Nowadays, data is created 24/7, it is a non-stop process and it’s safe to assume that the amount of data will only increase in the coming years. According to ‘V3 technology news’ by 2018 the internet-of-things will create more than 400 zettabytes of data and the latest aircraft types are one of the drivers. For instance, a Boeing 787 generates 40TB of data per hour of flight. However, in aviation data is not only created by aircraft but also by Engineers, Mechanics, and other various supporting staff feeding their CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management system, this is the official term of what many call MRO system or M&E system) system with new data 24/7. So I thought it is time again to have a look at the human interaction with IT systems in aircraft maintenance.

Human interaction with IT systems in aircraft maintenance

In 2012 I presented EXSYN’s research results about this topic at the Airline & Aerospace MRO & Flight Operations IT Conference EMEA and concluded the following:

  1. Continued Airworthiness Management has moved from human driven to Computer driven
  2. Human error opportunities exist during initial data entry, transfer of data between organizations, updating data, software creation and system availability
  3. Traditional regulations are not established to take digitalization in account (basically only one rule concerning data storage)
  4. Short term gain lies in dirty dozen theory to reduce human error in the digital world of continued airworthiness
  5. Long term gain lies in a centralized airworthiness management system “the aviation cloud” removing large portions of human involvement in data management

Within the same publication I also covered: 

  • IT Systems in Aircraft Maintenance
  • Continuing airworthiness
  • The stages of human error possibilities
  • The dirty dozen
  • What can be done to mitigate human error risks?

(Click here to check out the article)

Increasingly the aviation industry understands what can be done with all the data that is created. No one doubts that operational efficiency can be improved and costs reduced by using airworthiness & maintenance data more effectively and to look beyond the nature of human capabilities and have a look at digital technologies. In 2015 I concluded that the vast amount of data generated can change the whole industry. (Read the article: Part II: Big data in Aircraft Maintenance).

However, has anything changed in the impact of human interaction and involvement of creating and managing airworthiness data? In 2012 I used the example of the CMMS system indicating when maintenance will become due based on the utilization of the aircraft, but still requiring a human individual to tell the program, so to enter the data, which maintenance needs to be performed on the aircraft at which interval, to plan downtime, resources, material and preparation of documents. The basic conclusion was that the human-to-system interactions played a vital role in ensuring continuous airworthiness. Also the data transferred into the systems at the beginning of an CMMS system implementation, or by phasing-in new aircraft, still involved a huge human interaction.

Current available digital technology in aviation and interaction with it

So let’s see where we are standing regarding human interaction in 2016 and at the available digital technology in the aviation industry today:

  • Electronic technical logbooks (ETL)
  • Onboard sensory data
  • Content Management Systems
  • Computerized Maintenance Management Systems
  • Interfaces
  • Data migration tools
  • Analytical software’s

These technologies where obviously also around 4 years ago, however as time progressed the level of adoption of these different technologies has increased within airlines. On the back of this increased adoption also the continuous pursuit of mobility of solutions (whether functional or not) and the search for use areas of predictive capabilities due to increased and real-time sensory data availability. In addition, individual suppliers of solutions have continued their solution development to either introduce new functions, improve performance of their solution or improve data integrity. Overall we can see that due to continued digitization in the aviation industry, airlines and in specific Engineering & Maintenance departments are faced with an even more complex and diversified digital landscape than ever before. Where historically the digitizing would limit itself to Computerized Maintenance Management Systems, we now see Maintenance Management Systems, OEM Content Management Systems, an ETL solution, Sensory Data processing solutions and Data Analytics tools being used all at the same time within the same departments and by the same staff.

Incraesed digital landscape

The increased digital landscape by airlines has positive impact on the efficiency and cost reduction but this also asks for more knowledge and skills about how to use the digital technology most effective and how they can be combined and interlinked in order to reduce the human-to-system-interaction. After all the risk of human induced error within these solutions has only increased as even more data entry points have been introduced within the airline.

Minimize manual data entry

So in order to minimize manual data entry points and thereby possibilities of human induced errors the need for Integration of these different solutions and the migration of data across an airlines systems landscape as well as between OEM’s, Airlines and MRO’s raises now more than ever before. With the increasing pace of solution development, we will also see a continued increase in solutions used within airlines and an even more increasing need for integration and migration of data across the OEM, Airline and MRO value chain. It will be the early adopters of this integration and migration principle that will be able to benefit from the competitive advantages (as described in the article: Competitive advantage for Airlines and MRO’s by using digital system ) of using digital technology at this level.

Published May 2016