Microsoft/Boeing to Enhance Aviation Digital Analytics
SMS Can Expand Its Horizon
Boeing knows data and its importance to aviation safety. It has enhanced its capabilities to capture significant numbers in its maintenance suite. It must also be aware of the value of “digits” to the FAA’s SMS tool which has proved to be such a powerful risk reduction approach.
Boeing and Microsoft, giants in their respective fields and both with major presences in Seattle, have agreed to enhance the software company’s Azure cloud-based platform for use by the aerospace company’s portfolio of commercial aviation analytics tools. Boeing already supports over 300 airlines with its AerData and Jeppesen products/services.
Kevin Crowley, Boeing VP of Digital Aviation explained:
“Boeing’s expertise and extensive aviation data resources coupled with Microsoft’s cloud technology will accelerate innovation in areas such as predictive maintenance and flight optimization, allowing airlines to drive down costs and improve operational efficiency…Together, two companies that changed their industries are teaming up to accelerate the digital transformation of aviation through the use of analytics-based applications, cloud technologies and large-scale integration.”
No mention of SAFETY
The press release notes that this alliance will focus on providing “airlines, maintenance suppliers, and airplane leasing companies more real-time information to improve their operations, whether they’re training and scheduling crews, leasing engines and airplanes, purchasing equipment, planning routes, maintaining fleets, or managing inventory.”
That’s a fairly standard, if not obvious, agenda. The need for data is beyond ordinary and is driving its users, carriers, repair organizations and their related suppliers beyond traditional boundaries. SMS organizations are seeking to use more sophisticated indicia in their continuing effort to reduce their risks. The SMS 360o inclusion is likely to have ramp repair personnel, hiring staff, purchasing agents, aviation medicine doctors, insurance experts, accountants and other added perspectives to identify possible data points which might help to improve their judgments.
Boeing/Microsoft would be well advised to include a diagonal cross-section of SMS participants as one of their focus groups. Yes, the traditional flight and maintenance managers/workers will be included, but this new cadre of knowledgeable people with new aviation insights may magnify the value of the two company cooperation.
Say, for example (this hypothesis involves a type of automation which many companies have already adopted; assume that this has not occurred), a QC inspector in an SMS meeting to discuss a trend of major maintenance issues speaks up; she is relatively low in rank; so she speaks somewhat hesitantly. Her impression from reviewing the work after a C or D check is that number of items which she determines to need more work have sign-offs done just before shift changes and breaks. Those numbers are not recorded electronically only on the paper records. Requiring the AMTs to enter their time of completions separately in an electronic device, would be considered unnecessary duplication and an undue burden manually. She adds that a one-time special task would be flagged by the shop stewards as some potential disciplinary investigation. Representatives of HR and maintenance scheduling agree that by automating all of the records could provide other useful indicia of safety trends.
In this hypothetical discussion, the Flight Safety Director chirps up that he would like to know about such a relaxed approach to flying and postulates that with such data, he might be able to see if there is any correlation to errors.
Both would back off with this good (or more likely some real data collection) because the manual reporting would not be well received. The folks at Microsoft hearing this point out that they have existing software which measures the time that a machine operator hand is on the controls. No problem to add this to a plane’s suite of information inventory.
SMS has expanded the horizon of safety:
- Its design brings new perspectives to aviation safety and
- Its processes create a passion for correlative numbers; in that crusade the participants see possible data points which can add to the certainty of safety risks or which can help devise remedial actions which reduce risks.
Readers may well have better examples of information which they believe may be beneficial to the safety culture. Insert that defined point in the above hypothetical and consider how automation may more easily, even effortlessly, note that information.
Microsoft and Boeing would be well advised to invite a convention of SMS participants to Seattle in order to capture the data which they believe will enhance their safety mission. They do have a different window on automation and with targeted software may further reduce the industry’s risks.