The introduction of digital instruments such as tablets and mobile devices on the shop floor is a common trend across MRO operations globally as companies seek greater mobility.
A snapshot of this trend comes from the North America region, where airline maintenance divisions have been particularly proactive in bringing electronic devices into their operations.
American Airlines and United Airlines, the world’s largest and third largest carriers by fleet size respectively, are two of the region’s carriers doing just that.
According to David Seymour, senior vice president of integrated operations at American Airlines, the Fort Worth-headquartered carrier is looking to improve its mobility capabilities with some existing investments pre-dating its 2013 merger with US Airways.
This has led to the introduction of new technologies at its MRO hangars and line stations. “Devices are starting to get out there to frontline mechanics,” Seymour says. “The feedback so far has been good from technicians who have requested more as we deploy them.”
Don Wright, VP of line maintenance at Chicago-based United Airlines, says along with mobility, its investment priorities have ranged from workforce training, reliability initiatives, data analytics projects and infrastructure investments such as new hangar builds.
“A big push for us this year is introducing mobility tools for technicians, which we are currently deploying to our 6,000 line maintenance workforce,” he says, stating around 1,000 units have been distributed to date. “It will take two quarters for full deployment but once complete it’ll really unleash technicians from desktops and having to be present in the office area,” he adds.
Operating on a smaller scale from American and United is Florida-based Silver Airways, a carrier running services throughout the sunshine state and the Caribbean. Nevertheless, mobility has also featured heavily on its radar, and like its two larger counterparts, Silver’s maintenance facility in Orlando, Florida is now manned by technicians with electric devices, along with its four line stations across its network.
Kurt Brulisauer, VP ground operations and technical operations at the carrier, says underpinning the hardware with the right software is critical. Silver runs Trax software for all its data management needs, and according Brulisauer, running a software he feels is traditionally favoured by carriers of size has benefited the Silver maintenance operations.
“Successful maintenance comes down to how good you are in data management and having invested in the software a number of years ago, we can record track and manage data and estimate the time between parts removal allowing us better reliability, analytics reporting, reaction time and resolving issues,” he says.