Well, faithful readers, last week certainly did go by fast. It probably went by the most rapidly for those of you attending MRO Europe, which starts on Tuesday in Madrid! There are actually three main events—The MRO Europe Conference & Exhibition, the MRO Europe Military Conference and the Composites Repair Management Forum.
From the looks of Twitter, you are all getting pretty excited. Let me give you some information about the show and then we will switch gears to talk with this week’s guest blogger, Mxi Technologies (@MxiTechnologies). When the folks there told me this week that they have officially released the “MRO Cloud,” I jumped at the chance to interview them about it. It is a great read, so stay tuned. They will be at booth #716 in Madrid, so be sure to stop by and see some of their interactive Maintenix demonstrations.
Remember last week I said that I would reward the most active #MROE tweeters? Well, it looks like @GEAviation and @KristenKalonick and @DeltaTechOps are winning the challenge so far. I’ll be interested to see how the tag looks next week when everyone steps off of their widebody jets and onto the winding electronic walkways of Barajas. Keep up the good tweets – we will be retweeting the best of them.
MADRID: LA TIERRA DEL SOL, y MRO
For those of you who are going to MRO Europe, here is a quick rundown of some key facts to make your exhibition lives a little bit easier.
Just like at #MROAM, we will be hosting an MRO Europe microsite updated daily here at Aviationweek.com. Just go to http://www.aviationweek.com/mro11 next week, and the page will be updated with news, daily agendas of the conference offerings, blogs a twitter wall. Here you will also be able to see the Show News briefing that our staff puts together each day at the event.
Here's what last year's page looked like:
O&M Editor-In-Chief Lee Ann Tegtmeier (@AvWeekMRO) will be meeting with executives, attending the conference and touring the exhibition when she gets a chance to breathe. I’m sure she would love it if you said hello.
Robert Wall (R_Wall), Aviation Week’s International Editor, will be covering defense MRO news. Be sure to look at his tweets and breaking news updates also.
Our online commercial community manager Rupa (@AvWeekRupa) and I (@AvWeekKristin) will be scouring our twitter feeds for the #MROE and #AVMRO tags to help support our busy reporters on the ground. Are there any other tags that we should be following?
If you have questions for Lee Ann or Robert at the show, please tweet at us also. That way we can pass on your messages about breaking news, pictures of your snazzy booths in the exhibition hall, or whatever else is on your mind.
Our editorial staff could only do this event with the help of our great events team, which will be available throughout the show to answer your logistical questions about which rooms to go to, what time to start setting up your booth and how to get your powerpoint presentation up on the projector. @AvWeekHelen and @AWyss will be wearing their silver name tags in the exhibition hall and they will be ready to take your questoins.
The events team has put together a great MRO Europe informational web site where you can download white papers, check out the conference agenda and read more about the keynote speakers. What topics are you most excited about at the conference?
#SoMe STRATEGY AT #MROE
Rupa and Helen, I’m hoping you can tell us more about what kind of social media strategy you are envisioning for this show. Will there be twitter walls like at #MROAM or any new features that our readers should know about? Please comment with your ideas about how to blow last year’s social media turnout out of the water.
THE SILVER LINING: MXI TECHNOLGIES SPEAKS
Mxi Technologies is a great guest blogger this week, and we’d like to thank Jeff Cass, CTO and Trisha Cooke, Director of Marketing for offering thoughtful responses to the questions I threw at them. They announced this week that they have officially launched Maintenix training in the cloud. Two customers have been training with the cloud version so far, and one more is coming in the next few weeks.
Mxi has been one of the strongest voices in the MRO industry concerning the importance of the cloud, and they explain why in this interview. For a bit of background information, check out Mxi CTO Jeff Cass discussing how cloud computing will change the MRO industry at the SITA Air Transport IT Summit (@SITANAM).
Q. Mxi regularly updates its news via Twitter and has an active presence on LinkedIn. When did the company start to form its social media presence and what is the importance of your Mxi maintaining network profiles on these sites? Can you tell us about who updates your social media profiles and give us some insight into your social media policy?
Mxi started to form our social media presence in early 2009. For us, social media offers greater opportunity for engagement across the board. From discussion and product forums to Company news and updates, we believe in leveraging technology to better service our customers and stay involved in the community. Using various tools also allows us to reach out in a way that is relevant to their experience – it’s important to have that balance between traditional and new media allowing the community to get information in a way of their choosing.
In addition to professional networking, LinkedIn is another platform that allows us to connect with the customer community and prospective customers. Building out our customer community and facilitating collaboration is extremely important to us and to that end we have a dedicated customer portal and have leveraged LinkedIn to create an online discussion group where our customers can share their experiences and best practices, as well as address questions to the larger customer base.
With regards to Twitter, it’s a great tool to get news about our company and products out into the market. Helping support and develop an active community of MRO enthusiasts online is very important to Mxi.
Q. Social media and cloud computing are both relatively new concepts to the MRO industry. When it comes to the way that people interact with each other in an industry, do you think that these two areas have anything in common? Are they two completely different concepts or are there similarities?
