The steady but slow shift to digital maintenance documentation continues, as Magnetic MRO has begun putting some internal documents in paperless form. But the transition demonstrates the limits and hurdles that still face this transformation to digital efficiency.
Magnetic has decided to digitalize paper-based aircraft maintenance work orders and to introduce biometric e-signatures for aviation mechanics and other certifying staff. Chief Operating Officer Jan Kotka says Magnetic will secure its digital work orders with electronic fingerprint signatures, an approach approved by Estonia’s civil aviation authority.
Base Maintenance Director Sergei Shkolnik notes digital documents eliminate time-consuming delivery of paper from the engineering department to maintenance shops and vice versa.
Magnetic’s shift to digital documents was not fast. It started in early 2015 with a test version completed in December 2015. But the project was frozen because some key managers did not have entire confidence in the safety of e-signatures. Then, in late 2017, the project resumed and digital documents went live in October 2018.
Magnetic came up with the idea and logic of digital documents but outsourced the IT work, Shkolnik says.
The approach is still limited in its coverage. Customer and operator documents are still on paper. “The variety of paperwork formats used by different clients is considerable,” Shkolnik notes. “Hence digitalizing them is not economically viable. In addition, most operators still prefer to have dirty-finger prints in their possession after work is done and certified.” About 95% of Magnetic customers still require hard copies.
Kotka notes that the work orders are paperless now. And workshop task cards are to be turned into digital form as well. Main task cards are still on paper, mainly due to customer requirements. But some other documents may be converted into paperless forms.
Even where paperless is possible, challenges must be overcome. Shkolnik says the main challenges are ensuring data protection and safety and dealing with the very complicated logic of digital signature processing.