DataXtend RE mobilises knowledge management software from CaseBank for leading jet engine manufacturer
CaseBank’s SpotLight application offered the ideal solution for one of the world’s largest jet engine manufacturers. This manufacturer needed to provide its field service engineers (FSEs) with on-demand access to diagnostic information and the ability to share critical experiences with other FSEs in order to quickly and cost effectively resolve jet engine system failures. The challenge was that many FSEs typically work in areas where there is little if no Internet connectivity, which meant they could not access or benefit from the SpotLight application.
DataXtend RE’s (DXRE) bi-directional replication technology provided the missing link, enabling CaseBank to deploy SpotLight locally to end users. This ensured that every FSE could access the application from their laptop computer, regardless of the quality or existence of an Internet connection. The result – FSEs can now obtain the information they need on the job, when they need it most.
CaseBank Technologies was commissioned by one of the world’s largest jet engine manufacturers to implement the SpotLight decision support solution to aid the manufacturers FSEs. The goal was to help the FSEs share existing diagnostic knowledge on the manufacturer’s most popular business aircraft jet engine and to capture new troubleshooting experiences for analysis.
This particular jet engine has many different specifications and configurations for numerous jet models. The FSEs support the manufacturer’s service centres and end-user customers who work on these complex aircraft system and components. Over time each FSE develops a unique set of experiences, most of which could be useful in future troubleshooting situations. Unless the FSE can communicate their knowledge effectively, the information is never shared and cannot benefit other FSEs. This is especially true of highly reliable and complex equipment with a long in-service lifespan, such as aircraft. The result of not applying prior diagnostic solutions to elusive faults is that the same problems end up having to be solved by different people, over and over again – which means lengthy time-to-resolution, unnecessary repairs and costly downtime.
In fact, equipment with sophisticated computer-driven systems and built-in test capabilities is often the most affected by a lack of experience sharing. As these systems are tested and failures diagnosed, many other root causes reveal themselves. For example, certain connectors are susceptible to corrosion, certain wire bundles rub on parts and software upgrades produce intermittent incompatibility problems. These valuable lessons are only learned through the FSE’s on-the-job experience. However, without an effective way to share the accumulative experiences among FSEs, this knowledge begins and ends with each technician.
To effectively collate and manage FSE experiences, the manufacturer had to find a way to capture the knowledge gained from each service event and make it available to other FSEs so they could quickly identify problems as they occurred and expedite time-to-resolution. The manufacturer turned to CaseBank to provide a solution that would improve first-time-fix performance – equipping FSEs with the tools and knowledge necessary to make an accurate diagnosis on the first visit.
CaseBank’s SpotLight technology enables the manufacturer to store, organise and retrieve prior aircraft-repair knowledge. SpotLight also allows FSEs to access solutions applied to similar problems in the past based on their responses to a series of diagnostic questions. These questions serve as an automatic “intelligent interview” to compare and reveal how a potential problem was similar to and different from all existing knowledge.
Keeping engineers connected
The manufacturer’s challenge was to decrease maintenance costs and improve the first-time-fix performance rate. FSE procedures did not provide a method for technicians to electronically record and retrieve relevant diagnostic information in a central repository. As a result, FSEs often spent hours troubleshooting problems that had already been solved by someone else.
By constantly reinventing the wheel, the potential for error and misdiagnosis increased dramatically. Access to a knowledge repository of all FSE experiences that could be queried for specific data or criteria would save both time and money and reduce the risk for error. In one instance, after many hours of trying to decipher the cause of a recurring problem with a particular aircraft, an FSE suspected that a critical component had malfunctioned. Unfortunately, the issue continued to occur after the part was replaced. It was subsequently discovered that the problem actually stemmed from a connecting pipe that was failing in a manner that made it very difficult to detect. Only later did the technician discover that one of his colleagues had experienced a similar problem years earlier.
Lowering warranty costs was also a challenge for the manufacturer. Many of its customers are under service contract agreements, making the manufacturer responsible for the cost of associated labour and parts. By not having access to previous diagnostic experience, parts were often used incorrectly or unnecessarily. This had a serious impact on both the first-time-fix rate and the overall cost of parts.
