TV interview – Fingermind’s CEO on BFM Business

Aviation MRO: the importance of digitalization

Interview of Christophe Remy in the show #JMLECO on BFM Business, French TV channel

For our English speaking readers, we have summarized below the interview of Christophe Remy, CEO of Fingermind by the French economic journalist Nicolas Doze broadcasted on May 18th, 2022 on BFM Business.

 

 

Fingermind is a long-standing player in the aviation maintenance industry. Since 2000, this software publisher offers a comprehensive solution to airlines and MROs. Fingermind is also diversifying into the military field. Explanations with Christophe Remy, CEO of Fingermind.

After two years of crisis, what is your assessment of the aerospace market?

Covid was the starting point for many complications. There was, of course, the sudden stop in air traffic, and even today its restart has been uneven. Not to mention the “zero Covid” strategy that continues in Asia, blocking certain regions for an indefinite period. In addition to this crisis, there are other problems: the increase in the price of kerosene, more stringent environmental requirements (decarbonization, green aviation) and the war in Ukraine, which is lengthening the routes to Asia.

The airlines themselves are experiencing difficulties. They are struggling to recruit maintenance mechanics and even pilots. These activities used to be flourishing, but there have been many job conversions and the sector has since lost its attractiveness. In addition, some companies in the Middle East and the United States have laid off thousands of people during the crisis, which also explains this labor shortage.

Nevertheless, a revival is emerging from this complex situation. Companies have become aware of the need to renew almost all their fleets, and therefore to scrap the oldest or most fuel-intensive aircraft. There should not be a major increase in volume, but rather a transformation over the next five years. The average age of an aircraft is currently 20 years. After this renewal, it should be 9 to 10 years.

What are the issues that Fingermind addresses?

Aeronautics is a sector that has not yet fully taken the turn to digitalization. Its progress is very slow in this area but remains unavoidable. And the economic situation proves it. However, work methods still involve a lot of paper documents and handwritten approvals. Among the activities that must be digitized is access to all aircraft maintenance documentation.

An airplane is a complex machine made up of numerous equipment pieces: engine, landing gear, APU, etc. Each manufacturer usually offers its own tool to provide access to the documentation for a specific component. This approach multiplies the number of tools and training courses for mechanics and technicians. However, manpower is becoming scarce, and costs are increasing. It is therefore necessary to use tools capable of optimizing, improving, and streamlining the entire aeronautical maintenance process. And this is precisely what Fingermind provides.

We offer a single software to access all aircraft maintenance documentation. Our solution centralizes and standardizes access to information on the engine, landing gear, seats, IFE, etc. The software is available in both local and connected mode. All documentation can be stored locally on a dedicated tablet. On aircraft arrival, the mechanic can easily access it via the tablet and search for instance for a possible fault cause using the available software features. On the other side, the connected mode is available from a maintenance hangar for major operations (C-Check).

Are you using AI to optimize aircraft maintenance?

Yes! We develop AI based tools to better understand the way the mechanic works. This analysis allows us to identify potential difficulties in executing a procedure, while always keeping the safety of the passenger in mind. Fingermind collects this information and shares it with the airlines. It is up to them to decide the necessary optimizations (improving training, modifying the internal process, etc.) in compliance with regulatory constraints (EASA, FAA, etc.).

Do you have a final word?

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently launched a funding program to facilitate pilot and mechanic training and overcome recruitment issues for these positions.  According to the FAA, the solution lies in digitalization and in the training of new jobs, skills and new ways of working.

This multi-million-dollar program is designed to encourage pilot and mechanic schools to take the plunge and attract young talent. Fingermind and its advanced technological solutions are fully in line with this awareness to revitalize the sector and meet the economic constraints of airlines.

 

Watch the entire video (in French)

 

Fingermind launchs a collaborative working group to shape the future of MRO

Future of MRO

When Big Data is used for maintenance

To date, maintenance operations are “driven” by statistical approaches (preventive maintenance) and, more recently, by predictive approaches based on Big Data and AI. These different methods aim to anticipate problems to minimize aircraft downtime. However, these approaches all have their limits, especially when the human factor intrinsic to maintenance must be considered.

The traditional maintenance approach

The traditional approach through statistical analysis consists in calculating the probability of “mechanical” failure (FMECA type) to anticipate the replacement of a part before it is defective.

