maintenance tracking

Time to Take Control of Your Inventory & Lose the Paper

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In the world of purchasing, paper has been king and the death of many a tree. Even with the digitization of many of our documents, it’s often the case that we don’t actually maximize our technology usage to automate and control the process. We have digital files that we are still printing, signing, scanning, sending, filing and then having to find again.

In today’s world, there are tools that are designed to increase the oversight of your purchasing process by implementing electronic and paperless workflows, from the initial parts request, to the receiving and installation. Automate the processes that allow for specialized personnel permissions throughout the inventory life cycle. Keep track of requests as they come in and as they are disseminated to the vendors for quotes and acquisitions. Have a parts and/or service agreement? Use a paperless purchasing mindset to keep track of all your parts, where they are, what their status is and who signed for them in a secure system that can be accessed and reported on with the click of a mouse or a tap on the screen.

Let’s think about access to your inventory and purchasing process and records today - are they in one location? Do you even have a system? Is your spreadsheet saved on your local computer? Maybe you have a software package that helps you with inventory - do you like it? Can you access your information from anywhere? Can you find the information you need in just a couple of clicks? What good is your inventory and purchasing data if you can’t access it? Do you have a parts subscription or service? Are you able to track and access information on parts that have been returned? Can you answer questions and submit proof within minutes and click and respond?

Today’s technology allows for you to utilize a cloud-based service, which not only ensures accessibility across multiple platforms, but also secures the data and backs it up. Imagine systems where you utilize your computer, a tablet or a smartphone to reply to a request from your maintenance team. You can research, initiate, submit and accept from any method you choose and from anywhere you have an internet connection. Aviation is a 24/7/365 industry and, many times, there are instances where you are not in the office, but your position requires you to be able to handle requests at a moment’s notice, any time, night or day. So, retire the PO binder and simplify with efficient and intuitive technologies.

The key to keeping effective inventory is knowledge, understanding and control of the flow of parts and materials in an operation. Operators like Reva Inc., are realizing significant control and visibility of their inventory simply by losing the paper and adopting technology. By implementing electronic or paperless workflows, you take control of the process as well as the materials. Software applications should allow for different levels of permissions and access. Say you want your floor techs to be able to view your inventory and see if a part is already available, but you do not want them to be able to issue a PO and work directly with the vendor. This is easily handled with different permissions. You simply assign the right people for the approval process in the work flow, you get a notification, you make your decision and then you push it to the next step.

Control allows for you to effectively manage inventory levels and cost while also delegating pieces of the process to individuals as is appropriate. Imagine a scenario where you aren’t chasing down a handwritten or modified PO in a binder, if it’s even there. Imagine a scenario where you feel confident in your processes and know that you have the control mechanisms in place to ensure the quality of parts and service necessary to support your flight department and its people.

A paperless purchasing and inventory control system doesn’t have to be complicated. The system should be efficient and intuitive. It should have an easy-to-understand parts and purchasing management philosophy that enhances your operations, not hinders it. Embrace a new approach that allows for you to manage, control and execute inventory and purchasing the way it should be done in the 21st century.

The Evolution of Maintenance Tracking – A Brief History

As we know, it's all kinds of fun planning for that next major maintenance event...

The process becomes even more interesting when managing a fleet. Not only are you tasked with the day-to-day logistics of keeping a fleet airworthy, but you need to be able to think months in advance to plan for those large events.

Are you going to do it in-house? Are you going to comply with optional service bulletins or do any major mods? Are engines due for an overhaul or MPI? What’s your budget? What kind of downtime do you have to work with?

There are a litany of considerations and you could be juggling multiple projects to boot. To make matters worse, you’re probably short staffed because everyone is scrambling for qualified A&P technicians. Too often, you’re left worrying about what you missed or didn’t consider.

It doesn’t have to be that way if you plan early, budget accordingly, account for squawks and rely on electronic tools to mitigate errors, eliminate redundant paperwork, reduce labor costs and provide for transparency at all levels.

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Record Keeping Rewind

First, a little history: Technology has come a long way since Charlie Taylor’s day. Charlie was a genius and had a photographic memory. Although we all aspire to be “like Charlie,” our aviation ancestors understood that change was required. Enter the FAA to create the rules around record-keeping, such as AC43-9C, that provides the direction needed for aircraft maintainers throughout the U.S. As aircraft became more sophisticated, the need for automated tools to assist flight department managers became critical.

