Software Management and the link with EAM/MRO

May 6, 2009

Hardware-oriented MRO systems need to cope with the accelerating complexity and velocity of change found within hardware embedded (and loaded) software on today’s aircraft, cars, ships, industrial products etc.. One of the most critical aspects that PLM can address is the coupling of hardware and its certified software. PLM Configuration Managed software can nicely sit next to an EAM/MRO application. Integration of applications concerned with management of requirements, configurations and maintenance statuses captures all of the critical information needed to assure that the software status of an asset is known at any point in time. From the MRO perspective all relevant information regarding the ‘master record’ configurations are available (See also Enterprise Asset Management category) across specific aircraft categories for example, but also the  individualized real-time status information of the current configuration for every managed tail number. We all remember the stories of software problems in cars, here the same link can be established between the Vehicle Identification Number and its software status. When integrated with problem reports, a complete closed loop failure record and action system can be operated and this would provide a full accountability from discrepancy till resolution.

The figure in my post about Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) meets PLM (Enterprise Asset Management Category) depicts the connection between the engineering and the support definition. In the accompanying text I also stated that both of these definitions are not the same at the aggregate level but the lower positioned and shared ‘bom-lets’ are. These bom-let items represent software and hardware. So the engineering definition nicely defines the technical status based on company configuration rules and these are propagated (change management driven) to the support definition. One observation: In the engineering definition the configuration context may be unit number, in the support definition this may additionally be date, i.e. the date that this specific definition has been or should be physically implemented. The observant reader may also appreciate the importance of such support definition compared with pure engineering (product development). The complete service definition records comprise the operating and service handbooks stored with the physical software versions. In a client support context this information would additionally comprise appropriate Service Bulletins and formal Directives. In a complete digital cycle; the software upgrade, the Bulletins and Directives including the latest handbooks would need to be synched with for example an ‘electronic flight bag’ or a mobile device that supports a service engineer.

So, what would be the benefit when the software definition would be ‘integrated’ with the EAM/MRO support definition as illustrated over:

  1. Accountability regarding authorized and physical configurations
  2. Provide full visibility of authorized configurations to those responsible for maintenance planning and execution
  3. Reduced sustainment and compliance risks and costs
  4. Full record management regarding authorized and physical configurations, discrepancies and corrective actions (engineering changes) and operational recommendations at every point in time during the asset lifecycle

Obviously one needs to take in consideration the three operational models I presented in the first post in this series. I believe that item 4 in the list above is primarily an OEM advantage as this type of information is concerned with the product reliability and maintainability cycle. The items 1-3 apply to all operational models.
Lastly; and calling on the observant reader again, the above not only applies to software but to all (hardware) items that comprise the product definition.
In another post I’ll cover the importance and benefits of the integrated definition for mechanical products in the context of Enterprise Content Management and data exchange.

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