Automation is everywhere you look — in the hangar and repair shop as well as the cockpit. For the repair shops, line maintenance operations, MROs, and airline support departments that make the best use of it, computer technology gives a competitive edge in this tight-margin business. Benefits include lower costs, higher efficiencies, and greater capacity.
But automation isn’t static. In aviation maintenance as in other industries automation continues driving towards higher-speed, lower-cost processing and to deeper levels of integration both within individual software systems and between enterprise maintenance software and complementary aftermarket applications.
Perhaps the highest-profile trend in the aviation maintenance software market is the integration of mobile devices with core software and the proliferation of Web apps that can allow maintenance technicians to log their hours and sign off on work more quickly yet be trackable by managers in near real time. As a result, traditionally paper-intensive maintenance operations promise to become less costly and more efficient.
Ultramain offers a suite of integrated, but user-selectable, applications oriented around an “ePaper” strategy, according to Mark McCausland, company president. The latest release, ULTRAMAIN v9, was designed for paperless use, he says.
The company provides a series of mobile products – Mobile Mechanic, efbTechLogs, eCabin, Mobile Inventory, and Mobile Executive – that work together with ULTRAMAIN’s M&E/MRO suite as well as with other maintenance systems, he says. Headquartered in Albuquerque, N.M., the company has units in Ireland, India, and Hong Kong. It is mainly focused on the commercial aviation sector.
Ultramain notes three recent go-lives, one of which involved a line maintenance MRO in Mexico, serving 70 airlines with 23 destinations in that country. The latest involved a large international carrier that initiated efbTechLogs for its 777 fleet.
Ultramain software also incorporates optimization into functions such as fleet planning, maintenance scheduling, labor resourcing, and hangar bay usage. It includes cost accounting functions throughout its maintenance and supply applications, McCausland says, and “comes with off-the-shelf integration capabilities … with financial systems such as Oracle and SAP.”
Miami-based TRAX has introduced a new Web product called eMRO, a mobile MRO solution usable on any platform, it says. The software is “totally mobile” in that “all functions can be used on mobiles.” And since eMRO is “pure Web,” there is no installed client,” it says.
Most of TRAX’s customers are passenger and cargo airlines although “pure” MROs like Lufthansa Technik Philippines and Turkish Technic also use the software. The company regards Swiss Aviation, SAP, Mxi Technologies, and IFS as competitors.
Both eMRO and the company’s legacy platform, TRAX Maintenance, provide materials management, resource management, technical publications, fleet management, component management, and EDI functions.
Commsoft, a UK-based software developer with a wide-ranging, global customer base, also stresses Web alignment and mobile applications although managing director, Nick Godwin, notes that the trend toward cloud and mobile technologies “is evolving more slowly in reality than optimistic theoretical predictions” imply in the context of the larger environment.
That said, Commsoft last year launched the first in a series of mobile apps designed to work with its MRO software, OASES, or Open Aviation Strategic Engineering System. The app can be used by pilots and line maintenance engineers – via mobiles, laptops, or PCs – to view maintenance data anytime, anywhere.
Commsoft plans to launch a module for tracking, analyzing, budgeting, and reporting costs this year. There is also a new quotations and commercial module for MRO and hangar use. In 2015 the company added 12 customers from eight countries. Among them are nine airlines, an MRO, a CAMO bureau, and a specialist aviation service provider.
Another differentiator between Commsoft and competitors is personalized, professional support, a “glove fit” of the software to the needs of its customers, Godwin says. OASES is accessible via Commsoft’s “private cloud” or the customer’s dedicated servers, or is virtualized on the customer’s own network.
Ottawa-based Mxi Technologies offers two editions – its flagship Maintenix Operator Edition and the recent Maintenix MRO Edition. The Operator Edition is a cost center-driven product, a constraint- based tool for planning, tracking, and compliance that is used by a number of airlines. The MRO Edition includes modules relating to MRO as a profit center, explains, James Elliott, product marketing manager. The MRO Edition, for example, includes integrated contract management from quoting through invoicing.
