Air Transport World

The MRO solution: airlines are adopting complex software solutions to streamline their maintenance departments.(Information Technology)(maintenance, repair and overhaul)

Enterprise resource planning systems and related software are becoming mandatory components of the maintenance, repair and overhaul supply chain at many airlines. Once the sole province of finance, human resources and management, these single-point and complex IT solutions are being acquired by carriers to cut costs and streamline MRO as well as to replace outdated and expensive-to-maintain legacy systems.

Within airline maintenance departments, ERP systems have gone from "nice-to-have to must-have," says Stan Melling, VP-account management for Duluth, Minn.-based Sinex Aviation Technologies, whose FleetCycle production manager software for automating heavy maintenance procedures has been acquired by US Airways, Air Canada Technical Services and Southwest Airlines.

A pressing need for automated maintenance software exists at financially beleaguered airlines in particular. "These software systems have become a requirement for survivability," says Steve Casley, a principal with BACK Aviation Solutions, which follows MRO activity globally.

Current maintenance software applications run the gamut from automated planning and scheduling to execution, tracking and configuration management. In some instances, these solutions link management to line and heavy maintenance and component shops.

Southwest Airlines is weaning itself slowly from the aging US Airways-conceived Maxi Merlin mainframe system to a next-generation solution that one day will manage the maintenance needs of 750 737s, up from 370 in the current fleet. So far the airline has installed i2 Technologies' supply chain planning solution, Trade Matrix's demand forecasting software and Sinex's FleetCycle production manager. …

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