Predictive Maintenance

Predictive Maintenance

In predictive maintenance, data is king.It is invaluable to operators and aircraft and component manufacturers.

But at what cost? Everyone wants it and we are already paying for it in product development costs, repair costs, and the data processing infrastructure.

Predictive maintenance intends to anticipate a component failure through component or system degradation monitoring. It enables the operator to schedule the aircraft for component maintenance or replacement before it turns into an unscheduled failure event, often resulting in a grounded aircraft or, at best, a minor operational schedule disruption.

Predictive analytic programs can be applied to many components or systems on many different aircraft. Although this practice has been going on for decades, the number of aircraft fully designed and developed with this in mind is still relatively small. Predictive maintenance has become quite the buzzword in the last few years and offers operations leadership teams a known variable, which is always better than the alternative.

Opportunities to improve Technical Dispatch Reliability, and on-time performance shouldn’t be ignored. However, organizations often underestimate the volume of information to be secured, skills required to interpret and monitor, and manpower to action or execute identified findings from predictive maintenance programs, making successful execution and implementation difficult.  

Many operators are ill-equipped to manage the work this data dependency can create. Then there are the often unnoticed or unintended consequences related to component repairs and their effect on the warranty or contractual agreements that may be in place. In many instances, the component hasn’t theoretically failed yet; therefore, component repair disposition can become tricky and technically challenging to manage if not set up correctly on the front end.

As a licensed Airframe and Powerplant technician, replacing a component identified through a predictive analytic program output day-in and day-out takes away from the experience which traditionally was time spent honing your troubleshooting skills, and learning how to use a new tool or fancy test box. It frequently required you to dive deeply into the system architecture to figure out the elusive gremlin at hand.

Sitting on the other side of the desk now, I recognize how powerful this technology and types of programs can be when fully integrated into the aircraft and embedded correctly into the operator’s standard procedures. The outcome can result in significant operational reliability enhancements, better workforce productivity, reduced unscheduled aircraft ground time, better spares management opportunities, and arguably improving the margin of safety for certain monitored systems.

"Predictive Maintenance Has Become Quite The Buzzword In The Last Few Years And Offers Operations Leadership Teams A Known Variable, Which Is Always Better Than The Alternative"

The challenge for operators is determining the value proposition for an aircraft model shoe-horned into a predictive maintenance program rather than being developed for it from the onset. The cost of the infrastructure that must be built to manage and support such a program may outweigh the benefit of a handful of monitored components. However, that ultimately depends on how impactful those few items are to your operation.

There is no doubt predictive maintenance programs are here to stay and will only continue to improve as manufacturers design future aircraft and components around these concepts. It will likely take time for current manufacturer investments in this technology to monetize as operators try to demonstrate the added value in operational improvements, reduced maintenance burden, and improved costs.

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