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Predicting a transformed future

Posted 20 May 2019 · Add Comment

Maintenance planning software and other applications of the new technology are changing the face of MRO as big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics make an impact. Chuck Grieve reports.

Predictive maintenance is getting a lot of attention in aircraft MRO circles, and for good reason.
This practical application of big data promises a revolution in how aircraft and their systems are maintained with, if anything, better safety parameters.
Predictive maintenance planning “has become a game-changer for both the civil aviation and defence industries”, said Gary Vickers, chief executive of UK-based Aerogility.
“It resolves the complex competing factors to make smarter, lower-risk and more cost-effective decisions about how best to manage assets, and truly understand fleet needs.
“Smart forecasting solutions, based on predictive analytics, are leading to more efficient maintenance planning systems and, in turn, stronger MRO, capable of meeting the increased demands.”
Scarcely an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) exists today that is not seeking to capitalise on the developments in digital technologies that have made real-time condition monitoring possible. Leading MROs are also in the frame, with solutions to help operators get the best use from their data.
Vickers said developments in big data analytics, machine-learning and AI hold great potential for the future of predictive maintenance.
AI is at the heart of “ground-breaking” multi-agent maintenance scheduling software developed by Aerogility and used by a number of prime contractors and airlines, including Lockheed Martin, Rolls-Royce and EasyJet.
The company’s interactive tool can simulate entire fleet operations years into the future, predicting when maintenance events should occur. These forecasts include the analysis of systems such as engines, landing gear and airframes, allowing the airline’s planning team to respond quickly by presenting alternative strategies and potential solutions to day-to-day challenges.
Vickers said the Aerogility system helps clients work through complex ‘what-if?’ maintenance policies and plan efficiently. “Operational data about each aircraft in the fleet is extracted from their asset management operating system (AMOS) and integrated into the Aerogility planner,” he said. “The planners can forecast when multi-functional heavy maintenance must be applied, factoring in existing plans with their third-party suppliers – and simultaneously incorporating other fleet upgrades and modifications programmes.”
Mike Fleming, vice-president of Boeing’s commercial services division, said
big data is getting bigger. “The amount of data coming off an aircraft will double in the next 20 years.”
To manage it, he said, and help customers gain the benefits of big data in their operations, Boeing is “evolving our portfolio of tools and developing new applications and analytics”.
Among the new apps in its global services portfolio is the reliability advisor, which is designed to let an airline’s engineers monitor trends on the aircraft and deploy maintenance programmes as required.
Speaking to the Farnborough International News Network (FINN), Fleming said: “Boeing Global Services is a broad portfolio, which services pretty much all aspects of the airlines market.”
The US airframer’s airplane health management, described as a maintenance decision support tool provided through, gives airlines an advanced capability to monitor their aircraft in real-time.
“The data coming off it helps our customers prioritise what they should work on, and allows them to turn unscheduled maintenance into scheduled maintenance, which allows the airline to run more efficiently,” said Fleming.
Looking ahead, Fleming said operators could expect Boeing to build on its position and domain knowledge with more apps. Aviation, he added, is a very competitive market requiring continuous improvement to airlines’ business models. “We have to evolve with them.”
For Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance (AFI KLM E&M ), specific issues with Airbus models spurred the development of its Prognos predictive maintenance software.
Jacques-Olivier Guichard, AFI KLM E&M vice-president digital, told reporters at MRO Europe it was a deliberate company choice to focus on analysis of data from components and systems to “follow a system to the end”.
Five systems on the A380, including landing-gear components and the supplemental cooling system, had predictive maintenance applications developed for them.
Additional applications have been developed for landing gear and pneumatic components on A320s and A330s, and for other equipment on Boeing 787s and 747s, which proved the concept on legacy aircraft.
Guichard said this work enabled AFI KLM E&M’s digital engineering team to mature a predictive algorithm that could be reused and adapted, in its basic form, for different systems on different aircraft.
Collaboration is the key to new capabilities that component and systems OEM Liebherr-Aerospace is developing to help airlines maintain their fleets more effectively.
Liebherr applied its analytical expertise to the data contained in Airbus’ Skywise platform in a group of pilot projects to assess the potential of big data. Based on the success of the pilots, Airbus and Liebherr are now exploring opportunities to expand to other areas of investigation.
In the pilots, Liebherr and Airbus used Skywise to develop deeper and better understanding of the in-service behaviour of on-board systems and components developed, manufactured, certified and serviced by Liebherr. The work demonstrated how expert analysis could reveal previously unknown relationships that could be used to build and operate equipment in a more reliable manner.
Liebherr said this data-backed understanding and enhanced know-how will allow it to advise Airbus and its airline customers on ways to optimise aircraft operation and significantly reduce operating costs.
Lufthansa Technik (LHT), with its Aviatar digital platform, is attempting to transcend competition by deploying an open and neutral aviation platform for international cooperation.
Its objective is to ensure airlines, component manufacturers, other MRO providers and leasing companies, are in control of their data and can use common interfaces based on a digital twin.
Ten partners and customers are now working with Aviatar; more than 1,000 aircraft are live on the platform, which supports a variety of apps developed by the MRO and its co-creators.
Among apps launched by LHT at MRO Europe was PartsMate. Accessing a pool of certified components, it allows airlines to simplify their inventory management and share parts through loan and exchange transactions. LHT said the tool “improves material availability, optimises inventory levels and reduces capital lockup and overall costs”.
Alongside, LHT launched major asset realtime components (MARC) to simplify the search for large spare parts, such as inlet cowls, thrust reversers and radomes. “There are only a few of these components on the market, which, up to now, has made the search complicated and time-consuming,” said LHT.
Apps such as Aviatar’s APU health management provide detailed analyses that “can significantly reduce maintenance costs and increase aircraft availability simultaneously”.

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