There are definitely some similarities, but they are inherently different. Social media is in the public interest, where the Cloud is being leveraged for more specific applications centered around defined communities – think of OneWorld, Star Alliance, etc… However, within these specific community Clouds, you will see a level of collaboration and shared best practices that parallels the social media experience.
Q. At the SITA Air Transport IT Summit, Mxi CTO Jeff Cass says that cloud computing is transforming the way that MROs will operate. He also says that there will be a real “need for change” in the industry to accommodate the cloud. Can you give some examples of the ways that MROs are readying themselves for the cloud and these changes that they will have to make?
What we’re seeing is a natural evolution where new or progressive business models are necessitating the introduction of Cloud-based services. Historically, it would not be uncommon to see MROs use multiple MRO systems as that was how the contracts were structured, maintenance would be done and recorded in the individual customer’s system — this causes obvious inefficiencies. However, the nature of MRO contracts today, which require the MRO and the customer to use the same system, will organically signal the advent of the Cloud for aviation maintenance. An example of this is Boeing’s Goldcare, which is in essence creating a community Cloud for operators of the 787.
Q. Cass said in his presentation slides that “the commercial airline MRO sector is so far from a cloud mentality that I am not sure why I am here.” Surely this was somewhat in jest. But truthfully, why does Mxi see MRO organizations being so far behind the curve when adopting new technology? And what exactly is the technology that you want to see them embrace?
A number of airlines today are still operating internally-built systems that have been around for decades and even some of the “modern” MRO software platforms available on the market today are built on client-server technology. The incentive to make IT a priority in an airline’s maintenance operations just isn’t there yet. However, that being said, there are a number of airlines that have recognized that business efficiencies aren’t solely enabled by IT in front-end operations and that there are tangible benefits to be made by addressing efficiencies and business process change in the maintenance organization. To that end, Mxi Technologies works with our existing and prospective customers towards developing current and future standard best practices for aviation maintenance and modeling that experience in the Maintenix software.
When identifying a new MRO solution, so many airlines take the approach of identifying a long list of requirements when there is so much more to be gained from identifying how it is that you want your business to run and then how IT can support this.
Q. From your experience, what are the questions that MROs ask the most about investing in cloud-based software?
We’re not seeing a lot of questions right now. It’s really just something that the industry is only starting to see as possible. We expect that as more industries adopt the Cloud as part of their business solution and as the technology solutions mature, we’ll start to see more interest from the MRO industry.
Q. Mxi just introduced its cloud-based instance of its Maintenix software, which uses the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud to enhance traditional computer-based training services that Mxi already offers. Can you tell our Teardown readers about users’ reaction to the Cloud-based version and how it makes training easier?
The reaction to Cloud-based training has been positive. The majority of the feedback that we’re receiving is that course participants can’t tell the difference between the training environment and an actual instance of Maintenix – which is a very good thing. In simulating a true-to-life environment with production software we’re able to provide our customers with a training experience that is better reflective of their individual use of the software. The benefit of the Cloud is that we’re more flexible in offering different training scenarios to a virtually unlimited number of users anywhere in the world.
Q. Where did Mxi turn to for inspiration when it looked to bring the Cloud to MRO? Did you look at any specific people, projects or companies that were implementing cloud services in non-aviation industries and getting good results? If so, what can the MRO industry learn from those influences outside of our industry?
With regards to inspiration, I think that Amazon is a visionary in Cloud computing and Salesforce is an obvious leader in leveraging the possibilities of the Cloud. While the MRO industry isn’t currently using the Cloud, I think that they will benefit immeasurably from the experience of these early adopters.
Again, the MRO industry needs to look to the business problems that they’re trying to solve and what role IT can and will play in the solution. For some, that will mean adoption of the Cloud.
Q. David Cox points out in your industry discussion paper that legacy systems have safety challenges of their own, but people also bring up safety risks of cloud-based services. Do you think that safety in the cloud is a concern that MROs are concerned about? Should they be?
The concerns we’ve heard about the Cloud center on the issues of security, availability, and performance.
At Mxi, safety and security has always been a key piece in the development of the Maintenix software. When MRO does move to the Cloud it’s something that we’ll be ready for. In reference to availability and performance, it’s more of a wait and see approach. I’d expect that the MRO community will benefit from the strides made by other highly-regulated industries (i.e banking, heathcare) as more and more applications become Cloud-based.
Q. What is Mxi’s long-term outlook for offering cloud-based services? Will you try to bring the cloud-based instance of Maintenix for training to other areas and are you seeing any demand from MROs to do so?
We’ll continue to have an open dialogue with our customers and our partners about leveraging the Cloud for MRO software deployment, but it’s not something that we can push on the industry. Right now there are a number of airlines that are just starting to look at MRO system replacement and it may be early days for adding the Cloud as part of the overall solution. Again, I believe that the arrival of the Cloud will follow a natural progression.
Mxi is dedicated to innovation in our products and our services offerings and while the industry readies itself for this technology, using Maintenix in the Cloud for training purposes is a good starting point for us to explore the possibilities.