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Airport Maintenance Q&A: How to Leverage Technology to Drive Savings and Efficiency

The aviation industry has evolved considerably over the last several decades, and so has the approach to airport maintenance and operations. In the wake of COVID-19, it is more important than ever for airport executive teams to invest in technology solutions that will not only drive innovation but also drive safety and savings.

The future cannot be predicted, so now is the time to implement change before the next crisis occurs. Here’s what three industry experts have to say about airport maintenance efficiencies and “hitting the ground running” for when operations return to the new normal.

Meet the Experts

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Beau Stombaugh
PBB, GSE and Airport Facility Sales
TWG Supply

TWG-Employee-Bill

 

Bill Tyler
Systems and Projects
TWG Supply

 

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Josh Lowe
Business Development Executive and Co-founder
AkitaBox


INTRODUCTION OF TWG SUPPLY


AkitaBox: “Tell me more about TWG Supply. How do you help airports achieve better operational efficiency?”

Bill Tyler (TWG Supply): “In a nutshell, TWG Supply is a one-stop-shop procurement solution for airport Operations & Maintenance needs. We ensure that airports have the right parts in the right places at the right times. Our expansive parts inventory lives within a system that’s designed around airline and airport operational needs. Our software solution, RequestOptix, helps take the headache out of the procurement process so that maintenance teams can focus on providing the best service possible within their airports.”

Beau Stombaugh (TWG Supply): “Our goal is to help airports be more productive and achieve better operational uptime with less equipment breakage — all while doing less. We have the insight on equipment, extensive knowledge of airports, and a great team to lean on. Because airports don’t always have the necessary parts on hand to fix an issue, we are here to help you identify your high wear items, as well as parts that have failed.

AB: “What are your areas of specialty at TWG Supply?”

Bill Tyler (TWG Supply): “TWG Supply specializes in baggage handling systems (BHS), passenger boarding bridges (PBB), and ground support equipment (GSE). We serve all three of these specialties so that stakeholders can come to one table, and gain access to invaluable data that can ultimately improve the ease of operations.”

AB: “Tell me more about your software application, RequestOptix. How does it provide value to users?”

Bill Tyler (TWG Supply): RequestOptix, is a great communications tool that allows technicians to stay in the field while doing their jobs. Our data analytics module also helps stakeholders stay up-to-date on deliveries and parts orders. We like to think of RequestOptix as a go-to tool for maintaining accountability. Every action is time-stamped, and you can export reports from our app to note the items that were requested and delivered to the airport.

Beau Stombaugh (TWG Supply): “We also push information into customers’ computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) for them. In essence, when we give a customer a part, we will put that information into their CMMS for billing purposes and accountability.”

AIRPORTS: STATE OF THE INDUSTRY


AB: “When it comes to airport operations and maintenance, what is the current state of the industry? How has COVID-19 affected the industry?”

Beau Stombaugh (TWG Supply): “Right now, few capital investments are going on. While some government-funded investments are still occurring, those normal day-to-day investments just aren’t happening. It appears the immediate focus is changing from ‘new’ equipment to ‘overhauling’ or ‘rebuilding’ of existing or legacy equipment. The economy was rockin’ at the start of the year, but COVID-19 was a huge hit to the industry and many others. Airlines have simply put these multi-million dollar improvements on hold and are looking for solutions that cost thousands instead of millions.”

Bill Tyler (TWG Supply): “COVID-19 has definitely taken the world by surprise and thrown many into crisis mode. Businesses have been affected in unprecedented ways, but we have to look beyond the current situation. We can’t afford to be shortsighted. We need to view these times as a springboard for change. Some investments, especially those that have to do with airport operations and maintenance, simply can’t wait.”

AB: “Given the current state of the world, what should airport executive teams be thinking about?”

Beau Stombaugh (TWG Supply): “It’s no secret that things are slow right now. We can actually use this time to our advantage and start thinking about optimizing operations and efficiencies. This is the perfect time to hit the ground running for when things get back to normal — or at least, a “new normal.” Executive teams need to be asking themselves “What proactive steps can we take now to improve inventory, assessments, parts planning, forecasting, and other airport operations maintenance tasks?”

AIRPORT MAINTENANCE AND THE POWER OF TECHNOLOGY


AB: “Can you name an example of how technology can improve operational efficiency in an airport?”

Josh Lowe (AkitaBox): “Here’s a great example. Some airports are putting in sensors to replace the need to manually log certain metrics. Take coolers for example. Some airports today will only serve meals in First Class. This food gets stored in coolers. Each cooler has a paper disk within it that functions like a seismograph to record data. A line is drawn on the paper wheel to indicate the temperature of the cooler at a given time of day. They actually have to take those papers out each day, replace them and file them. Then they have to manually log that information for USDA compliance. Replacing this system with automatic sensors can save supervisors up to four hours a day in manual labor.”