Last year the company chalked up three customers for the new edition, including KLM UK Engineering. HAECO in Hong Kong is also an MRO Edition customer. The Operator Edition user base also is growing, with customers such as Southwest, Cape Air, Mesa, and Myanmar National Airlines. This year Mxi opened an office in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The two Mxi products can be integrated to meet the needs of operators, like Air France KLM, who conduct the full spectrum of in-house maintenance and third-party MRO services, Elliott says.
A new feature included in both editions is the “Maintenix reporting engine,” part of Mxi’s effort to increase customers’ visibility into their data without technical knowledge of the underlying database. Data from reliability reports required by governing bodies, for example, can be used by customers to improve their reliability performance.
Mxi says its constraint-based planning and Production Planning & Control feature has enabled clients to improve their business processes, reducing turnaround time for major checks by up to 40 percent. Mxi software has been “fully Web-based” since 2005, Elliott says. It is “mobile-ready—accessible on mobile phones and tablets” – in that it allows secure, browser-based access to maintenance information.
Rusada highlights its presence in civil and defense aviationand MRO centers. The company’s Envision suite includes modules for fleet and operations managers as well as maintenance and materials managers, with customers such as Mexican operator, Transportes Aereos Pegaso and Airbus Helicopters. (The latter offers Envision as a part of its HCare package.) Rusada is headquartered in Switzerland with offices in the UK, North America, Dubai, India, and Singapore.
Envision focuses “purely on aviation engineering and maintenance.” The software covers airframe, engine, and component maintenance as well as manufacturing and all associated MRO activities. The company notes Mxi, AMOS, TRAX, and Ramco among its competitors. Among Envision’s differentiators, Rusada lists its integrated flight operations module, end user-based workflow, integration with enterprise resource planning and finance systems, and relatively rapid implementations – “weeks rather than months and years.”
CAMP Systems has extended the reach of its core maintenance tracking and engine health monitoring systems and added complementary software systems from Continuum Applied Technology and Component Control (see sidebar). While the company still supports its CAMP MTX aircraft maintenance tracking service, in the last few years it has been bringing together its maintenance tracking and engine health monitoring lines into an “aircraft health management” service, something that’s been “a huge change,” says Rob Hillas, CAMP’s director of sales and business development. A single interface is available now via the CAMP AC home page, which gives customers an overview of aircraft health, including aircraft and engine status.
The company tracks maintenance for more than 16,000 aircraft and monitors the health of more than 30,000 engines. CAMP customers’ platforms are primarily business aircraft, but with some regional aircraft, as well.
CAMP owner/operator subscribers and their delegated maintenance providers access CAMP’s services via a Web interface, assisted by hundreds of company maintenance analysts, a service element which CAMP considers a major differentiator. Customer data is cloud-hosted. Meanwhile the company is adding more helicopter functionality to its core product this year, following an agreement with Bell Helicopter last year. Bell chose CAMP as the “sole recommended maintenance tracking provider for all Bell helicopters,” according to a CAMP release. Current Bell Skybooks maintenance tracking customers will have the opportunity to move to CAMP and Skybooks will be phased out.
Continuum Applied Technology
The most recent release, Version 11, of Continuum Applied Technology’s CORRIDOR aviation service software added Tool Crib, Time & Attendance, and Planning & Scheduling modules. Also new is the Austin, Texas, company’s Mobile Mechanic multi-platform app as well as an integration with Alltite Calibration Services, according to Chris Kubinski, business development manager. CORRIDOR is aimed at aftermarket service providers such as MRO shops, FBOs, component shops, operators, and refurbishment centers.
Released in 2015, CORRIDOR Mobile Mechanic enables technicians and supervisors to remotely add, request, or view labor, parts, and services, as well as to perform inspections and signoffs in real time, Kubinski says.
He also emphasizes integration among software providers. The CORRIDOR SDK (software developer’s kit) “exposes key areas of CORRIDOR business logic to allow virtually seamless integration, automation, and extension” of the software, Kubinski says. SDK’s application program interfaces “facilitate integration of CORRIDOR into an expanded IT environment,” opening up opportunities, such as customer access integration, internal data sharing, and data mining. He also notes CORRIDOR’s Maintenance Records Integration module, which allows electronic transfer of “due list” and “completed work items” between CORRIDOR and third-party tracking software like CAMP Systems.
