Optimizing Aircraft Maintenance Operations using a Document-driven DSS

by Documentum Staff


BFGoodrich (BFG) Aerospace, a subsidiary of BFGoodrich, is the world's largest independent aircraft repair station. It can equip or service virtually any aircraft in the world. Over the years, BFG Aerospace has earned a reputation for reliable repairs and rapid turnaround. To improve its efficiency in performing non-routine aircraft maintenance, the Airframe Services Division turned to Documentum. With Documentum and an innovative Java application, BFG Aerospace is experiencing remarkable results: a reduction in the turnaround time for these unexpected repairs from weeks to days.

Decision Support Challenge -- Optimizing Maintenance Operations

For owners of freight or passenger aircraft, every hour on the ground means lost revenues. FAA guidelines dictate schedules for routine aircraft maintenance, but unexpected delays occur when non-routine maintenance issues are found during maintenance. There are no approved procedures in standard aircraft maintenance documentation for non-routine repairs. Mechanics rely on BFG Engineering to draft the repair documents. In these instances, the causes of delays are paper-based.

The process begins when mechanics submit an Engineering Support Request (ESR) and supporting information to the Engineering group, which responds with an Engineering Repair (ER) procedure. Before the repair can be scheduled, the customer must approve the ER. Engineering may consult with the manufacturer before issuing the ER and, in some cases, FAA approval is required. When relying on paper and manual workflow, it could take several weeks to complete these processes. Too often, the loss of faxed or hand-delivered paper requests contributed to unnecessary, and costly, delays.

Today, BFG Aerospace is eliminating these delays and optimizing its maintenance operations through an automated workflow system known as AirFLOW. A critical AirFLOW component is a Java application developed by Creative Consulting Corporation (CCC) of Boulder, CO, that integrates JavaStation terminals in repair bays with Documentum. Mechanics today submit ESRs from these terminals, which operate like bank ATM machines. Documentum then manages the ESRs, as well as the ERs that result from them and all related workflows. These compound documents consist of many document types such as TIFF files, scanned drawings and JPEG images. Documentum manages all of them. In addition to leveraging Documentum's robust versioning and security of all business-critical maintenance documents, AirFLOW also enables electronic sign-off of approved ERs. This ensures data integrity by eliminating any chance of modifying an ER once it has been approved.

Involving aircraft mechanics in this automated workflow process required a unique integration of Documentum with what is essentially a dumb terminal. "These mechanics are experts at fixing airplanes; they don't know computers," says Bob Aidun, CCC president. "Configuring a standard browser interface was not an option." To create ESRs, mechanics first scan their employee badges and work cards into bar code readers connected to several legacy databases for data validation. Once this information is validated, the AirFLOW system assigns a work order number and employee number to the related ESR. These two numbers are among the more than 200 project attributes stored and managed in Documentum.

For the Engineering department, Documentum is proving to be a valuable tool. Engineers rely on Documentum to manage all documents and workflows and to create reports such as the status of all jobs in progress. Through the Documentum scripting language, BFG Aerospace has been able to customize Documentum to meet its requirements. "The fact that the Documentum scripting language is similar to Visual Basic makes it very easy to use," says Hugh Sullivan, BFG Aerospace systems developer. "This tool together with Documentum's tight integration with Microsoft Word really simplified our deployment."

Decision Support Solution -- Open Architecture, Many Applications

Management of ESRs and ERs is the first of many Documentum applications that will improve productivity throughout BFG Aerospace. Sullivan says that the open architecture makes it is easy to extend Documentum to many departments, and for many different purposes. For AirFLOW, new users will include the engineering modification group that schedules aircraft modifications, and customers. Already, one BFG Aerospace customer participates in ER workflows. Future planned Documentum deployments outside of AirFLOW include an authoring and version control system for repair station manuals. With this solution, BFG Aerospace will be able to centrally manage these documents and automatically publish them via the Web.

Documentum use won't be restricted to engineering. Human resources, shipping and receiving, and legal are other areas where Documentum can improve key business processes. Like those for engineering, these new applications will help BFG Aerospace gain a business advantage from managing dynamic documents and sharing valuable knowledge.

Decision Support Benefits Summary

The decision support challenge was to improve turnaround time for completing non-routine aircraft maintenance. Successfully addressing that challenge resulted in the following benefits for BFG Aerospace.

  • Reduces the turnaround time for non-routine maintenance from weeks to days
  • Dramatically improves the flow and control of business-critical engineering documents
  • Makes a document easier to locate, and improves version control
  • Creates a foundation for sharing valuable maintenance knowledge, inside and outside the organization, via the Web

About Goodrich

BFG Aerospace is the world's largest independent aircraft repair station. It is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, with 180 facilities across 20 countries. In 2001, BFGoodrich exited the specialty chemicals business completing its transformation to a leading aerospace and industrial products company. BFGoodrich changed its corporate name to the Goodrich Corporation to "reflect the growing, dynamic company it had become". For more information about Goodrich Corporation go to www.goodrich.com.

About Documentum

Documentum provides enterprise content management (ECM) solutions that enable organizations to unite teams, content and associated business processes. Documentum's integrated set of content, compliance and collaboration solutions support the way people work, from initial discussion and planning through design, production, marketing, sales, service and corporate administration. With a single platform, Documentum enables people to collaboratively create, manage, deliver and archive the content that drives business operations, from documents and discussions to email, Web pages, records and rich media. The Documentum platform makes it possible for companies to distribute all of this content in multiple languages, across internal and external systems, applications and user communities. As a result, Documentum's customers, which include thousands of the world's most successful organizations, harness corporate knowledge, accelerate time to market, increase customer satisfaction, enhance supply chain efficiencies and reduce operating costs, improving their overall competitive advantage. For more information about Documentum go to www.documentum.com.

Questions for Analysis and Discussion

  1. What decision support technologies are used?
  2. Do you agree that a Document-driven DSS was implemented?
  3. Is submitting an Engineering Support Request (ESR) a transaction? Does it initiate a design and decision process?
  4. What is a workflow? Is the term synonmous with a business process?
  5. What was most likely the problem with "old" process?
  6. What caused the change in technology?
  7. How successful has the new DSS and technology change been?
  8. What is the most important claimed benefit of the new system?
  9. Do you anticipate any problems with the system? If so, explain them.

David De Jear, Senior Manager, Documentum Corporate Communications, provided permission to use this case study on April 14, 2003. De Jear's email address is david.dejear@documentum.com. This case study was posted at DSSResources.COM on May 17, 2003.

Please cite as:

Documentum Staff, "Optimizing Aircraft Maintenance Operations using a Document-driven DSS", Documentum, 2001, at URL DSSResources.COM.

This case study is provided for informational purposes only. DSSResources.COM makes no warranties, express or implied, about this case summary.