In this series of Blogs, I explain how using digital process twins can revolutionize MRO efficiency. I discuss how the concept of the Digital Process Twin, having been perfected in assembly plants across aerospace and automotive manufacturing, is now being applied to MRO operations.

The Internet of Things is a much-discussed topic, but people aren’t things, and nobody sells “smart, connected wing stands” so how do IoT concepts apply to MRO hangar operations? Similarly, Industry 4.0 promises revolutionary changes in manufacturing, but what lessons, concepts and technologies can transfer to the MRO industry? How does the Smart Factory inform the Smart Hangar?

Ubisense is a company that transforms physical spaces into smart spaces, with a long track record of bringing manufacturers proven gains in quality, cost, and productivity. Our SmartSpace® platform monitors the physical flow of complex operations creating a real-time “digital twin” of the process. This Digital Process Twin provides deep situational awareness which empowers people to make more insightful decisions, and business systems to operate with foresight and certainty.

Industry 4.0 and IoT have shown important value in manufacturing operations, and platforms like SmartSpace have filled the data gap, connecting those concepts to complex manual processes. Now MRO operations are beginning to leverage those innovations and solutions to create the Smart Hangar. The concept of the Digital Process Twin, so successful in bringing order, repeatability and efficiency to manufacturing operations is directly applicable to MRO processes.

Ubisense’s decade-plus of experience in deploying mission critical solutions is now being sought by MRO operators to guide them through the steps of plant digitization. Our SmartSpace platform extends existing business systems and creates new possibilities for improving compliance and turnaround time.

In this series of Blogs, I have looked at the importance of location, what we mean by a digital twin and how we create the MRO Digital twin. In this final Blog of this series I want to look at where we can achieve real benefit.

Sample Use Cases and Areas Where Operational Efficiency Can Be Improved

Perhaps the best way to understand where digital twins and SmartSpace might be useful for an MRO operation is reviewing some common use cases listed below.

  1. Ground support equipment

    • Know where all your GSE is at any given time
    • Assess the usage of your GSE
    • Ensure GSE planned for upcoming tasks and is where it should be at the right time
  2. Large / Expensive tooling

    • Real time view of all tools, who has them and how they are being used
    • Manage the issue of tooling
    • Manage the transfer of tooling from one technician to another
    • Track calibration
    • Track actual utilization and move to actual-based vs time-based maintenance scheduling
  3. Small tools

    • Tracking using RFID/UWB/BLE to track
    • Improve traceability
    • One unified platform working in concert with all location-based sensing technologies
  1. Where is it?

    • Know where all your work is for a real-time view of the current position in that process
    • Real-time synchronization of ERP with shop floor, removing human error and delays
  2. Manufacturing / assembly process

    • When you know where things are, it’s possible to ask: “Is your process efficient?” In one example, an aerospace customer was taking 60 days elapsed time to complete a three-day manufacturing job and needed to know where the time was being lost. This location-based solution was able to help them reveal the processes and locate where delays where occurring.
  3. Improving the supply chain

    • Providing visibility to your supply chain so that customers and suppliers can see what stage you’re at within your process. In an MRO context, that might be giving airline customers visibility as to what stage has been reached in the work order for a particular aircraft. Knowing where everything is makes all that visible.
  1. Pre-drawing material to point of use

    • Know what material is required and ensure it is at a point of use prior to need or ‘just in time’
  2. Monitor material usage

    • Know what material has been used in your process
    • Return unused material to store
    • Real-time synchronization of material movement, consumption and Kanban triggers
    • Reduction in logistics delivery errors
    • Improved replenishment cycle times
  1. Are your processes efficient?

    • Visualize your processes so that it’s possible to see how something traveled through the process, where it went, when it was stopped, for how long and why
    • Identify how the overall process could be improved
  2. Amending your process and monitor improvement

    • Demonstrate that the improved process delivers the expected benefits
  3. Continual process management

      • Support 5S workshops to reveal hidden process waste
  1. Monitor your plans

    • Visualizing your planned work order
    • Playing your plan in advance of the performing work
  2. Reviewing and modifying your plans

    • Continually review and revise your plan for optimization
  3. Ensure efficient production control

    • Having effectively planned your work, ensure it is executed efficiently and to plan
    • Review execution against plan

Any of these use cases represents a possible start point for a smart hangar strategy, with the others being added over time as needs demand, and budgets allow. It is best to select quick wins that will deliver real value and enable the organization to gain knowledge and confidence in stages. When businesses begin using this technology, the most successful are those that implement one use case at a time but within the context of a long-term plan.

Also, think outside the box: don’t consider just what other companies might already have done. As long as there is a way to capture information about an object and its location (RFID, barcode, BLE, UWB or other technologies) then there are a multitude of ways to create value from that information. Selecting a platform that can grow with you over time allows you to leverage your initial sensor investment in ever more creative and value-added ways.

Hopefully, this series of blogs have helped you understand what we are doing at Ubisense to take our experiences from many other sectors and apply them to the MRO sector to help improve operational efficiency.

Do you want to learn more on How to Improve Business Efficiency in an Aerospace MRO Environment? Watch Dr Hugh Revie’s On-Demand Webinar on the same topic: WATCH NOW

Hugh Revie Portrait

Written by Dr Hugh Revie, Sales Director Aerospace EMEA at Ubisense

Hugh is one of the world’s leading experts in the Aerospace industry. Hugh has now been working in Aerospace for more than 30 years and, prior to joining Ubisense, started his career in aviation after graduating with a doctorate in Engineering and, initially working for British Aerospace. Around 18 years ago, he created his own company, CoreData Limited, focused on helping airlines, MROs, OEMS and aircraft supply chain companies with solutions that could drive value from the large amounts of data they were accumulating. He finally sold the company to Rolls Royce. Since then he has been working with customers to improve efficiencies by using their own data and continues to do this with Ubisense.

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