Continuum distinguishes between “foundation” modules, which support standard business processes, and “process” modules that are used to tailor a solution with real-time process transitions and seamless interdepartmental communications. (Mobile Mechanic is part of the foundation suite.)
Component Control boasts a varied customer base and installations in almost 60 countries. Headquartered in San Diego, Component Control serves more than 1,100 companies, the majority of which are third-party repair providers, says Andrew Valley, senior vice president of sales. Also among its customers are parts traders and distributors, as well as FBOs and companies that combine some of these functions. Recent additions include Air Atlanta Avia Services and CRS Jet Spares. Other users include AJW Technique. One differentiator, Valley notes, is relatively high revenue per capita search the data, list your inventory, and send requests for quotes, Valley says. “If you want to show up first or second or in the top five, you can sponsor a group of part numbers—it’s like a Google ad.”
Pentagon 2000 Software
Pentagon 2000 Software supports operators, MRO firms, component MROs, repair management, defense contractors, and brokers/distributors, according to Kirk Baugher, executive vice president of business development. Headquartered in New York City, the company has offices in North America, Europe/Middle East, and Asia Pacific. Among customers listed on its Web site are Fokker, Boeing, Sikorsky, Bell Helicopter, Airbus Military, EADS, HEICO Aerospace, and UPS. The company has released Version 9 of its PENTAGON 2000SQL product.
There is an extensive core system along with numerous additional modules. The system “incorporates the broadest set of functionality in the industry to support fleet management, flight operations, aircraft recordkeeping, maintenance, repairs, exchanges, materials, and mobile apps,” Baugher says. Key differentiators are the software’s interfaces to service providers such as ILS, Aviall, IIHS Haystack, partslogistics.com, Locatory, Fipart, CTA-FOS, SPEC2000, and Aeroxchange, he says.
Headquartered in the UK, TracWare recently opened an office in Australia to support its 11 customers there and those in China. Among its 2015 implementations are two sites in China for joint ventures between two large OEMs – one based in China and the other in the U.S. The company’s AeroTrac software is primarily aimed at small to medium-sized aircraft operators, maintenance facilities, and engine/ component MROs.
The latest version of AeroTrac – AeroTrac Platinum v2.50 – was released in Q4 of 2015, and 15 customers already have upgraded. TracWare describes its product as MRO process control software that is designed to control specific commercial, technical, logistical, and financial MRO processes. Among its competitors are Rusada, Ramco, Commsoft, Component Control, and Pentagon 2000.
The new release features a front-end refresh and the integration of an increasing variety of Web-based apps that can be used on tablet devices to augment the functionality of the main application. TracWare, for example, has launched AeroSector– an Electronic Flight Tech Log app which is independent of (but fully integrates with) AeroTrac v2.50.
The evolution of AeroTrac reflects the ever-growing demands of the small to medium-sized OEMS, the MROs, and the airworthiness authorities, according to TracWare. “Customers have emphasized the benefits of having an embedded, fully integrated Quality Management module and a Planning Manager tool for improved use of resources.”
Swiss AviationSoftware, developer of the AMOS maintenance application, is part of the Lufthansa Group. Customers include airlines, such as Etihad Airways, and MROs, such as Taiwan’s EGAT.
AMOS 10 includes a front-end refresh with the addition of widget functions like customer-tailored dashboards and a cleaner structure of the menu and status bar, according to the company. The company also has launched features related to the management of new generation aircraft, multi-entity functions, multi-operator support and special control dimensions.
Unlike many aviation maintenance software companies, Florida- based Decision Software Systems (DSS), provider of AvPro software, also serves markets such as medical/surgical, wholesale distribution, manufacturing, and retail. AvPro’s primary aviation focus is business fleets, government fleet maintenance, small charter airlines, and MRO and repair stations.
Modules can be purchased stand-alone or integrated with DSS’s accounting software. An AvPro software license also can be purchased outright “for use in perpetuity.” AvPro can run in a client/server environment or be cloud-hosted as a software service.
Recent updates include the ability to run as a hosted Web application, the handling of multiple foreign currencies in purchasing and receiving inventory parts, and support for partial billings on large in-process work orders.