Maximizing the Flight Operations Department Effectiveness with Technology
How Business Intelligence Improves High Level Decision Making
The following was written using excerpts from a presentation given by Vmo Solutions’ CEO Kris Hanus and VP, Operations Chris Chambers at ATAC 2017.
There are many high-level business benefits of utilizing advanced technology solutions in flight operations. Flight operations has the opportunity to deliver efficiency bonuses to the business through the wealth of information it generates. However, if you have worked in the aviation industry for any length of time you’ve likely identified some common trends in flight operations departments:
- They often lag behind other business units with respect to technology.
- They are reactive rather than proactive from a technology perspective.
- This limits the value that flight operations can provide to the rest of the business. This is because it makes it can be prohibitive to analyze causes or solutions to problems.
- Ultimately, people in flight operations know what information is needed, want to be able to use it, but just don’t have the necessary tools to do it.
Therein lays the challenge; how do you capture the data you need and what are you able to do with it? We have observed that there are, broadly speaking, three stages of a business’s BI maturity:
- Stage 1: Manual collection of information likely in static documents – in terms of analysis you can produce some spreadsheets, but they’re limited in scope and depth and require effort to produce.
- Stage 2: A software solution has been implemented that allows for automatic aggregation of information and on demand reporting. Obviously, this is a big step up in capabilities, but can still be limited if the data is not being utilized effectively.
- Stage 3: Full integration of flight operations data with other business areas such as commercial, reservations, maintenance, etc. in a data warehouse, which gives a full view of business performance and interconnected cause/effect relationships.
In “Stage 3” you will be collecting high level data across business units and will be able to generate reports that compares data across those business units allowing you to make decisions based on those reports. Where specifically is the data coming from?
There are many data sources generated through flight operations and once you reach “Stage 2” you are likely capturing that data. Software, such as our operational control software (OC), will be able to capture data, and when properly implemented and utilized, operational control software almost always has positive ROI in the first year. Most operators immediately realize benefits through increased business process efficiencies alone. Operational control software enables automation where possible, reduces areas for mistakes or outright catches them (errors cost money) and it’s especially important from regulatory perspective. This frees your employees to focus on making good decisions rather than spending time doing process work. In a 2-5% margin industry it is extremely important to innovate and control/reduce costs. There’s an opportunity with operational control software to give you that leg up.
How to use the data you are collecting:
One of the longer-term benefits of “Stage 2” or especially “Stage 3” is that you can enable a cycle of continuous improvement. With the ability to mine through your data, you can start to uncover the true sources of what might have previously been difficult to identify issues. Armed with that knowledge, you can create targeted strategies to address inefficiencies and receive measurable results to gauge the success of those strategies. From this, you get the concept of continuous improvement where you can start off by tackling easily identified low hanging fruit but as processes mature and you iterate, you can keep finding those couple percentage point improvements. Over time, a point here and there on your margin add up to sizable gains.
When it comes to ensuring the effectiveness of the flight operations department there are a few key questions you need to ask:
- How is performance measured?
- Can you effectively defend your department if needed?
- Are you able to offer real-time data to the executive team?
Once you have on demand reporting, you greatly increase the visibility of the value flight operations delivers to your organization. We have all been in the position of having to defend your department or business unit and those scenarios can be tricky. With the correct data and accurate analysis you can provide hard facts and make informed decisions. You will be able to strategize and provide clarity and enable effective alignment with corporate goals. Wouldn’t it be great if you could walk in to your flight operations meetings with real time data and as a group, drill down through this information?
One of the largest benefits comes once you have sufficient data and access to it in real time. Once you get to this point you can start predicting scenarios and outcomes. This allows you to transition from being reactive to having a proactive stance. Being reactive in a scenario is often about minimizing losses whereas being proactive can help avoid the scenario altogether – often producing cost and resource savings in the long term.
Every flight operations department is sitting on a wealth of information that is often untapped. What we’ve discussed here is a way for you to leverage that data to create targeted strategies and help you better manage your costs, operate more efficiently and deliver a higher quality product to your internal and external customers. Future blogs will explore in more detail and provide specific of how the data is applied to high level business decisions.
If you’re interested in learning more about how technology can benefit your flight operations please do not hesitate to contact us. We look forward to discussing industry trends, learning more about your businesses, and how we might be able to help you.