry? I think so.

In civil aviation, every minute of downtime significantly impacts operations. Boeing estimate the cost of an airplane-on-ground (AOG) delay that lasts just a couple of hours to be at least $10,000 and as high as $150,000 to an airline operator. Effective MRO processes that minimize downtime are vital. Voice technology allows engineers to focus on the MRO task ahead, contributing to the quick sign-off for an aircraft while keeping to strict safety regulations.

The signing off of aircraft has long been a problem in aviation MRO – the aircraft cannot take off unless approved by a maintenance engineer, which takes time. The process of having to remove safety kit and return back to base in order to log important information is time aircraft could be in the air. The time spent on MRO is costly, so it’s important for engineers to have access to a device capable of logging information immediately as soon as they see a fault on an aircraft.

Voice control technology and mobile apps could transform the way engineers work. Engineers carrying out flight-line maintenance could ask their mobile device to report the tyre pressure of an aircraft on the tarmac in front of them or the complete service history of an engine needing maintenance.

IS focus now on open access

Civil aviation is not immune from the ripple effect of consumer trends. Support solutions are becoming less about Information System (IS) infrastructure and more about open access and ease of use. With voice apps, aircraft no longer have to wait long to be signed-off. Engineers can report what they see there and then, rather than having to wait to get back to base to detail information – getting the plane back in the air as soon as possible.

Voice technology in the aviation industry will result in more efficient maintenance, without investment in complex IT training. It will speed up the maintenance process and ensure aircraft spend more time transporting paying customers and not sitting idle waiting for an engineer’s attention.

First published by MRO Network on January 21st, 2015. Republished with permission.

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