The Airline and Aerospace related businesses are amongst the most challenging in the world. The highest standards are demanded and yet, pressures on revenues and costs are always present. For profitability and long term survival, Operational Excellence is an absolute essential.
Many planning and scheduling challenges exist in different businesses related to aviation. These challenges hide great opportunities for state-of-the-art planning and scheduling tools. Aircraft components and engine MRO businesses have challenging productions planning, scheduling and supply chain optimization requirements. Airline manpower planning requires sophisticated crew rostering techniques. Flight scheduling requires flexible and reliable tools to optimize aircraft usages. In general, idle times and operational costs for aircraft and engines are very expensive and even marginal idle time and operational cost reductions can translate into millions.
In Base Maintenance Scheduling the orderly removal of components, dispatch for repair or replacement, is controlled via routine and ad-hoc task cards. A good understanding of work sequencing is important. Generation of task cards, especially ad-hoc task cards, using Enterprise resource Planning (ERP) technology can be slow and tedious. This compromises turnaround times and a better solution is needed.
Additionally, excellent communication on the progress and return of components is essential to determine the aircraft’s return into service. Manual planning techniques are not up to the task of determining the requirements in a complex, dynamic and constantly changing environment.
Aircraft Component Repair Workshops face specific planning challenges. Manual Task Card generation in Base Maintenance is not able to specify the required return time for each component. And this may change if newly discovered work on the aircraft means that re-installation of the component will be delayed. Frequently every job is indicated as “urgent” but the reality dictates that, with finite capacity, some form of priority must prevail. And this priority will change with time. Again, manual planning is not up to the complexity and change.
In Aero Engine MRO, unlike manufacturing production, the scope of work is unknown at the start of operations and, only emerges through inspection processes. The majority of the engine repair facilities today relies on MRP II or ERP systems to store and process system data. These IT systems were designed in late 1970s around the needs of manufacturing production facilities and they are not able take account of a large set of constraints and, demand and operations variables (unexpected demand behavior, uncertainty in manufacturing environment, finite manufacturing environment capacity, etc.) which are vital for today’s production and service environments.
In most aero engine MRO plants, the detailed scheduling process is essentially manual, relying on multiple planners preparing schedules for defined sections of the plant.
ICRON Technologies provide powerful, Finite Capacity planning & scheduling software system, ICRON Advanced Planning & Scheduling (APS), offering management decision support. ICRON helps the companies to produce realistic and functional schedules applied to control the progress on the shop floor. An ICRON APS implementation maximises resource utilisation, increases inventory turnover, improves customer service levels and improves communication and co-ordination, internally, with clients and suppliers. ICRON can be used to address a wide range of planning and scheduling problems in different planning environments. It can be operated in automatic (typically 60-100% of operations), semi-automatic or fully manual mode, depending on the planning problem and client needs. ICRON runs complex and highly efficient Operations Research algorithms on its state-of-art, finite capacity planning and scheduling engine. Its fast graphical algorithm modelling tool enables fast and easy development of highly customised solutions to specific problems. Operation can be client/server based or, more popularly, web based.
ICRON delivers a range of benefits, which will vary by use. However a number of consistent themes appear and are offered with any implementation:
- VISIBILITY – ICRON is a “finite capacity” scheduling system. This means it has the capability to project schedules forward in time, based on current data and anticipated future work. Through this, planners can identify forward resource conflicts and bottlenecks, determine possible solutions or raise the issues with management. Solving such problems ahead of time avoids crises and reduces costs.
- With no limit on the number of authorised users that can access an ICRON server, planning and feedback information is transferred in real-time to all stakeholders, from management to the workspace. This visibility allows individuals to see the effect of their own actions on the big picture and thus improve on their own work practices. This is one of the cornerstones of Six Sigma and LEAN operations. Linkage with clients and suppliers offers additional visibility in directions, smoothing real-time communications processes and improving external relationships.
- SUSTAINED OPTIMIZATION – Best operating practices are defined and captured in the Operations Research phase of an ICRON implementation. These are then applied across all operations and, fast re-scheduling capability ensures that any operation is held on, or very close to optimum performance at all times.
- Planners workloads are reduced through auto-scheduling, typically by up to 80% compared with manual techniques. This provides additional time for effective production control and plan implementation, as well as generation of scenario analyses, offering both current and future savings. This typically translates to a 5-15% reduction in total operating costs.
- BUSINESS PROCESS IMPROVEMENT (BPI) – Staying “ahead of the game” is key to sustained business success and, today this has never been more true than today. Fast solution times and auto-scheduling capability transform the planners’ role from data preparation to scenario analysis. By producing multiple offline schedules and selecting the most suitable planners are identifying better ways of working, better processes and thus practicing sustained BPI.