When thinking of aircraft maintenance costs, the quickest rational is to take your costs for scheduled maintenance, add a margin for unscheduled maintenance costs divide it by 365 days and there you have your Daily Maintenance Costs. When the need arises to drive down these costs the focus mostly turns to what can be done to have lower scheduled maintenance costs. Technical departments are reorganized, management layers are torn down and job roles are redefined seeking further optimization and efficiency. However, a factor frequently overlooked and potentially holding much potential is underlying process inefficiencies that originate from lack of data integrity and data quality. In this article we explore the concept on how data can costs E&M organizations money, what the signs are to watch out  for and what  E&M teams can do to address these issues. Perhaps even preventing the need for the next round of reorganizations: 

Data is driving every CAMO and MRO organisation. Where it used to be paper based, many organisations within the aviation industry have digitised most of the core business or are in the progress of full digitisation. If you have not started yet, you can read some tips in our blog: 'How to start with data analytics although much of the information is still paper based'.

Being digital is a big leap forward, but unfortunately not the magic potion that immediately solves all your problems and headaches. The effect of digitalisation is that the company is increasingly (automatically) data driven, but that some of the data in the background driving the results might also have less immediate visibility. Lack of data integrity can be from the past, when data has not been properly cleansed before it was digitised or can creep in naturally during normal working processes. It is always important to keep in mind that it exists and will need continuous monitoring and improvement to keep it at bay. As you might be aware, lacking integrity and quality can affect aircraft maintenance execution as well as continous airworthiness management severely and result it a lot of additional cost. For more details about data integrity and quality read this blog: Tips and Tricks: Data Quality vs Data Integrity and what can Data Enrichment do? 

The signs

Here are a few signs when data is starting to cost you money:

1. Repeating issues/questions/work arounds

The most important sign is quite simple, listen to your engineers and mechanics and their interactions. These discussions are a very valuable source of information and indicator if there might be underlying data issues. Repeated questions and/or issues regarding statuses of aircraft, components, orders etc. from the same group of people, indicate that there might be a data issue. If colleagues then start introducing or talking about work arounds or different methods of retrieving this then your normal process, all alarm bells should be ringing.

Your state-of-the art M&E system is apparently not trusted or not providing the data that is expected. This could lead to (expensive) and undetected mistakes on the aircraft, but more importantly, people are putting considerate time in investigating data and or even creating workarounds whereas this should be a simple output of the system. People might feel they are understaffed and your hire additional resources to cope with the work. It can become a self-sustaining loop that bring a lot of unnecessary costs: the solution is at the source, find the cause and fix the bad data…

2. Audit findings

Audit findings can be small or severe, but they are not the most fun to deal with, could potentially be slightly damaging your reputation and lead to unexpected short-term costs to rectify. Incidental findings will always exist and occur, however, as soon as findings become structural you know somethings is wrong. Data issues is one of the obvious culprits.

3. Standard Reports that take days to finish

Things such as lease reports or reliability the initial statistics, that are produced in a set interval and standardised way, should be relatively easy to produce. If these structurally take a long time to make, it should trigger you as team leader to start investigating why. More often than not, you’ll find out that the required data is hard to acquire and/or incomplete, people will double- or even triple check because they’ve had issues in the past. It is not uncommon that entire fulltime functions are created, many unintentionally established over the years, for generating these reports. In turn this generates unnecessary staff costs and, because it’s could be a dread, it’s impacting the motivation of your employees.

4. Backlog in paperwork

An increasing backlog in paperwork to be processed is also a tell-tale sign that you are incurring costs that can be prevented. Other than that the root cause of the backlog can be caused by data issues itself, the overall problem is that more effort is created on the forecasting end of things.

When a M&E system is not up-to-date, maintenance forecast will also not be accurate and could demand addition work from your maintenance planners and engineers to find out the correct status by querying the dirty fingerprint work. Basically, they are in a constant workaround to get an accurate picture of their maintenance forecast instead of letting the system provide them with that accuracy and do their core job of planning.

5. Component Tracking and Inventory

As you know in aircraft maintenance a significant, but also delicate, part of the work is the tracking of aircraft components. It is paramount for both safety as well as costs that this is accurate, but reality dictates that unfortunately this is a highly error-prone process.

Unsurprisingly, as soon as you notice there are issues with the label booking administration, part requirement actuals, repair tracking and/or inventory these are signs that is starts costing money as well. Components can be very costly and have a far-reaching effect on the airworthiness of the aircraft. Next to direct incurring cost by having to replace components, or missing components, there is also the time/material costs of your staff to investigate all these cases and figure out the truth. This can go as far as to having reinspect the aircraft to determine the correct components installed.

A classic case of where a good data quality, but more importantly consistency, can prevent a lot of costs. Why is the consistency so important? Because inconsistency will stand out, allowing people to discover and be alerted much faster on potential issues, closer to the source and thus can better address the problem effectively and efficiently.

What can you do right now?

It cannot be stressed enough but keep looking out for signals in the day-to-day activities with above examples in mind. Data issues creep in overtime and thus could be hard to detect on “face value” at first until it is far spread.

Clear procedures and work place instruction, together with a “fool-proof” system are key in preventing data errors. Anything that can be interpreted multiple ways is a potential risk.

An open culture where people can report mistakes and with frequent internal data quality checks will help. Most importantly is that there is a culture where people immediately act on reported issues and try to correct and prevent it at its core, rather than think of a patch or workaround.

How can EXSYN help?

EXSYN has experience and supporter over 30 airlines and MRO providers, encompassing a fleet of more than 1450 aircraft.

Our consultants are well equipped with knowledge and tools to help you in defeating bad data. The usual start of this, is a so called data scan; a process that identifies data silos, inconsistencies and gaps in your Engineering & Maintenance, Inventory data using our databases and experience in dealing with multiple Fleet types (Narrow & Wide Bodies), Engines and MRO systems. This is the first step towards building the single source of truth database.

The result of a data scan is a recommendation report that elaborates on data gaps, process challenges and opportunities to unearth valuable insights from your data sets after enrichment in line with your goals. We can then assist you with the process of implementing the recommendations.