This week, Aviation Week’s flagship event ‘MRO Americas’ is taking place in Dallas, Texas, bringing aviation professionals and key organisations together to discuss the latest trends, new products and what the future aviation market might look like.
Some of the topics outlined in the agenda include: big data, predictive analytics, challenges in the supply chain, next-generation engines and component and maintenance management.
Therefore this week, we’re going to be shining a spotlight on one of these core areas of interest: ‘Big Data’!
Now that there’s a mass of new data available to airlines and third party maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) providers, we will discuss how it might affect the future aviation industry, looking at key benefits and challenges.
So what exactly is ‘Big Data’?
Unsurprisingly the term ‘Big Data’ has become somewhat of a buzzword within the aviation industry as more advanced products enter the market, with organisations such as engine manufacturers leading the way by generating unbelievable amounts of data in a bid to improve their offering, as well as operational efficiency for customers.
However, managing the wealth of data that is now available is quite the task and according to consulting firm, Oliver Wyman, the global fleet could generate up to 98,000,000 terabytes of data by 2026.
The firm recently released its ‘MRO Survey 2016’ stating that: “this surge of data, in the hands of a new breed of data scientists and innovative management teams, could lead to major changes in how modern aircraft are cared for and perform”.
And its these modern aircraft that are significantly contributing to the amount of data the industry now has access to, because of the advanced reporting systems that are featured on board next-generation products, which generate ‘Big Data’.
But does the industry know how to best utilise the newfound information that is available to them?
While managing and analysing the data effectively could prove to be highly beneficial to aviation companies and the future aviation market, it is still a relatively new world and airlines for one are treading carefully.
At present it is OEMs like GE Aviation that are becoming masters of mass data, while the rest of the industry is still learning what it means for them and how much they want to, and can afford to, invest in it.
For example, on Monday (April 4), GE announced that its new ‘TrueChoice Product Suite’ has been developed thanks to the company’s “emerging capability and experience with using data and analytics”, with the aim to offer new insights to its customers to help reduce maintenance stress and service disruptions.
The Oliver Wyman report also supports the idea that engine OEMs are often the first to take action and explains that the most common application of Aircraft Health Monitoring (AHM) is engine condition monitoring, among the 56% of survey participants that said they used AHM for some or all of their aircraft.
The challenges of using ‘Big Data’ effectively
While large amounts of data are certainly welcomed by the industry, because of the valuable insight it can provide, knowing how best to log and utilise it is a challenge in itself.
For example, the Oliver Wyman MRO Survey 2016 highlights that new on board data systems “capture reams of data not available from previous-generation aircraft, creating new storage, organisation, and application challenges”.
Plus, extra resources may be required to number crunch the data and analyse how to apply it to existing businesses, which may require upfront investment from a company before the cost-saving benefits really come into play.
And because of the sheer amount of data that is now available to airlines and MROs from next-generation aircraft, operators are perhaps a little cautious about ‘Big Data’ and facing the challenges associated with storing and organising their findings.
The report explains: “many operators report modest big data programmes, reflecting limited readiness for these new challenges. 59% of airline respondents plan to restrict AHM use to small subsets of data, either directly or through a third party, rather than pursuing a broad or comprehensive approach. For those using PM [predictive maintenance], 83% focus on narrow subsets, while only one in five expect to apply predictive techniques to all available data”.
Thus it seems that airlines are pulling the highest impact but most manageable reports or, as previously discussed, they simply don’t have the resources available to manage such ‘big data’.
Certainly, organisations need to think about how they can manage the information and identify what is most relevant to their business and customers. This can then be used to improve internal processes, from flight operations to predictive maintenance.
But as the amount of data increases, companies with legacy IT systems could struggle, which is why more advanced IT systems like the MRO platform ’Envision’ are attractive solutions to airlines and MROs; they provide end-users with a comprehensive tool that can streamline and manage key company information and aid the transfer of data from air to ground more easily.
With Envision, customers are able to clean up their data and utilise it effectively, while benefitting from real-time access to valuable information that allows them to put plans into action immediately.
And, thanks to an extensive suite of data migration tools, the platform can be implemented easily through a controlled installation, with mass data imports that speed up the transition from a legacy system.
How big data and predictive analytics can reduce maintenance costs
Of course, the ‘Big Data’ available from on board sensors can play a part in improving reliability of parts to subsequently reduce costs.
After all, having real-time information and alerts sent from air to ground, supported by systems like Envision, can allow an airline or third party MRO to prepare for shop visits and carry out preventative maintenance at a time that suits them and their existing maintenance plan.
Additionally, through ‘Big Data’, an airline has the ability to carry out predictive analytics, which can make way for prognostic maintenance work rather than diagnostic, thus improving reliability and saving money, once again.
Thus, as more companies understand the true value of ‘Big Data’ and how it can modernise their business processes and compliment fleet modernisation, the industry will benefit from improved, more streamlined maintenance processes.
For example, from its findings, the Oliver Wyman MRO Survey shows that 63% of those (survey participants) who have adopted AHM have experienced a noticeable increase in reliability, while 37% of those who have adopted predictive maintenance have seen a decrease in airframe maintenance costs.