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Maintenance

Mix and match

Swiss AviationSoftware operates across a wide range of airlines and MROs and has to work with an equally wide range of ERP systems. The key is adaptability
 

Although it is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Swiss International Airlines (SWISS), Swiss AviationSoftware (Swiss-AS) originated in 1989 within the IT department of regional carrier Crossair, based in Basel. Its AMOS software was designed to meet the airline’s own maintenance requirements but achieved its first commercial sale to an outside customer just three years later in 1992. Following the collapse of Swissair in 2002, Crossair was used as the basis for the launch of SWISS and, in 2004, Swiss-AS was formed as a fully owned subsidiary of the new airline.

 

The company is still based at EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse and this, says Ronald Schäuffele, chief executive officer, gives it the advantage of being close to airline maintenance and flight operations on a daily basis. This is reflected in its rapid growth over the years – the company has doubled its number of staff since 2011 and acquired 120 customers in the process. Indeed, after a slow summer this year, he says an influx of new work has meant that projects are now being staggered to ensure they can be addressed properly. Customers in 2013 alone have included AviancaTaca, CommutAir, LOT Aircraft Maintenance Services, Scandinavian Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, Oman Air and Vanilla Air.

 

Swiss-AS’s customer base ranges from well-established carriers and regional operators, to low cost start-ups and MROs. He says low cost carriers are probably the easiest to deal with as they are interested in efficiency and simplicity, taking and implementing AMOS quickly. Legacy carriers often have outdated systems that need to be replaced, meaning that the cleaning and migration of data can be extremely time consuming. Some have also gone through a phase of trimming their maintenance organisation, resulting in the replacement of experienced staff who are familiar with each aircraft’s history.

 

Often, the new software arrives at the same time as a new fleet, meaning decisions have to be made as to whether aircraft in line to be phased out should be added to AMOS. This decision is based both on cost effectiveness of the transfer and whether old data can be trusted. New start-up airlines with older aircraft can face similar difficulties and the company has to work closely with them in order to determine the best solution. One of the biggest challenges in almost all implementation processes is the transfer of data from the legacy system to the new one. In order to facilitate this data transfer process, Swiss-AS equips its customers with a highly sophisticated, fully documented migration tool.

 

For Swiss-AS, the selection of AMOS by Southern Air was important as it was its first North American customer. This collaboration is a result of Swiss-AS’s cooperation with Lufthansa Systems, which represents Swiss-AS in the US as well as in the Asia-Pacific region (namely Singapore).

 

Swiss-AS’s relationship with the Lufthansa Group stems from the fact that its parent company is owned by Lufthansa. In 2007, Swiss-AS signed an important cooperation agreement with Lufthansa Technik to align their respective systems, AMOS and manage/m. This partnership has proved particularly beneficial for over 25 companies that use AMOS as their leading MRO system and are simultaneously procuring services from Lufthansa Technik, which are administered in manage/m. By connecting the two systems, data no longer has to be entered twice. This advance covers material contracts including pool access, purchase or component repair, component monitoring and the viewing of digital documents. Swiss-AS have had to develop interfaces for a wide range of other ERP systems over the years, so integration has not been a problem. Schäuffele says there is now a trend to split MRO and CAMO functions/organisations. Owing to the variety of interfaces available, the communication between the system of the MRO provider and the software of the airline (being the CAMO organisation) is relatively simple, with the creation of such interfaces becoming part of Swiss-AS’s daily business.

 

Many innovations and enhancements have paved the way for the continued success of Swiss-AS. In the summer of 2013, the company released AMOS 10 – a launch that heralded some of the most extensive developments in comparison to previous versions. Apart from the obvious ‘surface changes’, in terms of widgets/dashboards, the AMOS 10+ release provided the foundation and starting point for major future developments. The magnitude of these developments, some entirely new, others designed to consolidate existing features, has meant that they have had to be deployed over several releases, one example of this being the Advanced Planning functions.

 

Schäuffele says AMOS sales are being boosted by the pending introduction of next-generation aircraft. As legacy software cannot cope with the new demands and the amount of data involved, Swiss-AS launched a host of new functions allowing AMOS to handle the management of the next-generation aircraft. However, Schäuffele suspects that Airbus and Boeing are reluctant to “open the boxes” and provide all the necessary data. He suggests that airlines taking delivery of these new aircraft types should ask the OEMs to allow all the necessary information to be fed into AMOS. It is in their interests to allow access, especially predictive trend data, in order for Swiss-AS to be able to fully support these aircraft, especially in less developed parts of the world.

 

While much is being made of the use of tablets on the hangar floor and the ramp, Schäuffele does not believe that such devices will be deployed for line and/or base maintenance in the very near future. The main reason for this lies in the fact that electronic sign-off, which is a precondition for the proper use of mobile devices in the hangar or on the ramp, is being accepted at a very slow rate. Currently Swiss-AS is in the process of developing a selected number of AMOS modules, including mobile- and browser- based applications, with the purpose of covering, in the first phase, the complete line maintenance process flow. Only developments that are receptive with customers are truly valuable for the end-users, and this is where companies like Swiss-AS have to make the right decision. 


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