The challenge for CaseBank was ensuring that SpotLight could be used remotely in the field. While SpotLight enabled experience sharing among FSEs, as a Web-based solution, it relied on access to the Internet to receive and deliver information. FSEs typically work at airfield facilities, or in locations where there is little or no Internet connectivity. Without a reliable Internet connection, they would not be able to access the system. If FSEs could not use SpotLight as part of their daily routine, critical knowledge would not be captured, information would not be up-to-date and FSEs would not obtain the information they needed, when they needed it most – resulting in little benefit to the customers.
This requirement is not unique to this manufacturer. Other CaseBank customers also require a solution that can remain fully functional even when “occasionally connected.” The following criteria had to be addressed in order to make SpotLight a viable solution for customers requiring remote support for its technicians:
Troubleshooting must take place where connection to the Web is not possible
Knowledge and information on prior experiences must be distributed to staff at remote locations
Resolutions to problems must be quick to prevent costly downtime
CaseBank stays connected with DataXtend RE
CaseBank turned to DataXtend RE (DXRE) to provide real-time access to information in this kind of occasionally connected or extreme environment. DXRE’s patented two-way, read-write data replication technology enables companies to distribute business applications to remote offices and mobile workers, improving the overall quality of service and system availability.
In the DXRE model, mobilised software and data are deployed locally to end users, just like other desktop applications. As a result FSEs can easily access the SpotLight application to conduct diagnostic work and contribute or receive data, such as field service information and troubleshooting experiences, regardless of where they are or the quality of their Internet connection. As soon as an FSE reaches an area where there is a strong Internet connection, all the data that has been changed or added to the SpotLight application is immediately synchronised with all other SpotLight deployments – keeping information up-to-date without sacrificing performance.
“CaseBank helps users detect faults by posing questions around key symptoms that point to the most relevant knowledge in the SpotLight database – knowledge that would otherwise not be available to the user in that situation. With DXRE’s data synchronisation functionality, information is available on computers when not connected to the Internet,” said Darius Knight, VP of sales and marketing, CaseBank Technologies Inc.
“This unrestricted access to knowledge is critical to situations where troubleshooting requires timely resolution without dependence on Web access or network connections.” By using the DXRE-powered SpotLight application, the manufacturer can now integrate information from several aircraft data systems and provide operators and service centres with the diagnostic tools needed for troubleshooting. Users of SpotLight are primarily FSEs who service the more expensive aircraft that demand rapid and accurate support. These users engage in approximately 100 troubleshooting sessions per year, averaging four to 10 sessions per month.
The manufacturer’ services group also benefits from timely information offered by the DXRE-powered SpotLight application. For example, at the service centre, a revolving team of individuals is sent to service aircraft at remote airports and other facilities. These smaller airports do not typically have the resources of their larger counterparts, so the ability to gain access to information through CaseBank and DXRE is critical – and accelerates the maintenance process.
“By gathering the expertise derived from individual troubleshooting experiences and delivering it to the enterprise, the system can, in turn, provide valuable information back to other individuals at the time and place of need. SpotLight automatically captures information when FSEs use it to help in troubleshooting situations. And, they’re more likely to take the extra step to add their own knowledge and expertise into the system when they see the real benefits they get from others having done the same,” said Knight.
Just how critical was this project? During one remote troubleshooting session, an FSE attempting to fix an oil leak on a business aircraft determined that the only solution to the problem was to conduct a time-consuming, expensive procedure that required the engine to be removed and sent out for repair. However, the action was quickly aborted when through the use of the DXRE-powered SpotLight application, the system recognised the fact that a similar problem had occurred many years earlier – and that the solution was to install an easy-to-replace component in another subsystem altogether. This revelation prevented tens of thousands of dollars of needless expenses and many hours of repair time.
From CaseBank’s perspective, the benefits of choosing DXRE go far beyond any individual event. According to Knight, “In an industry where customer satisfaction means everything, we have a true competitive advantage with DXRE. It has helped us to provide a more effective and flexible solution to our clients with capabilities that would otherwise be nearly impossible to deliver.”