To do this, a set of procedures (tasks) are listed in a maintenance plan (MPD) to be executed according to a precise schedule. The MPD is a document that includes scheduled maintenance as well as the entire aircraft maintenance policy. This mandatory and regularly updated maintenance plan lists all the tasks to be performed, expressed in flight hours and/or in number of cycles and schedules.

Today, platforms are made available to airlines by manufacturers or suppliers (Airbus Skywise, Lufthansa Technik AVIATAR, etc.). The purpose of these platforms is to have as much information as possible for a given type of aircraft, to obtain the widest possible coverage of incidents/events.

The limits of the planned approach

Based on planned maintenance approaches, for example, a C-check for an aircraft includes about 1000 tasks and 5000 planned sub-tasks. However, during the execution of this C-check, between 500 and 1000 additional unplanned tasks will have to be executed. This is the limit of this planned maintenance approach, which can over- or underestimate certain tasks.

Moreover, the disadvantage of this type of approach is that it does not consider the particularities of each airline, nor the operating conditions. The impact of pollution on the ageing of a fleet will be different in the Far North than in the Middle East or China, for example.

The predictive approach, a new approach still in its infancy

Predictive maintenance consists of considering a large amount of information generated by the aircraft via real-time message mechanisms (ACARS type) in order to detect a set of events that could be the cause of a failure (Root Cause).

The objective is therefore to recover real and dynamic external data from sensors to enrich the field feedback and allow a more detailed analysis. However, the predictive approach also has its limits, as it is highly dependent on the quality of the sensors available on the aircraft (new A350-B787 programs versus older A320-B737 programs) to collect the necessary data.

The solution developed by Fingermind now makes it possible to compensate for the quality of the sensors to facilitate and enrich the recovery of “physical” data on the ground.

Fingermind’s MRO Suite is thus able to collect and centralize very specific data such as temperature, luminosity, a large set of contextual information… Moreover, this collection is possible both online and offline.

MRO Suite will then extract a set of “nominal” and “learning” data to generate an AI model and transfer the model to the mechanic’s device.

The human factor, the great forgotten factor in MRO

Both the scheduled and the predictive approaches unfortunately ignore human factors as well as the use of tools in the field to access technical documentation in each situation.

Thus, these approaches to maintenance do not consider the way in which maintenance tasks are carried out, the capacity and expertise of the mechanic, the difficulties he may encounter, the complexity of the tasks, the context of use of the tools, the climatic conditions, the working hours (night, day…), etc.

However, the way of executes the various tasks necessarily has an impact on the maintenance of the aircraft and especially on the time spent by the mechanic.

It is therefore essential to understand the working environment and the behavior of the mechanic in order to provide additional information and to allow better decision making to optimize the maintenance procedures by the airline company.

A collaborative working group to go further

Today, Fingermind wants to respond to this challenge by bringing together airlines, mechanics, engineers and all MRO stakeholders within a working group to co-develop solutions capable of better collecting and analyzing data and facilitating decision making.

The aim is obviously not to incriminate this or that mechanic, or to point out a possible lack of training of the teams. The subject must be treated in its entirety from the point of view of improving existing processes, taking into account all the interactions in the field.

Various studies have already listed several human factors as possible causes of malfunctions during maintenance operations:

  • Lack of communication within the teams
  • The routine nature of certain operations
  • Lack of competence despite the different mandatory certifications
  • Lack of concentration during the execution of a task
  • The difficulty of working in a team
  • Fatigue and schedules
  • The pressure of responsibilities
  • Stress
  • Habits

The objective of the working group is to help the mechanic to better use the documentation to perform the different maintenance tasks within the time limit:

  • While respecting the safety rules for the mechanics
  • While guaranteeing operational safety for the aircraft
  • With a better control of the execution time (planification)
  • With a concern for traceability and quality in the collection and restitution of data

More globally with the aim of improving maintenance processes.

 

Fingermind has therefore launched a LinkedIn group called “Future of MRO” to bring together stakeholders and give them a voice in their respective expectations and challenges. This joint reflection could ideally lead to a pilot solution or a beta test to propose solutions that meet the needs of MRO players in a concrete way.

If you too would like to participate in this group to make progress together in MRO processes, come and join us here!

 

The Fingermind teams and I will share our various thoughts, developments and advances within this group to discuss their usefulness and feasibility.

 

Christophe Remy
CEO Fingermind