Lufthansa Technik consistently counting on digitalization
"Digital transformation" has become the overarching megatrend in commerce and industry in recent years. Neither the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) nor the "Internet of things" is possible without "digital transformation". The essential prerequisites are digital technologies deployed in a targeted way to reshape or replace existing value-creation processes. Lufthansa Technik grasped this trend very early and now wants to continue its consistent progress on multiple levels in the digitalization of processes within the MRO industry. Many varied innovations have recently been launched for this purpose.
With the "Condition Analytics" platform, Lufthansa Technik now offers software developed for and with customers for Condition Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance to support these goals. This is a universal system that both presents the actual situation of a fleet and predicts outages. This makes it possible to take concrete measures before a fault occurs, effectively preventing the outage. Amongst other things, the system uses data and flight parameters of the QAR (Quick Access Recorder) and/or DAR (Direct Access Recorder) as recorded in the flight recorder.
A team of engineers and data scientists analyze the data to develop so-called "use cases". These use cases document the functionality of an existing system. The system is then examined, on the basis of current data and values, for abnormalities and anomalies, and the appropriate findings are provided to the customer. Lufthansa Technik uses the data for "trend monitoring" of various aircraft systems and for predictive maintenance, facilitating reliable insights into the future and, ultimately, increasing technical aircraft availability.
"Condition Analytics" is an independent tool, not coupled with a support contract or other Lufthansa Technik tools such as manage/m. It therefore serves as a manufacturer-independent platform for condition monitoring and predictive maintenance. The customer chooses the fleet and use cases required and is given access to the system.
In terms of aircraft maintenance, "DATCOM" is another step towards the use of digital technologies. The aim of this innovation project is to network the individual testing stations and to define data storage formats so that test reports and values measured can be made available for data analysis everywhere and at all times. The testing station data is also to be linked with other data from the aircraft equipment life cycle.
With "DATCOM", data from aircraft equipment life cycles can be used to optimize the maintenance process. Life cycle data can be presented in an intuitive way for the workshops and equipment faults will be more reproducible, allowing them to be more quickly isolated on the basis of correlation models. Furthermore, the effectiveness of equipment modifications and preventive measures can be analyzed.
"Data mining" methods, i.e. artificial intelligence, is used in the "DATCOM" project to analyze test measurements from maintained equipment. Correlation with the resultant reliability achieved will facilitate the derivation of further potential preventive measures within the framework of equipment maintenance. Such measures could include, for example, the early replacement of all seals in a hydraulic cylinder in order to improve the overall equipment durability.
The "ADP@WG" (Advanced Data Analytics for Proactive Measures) project builds, amongst other things, on the data made available by "DATCOM": Needs analysis is conducted related to proactive service measures for component services customers in order to identify the needs of the market for such measures.
Appropriate preventive measures are then developed, for example to recommend the removal of specific equipment before it fails. Flight routes and weather conditions are amongst the factors that are analyzed to determine their impact on the durability of equipment. The targeted introduction of proactive measures for equipment deployed in critical environments makes it possible for flight delays and cancellations to be avoided, thus increasing aircraft availability.
APOSEM and EVE
Digitalization continues to move ahead in the field of engine overhaul, too. Within the framework of the APOSEM (Advanced Prediction Of Severity effects on Engine Maintenance) research project, for example, an innovative method has been developed which allows engine behavior to be considered over the entire life cycle. The aim is to better forecast the aging behavior of engines and thereby optimally plan maintenance measures. Detailed physical models of engines have been developed and compared with existing data. Furthermore, a reliable method has been developed for the simulation of operation and for predicting engine aging.
In order to experimentally verify the suitability of the forecasts under real conditions, a retired CFM56-5C engine was modified into a test-bed in the extra project EVE (Engine for Validation Experiments). An independent data measurement system now allows for 310 extra parameters to be measured, providing detailed insights into all relevant operational aspects of the engine. The findings allow for possible damage, faults and problems in the engine to be identified at an earlier date, so that the optimal time for maintenance can be determined and appropriate measures taken; at the same time, this leads to more accurate costing.
Alongside its own innovative strength and many in-house tools for "digital maintenance", Lufthansa Technik is also depending on "Digital Records" for the implementation of its digital strategy. A strategic partnership with the British software provider "FLYdocs" is initially forging ahead with the digitalization of paper-based processes. Following on from the decision to pursue besser analysis and visualization of passenger data with the help of analysis tools from Tableau Software, this is a further step towards digitalization within the Lufthansa Group. Lufthansa Technik and "FLYdocs" are planning to develop new digital services which will be of great value for operators and lessors of aircraft around the world. "FLYdocs" is implemented as a web-based platform that can phase out the entire "records" aspect of operations, eliminating paper from aircraft documentation as far as possible.
These and many other innovation projects are fundamental building blocks in Lufthansa Technik's interdepartmental digitalization strategy. "Digital transformation" plays a special role here, as the prerequisite for new, digital business models and the digitalization of product life cycles. It delivers new, revolutionary possibilities in product design and "virtual testing" along with networked production (Future Factory 4.0). The targeted deployment of digital technologies not only significantly enhances process security and productivity; it also significantly increases the reliability and availability of customer aircraft and their components. The goal is to digitally model every single customer aircraft and its engines throughout the entire life cycle, all the way to phase-out, effectively creating a so-called "digital aircraft twin". In this way, Lufthansa Technik is setting the course for a digital future in the MRO industry.