March 18, 2013
Henry Canaday Washington
Automating aircraft maintenance data has proven a long and difficult process. “No solution does it all,” is the one recognized rule. Some major airlines, especially in North America, have continued to patch legacy systems like Maxi-Merlin and Sceptre. But new aircraft, massive increases in data burdens, and the pressure for regulatory compliance are prompting most to look for new solutions.
Airlines appear to be turning more toward best-of-breed maintenance solutions, rather than enterprise resource-planning (ERP) systems with maintenance capabilities. Trax and AMOS have been racking up big customer counts among airlines recently, and numbers matter as they give companies both experience and a larger user base to justify investment.
Airlines rarely have sufficient spare staff that are expert in both MRO and IT to manage a major IT transformation. That is one problem with trying to assemble a solution from among the best applications. And the best often are produced by modestly sized IT firms, not exactly what major corporations are comfortable with.
Beyond airlines, the rest of the aviation ecosystem—original equipment manufacturers, shops and distributors—also has its own often very specialized needs. The biggest companies, OEMs, have greater funds and management resources. But the ecosystem also includes small companies that, like airlines, can be hard-pressed to manage a major IT transformation.
Maintenance-management solutions differ substantially in their depth and breadth. Some are suited only for small carriers or start-up airlines that outsource most of their maintenance. These tend to be the most affordable solutions, easy on the budget of a young airline. More expensive applications that require additional time to install are necessary for larger carriers that take greater responsibility for performing or managing their maintenance.
In short, even as new MRO solutions become increasingly necessary, implementing them is not necessarily getting easier.
But choices abound. Here is a look at the significant IT providers in three classes: ERP solutions; fairly complete maintenance-management applications; and point solutions for particular IT challenges.