Time is money when it comes to unscheduled maintenance events, and in an industry already facing a significant shortage of skilled workers, many carriers are feeling the pressure to make sure their maintenance operations are staffed up to minimize downtime as much as possible. Atlanta-based software startup SynapseMX has rolled out a new cloud-based maintenance management and execution platform that seeks to help companies solve unscheduled maintenance challenges through better productivity and coordination rather than through spending extra money to beef up staff.
“We are very focused on improving productivity and not headcounts,” says Shane Ballman, CEO, SynapseMX. “There’s obviously a huge skilled labor crisis in the industry today, and it’s hard to find people to backfill positions or expand your operation.”
Ballman points to his prior experience heading AirTran Airways’ Maintenance Technology group, where his team used early versions of the technology and automation tools built into SynapseMX to grow the carrier’s operation without needing to hire additional technicians. According to Ballman, the low-cost carrier started out with approximately 4.2 technicians per aircraft and got the number down to 2.6 technicians per aircraft while growing fleet size—this at a time when Ballman says the industry was averaging around 10.2 technicians per aircraft.
“They saved a bunch of money in being more effective in how they performed maintenance,” he says. “You can’t put nine people in a cockpit and expect to get any kind of productive work done. By helping people understand how you can deploy people more effectively, you can start to do work between turns or maybe more efficiently schedule on the overnight maintenance.”
Ballman says SynapseMX took that mentality and applied it to an industry need for a targeted software tool to help solve unscheduled maintenance headaches through real-time data tools. The SynapseMX platform, which the company started building approximately one year ago, enables digital team collaboration to monitor maintenance issues in real time, assign jobs, perform and sign off on work, track job progress and use performance metrics to identify where bottlenecks are taking place. In the event of an unscheduled maintenance event, Ballman says a technician or operator in the field can use their mobile device to notify relevant team members via text message about the issue, projected downtime and parts that will be required.
According to Ballman, SynapseMX helps teams understand what sort of impact an unscheduled maintenance event will have in terms of operational disruption and then dives deeper into data to forecast how long it will take a specific technician to complete a certain task within varying conditions, such as cold weather. The platform automatically generates an event log for specific maintenance items or for an operation’s entire day so managers and dispatch can see what is going on in real time.
Ballman says SynapseMX and one of its partners have started exploring notification escalations, such as notifying senior executives of a maintenance event only when an asset has been down for a certain period of time. The company is also working on releasing the newest version of the platform, which Ballman says will deploy new features related to artificial intelligence (AI) and people tagging functionality similar to that used on social media platforms.
Full deployment of SynapseMX’s new AI functionality will tell users which technicians to contact for troubleshooting questions about particular issues, how long it should take to solve particular problems in various locations, common parts required for different maintenance events and how long an aircraft is predicted to be completely out of service. Meanwhile, users of the platform will be able to tag people in automatically generated reports to bring them into the conversation as needed without bogging them down with constant updates. Ballman says the newest version of the platform is scheduled for release at the beginning of March.
SynapseMX is a partner in the GE Digital Alliance and the company is also working with Rolls-Royce on one of its new initiatives, although Ballman says formal details are not being shared yet. Specific pricing information is not being released, but SynapseMX is subscription-based and Ballman says the company can work with customers to develop pricing models in a number of ways, including a per-asset basis or per-customer basis.