Starting in the 1960s, the computer age allowed for the loading of aircraft inspection descriptions and requirements into a mainframe computer. Updates were usually done via a punch card system or other medium for updating. Maintenance reports were generated, but users depended on third-party providers to send out reports and prepare updates that could take a month or more.

If there were errors in corrected reports, the wait could be another month.

Things have changed considerably since those days. Aircraft data can now be available in real-time via cloud-based solutions and, depending on the vendor, data can be updated in real-time. If you are tracking maintenance with an in-house program or spreadsheet, you might be missing out on some of the tools available to you with a cloud-based solution.

The Cloud Advantage

There are various cloud-based or web-based maintenance tracking providers on the market—in all cases, your number one priority when selecting the best program for your organization should be data security.

One inherent feature of cloud-based applications is the storing of data in multiple replicated data centers - as compared to web-based - where the data is stored in a single data center. Cloud-based apps offer more open architecture to create lines of communication between software. It is the most secure option available when considering a third-party vendor for maintenance tracking.

The second priority is the integrity of the data. We have all heard the term "garbage in/garbage out." Evaluate how data is entered in the system, the audit process, how data is prioritized as a change to the tracking system and, most critically, how you know when the data has changed.

Data entered into the system must be audited and all chapter 5 requirements confirmed. As the POC for all maintenance issues, the system should generate a receipt of all changes. Knowledge in real-time and information at your fingertips is powerful and your system should deliver that information quickly and clearly. You should be aware when an update is performed, a discrepancy created, a revision applied or an Airworthiness Directive issued. The receipt becomes your paperless verification tool.

Access and Service

Now, let’s talk about access and the value of data in real-time.

Some tracking companies have the best of intentions in supplying access to data, but many depend on antiquated legacy systems developed during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Layers of functionality and complicated processes for accessing data impede the ability to use data in a meaningful way. Increased instances of errors are introduced into the system, not to mention the hours of training required to use the system. Untold hours are spent correcting data and waiting for corrections to be implemented, or worse, you wait days for a call back from your provider.

Modern systems allow for easy access to data. For instance, a streamlined landing page offers one-stop access to the maintenance status of a fleet—no digging, no drilling, no questions.

Is N1234 available for dispatch? The landing page should indicate "Yes" or "No." You should have confidence that when you pull a report you are looking at the most up-to-date status of an aircraft. Reports, task cards, procedures and due lists should be easily accessed, generated and manipulated.

While the technology should give you the ability to update your own data, you should also have a 24/7/365 customer support team to update your records in seconds or minutes, rather than days or weeks. Also modern systems require minimal training allowing you to focus more on the nuts and bolts of maintaining aircraft. Keeping systems simple on the front end require tremendous effort and creativity on the back end. 

OK, everything is great with the security, the data is up to date and correct, you get notifications of changes, you can access the records easily and quickly, so what about all that paperwork?

Documenting Procedures

With the FAA adopting AC120-78A, your operation can go completely paperless. With iPhone and iPad applications, maintenance procedures can be accessed, signed off and a log book entry completed with just a few clicks.

With the mobile applications, pilots can communicate with maintenance through reporting of times or discrepancies right from the cockpit. Pilots can also sign off ramp checks, VOR checks or pre-flights right from their smartphone and have those records archived in the cloud-based system. Pictures and video can be captured and attached to a discrepancy “in flight” and reported to maintenance via a notification generated by the system. Transparency between operations and maintenance is critical and the use of handwritten notes carries the risk of something getting missed. The technology is all there to prevent a mishap or miscommunication.

And what about that large inspection we spoke of earlier? Electronic work orders are perfect for building a “Living File” to plan your maintenance event. Due items, modifications, discrepancies and maintenance procedures all live in the document.

Once the work scope is complete, generate a log entry, select your return to service statement and sign it off with E-Sig. Use it in-house to track completion of a job or send out as an RFQ to multiple vendors to quote. Your options are endless.

In closing, your data is a tool—make it work for you.

