When a new year begins, it is a certainty that many industry predictions will be made about the key trends for the next 12 months. For MRO, this often centers on technology, with consultancies or firms forecasting what they feel will be the key industry trends to watch.
Last year, the Internet of Things (IoT), predictive maintenance and augmented reality solutions were undoubtedly among the most pre-eminent MRO tech trends. For many, including our own publication, these will continue to be prevalent in 2017.
Such a view is shared by global technology specialist IFS, which has pinpointed IoT and augmented reality as driving real benefits for commercial aviation firms this year. The expansive scope of IoT platforms, found in everywhere from aircraft, engine and component sensors to smart maintenance aids, will drive the take up of aircraft health monitoring system (AHMS) health checks and condition-based maintenance, predicts Espen Olsen, the IFS’s business development and sales for aerospace and defence. Driven by growing fleets and the explosion of connected ‘things’, use of AHMS will increase.
“AHMS bring vast improvements in the utilisation and analysis of big data to enhance availability, reliability and safety of aircraft, which in turn drives the take up of condition-based maintenance (CBM) projects to streamline MRO,” says Olsen. “I predict we will see a rise in the number of operators adopting AHMS, driven by affordable IoT-enabled sensors, powerful data processing systems and machine learning - enabling airlines to make processes smarter and maintenance leaner.”
Olsen believes the concept of handing engineers the crystal ball through predictive maintenance will also develop further this year. “IoT and predictive maintenance allows for better sharing of both operational and maintenance experiences between airlines, aircraft operators and third party MROs, enabling further cost reductions,” he explains. “By feeding the data into the EAM or MRO solution, the parts can be sourced and the work schedules of engineers changed - meaning potential down-time can be drastically reduced. But airlines aren’t stopping there.”
But 2017 will see a further evolution in predictive maintenance in the form of prescriptive maintenance. This, according Olsen, will allow operators to not only predict what will happen, but offer ‘what if’ scenarios to show how each possible event will impact operations. “The technology is still in the early stages of adoption in civil aviation, but watch this space as the technology starts to mature in 2017,” he says.
However, one caveat is the shortage of resources in certain growth areas. Asia-Pacific, tipped to dominant MRO growth in the next 10 years, could be hampered by a shortage of fully-qualified, trained and certified maintenance personnel required to meet its needs. Having previously recruited from overseas, the mounting costs could present challenges.
Olsen believes a solution to this could be more regional MROs turning to augmented reality in order to minimize workload times and help technicians’ complete complex tasks. “Augmented reality is emerging to help bridge this gap - a cost- and time-friendly solution which provides expertise on demand from any location, no matter how remote,” Olsen says.
The full version of Espen Olsen’s technology predictions for 2017 can be viewed here.