Bill Tyler (TWG Supply): “Supervisors transcribe that information by hand into a paper report by hand, when you could do the same thing digitally. We can cut that time down by implementing sensor technology throughout an airport facility. Those sensors can even predictively tell us when things will fail. Our company, TWG Supply, can tell you ‘Hey, here’s the part you’re going to need in 10 minutes. Based on data, we can tell you what you’ll need before you even need it. Our order management software only serves to make this process more agile. When combined with a building management software like AkitaBox, we can successfully keep technicians in the field and allow them to order the parts they need right then and there. No need to return to an office. In essence, we can help maximize your parts inventory and get ahead, especially before a catastrophe happens.”

CAPITAL MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES IN AIRPORTS


AB: “How can technology impact the success of airport operations, now and in the future?”

Josh Lowe (AkitaBox): “Despite the times, most organizations are still in the position to make investments, especially if those investments present the opportunity to provide savings. With the downtime many organizations are experiencing, now is the right time to seriously consider implementing solutions that can save money. In fact, your organization should consider savings solutions regardless of the epidemic we are experiencing. Organizations must ask themselves how can we consolidate resources and properly mothball our facilities? What tools do we need to get there? The fact of the matter is that if organizations would have implemented these cost-saving solutions a year ago, today could look a lot different for them when it comes to saving money and being prepared for a situation like we’re currently in.”

Bill Tyler (TWG Supply): “Recapitalization will be hard. This is why organizations need a tool to visualize their spaces and start thinking about them intelligently. We’ve already seen that the future cannot be predicted. We need to put cost-saving tools and resources in place now, not later.”

AB: “In your opinion, what is the greatest advantage of leveraging technology to improve airport operational efficiency?”

Beau Stombaugh (TWG Supply): “Easy. Technology gives users the opportunity to access the information they need with a click of a button. Information is instantly at your fingertips, whenever and wherever you need it (including in the field). For example, our software application can tell stakeholders what’s been ordered, when it’s on its way, and when it will arrive. It’s all about better communication and access to the data you need to improve day-to-day operations.”

Bill Tyler (TWG Supply): “Technology also presents great training opportunities. For example, most airports are going to have Operations and Maintenance providers come in at some point who don’t know what certain maintenance-related things are. These individuals don’t just need to hit the ground running; they are also often charged with improving the current situation, condition, cost, and up-time. Software solutions like Request Optix and AkitaBox put this information at users’ fingertips and provide visual access to the data they need from a phone, computer or tablet.”

Beau Stombaugh (TWG Supply): “To add, people are becoming more and more tech-savvy nowadays. We’ve come to rely on data analytics in order to make sound business decisions. Data can tell you where you are overspending and make you question if you really need to purchase something. If businesses would have invested in technology solutions a year ago, they could have saved more and gotten a lot further on their developments.”

AB: “It seems that access to data is a key component in achieving operational success in an airport. Why is data so important?”

Josh Lowe (AkitaBox): “Data is king. I often tell people that the next Gold Rush will be the ‘Data Rush.’ Ultimately, data is gold. It is that valuable. If you know the data, you can save money! You can easily identify savings because you held the data at your fingertips and observed key trends. When it comes to airports, there’s often a level of tension between the C-Suite and the maintenance team. Neither group fully understands one another. Data can help both sides play off the ‘same rules’ and get on the same playing field when it comes to important business operations.”

Beau Stombaugh (TWG Supply): “With data comes predictive and prescriptive maintenance. For example, the OEM [Original equipment manufacturer] might say ‘change ‘X’ every ‘Y’ amount of hours or revolutions.’ But not all equipment fails the same way, especially in different climates. We need to take failure analysis data, learn from it, and prescribe new maintenance standards according to specific climates and materials. Standards are great, but it’s more important to finesse data to make it more accurate to your own circumstance.”

AB: “How do you envision the future of technology in the airport maintenance space?”

Beau Stombaugh (TWG Supply): “Imagine this: What if you could leverage a digital twin of your baggage handling systems and zoom in on certain sections to identify issues and create PMs? What if you could identify how many bearings or rollers you have throughout each terminal or even your entire facility? What if maintenance technicians could leverage a software platform to learn how to fix a specific asset and identify areas of breakdowns? The exciting news is that technology can achieve all of these tasks. It’s all about visibility and helping technicians get to where they need to be, understand safety concerns, and know the procedure to fix something right the first time.”

Bill Tyler (TWG Supply): “Software solutions like AkitaBox can also aid with compliance control in airports. Technicians can follow checklists within the software to ensure that steps are taken in compliance with laws and regulations.”

LEARN MORE ABOUT AKITABOX AND REQUESTOPTIX

  • AkitaBox: AkitaBox is the leading building management software provider dedicated to improving the way people manage and interact with the buildings they occupy. Founded in 2015, AkitaBox currently supplies accurate data management tools and implementation services to over 250 million square feet of educational, commercial, healthcare and governmental organizations in the United States.
  • TWG Supply and RequestOptix: Interested in revolutionizing the way you do business? Find out more about RequestOptix on the App Store. See how they can help you be more productive and get better results all while doing less. Then, explore our expansive inventory of parts inside a system designed around airline and airport operational needs. Our software evolves with you, offering easy tracking & notifications with friendly customer service.

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