Significantly, the airline decided to put all its MRO data into the ATA Spec 2000 format. “No one had done that for all their systems and data,” Butterfield notes. “Their systems were not as broken as ours had been. We did it for every system, because we wanted all our systems to talk to each other in the same industry standard language. Then we can innovate for the next 20 years.”
The project, begun about 18 months ago, is nearly complete. Data on Embraers, Boeing 777s, Airbus narrowbodies and maintenance tooling has been converted. Remaining are supply chain and Boeing 767 data, which Butterfield expects to have done by February 2013.
The carrier already has been reaping rewards. “Now we have hyperlinked data on parts, the applicability of parts, the MRO program, manuals and work plans,” Butterfield emphasizes. “We have all the information you need feeding into the main Trax system.”
One result of data standardization is that Air Canada is now the world's leading user of Aeroxchange, even though it is hardly the world's biggest airline and it has not begun yet to buy exclusively on the electronic exchange, as it plans to do.
“I get work orders and all the data on repairs,” Butterfield says. “If the No Fault Found rate is high, I can look at the fault isolation manual [FIM], talk to mechanics, go back to the shops or change the FIM. There are lots of opportunities to lower MRO costs and do things right the first time.” The carrier can change its basic MRO processes and write the changes into Trax.
Industry-standardized MRO data means Air Canada also can innovate in cooperation with its suppliers, which must be able to communicate in Spec 2000 format. Instead of waiting for his engineering department to drive innovation, Butterfield can now let suppliers, who have all the data, do the hard work of developing improvements. Air Canada engineers merely approve and learn from these changes.
These gains did not come easy. “It was a huge effort,” Butterfield admits. Three-quarters of the cost was commitment of people to the project, cleaning and converting old data. It will require two years for 200 aircraft, even after writing 43 scripts to automate as much conversion as possible.
The business case for adopting Trax and data standardization was partly based on the need for much better configuration control and avoiding the expense of maintaining 84 old IT systems. “We had to resurrect people to program for them,” Butterfield remembers. Payback was estimated at 48 months; “not fast,” but good enough to go ahead. And the best parts are still in the future. “We will be able to innovate much faster,” he predicts.