A Customer’s View

By Michael Hansen

As small to medium businesses, corporations, law enforcement and government agencies balance greater demand and availability with budget constraints; they are forced to look within their organizations to find places where efficiencies can be gained. Many of them have adopted software applications to streamline their maintenance processes. Most have had marginal success in implementing this type of software. The main reason these implementations fail is because the maintenance organization is unwilling to change their processes in order to make the software a fundamental part of their processes. The software must become the core of the process and not just some adjunct to it. Today’s aviation management software can provide work order management and tracking, inventory purchasing and management, aircraft component and inspection / overhaul tracking, and aircraft maintenance projections and cost analysis. These applications can run stand-alone or within a network and can manage many aircraft of different types, all with a very affordable investment in money and time.

Century Helicopters, Inc. has integrated an aviation software application throughout its organization. We chose to use a program called CompuTrak. Century Helicopters, Inc. is a Bell Helicopter and Schweitzer Aircraft Customer Service Center and manages several different types of helicopters with CompuTrak. Century’s customers consist of private owners, fleet operators, law enforcement agencies, and federal government agencies. The success of the implementation has hinged on the fact that the software is the core of their process.

The Process

Century Helicopters has organized its maintenance processes in order to take full advantage of what CompuTrak has to offer and eliminate as much inefficiency as possible. The process that an aircraft goes through once it hits the ramp is described below.

Aircraft Arrives

When the aircraft arrives, a technician will record the time on the Hobbs meter and take this to any one of five computers on the hangar floor. The time will be input into the computer and a new work order opened. The software will generate a list of items that are required to be completed based on the Hobbs time entered. The software supports a Hobbs time correction factor so that if the meter is replaced, the technician does not have to worry about correcting the total time manually, the computer will do this automatically. The component and inspection items, along with any customer requests, are each logged to the work order as a separate discrepancy. Armed with the discrepancy list, technicians are now ready to begin work on the aircraft.

The Work Begins

As each technician performs work on the aircraft, his or her time is logged into the computer under the appropriate discrepancy. This allows the work of each technician to be tracked to ensure each item is completed and to ensure that the work is done in a timely fashion. Checks and balances such as these ensure a high-productivity environment is maintained, while still focusing on safety and quality.

If a part is required to complete one of the discrepancy items and it is not found in inventory, it will have to be ordered. The Parts Department uses the same software application to create a purchase order and receive the part from the vendor. When the purchase order is created, the part is linked to this specific work order so that a check can easily be made to ensure the part was installed on the aircraft and the appropriate amount billed to the customer. This check can also be used to ensure parts not used on this work order, but ordered for the work order can be returned or resold. This helps to keep inventory levels down, thus reducing costs.

When the part is received from the vendor, the software assigns a unique tracking number to it and prints a label with this number and a bar code. The technician is notified that the part has been received and he or she can now retrieve it. The technician can either enter the tracking number or scan the bar code to post the part to this work order.

The Work Is Completed

When all work has been completed on the work order and a test flight performed to ensure everything is correct and there are no other discrepancies, the status of the work order is changed to pending so that technicians do not accidentally post any more labor or parts to this work order.

CompuTrak has the capability to track the weight and balance information for each aircraft. If a new radio or infrared camera were installed as part of the discrepancy list, these items can easily be added or removed from the weight and balance and a new report generated. The program can also run a variety of scenarios for pilot. The pilot can generate reports based on specific mission requirements, such as full fuel and infrared camera installed, and keep them with him so they can quickly respond as the mission requirements change.

The lead technician for the work order generates a logbook entry when all work has been completed. The logbook is stored by CompuTrak and references the work order so that it is easy to find for future reference. The logbook entry can then be printed and pasted into the aircraft logbook.

Component and Maintenance Requirements Updated

After the logbook entry is completed, all of the component times and maintenance requirements are updated to reflect the recent work. A report of this information can be generated for the aircraft so that plans can be made for future maintenance requirements.

Invoice Generated

An invoice can be generated for tracking or billing purposes. The invoice will outline all work performed and this information can be used as a metric for future work and budgeting purposes.

Measurement and Planning

With all of this information accessible to CompuTrak, it can easily generate a variety of reports for planning and budgeting. The program can analyze all of the work orders associated with an aircraft and determine its availability, what components and inspections will be due during the next few weeks, month, or year, and how much it costs per flight hour to maintain the aircraft. When fuel, insurance, hangar, and pilot costs are added, a complete picture of the operating costs becomes clear. These figures can be compared with those published by manufacturers to determine how well the aircraft is performing.

Recently, a law enforcement agency operating a Bell 407 requested the direct operating cost, not including fuel, per flight hour for the helicopter. The cost for a Bell 407, not including fuel, as published by Bell Helicopter is $281.87 US (Reference Bell Helicopter Rotorbreeze, February 2002). With a click of a button, the software showed that the cost per flight hour of this particular 407 was $219.18 US. The software contained data for this 407 starting in December of 1998 with an aircraft total time of 445.3 hours up to December of 2002 with an aircraft total time of 5100.0 hours. During this time span, there were two engine changes and a 5000 hour inspection / overhaul, all included. This analysis provides the agency with the information it needs to continue to fund and operate the airborne law enforcement program.

The idea of using a software package to manage maintenance activities is nothing new. The key to making a program successful is making sure that it is an integral part of your operation. These programs provide up-to-date aircraft data when you need it as well as a virtual paper trail for your aircraft that is all in one place. Data driven software programs provide a repository for all of your data, which can then be mined at a later date to answer a wide variety of questions and provide a set of metrics that you can use to judge the performance of your operation.

CompuTrak

Tom Callen of Micro Computer Systems originally developed CompuTrak 23 years ago. CompuTrak provides industry-leading features and function important to those who own, operate, and maintain aircraft. Many Federal and State Law Enforcement agencies use CompuTrak and have found tremendous value in its ability to efficiently manage enterprise operations ranging from budgeting maintenance requirements, inventory management and labor scheduling. For more information on CompuTrak, please contact Tom Callen at +01 970-493-6886, sales@computrak.org, or visit the CompuTrak web site at www.computrak.org.