How RPA is used to sync your MRO/M&E system with tech log entries made by flight crew

One of the primary Continuous Airworthiness processes within an airline is the management of their aircraft technical logbook. It’s of such vital importance that any changes to the aircraft technical logbook often require CAA approval prior to be implemented in operations. The aircraft technical logbook (ATL) is the prime source for flight crews on the technical status of the aircraft and determines if the captain accepts the aircraft prior to each flight. It contains the history of maintenance checks performed on the aircraft, technical defects that might exist on the aircraft as well as other historic maintenance related actions performed on the aircraft. The ATL can either be a paper-based logbook or a digital tablet application referred to as Electronic Technical Logbook (e-tech log). In both cases any entry made in the ATL (either paper-based or e-tech log) needs to be recorded in the airlines Maintenance & Engineering system to keep track of compliance to airworthiness standards. If an e-tech log is used a data interface could solve this requirement for data entry, however in case of paper-based ATL’s things look a bit different.

Most airline engineering teams have a unit commonly referred to as Technical Records. One of their daily tasks is to process all ATL entries made into the airline M&E/MRO software. Typically, well over 70% of these entries are likely to refer to routine tasks, such as pre-flight checks performed, or daily checks performed. The remainder refers to technical defects with written down complaint descriptions. Other data captured on these ATL’s could be:

  • Aircraft registration
  • Flight number
  • Date/time
  • Unique tech log page number

 

​With still the majority of global aviation working of paper-based ATL’s rather than electronic tech logs, it becomes worthwhile to look at how we can optimize the synchronization of paper-based ATL’s with the airline MRO/M&E system

The task

Given that the paper tech logs have a structured layout and a significant bulk of them refers to routine maintenance, the data entry of these ATL pages is quite suitable for automation thru RPA. Critical in the proper execution of this data entry task is the utilization of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) as a means to detect the content of the actual paper-based ATL entry. Making a hybrid solution consisting of OCR and RPA tools. OCR is a scanning technology able to detect content of scanned copies of paper documents.

All industry standard aviation M&E software systems provide a function to enter the information captured in these paper ATL’s. Referred to in these systems as workorders, work cards, or sometime just plainly technical log entry. Making sure these ATL entries end up in the MRO software plays a critical role in tracking airworthiness compliance of the aircraft on maintenance checks performed as well as maintenance actions performed.

What is RPA?

RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is a technology that allows to mimic the actions a human employee would do and does so in the same user interface of the system. The good news is running RPA’s can be accomplished within a few weeks without impacting the existing IT infrastructure. It creates a virtual extension of your team in the execution of their daily processes, without the need for increasing headcount, accumulating overtime, or the need to re-prioritize focus areas. Truly creating a digital co-worker. 

The software robot skills

  • In order to reduce the workload for technical records teams the data entry of routine ATL entries can be taught to a software robot. Part of the RPA learned skills include: 
  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to identify the data fields used on the tech log copy
  • Ability to login to the MRO software and open the applicable module for tech log entry
  • Start the entry of a new tech log page, referencing the recognized ATL unique sequence number
  • Identify the routine maintenance check performed and enter the applicable predefined text associated with this check
  • Separate any tech log entries the robot cannot process in a special queue for manual processing

Benefits

With the aid of this developed RPA skill, technical records teams are freed from a high frequency data entry requirement. In return more time and attention can be given to overall technical records completeness and accuracy. Thereby considerably reducing the required manhours and costs for record verification once an aircraft needs to be returned to the lessor or is sold off from the fleet.

Do you have any questions?

Feel free to contact us or give us a call on +31 20 8200 7600. We would be happy to help you further. In case you would like to learn more on EXSYN’s capabilities on applying Robotic Process Automation for airline maintenance & engineering, check out our dedicated RPA center.