Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul • April 26, 2016

Digital MRO: The Ultimate Feedback Design Engineers Cannot Ignore

Naveen Poonian Naveen Poonian

Digital MRO (2)Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) operations often operate in their own silos with sparse communication and collaboration with engineering. Of course this type of practice should be discouraged as the findings MRO operators uncover has a great deal of use to design engineers.

One of the main duties of an MRO shop is to assess the wear and tear on consumed units and parts. Taking apart any complex component or device, evaluating and recording its condition post consumption results in the compilation of very important but often overlooked data points that are highly beneficial to the original design engineers. To adequately locate, view and share this data, companies need to look into implementing an MRO software system.

Below are 4 key drivers illustrating the importance in capturing MRO data digitally to empower design engineers to advance their engineering initiatives and to create more robust designs:

1. Digitally documenting MRO engineering work provides a platform for visibility.

Most MRO work is still captured and executed through paper-based systems. Paper based processes make it difficult to get the 360 degree view of the as-maintained work that has been performed. This makes it difficult to understand trends and patterns, especially when different people may be performing work on a variety of components through different layers. Most firms will have to hire teams to manually gather information, usually in Word and Excel spreadsheets to try and collect data and make extrapolations of perceived trends. This method is highly inefficient when done on paper and it can take a great deal of time to produce analytics. Also findings become limited because of the length of the time it takes to gather and pair data.

However capturing the same information digitally will allow technicians to simply run reports or business analytics tools on the data to get more detailed information in less time. What may take weeks to uncover can be done in a matter of hours or even minutes. This allows more information to be fed to design engineers who can then make actionable changes based on the discovered data.

2. Aftermarket service highlights areas for future design and/or material improvements.

Performing MRO on hundreds if not thousands of similar model components will likely yield patterns. For example, a particular model turbine that has undergone a thousand repairs usually will have its own unique set of issues but it will also expose design weaknesses through recorded patterned deficiencies. A turbine that has repeated occurrences of issues such as a blade defect can tip off design engineers to do further analysis on the blades to ensure that future designs or upgraded materials will solve this issue.

3. Uncovered defects lead to longer life designs.

The more companies utilize the benefits of digital MRO the faster companies will be able to capitalize on uncovering design deficiencies. This allows engineers to flush out designs much faster and therefore produce more durable products.

Also, as manufacturers adopt business models that lease highly engineered products, these companies can capitalize with their MRO services arms through a reduction in overhaul activities, increasing margins by reducing MRO labor hours. This also allows companies to appropriate refurbished equipment and sell it into the market with greater value because of its longer life capacity.

4. Integration of MRO software systems, MES Systems, PLM/PDM systems and ERP system enables Digital Thread collaboration.

Integrating software systems together allows companies to leverage technology to bring all departments with very different functions together through sharing of information. Feedback is not the only important element to integrating these systems; there are other benefits such as being able to initiate requests for design changes based on field findings. It enables the Digital Thread visibility and creates a closed-loop change management system.

Most communication and change management are executed through unstructured methods including e-mail and manual paperwork. By providing MRO shops a method to communicate change requests in a structured and digitally streamlined system, requests can be prevented from falling through the gaps.

Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul has much more value than functioning as its own business unit. It is an area that is a fountain of knowledge abundant with performance data. It behooves design engineers to capitalize on this information to engage in continuous improvement initiatives.