In recent years, the industry has seen the potential positive impact of technology on flight departments, and many operators have made the move to an entirely paperless cockpit. Many aircraft are now equipped with in-flight Wi-Fi, and pilots have replaced their traditional binders with an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) or an iPad. Seeing the success that pilots and crews have had, maintenance managers have begun to implement this technology into their operations.
The most common implementation so far has been the switch to paperless processes in the hangar. Taking traditionally tedious paper processes and making them electronic has provided significant benefits to operations around the world, including the elimination of duplicate work and improvement of efficiency. These digital processes are called electronic workflows. There are a wide array of major benefits when it comes to implementing electronic workflows in your operation. These are just a few:
- Automation: The most obvious benefit is the elimination of tedious processes that often take up a majority of operators’ time. With an electronic workflow, you can identify repetitive tasks as well as those that consume a large portion of your time and leverage the system to do the work for you.
- Predictive Analytics: Dashboards and reports consolidate system-wide data, allowing managers to make effective decisions about the future of the operation without spending hours or days gathering the data.
- Integration: Electronic workflows generally utilize an API, which allows two different systems to communicate and share data with each other. Integrations allow flight departments to seamlessly share info between critical systems, like a scheduling software pushing aircraft times to a maintenance tracking system. This eliminates duplicate work and reduces potential errors. This is just one example, but API integrations have unlimited potential for reducing extra work in your operation.
- Mobility and Connectivity: Almost everyone carries their phone with them wherever they go, and almost every pilot carries an iPad. This mobile capability allows operators to communicate and share information with their team instantly, providing the most up-to-date information on their fleet from anywhere with internet connection.
These are just a few of the benefits of implementing electronic workflows into your operation, but what are some real-world examples of these benefits? How will this actually improve my flight department?
- Updating Maintenance Items: This historically tedious and time-consuming process can almost be eliminated using automation. Electronic workflows allow operators to “bulk-apply” mass amounts of matching data to maintenance items, such as hours, landings, dates, and even electronic signatures. This completely eliminates hours of handwriting and data entry.
- QA Process: Every QA process faces their own unique challenges. Electronic workflows allow organizations to set up custom workflows, as well as manage security levels for various tasks. This customization allows operations to streamline their processes while keeping critical quality standards in place.
- Creating and Storing Logbooks: Electronic logbook creation is one of the biggest benefits that operators are seeing across the industry. Electronic workflows allow operators to easily update maintenance items and create electronic logbook entries in minutes. For larger inspections, this process could take days if done manually. In addition to the time savings, you now have an electronic backup of your logbook entries. (For best practices on data backup, read this)
As you can see, electronic workflows have a wide variety of benefits and real-world applications that operators use every day.
Also remember, implementing an electronic workflow doesn’t have to be an overnight process. Start by implementing smaller components, such as process automation. Every operation has their best practices due to the unique challenges they face. Get a feel for how technology can improve your process, and you will begin to see endless opportunities for reducing manual labor, streamlining processes, and improving efficiency.