Lufthansa Technik’s relentless quest for innovation has led it to develop a technical operations Web suite branded “manage/m.” The program enables aircraft operators to control all aspects of their fleets’ technical operations via the Internet.
The last “m” in “manage/m” stands for MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul), and there are already many vendors of software designed to handle the activity’s manifold complexities. Forming a partnership with an information technology vendor has drawbacks, though, commented Alexander Hellman, vice president customer support, at a recent briefing in Frankfurt.
“With an IT partner you give away a lot of work, complexity and investment,” Hellman said. “But you also give away control.” With manage/m, though, the operator has its own platform for managing technical operations, he said, and the transparency of the processes helps ensure quality.
The manage/m suite includes 15 modules to cover all the functions and processes involved in MRO, from m/techlog to record pilot and mechanic defect reports to the m/score quality control function. And access requires no investment in electronic data processing hardware or software, Hellman said–just a laptop computer, a Web browser and Internet access.
Access to the suite is free to LHT’s total technical support (TTS) customers and usually part of the package in other contracts, Hellman said. “The basic intention is not to sell software but to give our customers control and to give Lufthansa Technik the information that enables us to provide our customers with a perfect service.”
Indeed, manage/m is not sold separately, but it will support work by outside agencies, he said. “For example, if a customer with total engine or component support wants to have an airframe check done elsewhere, manage/m can support other people by generating job cards for the check and supplying them over the Internet,” he explained.
Lufthansa Technik started making manage/m available to TTS customers last year and has more than 250 users. It launched the portal that provides access to all the modules earlier this year.
Operators can see only their own database, and can download a copy if they wish, but LHT can compare the performance of components in different airlines. “If one customer’s wheels and brakes are well below average we can help them analyze the cause,” Hellman said. LHT staff have to specify the customer they are working for. “It was part of the design philosophy that the database is sectioned so you can’t jump from one operator’s data to another.”
Once a customer signs an MRO contract with Lufthansa Technik, the data required to access the system is made available. The manage/m modules are tailored to fit the specific services contracted, and once the contract is effective, the access authorization is issued.
One aspect of the application of manage/m to Lufthansa’s own Boeing 747-400 fleet is the use of the m/condition module to analyze maintenance codes downloaded from all the airplanes’ central maintenance computers via the ACARS datalink.
Usually the screens showing the codes are monitored by one mechanic and one avionics specialist, who can initiate preparations to remedy a fault before the airplane lands.
The m/condition module also stores and analyzes data from the engine condition monitoring system, which is transmitted automatically to the LHT computer center along with takeoff data and any additional data requested by the base or sent by the pilot. Once the airplane is in the hangar, the m/jobcard module generates the cards for the required maintenance. These can be exported in print, e-mail or pdf format or as XML files for use by another system.
Dr. Zhangzheng Yu, director of manage/m, said time to market is a key element of the suite. “No software needs to be installed on the customer’s equipment. All we do is release the modules over the Internet. This means in effect that manage/m is completely ready to go. For example, it provides the IT functions to enable a start-up airline to get its flight operations up and running in a very short time, with Lufthansa Technik assisting as technical services provider.”
Hellman cited the example of Pulkovo Airlines, which started operations with five Boeing 737s in July 2005, three months after signing a contract with Lufthansa Technik. “The airline was preoccupied with aircraft selection, obtaining airport slots, financing and leasing,” Hellman said. “The other half of the picture is support–training and qualification, approval of the maintenance program, organization of line maintenance, inventory prediction, engineering and AOG support.”
LHT handled all the support requirements, including the provision of licensed engineers at Pulkovo Airport. Aircraft delivery started June 25, scheduled flights started July 1 and by July 19 all flights were operating routinely as scheduled.
Another customer waited until just four weeks before it would have to stop flying its aging Russian Tupolevs to enlist LHT’s assistance. “They had Airbus A320s but no support,” Hellman recalled, “so they asked us to help and we did it–but for a premium.”