Aeronautics industry and CMMS
Thursday 10 december 2020
Aircraft maintenance remains exemplary to this day, and all the actors involved demonstrate an exceptional level of professionalism and rigor, resulting in a limited number of disasters.
In this article, we will see how CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System) software is the essential solution for monitoring maintenance operations, optimizing the preventive maintenance strategy, and consequently, ensuring that flying aircraft and airport equipment and facilities are always in good working order.
AERONAUTICAL MAINTENANCE, OBJECTIVES & STRATEGY
Aircraft maintenance activities are qualified by the term "Maintenance Repair and Overhaul" (MRO). It is the set of maintenance activities of the sector (regulatory, mandatory and periodic) generally divided into 4 categories:
- Maintenance level A: must be carried out every month
- Maintenance level B: must be performed every 3 months
- Maintenance level C: must be carried out every year
- Maintenance level D: must be performed every 4-5 years
Aeronautical MRO mainly concerns runway maintenance, main structure maintenance, engine maintenance, and component and equipment maintenance.
So what are the objectives and strategy of this maintenance?
The objectives of maintenance
The main objective of aviation maintenance, and more specifically aircraft maintenance, is to keep aircraft flying for as long as possible. To do this, the ATA (Air Transport Association of America) published the MSG-3 standard in 1980. This standard establishes a planned maintenance program for all new aircraft models before they enter commercial service and defines four regular, effective and measurable maintenance objectives:
- Ensure that the inherent safety and reliability requirements of the aircraft are met
- In the event of damage, restore safety and reliability to their optimal level
- Obtain the data needed to improve the design and reliability of components
- Achieve these objectives at the lowest possible total cost, taking into account maintenance and downtime costs
The MSG-3 standard recognizes that regular maintenance alone cannot correct inherent deficiencies in aircraft safety and reliability system design. Routine maintenance can only prevent aircraft deterioration. If their assessment is deemed unsatisfactory, then design changes will be required.
For maintenance technicians, the main challenge is to keep aircraft airworthy without any interruption, or at the very least, to keep their downtime to a minimum. As this maintenance must take place during stopovers, it is indeed preferable not to perform maintenance operations while the aircraft is in flight 😉.
So, how should an aircraft be maintained?
According to the objectives established by the authorities and the process defined by MSG-3, the aviation industry applies the following strategies:
- Redundancy strategy: this means that all the essential functions of the aircraft can be performed by different systems, with a functioning device being able to automatically and instantaneously replace a defective component. Thus, redundancy is built into the design into the aircraft's systems and components, so that a system failure will not affect the airworthiness of the aircraft. Maintenance of these elements must be carried out as regularly as possible. Some modern aircraft have up to seven levels of redundancy on their key components.
On the other hand, this strategy will considerably increase the initial cost of the aircraft, its maintenance and the level of unused inventory by the operator. As a result, this strategy is only available for a limited number of components such as radios, radars, GPS, braking systems, etc., and is only available for a limited number of components.
- Line Replaceable Unit (LRU) strategy: this is the set of components that can be replaced very quickly when they are defective. It should be noted that the failure of one of these units does not affect the aircraft's flight capability and that monitoring of these modules is carried out continuously. This strategy therefore makes it possible to perform maintenance operations while the aircraft is in service. This does not mean that the aircraft is in flight, but that it is parked on the airlift or about to turn around for another flight. Therefore, the Line Maintenance Engineer does not perform the repair on site, he only replaces the defective part and sends the out-of-service or defective item to the shop, which will take care of the repair in a second step. As new aircraft are designed according to modular concepts, this strategy is increasingly being advocated.
- Minimum Equipment List (MEL) strategy: This is the list of equipment that must be in working order to authorize the aircraft's navigation. In fact, it is not mandatory that all the components of an aircraft must be in working order for it to fly safely. The strategy around this list is to help plan and carry out troubleshooting and maintenance operations in a more targeted manner. This list is issued by the OME (Original Equipment Manufacture) and must be approved by local regulatory authorities.
It is the combination of these three strategies that enables the operator to maintain the aircraft in flight capability, comply with regulations and reduce unplanned downtime.
The success of an aircraft maintenance strategy depends essentially on the implementation of maintenance monitoring, and that is why CMMS is indispensable to the industry.
A CMMS TO ENSURE THE MAINTENANCE STRATEGY
A Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) application, which centralizes and processes all the data, will guarantee a complete follow-up of each aircraft, define their maintenance needs and provide an anticipated view of maintenance and downtime times.
Monitoring of maintenance operations
The CMMS software provides access to all the information needed to manage equipment maintenance. From a fixed or mobile workstation, managers and technicians can access and add information in real time, thanks to features such as:
Equipment life cycle: Aircraft are described and recorded in the software with several levels of sub-equipment. Thus, maintenance teams have access to this data and can directly view the characteristics and number of sub-equipment, updated after each operation. This feature optimizes the redundancy strategy because it offers a tracking of the equipment and all its components. The LME can be viewed immediately, and files relating to parts (drawings, manuals, etc.) can be added to the CMMS, resulting in a better level of information on the specifics of each piece of equipment and each part. Considerable time savings are obtained by the direct collection of data, their automated processing making it possible to continuously enrich the knowledge base.
Intervention planning: intervention planning will considerably reduce unforeseen downtime, helping to organize and in particular synchronize the maintenance schedule with the flight schedule.
Intervention history: Lists all the maintenance operations carried out on an aircraft. This module particularly responds to the LRU strategy by providing access to a history of failures. Thus, the maintenance department will focus more on a part that has already recorded several failures, for example.
Equipment photo library: Photographs can be taken directly during an intervention to feed the digital maintenance logbook of each component.
Beyond the follow-up of maintenance interventions, the software also allows :
Stocks and supplies
Each technician has access to different stock levels. It is possible to define the minimum stock level, to record stock movements from the warehouse to the technician or from the technician to the aircraft. Orders for items can also be made from within the application. On the CMMS software, it is possible to directly remove an item from the stock to attach it to a piece of equipment, it then automatically becomes a sub-equipment. Thus, spare parts management is optimized, data is up to date and maintenance technicians have access to references and items previously used.
Customized or regulatory forms are completed by the technician on his mobile application and saved in the CMMS. Recording, archiving and attachment to each part of the device are carried out automatically and this information is accessible at any time.
CMMS allows the creation of maintenance ranges and associated maintenance plans for easy implementation and management of preventive maintenance. The rate of breakdowns or failures will be significantly reduced and the fulfillment of the maintenance obligations of the MRO from level A to D will be successfully achieved.
Every day, the aviation industry is increasing its efforts to optimize and develop increasingly effective maintenance strategies. Today, onboard sensor networks on aircraft are capable of collecting a massive amount of technical data specifying the state of health of each monitored component. This data is directly transmitted and centralized in the CMMS software. The best tools now have powerful algorithms capable of digesting and analyzing this mass of information, so future maintenance operations can be constantly refined. Even if this approach is not totally new, it is now finally made possible by the increase in computer processing capacities. This is the era of 4.0 maintenance.
By the way, our ambition is to offer an unparalleled user experience. Check it out right away: try CMMS for free. Within 2 minutes, the time it takes to create your account, you'll discover what's newest in this category of software.
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Good discovery and see you soon!
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