TAP Airlines reduces downtime by 21% and achieves huge savings
As a successful Portuguese airline expands its routes, it soon finds itself beset by a growing list of operational and maintenance challenges. Resources, personnel and planning are all stressed as pressure mounts on various teams to keep the fleet airworthy and the flying public safe. In the crush of work, a culture of mistrust and blame begin to emerge. To help turn things around, the airline turned to Realization and SMART Project Delivery.
Flying high has its challenges
TAP (Transportation Authority of Portugal) is Portugal’s leading airline—flying since 1945 and a member of the Star Alliance since 2004. The airline’s lauded Lisbon hub is considered the European gateway; sitting at the crossroads of Africa and North and South America.
In 2014, the airline expanded to eleven new destinations. Which meant the airline had connections to eighty-seven destinations in 34 countries, averaging 2500 flights a week with a fleet of eight-eight aircraft. But as TAP grew in size, so grew the challenges. The work cards started piling up. In aviation, a work card is a detailed description of work that maintenance teams need to be complete on an aircraft or specific part. Given the size and complexity of a commercial airplane, thousands of work cards are assigned simultaneously to different teams. With TAP, there were a whopping 2,000 cards issued on a C-check.
Airlines perform a C-check approximately every 20–24 months, or on a specific number of actual flight hours (FH) or as defined by the manufacturer. This maintenance check requires that a large majority of the aircraft's components be inspected. This check puts the aircraft out of service, and the aircraft cannot leave the maintenance site until teams complete the check.
If that weren’t enough, there were 4,000 work cards on a D-check.
The D-check, sometimes known as a ‘heavy maintenance visit’ is by far the most comprehensive and demanding check for an airplane. This check takes place roughly every 6-10 years. This is a check that more or less takes the entire airplane apart for inspection and overhaul.
Too many repairs, too few bodies
TAP found themselves with more work cards than mechanics available to complete them. Given the variables and uncertainty that come with aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul, (MRO), it’s impossible to follow any plan more than one day out. It’s also humanly impossible to re-plan thousands of work cards every day.
To keep all their mechanics working, and all aircraft maintained, planners and managers had no other option but to release an extraordinary amount of work to the repair teams. This made an already difficult situation even worse. Confusion arose about priorities. One manager would outmaneuver another to grab resources needed to complete his or her own individual project. All at the expense of other teams.
Efforts at collaboration, the sharing of resources or the delivery of critical resources to the right people at the right time, became impossible. Delivery of aircraft began to suffer. This was not an environment conducive to long-term aircraft safety.
How SMART Project Delivery turned things around
To improve the scheduling of resources, TAP turned to Realization. SMART Project Delivery balances and schedules resources across multiple projects at the same time. Equally important, it brings management and the frontline ready-to-act information that helps every team know exactly what to do next.
TAP began working with the Realization team and deployed the SMART Delivery software in May 2014. This was a pilot project with a C3 check of a few TAP aircraft. The result was a 30% TAT (turnaround-time) reduction. Teams were working faster and getting more done. That was a clear sign to move ahead with SMART Project Delivery across all aircraft inspections.
According to TAP M&E Processes and Continuous Improvement Manager Pedro Costa, SMART Project Delivery helped in several key areas.
“Not only were our teams working on the right workcards at the right time, we had ready-to-act alerts and schedules. That helped managers respond to emerging bottlenecks, and to build a continuous improvement process that identified recurring constraints that limited our performance.”
Costa also reported that, “SMART Project Delivery helped us improve control over the critical path and handle many of the inherent uncertainties that exist in any aircraft inspection.”
A 21% improvement, with €330,000 in savings
SMART Project Delivery allowed TAP to conduct an additional A330 widebody C-check eliminating over €330,000 of outsourcing costs. This also freed up one more narrow-body to support TAP aircraft operations due to the 21% TAT reduction of TAP fleet aircraft. "Realization’s customer success team," said Costa, "was key to establishing the operational transformation program of TAP M&E intended to enhance business growth and sustained improvements.”
Many organizations with multiple concurrent projects struggle with static project and resource management tools. That’s because most of those tools work with averages and offer backward looking reports. To keep projects moving and completed on time, executives and frontline workers need information that they can act on right now.
TAP chose Realization because the company’s SMART Project Delivery system helped them take on the tasks that were most important in the moment. And to make the most effective use of their resources in a complex and dynamic environment.
“SMART Project Delivery eliminates wasted resources and inefficiencies, supports best practices and enables a dynamic solution for continuous improvement by the entire organization.”
Pedro Costa, TAP M&E Processes and Continuous Improvement Manager