Gone are the days where you need to spend several hours a day maintaining your own data. Access to your data should not take weeks of training and you should be confident that the data is correct. Transparency between operations and maintenance should be facilitated and a heavy emphasis made on using system intelligence and electronic processes to mitigate errors. More importantly, you reduce the size of the pile of paperwork on your desk. Options are out there, and you owe it to yourself to explore those options. Take a day off occasionally. Sleep well at night, confident in the systems you have selected to help your organization in its mission of providing safe, reliable aircraft on time, every time.

Maintenance Tracking and the FAA

For an aircraft to maintain it’s status as airworthy, applicable CFR 14 Part 43 regulations must be followed. The rules may vary based on operations and airframe, however they all have one thing in common – maintenance tracking is required.

Maintenance and FAA


Maintenance records are the life blood of the aircraft. They are proof the aircraft has been maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s documentation as well as FAA or local regulatory guidelines.   Good recording keeping is imperative for the safe operation of aircraft.   Systems and technology are changing exponentially and the importance of ensuring accurate recording of maintenance is greater than ever.      

Logbooks for the work accomplished is not only a reflection of the professionalism dedicated to the continued airworthiness of the aircraft but are also a historical record that contributes to the value of the aircraft.

While maintenance tracking is required, enrolling your aircraft in a maintenance tracking program is not. Many aircraft operators track maintenance with handwritten logbook entries, spreadsheets, and a host of other homegrown applications.   Operators who have decided to enroll with a maintenance tracking service are enlisting the aid of a quality control partner.   This “partner” collaborates with the operator with the goal of providing safe and reliable aircraft for the operation.     

In the past, many OEM’s controlled maintenance tracking in house.  Increasingly, the OEM’s have relinquished control of these programs and have allowed third party companies that specialize in the field to provide tracking services.   

In 2006, it was determined that maintenance manuals could not be controlled by the manufacturer to the point it forced a customer to utilize a particular maintenance tracking program. Restrictions on maintenance manual usage from the manufacturer could not hinder an owner/operator from maintaining their aircraft in the manner determined by the owner/operator for continued airworthiness. This ruling along with guidance from the FAA regarding ICAs allows for owner/operators to choose the solution that best fits their operations.

Along with the FAA recognition of third party maintenance tracking programs, they also adopted the AC 120-78A which outlined the requirements that would have to be met for an organization to adopt a paperless compliance program. The fact that the FAA has adopted and promoted maintenance tracking programs and paperless compliance is the indicator of the industry shift into a more functional and streamlined approach to maintenance and the compliance required.

Hospital Wing Becomes First U.S. HEMS Operation to Eliminate Paperwork with Flightdocs

BONITA SPRINGS, Florida, July 2018 — Hospital Wing, a Memphis-based air ambulance company, has become the first Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) operator in the U.S. to take its operation fully paperless. Utilizing the Flightdocs HMX platform, Hospital Wing has been able to eliminate all paper-based forms and reports from its operation, significantly increasing efficiency across maintenance and operational processes.

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Operating four H130T2, three H130B4, and one H125B3 helicopters from five bases, Hospital Wing provides 24/7 emergency airlift and inter-hospital patient transfers. In 2016, Hospital Wing first implemented HMX by Flightdocs, a leading provider of cloud-based aircraft maintenance and inventory management software.

 

Hospital Wing’s Director of Maintenance Nick King notified Flightdocs of the milestone on June 20. “Hospital Wing is live and fully paperless today,” he said. “No paper log books, flight logs, or aircraft maintenance logs. No more paper — it’s all Flightdocs.” King emphasized that Hospital Wing’s use of HMX goes well beyond maintenance. “It’s a complete and very easy-to-use tool that has been implemented in all aspects of our business and has been configured to work really well for us,” King said. “It’s a great system that enables greater efficiency and effectiveness throughout the organization.” 

 

“We congratulate the team at Hospital Wing on this important milestone,” said Flightdocs CEO Rick Heine. “It’s great to see our technology being used to its fullest extent. We’ve seen more and more operators going fully electronic across different segments of the industry, and they are all seeing some very tangible benefits throughout their organizations. The technology we have today is making a big impact on efficiency, visibility, data accuracy, and ultimately the safe operation of aircraft. We look forward to working with Hospital Wing and other Flightdocs customers on new developments in the future.”

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