With industry representatives becoming increasingly concerned about rising maintenance costs and downtime due to unscheduled breakdown of machinery, predictive maintenance solutions are gaining traction. For instance, most MRO respondents of the latest survey conducted by Oliver Wyman shared they are currently investing in new technologies that use data to make better decisions, especially related to spares support processes. In fact, reports claim that adopting predictive maintenance through the use of data analysis can reduce maintenance budgets by 30-40%. Yet ways of thinking and business processes also must change.
Today airlines can perform predictive maintenance much more effectively because new aircraft yield more data, and the tools for exploiting it have improved dramatically. Airbus's Aircraft Maintenance Analysis (Airman), used by 106 customers, constantly monitors health and transmits faults or warning messages to ground control, providing rapid access to maintenance documents and troubleshooting steps prioritized by likelihood of success. Meanwhile, Embraer offers Ahead, an integrated tool that consolidates aircraft data from on board systems and Web-based databases, to monitor and recommend maintenance for E-Jets.
As a result, it is not surprising that the report by Global Industry Analysts estimates the condition monitoring market to reach $2.3B by 2018. In fact, recently a CEO of a company primarily focusing on in-flight Wi-Fi in commercial and private jets, predicted that technology communicating diagnostic and operational aircraft status information in real-time will ultimately become a larger business for the company.
“Avoidable unscheduled maintenance events and unnecessary spare parts deliveries are mostly caused by an incorrect choice of the underlying maintenance strategy. However, by gaining key data around asset failures, maintenance providers could limit part failure and reduce total part costs by replacing components before they cause breakdowns. The would help transferring unscheduled maintenance actions to scheduled actions or alternatively fixed service intervals to variable maintenance actions by a simplified logistics planning,” explains Aldas Juronis, Head of FL Technics Components and Materials Sales Department.
According to Aldas Juronis, having performance data about a particular aircraft prior to planned downtime allows the operator to customize the check specifically to that aircraft, with the promise of dramatically changing the type of maintenance performed during heavy checks. Needless to say, for carriers flying large fleets of similar aircraft this could translate into a significant competitive advantage. But so far there has been little in the way of answers for key uses of such monitoring, or more importantly, the means of identifying which data is useful, and which is not.
“Gathering aircraft systems data is often easier than analysing and determining how to act on it. Is a part about to fail, or would some sort of servicing restore it to speedy operations? Airlines want help figuring that out. In addition, a culture change is also necessary. Mechanics are not used to removing a component because experts predict it will fail next month. Moreover, it is essential that strong trust is built up between the MRO and the flight operations, engineering and technical departments of an airline to ensure all data is provided. It is only then that the application of this model can help finding the right balance between inventory, stock-out and obsolescence costs, while offering competitive service contracts,” concludes Aldas Juronis, Head of FL Technics Components and Materials Sales Department.