With improved customer service finding new emphasis in many boardrooms–and aftermarket support becoming a growing revenue source–Safran subsidiaries Turbomeca and Sagem Avionics recently unveiled plans that highlight the roles technology can and will play in delivering support services.
Turboshaft manufacturer Turbomeca of Bordes, France, announced at Heli-Expo in February a new customer service portal, Boost (Bank Of Online Services and Technologies), designed to provide a range of à la carte, web-based engine and maintenance management services. Developed with IBM, Boost will include flexible and adjustable service modules such as trend monitoring and advanced troubleshooting tools, and allow operators to manage engine configurations, all customized to the needs and budgets of individual operators.
“We are the only company to offer management of the engine configuration through the Internet, the first OEM to share this capability with customers,” said Franck Saudo, Turbomeca’s general director for operator clients.
The service will be sold through per-engine annual subscription to the company’s SBH (Support by the Hour) customers, and the portal, now in testing, is expected to go live by the end of this year or early next. Pricing has not been set yet.
Subscribing operators will be able to share information with Turbomeca and among themselves, link electronic engine logbooks to the latest version of the IETP, and receive alerts about scheduled maintenance, engine events and new and updated technical publications. Boost can also track maintenance schedules and help ensure stocks of parts and other materials are optimized.
Turbomeca has worked with the EASA and the FAA to ensure Boost’s electronic record keeping and other applications meet all regulatory requirements. Saudo said throughout development the company worked “hand in hand with a team of customers” to ensure the product meets the needs of owners and operators.
At Heli-Expo, Turbomeca demonstrated the system on a large touchscreen monitor at the Safran booth. The interface is simple, the menus easy to navigate, and information presented logically and without clutter. The app presents the operator’s fleet by registration number, and selecting an aircraft brings up information on its engine(s), at which point data can be examined, logbook entries made, or changes in engine operating configurations input. Changing the configuration on Boost simply updates the engine logbook, but Turbocmeca is developing radio frequency identification tab technology that would enable wireless transmission of data between an engine and Boost.
“Our customers have to make difficult [configuration] decisions, and we want to bring our OEM knowledge through the Internet to facilitate these decisions,” said Saudo. “That will bring increased efficiency and safety to their operations, and that’s really what Boost is about.”
At Turbomeca’s annual Heli-Expo press conference, chairman and CEO Olivier Andries identified increasing customer loyalty as one of four strategic pillars of the company’s future growth. Boost is the centerpiece of the added value services component of Turbomeca’s loyalty-building strategy, a pillar the company admits needs buttressing.
“In terms of customer satisfaction, we’re not where we want to be,” said Saudo, who heads Turbomeca’s customer loyalty efforts. He singled out turnaround times on factory engine servicing as an area for improvement, where the company has set a goal of lowering average turnaround time to 50 hours per engine. “We are working on lean transformation of our processes and improving turnaround time,” Saudo said.
Cassiopee Flight Data Monitoring
Sister company Sagem Avionics of Paris launched its own web-based customer support platform, Cassiopee FDM, a global flight-data monitoring service, at the 2011 Paris Air Show, and the company is about to take the service to a new level of utility.
Unlike Boost and the engines it manages, Cassiopee isn’t supporting a product; it is the product. Cassiopee collects flight data and offers a comprehensive range of à la carte, web-based analysis and response services, which, like Boost, can be customized for each customer. With the system’s full capabilities deployed, Sagem analysts can, for example, respond to an engine anomaly while an aircraft is in flight, connecting Sagem’s experts, flight crew and airline company managers in real time, and the anomaly can be re-created, analyzed and diagnosed. Cassiopee has approximately 160 clients, mostly smaller airlines that lack the resources to own the sort of ops centers enjoyed by major airlines.
As embedded sensors make aircraft and engines smarter, the amount of collectible data is growing exponentially and the ability to analyze it is advancing. According to Philippe Arnaud, commercial director of Sagem’s avionics division, an Airbus A320 collects 15,000 to 20,000 different flight parameters on each flight, an A380 collects 150,000 to 350,000 and the new A350 will collect about 1.5 million parameters. Cassiopee provides predictive capability that enables the service to see problems coming and prevent them.
“Anticipating what can go wrong is a completely different approach,” said Arnaud. “This is really a big data management offering. It’s a good way for the end user to guarantee the aircraft will fly the maximum amount of time with the [fewest] problems.”