There are so many technological innovations either changing MRO or being proposed to improve MRO that managers have a hard time keeping up with the innovation landscape, let alone making the wise investment decisions necessary to realize the benefits of technology.
Tej Mehta, once an aeronautical engineer, then a licensed mechanic and now an Accenture aviation consultant, tried to help prioritize thinking about innovations at IFS’s recent World Conference in Boston. Distinctively, Mehta both gave his own views and informally surveyed an audience of maintenance managers on their views of which innovations are most important and most immediate.
“There are three technologies now driving change,” Mehta said. These are the Cloud, Big Data and the Internet of Things. Next will come Artificial Intelligence and in the more distant future quantum computing, in his view.
That was the consultant’s big-picture view. But Mehta then asked the MRO managers which of six key technologies they thought would have the biggest immediate impact. AI and Big Data led with support of 47% of managers, followed by mobility with 18%. Next came Internet of Things and blockchain, each with 12%. Finally, 9% of managers saw drones as important, and only 3% believed robotic process automation would matter much.
The Accenture consultant then asked the same managers what they thought were the biggest trends, technical and non-technical, affecting MRO. Nearly a third, 32%, picked automation. A quarter picked OEM penetration of the aftermarket, and another quarter said new entrants into MRO would matter most.
Mehta then returned to his consultant role and outlined his own roadmap for the digital transformation of MRO. The first step is building a core platform, non-siloed, with all the data available to support analysis. And the platform must also support mobility.
After this core platform is in place, the next steps are integrating point solutions into it. Mehta judges that the quickest gains, the “low-hanging fruit,” will come with optimizing spare parts. For that can generally be done within an airline or MRO acting on its own. “Predictive maintenance is more complex, there are many organizations involved with different interests.”