No fault findings drop under Bombardier program

 - May 16, 2011, 10:40 PM

Bombardier’s product support operation has spent the past year tackling one of the more difficult problems facing aircraft manufacturers, the no fault found issue. As a result of these efforts, Bombardier now offers a guarantee that if a part arrives inoperative (dead on arrival), the operator will not have to pay to ship it back to Bombardier or for labor to replace the part.

Components that are returned by operators as defective then tested and found not to have faults have long bedeviled manufacturers, and, said James Hoblyn, Bombardier’s president of customer services, “that drives a lot of frustration.” The year-long effort pulled together a multifunctional initiative, he said. On each of the Bombardier business aircraft platforms, the company identified the top 10 worst performing components. “And we’re working hard to drive down the rate of no fault founds,” Hoblyn said. “It’s complex. It’s a whole circle of misfortune.”

The complexity that drives no fault found issues involves troubleshooting tools, education of all parties involved, communicating good information about the component to the supplier that makes it and the supplier’s actions when running bench tests. “We’ve made such good progress, we felt confident enough to put out a guarantee,” he said.

While Bombardier has made great progress in the no fault found issue, Hoblyn isn’t satisfied. “We still have a lot of components that have high no fault found rates,” he said. “It’s not unusual to have some in the 40- to 50-percent range, which is unacceptable.” For the top 10 in each platform (Global, Challenger, Learjet), Bombardier’s goal is to cut that rate to below 25 percent. “We’ve managed to achieve that on many components, but we don’t have the problem licked yet.”

Part of the problem causing no fault found returns is that so many components contain electronics and software. “As soon as bits and bytes are involved,” Hoblyn said, “they become particularly quirky when cold-soaked.” A lot of problems occur, too, where components interface with each other, and it is often difficult to recreate the exact conditions that existed when the fault occurred.

SmartFix Troubleshoots

The tools that Bombardier is using to eliminate no fault found problems include its SmartFix Plus troubleshooting system, holding suppliers more accountable and working with customers to communicate more information about the original fault. SmartFix Plus is an online troubleshooting tool accessible by customers, service centers and Bombardier personnel.

The tool contains detailed information about components, including drawings, schematics and 3-D views as well as all the issues that can happen and troubleshooting procedures for those issues. “As new issues arise, we update the tool,” he said. “It’s an ongoing process. We learn from it.” Bombardier is developing an iPad-accessible version of SmartFix Plus and plans to show what that looks like at its EBACE stand (7011).

Operators are a big part of helping eliminate no fault found problems, and Bombardier asks them to fill out an online worksheet with details about the component failure. “Most customers do that willingly,” he said.

Holding suppliers accountable involves two factors: fixing unreliable components and improving bench testing procedures to more accurately replicate the problem. “By giving them the data [on the problem],” Hoblyn said, “we can embarrass them into action. If a component has a 60-percent no fault found rate, there’s only so much you can do to blame the customer.”

Another part of the new guarantee program is that Bombardier won’t charge a restocking fee when it recommends a part to solve an AOG situation and that part turns out not to be needed. “If it doesn’t resolve the fault,” he said, “then we don’t charge any fees. That’s all part of providing great service.”