Air travel is on a growth trajectory and MRO is feeling the pressure.
Aviation engineering and maintenance are facing particular challenges in an ever evolving and growing travel industry. Growing and increasingly complex fleet, increasing air travel, pressure to increase throughput and limited resources. Moreover, a looming shortfall of aviation engineers and a next gen workforce demanding modern, digital systems to do their jobs is accelerating the need to transform engineering and MRO.
In this Q&A blog and associated video series, Vistair’s CTO Wayne Enis talks to the challenges in aviation engineering & MRO, the need for modernisation and explains how Vistair’s DocuNet for Engineering is accelerating this modernisation with omnichannel access and a single source of consistent content.
The Aviation Engineering Landscape is facing a number of challenges in terms of capacity, talent and deficiencies. Can you talk to these?
The aviation industry largely paused for a couple of years during Covid and following a relatively slow recovery we are starting to see a pattern of accelerated growth in all regions and across all elements of the sector, whether that is Airlines, MRO’s, OEM’s and even defence operators.
Fleet growth predictions indicate an increase of over 33% within the next 10 years and IATA are predicting a doubling of traffic by 2041. This growth drives a massive demand for a wide variety of MRO and engineering services.
We have also seen a significant shift in the workforce and levels of experience. Whilst the press has often focused on flight crew shortages, we are seeing similar, and in some cases, more significant shortages from a maintenance and engineering perspective. Over the last 3 years we have seen a high volume of experienced, time served engineers leaving the industry, either through retirement or making life choices during and following covid.
By 2027 there is predicted to be a deficit of 27% in terms of raw engineer numbers, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect the loss of experience, as the average tenure of engineers is being significantly reduced.
So what does all of this really mean? There needs to be a massive shift to process efficiency, meaning engineering teams are leaner and faster, more throughput with the same, or fewer resources. And technology transformation is the most critical part of that efficiency drive, providing simpler systems and the right digital tools will have a real and measurable impact on both the efficiency and effectiveness of engineering organisations.
DocuNet is Vistair’s market-leading aviation document management system, DocuNet for Engineering caters specifically for the aviation engineering needs. Can you describe DocuNet for Engineering at a high level?
If we think about it in terms of key differentiators, I would say they are:
OEM agnostic – DocuNet supports technical data from all of the major OEMs, both airframes and engines, such as Boeing, Airbus, ATR, Embraer, GE, Rolls Royce, Pratt & Whitney, and more.
Single platform – all of this techical content is supported in a single, cloud based platform, irrespective of the OEM or content type Omnichannel visualisation - all content is automatically available on desktop and mobile, online and offline.
Multimedia content – either as standalone media artifacts, or embedded directly into content. That means that images, videos, and 3d models can be consumed right at the point of performance.
And finally, sophisticated filtering – being able to filter data, for example, by effectivity to ensure that the right content is delivered at the right time in the right context.
All of these remove complexity for the organisation and processes, reducing cost and shortening the time to actually make decisions.
Can you talk to the significance of being OEM Agnostic?
It’s not uncommon for engineering organisations to have anywhere from 4 to 10, or more sometimes, systems for managing and consuming technical content. Those systems are typically specific to a specific OEM, for example Airbus, Boeing, Rolls Royce or GE, or to specific type of content, such as PDF’s or multimedia.
When you have a mixed, diverse fleet of aircraft and engines, this can drive significant cost across the business and each system increases the complexity of the technology landscape. Being OEM agnostic means that we support data from all of these OEM’s. And in addition, because we can support a wide variety of content types or formats, we can also support data from other sources, such as regulators and third party providers.
Can you talk to what we mean by Omnichannel access?
Omnichannel is how we describe the ability to provide access to any type of engineering content in a consistent manner across all platforms. Whether that is maintenance control at a desktop or an engineer on an iPad, the content and user experience is identical. Our web application is plug-in free, meaning that I can easily operate on any standard web browser and our mobile application operates on iPhone, iPad, Android and even as a standalone windows application.
Our mobile applications can be used in an offline manner, ensuring that engineers have seemless access to technical content at all times and in all locations.
DocuNet has a sophisticated Filtering functionality. Can you talk to this please?
Filtering of data ensures that the right content is available in the right context, making it easier and faster to view and, most importantly, understand the content. This is a key piece to making the engineering process more efficient and driving productivity and throughput ensure faster aircraft turnaround.
In practice that means the ability to filter maintenance manuals by aircraft, either the registration, manufacturer serial number or fleet serial number. Ensuring that the right data for the right aircraft is presented to the end user.
But filtering can go beyond that. For example, with internal engineering procedures, you could set a filter on location, so that the content seen by the engineers is focused on the region they are working in, the hangars available to them or any other factors that you as an organisation determine.
The aviation industry at large needs to attract and empower the next gen workforce, including younger engineers. How can DocuNet help with that?
DocuNet is a modern, mobile platform and for the next generation of aviation professionals, digital tools are as essential as a torque wrench.
Engineering training is modernising, airlines as a whole are modernising but many aspects of the maintenance and engineering processes have not caught up yet. If engineering organisations are to retain new, younger engineers within the aviation industry then they have to both modernise and simplify. There are lots of other industries looking for engineering talent, so leveraging modern tools that removes some of the frustrations that we see today is key to retention.
In essence, Digital first products for a digital first workforce is central to this and core to our focus at Vistair which is to provide our aviation partners with the most advanced digital Operational Document Management Systems as well as access to meaningful, actionable data for real-time decisioning.
What are some the key impacts and benefits you are seeing with DocuNet for Engineering across the Vistair customer base?
There are 3 key categories of benefits:
At an engineering efficiency level we have
Reduced aircraft turnaround times, or increased engineering throughput
Reduced maintenance labour, fewer hours to perform the same output
Simplified engineering process, a single system for all technical content makes the whole process far less complicated
Leading to significantly reduced costs
From an IT perspective
Reduced system complexity, fewer systems to manage, maintain and support, all different technologies and technical requirements.
Reduced IT costs, again fewer systems have a direct impact on IT costs, the cost of installing the software, the infrastructure that needs to be put in place, multiply this by 4-10 systems and this can be a massive cost savings.
And as DocuNet is a cloud-based system there is minimal input required from an IT organisation. The reality is that IT organisations themselves are incredibly constrained at the moment, with new technologies to learn and new threats to assess, and reducing the complexity of the technical content ecosystem can have significant benefits.
Whilst we have focused on DocuNet engineering, having a complete set of operational technical data for all airline divisions, including flight operations, ground operations and other enterprise groups can bring further synergies and cost savings