Why it's ground log day for Lufthansa Technik
Lufthansa Technik, one of the world's leading MRO organisations, has introduced yet another step in the inevitable advance towards digitisation. Geoff Thomas reports.
German company Lufthansa Technik is pioneering paperless maintenance following on from, and linking with, the paperless cockpit – otherwise known as the digital flightbag.
Now introduced at its maintenance sites in Germany for its entire fleet of Boeing 747-8 and Airbus A350 aircraft, all documents involving the resolution of defects on aircraft from parent company Lufthansa Airlines, and its freight offshoot Lufthansa Cargo, will be stored and actioned purely in digital form, eliminating paper.
Over the coming year, the project will result in the elimination of all current computer writing devices and enable a simple overview of MRO operations throughout the Lufthansa fleet, with the same inputted real-time data being visible worldwide from Frankfurt or Munich to New York and from Sydney to the Philippines.
An electronic job sheet (eJobcard) has already been introduced throughout Lufthansa’s German line maintenance operations and the ground log book (GLB), a paper-based document, has been replaced with the electronic ground log (eGL), saving tonnes of paper a year.
By initiating this project, the world’s largest MRO provider is already saving hundreds of thousands of pages of paper each year, and over the coming couple of years this will save many millions of sheets.
The electronic initiative is enabled through an application called ‘maintenance log’, developed by Lufthansa Technik. It assists aircraft technicians in recording and outputting data, and it can be used on various mobile devices including smart ‘phones and tablets.
Lufthansa Technik claims that electronic documentation, when used in combination with mobile devices, requires one-off data entry by the maintenance personnel directly at the site when the information is acquired. It will also facilitate the technicians’ work by introducing, over time, in-cockpit data entry directly into their hand-held devices, meaning that they will no longer need to sit in the pilots’ seats to ascertain what a specific issue is and how to solve it.
Linking in with the electronic job card – the next stage of the project – it will eliminate the risk of ‘Chinese whispers’, where information is passed by word of mouth from person to person and then re-entered by hand.
Gerald Frielinghaus, head of the MRO’s ‘paperless maintenance’ programme said: “With paperless maintenance, Lufthansa Technik is not only saving paper, environmental resources, time and money; it is also accelerating the provision and transmission of information globally.
“It also makes some work processes fully obsolete and others, thanks to electronic documentation, more streamlined, clearer, and less prone to error. Superfluous data entry is also no longer necessary.
“Our colleagues working on the aircraft appreciate the new application, as it brings noticeable improvement in terms of unnecessary documentation and allows personnel to concentrate more on their technical work.”
The entire project is now being taken over by Dr Rainer Sebus, who assumed leadership of the project on Frielinghaus’ recent retirement.
Over the coming months, more than 2,000 technicians in Frankfurt will be equipped with smartphones and tablets as part of the project. This will enable them to document their findings directly where they’re working, in just about every work situation.
Other advanced steps in the project include individualised digital ordering and the more comprehensive integration of complaint management support processes, for example when documenting delays or damage.
Over the coming years Lufthansa Technik will, subject to regulatory approval (particularly regarding e-signatures), launch its paperless maintenance project worldwide, simplifying the work of its more than 25,000 employees globally where its work encompasses the entire spectrum or MRO activities including maintenance, repair, overhaul, modification, conversion, engines and components.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) still has to sign-off on the project, although Boeing has agreed to paperless MRO operations; the only exception, for obvious reasons, is work undertaken within fuel tanks, where electronic devices are unlikely ever to be acceptable.
According to Lufthansa Technik, its technicians already love what the programme is bringing, as it reduces the need for multiple data-input and also, potentially, links directly with Lufthansa Technik’s and each of the airlines’ planning and engineering departments.
Currently, more than four million .pdf job cards are created and then printed-out annually, so this project is saving vast quantities of paper, along with printer ink and time.
Some airlines have yet to agree the introduction of the paperless era but the Lufthansa Technik team is confident that they will see the cost and time benefits over the coming months.
In 2015, British Airways received operational approval from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority to use Boeing’s electronic logbook (ELB) on its 787 fleet, making it the first Dreamliner operator to go paperless for technical and cabin logs.
Developed in partnership with Ultramain Systems, the ELB is intended to enable improved – and more efficient – communication between flightcrew, cabin crew and ground-based maintenance and engineering staff.
The ELB software runs on the 787’s integrated electronic flightbag and on-board server system to gather both automatically collected flight data and crew-observed fault input.
Information is shared with ground-based personnel and maintenance systems while the aircraft is still airborne, enabling ground maintenance crews to be ready at the gate with parts and documentation.