Tools for Electronic Maintenance Tracking29 Mar 2012
By Dale Smith
“Flying is so many parts skill, so many parts planning, so many parts maintenance, and so many parts luck. The trick is to reduce the luck by increasing the others.” — David L. Baker
In today’s economy, service diversification is key to any maintenance organization’s survival and possible growth. But diversification is a two-edge sword. On the plus side, it allows you to offer more capabilities to more varying aircraft types. On the dark side, it means you have to do a lot more work to keep up with a wider variety of compliance and inspection issues.
“If you have only one airplane you can probably do the research yourself by going on FAA.gov,” explained Forrest Lynch, Director of maintenance for Malone Air Charter and Sterling Flight Training. “But when you have multiple aircraft, with all their different accessories and equipment types, it can be very difficult and time consuming to try and keep up with it all.”
Lynch, who is responsible for the diverse turbine and piston fleet said that one set of tools that they truly “couldn’t function without,” is the various electronic maintenance/record-keeping packages the company subscribes to.
Malone/Sterling uses a combination of CesCom, Avtrak and TotalFBO to keep track of everything from life-limited components to ADs to inspections to spare parts inventory. Another benefit to the services Lynch mentioned is the ability to have a technical support professional available to answer questions technicians might have.
“The services we get from the companies are expensive, but well worth it,” he said. “They save us a lot of time and improve our accuracy. They make our overall maintenance and compliance efforts a lot easier, which means our technicians can spend their time working on the airplanes, not researching inspection requirements.”
By now, many of you are saying that you’ve seen or tried some computer-based tracking system and that they are more trouble (difficult) than they’re worth. If you’re thinking of an Excel spreadsheet style system then you’re right.
The programs and packages I’m talking about are created and managed by folks who really know what they’re doing when it comes to compliance, inspections and maintenance. These aren’t your father’s spreadsheets.
Maintenance Tracking Made Easy
“We provide the tools that allow our customers to succeed in driving down the cost of maintenance by minimizing downtime. Ours is a maintenance tracking service – not a strict, computer-based software package,” Dennis Steinbeck, VP Business Development for Avtrak LLC (www.avtrak.com) said. “Once their aircraft is enrolled in our system, the customer gets a password to log on to our website. We have red, green and yellow logic lights so you can click on a due list and see instantly if your aircraft is in compliance or what needs to be done.”
“Another benefit to being web-based is both the owner/operator and the MRO/service center have access to the same information,” he said. “In addition, our services are supported by a qualified staff of Compliance Specialists – A&P’s and IA’s – who are there to ensure our service quality is the best it can be.”
Damon Vetere, director of Business Development for Flightdocs (www.flightdocs.com) said that when a customer first signs a new aircraft on to their web-based service all of that aircraft’s information including serial numbers, part numbers, and most recent compliance information is manually loaded into the system.
“We take the current records and put in all the information. If the aircraft is already enrolled in another system we’ll just roll that right into Flightdocs and perform a complete records audit against the manufacturer’s requirements,” he said. “We also double-check particular things that we know may be an issue on that particular type of aircraft. Experience has shown us that these are the kinds of things people miss when they build their own spreadsheets.”
Another advantage to electronic maintenance tracking services is the ability for customers to do quick, exacting searches.
“The fact that all the aircraft’s bits and bobs, bells and whistles – everything that you would normally have to research is all available in a quick and easy to find report or, if you want to get real specific, and wanted to pull the status of a particular component, you just go right to the website and type in the information and there it is for you,” he said. “No more digging through logbooks to see the last time something was serviced.”
Speaking of saving time, creating accurate pre-work or due-lists is one of the biggest time savers these new-generation maintenance packages can offer any shop. “Technicians can quickly and simply identify what they need to do for the day, identify those tasks, and print out the task cards and papers they need,” Steinbeck said. “They don’t have to pull anything from the maintenance manuals. It’s all right there for them. You have basically turned an hour or so of preparation into no time at all.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a large or small aircraft. The fact is you can save yourself a lot of research time and that alone makes it very valuable,” Vetere said. “So many MRO’s are short-staffed and saving any time is critical today.”
“We have access to all the authority websites – FAA, Transport Canada, EASA – all the global aviation authorities past and present,” he said. “You have instant access to any ADs, that might or might not be applicable to your aircraft on one site.”
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