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Time To Bring Unison Between Aviation Engineering And Its External Ecosystem

by Ravinder Pal Singh - Global Chief Information and Technology Officer, Air Works April-2015

Established in 1951, Air Works is the leading EASA certified provider of aviation MRO and painting services, qualified to maintain 50 plus aircraft types across hangars in India, Europe and Middle East. It is a one-stop shop for integrated private aviation services, offering aircraft sales, aircraft management, aircraft charter, and aircraft insurance to its customers.

Aviation IT is laggard in aviation domain overall, more so in India. It is surprising but true. Surprising! As it's a young domain and uses complex engineering inside aircraft or its mechanical and civil ecosystem but still way behind in adopting information technology or computational science to enhance productivity, overall operational efficiency and create a healthy ecosystem of co-creation. Things are changing but still slowly due to gap between technology innovation and its adoption to existing aviation standards and regulations.

Few simple examples to illustrate my point: Aviation probably has one of the better defined standards but translation of those standards using secure commodity technology has not happened in the veil of debates on IP, conflict of business interest and competitive edge and so on. Fact is and it has been proven by relatively simple industries where in-spite of huge brand rivalries, there is general agreement and practice of standards resulting in overall upliftment of all in the ecosystem. It's quite reverse in aviation. At the top of the value chain, different OEMs have different standards, different translations and thus creating a unique ecosystem extended till the lowest in the engineering value chain which are MROs. This adds to inefficiency, increases operating cost and brings overall industry down compared to other domains like financial services or retail and others. Simplest mirror is to look at the IT solution providers in aviation engineering whether it’s ERP, Content Management, Point-solution providers or others.

Everyone is struggling and no one stands out in terms of innovation, cost of solution and fitment to industry needs for most. It's strange that a legacy technology like RFID is still talked about as new initiative in the aviation industry. Hence, there is huge gap in the beauty of aircraft or hangar engineering versus IT adoption. Having said that, we at Air Works decided couple of years ago to use IT as the key strategic enabler to achieve our ambitious non-linear growth. It would have been impossible if we would have taken a classical legacy expensive approach and quite frankly we did not have that kind of cash at our disposal. So we used commodity technology which other domains were using effectively.

For instance, we have created secure cloud on our own terms and it's our de facto platform to do business computations, customer visibility and internal collaboration. We have used advanced network techniques to combine various formats and protocols of networks to connect over 50 plus locations, hangars and lines stations. Air Works is one of the early adopters of BYOD but it ensures that both privacy of employees and corporate data are secured and protected. We have multi-layers of data protection, its backup and archiving adhering to our enterprise data-classifications. Post digitization of our people and processes, we initiated our journey of industrial internet to connect people, processes and things. Air Works takes care of over 50 types of aircrafts which is remarkably high complexity versus most in aviation engineering or even airlines, when I ventured into market of solution providers to simplify this complexity via digitization, no one came forward to help us or even co-create and hence we created our technology.

The essence of what I am trying to say is that it's high time that more people in industry who are passionate about aviation must break this shackle of who will do it first or hide behind the excuse of regulatory framework and take concrete initiatives and carve new paths. We have to do it ourselves as we have one the weakest and extremely expensive IT solutions provider ecosystem. It's time to bring the beauty of engineering inside the aircraft to match its external ecosystem of hangars and line-stations. Thus making business of aviation engineering profitable using simple, cheap and readily available technology is the need of the hour. I'm doing my bit, I would like other like-minded technologists in aviation too to take a leap of faith.