Sikorsky’s efforts in improving the customer experience are widely evident in their latest changes that may put them at the top of the industry game on supporting customers.
Imagine in the not too distant future, that you need to perform routine maintenance on one of your fleet’s Sikorsky S-92 helicopters. You, walk into the hangar, log on to an app from Sikorsky on your iPad that gives you access to everything you need; from ordering to component times right in the palm of your hand? What if I told you that the future of that technology was already here? And, that Sikorsky 360™ is that platform – set to revolutionize your workflow. The company’s new platform also includes the HELOTRAC® Maintenance Management Program.
HELOTRAC® allows you to see your aircraft’s profile and the maintenance procedures that need to be performed today. Clicking on the links pulls up the interactive technical manual, which allows you to create custom work cards and watch a short video, walking you or a technician through performing the maintenance task needed. The new system also allows the user to see a list of what parts and consumables needed to be ordered to complete the task, tailored to your specific aircraft and its specific needs.
Imagine now, adding these parts and consumables to a shopping cart inside this same program, and placing an order, knowing that the parts you just ordered for your S-92 (built in the United States) will arrive on your loading dock in; Brisbane, Australia or Scotland, Denmark, maybe even Brazil, within only a few hours, if it even takes that long… Sounds like science fiction to the helicopter industry, right?
With the launch of Sikorsky’s Customer Experience 2.0, this is no longer fantasy, or science fiction; this is in fact, everyday life starting today. Sikorsky’s Customer Care Center in Trumbull, Connecticut is the foundation and nerve center that makes this a reality for Sikorsky’s customers.
The large Customer Care Center is divided into two discrete rooms, staffed and available for customers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. One area is dedicated to resolving Aircraft on Ground events (AOG,) housing engineers, customer service representatives, material managers, and ancillary support personnel which have, since the opening of the center in 2016, reduced the turn-around time of AOGs by over 70% (events on average are resolved in under 24 hours now) and directly contributed to a 75% reduction in the total number of AOG events.
The other room in Sikorsky’s Customer Care Center is dedicated to Fleet Management. This is where maintenance history and HUMS data from all of the S-76 and S-92 aircraft in service is collected, evaluated, collaborated and interpreted by engineers and data scientists. There are over 1.2 million operating hours of data for the S-92 alone; this mountainous repository of data has been collected through operations in an incredibly wide array of conditions.
Literally every hour of data from every S-92 in operation globally since the first airframe was launched 13 years ago, has been collected and stored in an effort to interpret the data holistically to continually improve performance on their airframes. One primary use of the individual and aggregate data is to assist in accurately forecasting what Simon Gharibian, Director of Fleet Management at Sikorsky, calls the “what, where and when.” What materials will be needed by each aircraft, when the materials will be needed and where in the world those materials will be needed?
Since its launch, HUMS data has helped turn unplanned maintenance events into planned maintenance events, by mining the data, looking back to identify early indicators of later problems. According to Gharibian, “In the relentless pursuit of keeping our operators operating as safely as possible, HUMS [data] allows us to predict very early on where trouble is starting and catch a problem long before it becomes a serious issue.”
All of this data has definitely helped Sikorsky lower the number of AOG events and speed up the Fleet Management process, all while maintaining an impressive safety record and equally impressive unscheduled availability rate of around 95% for S-92s.
Another integral step in improving the customer support experience is reducing the amount of time any maintenance evolution requires. Lockheed Martin, signaling its commitment to the commercial rotorcraft business, invested in Forward Supply Locations (FSLs) for Sikorsky aircraft, a highly successful move which dramatically shortened the length of the supply chain. These FSLs directly position parts inventories closer to the S-76 and S-92 operators around the world. Presently, four FSLs, beginning with; Stavanger in Norway, followed by Brisbane, then Aberdeen in Scotland, and most recently Rio de Janeiro, to support the largest densities of operators outside of the U.S.
With 100 S-92s operating in the North Sea alone, the Customer Care Center can fulfill parts needs out of the FSL at Stavanger in under an hour versus the previous minimum 48 hour time frame to receive parts previously from the central hub in Atlanta.
“The Sikorsky stocking locations in Aberdeen and Stavanger have been great assets in helping us reduce Aircraft on Ground downtime through placing critical parts within and close to our large operating regions,” said Dave Balevic, Senior Vice President of Engineering and Operations at CHC Helicopter. “Because we no longer have to wait for parts to cross the Atlantic, we now potentially reduce AOG event downtime by as much 50-60 percent just by having the right part in the right place.”
HUMS has helped Sikorsky become very good at the prognostics, predicting degradation on parts long before parts are need, allowing time for materials to be pre-positioned in the region needed for maintenance activities. “We know when inspections are needed by each aircraft, historical data helps predict by age, geographical location and operational tempo what parts will likely be consumed. Using that information, we then work with operators to help form an actionable plan for maintenance work and stocking the FSLs.”
In a concerted effort to continue to take customer support up a notch, even over what HUMS and the FSLs alone currently provide, Sikorsky has now given their online customer portal, Sikorsky 360™, a ground up overhaul and rebuild.
In a concerted effort to continue to take customer support to the next level and exceed expectations over and above what HUMS and the FSLs alone provide, Sikorsky’s view was to provide their customers with the most comprehensive and integrated maintenance and fleet management system currently available to the market. This meant Sikorsky had to combine what was formerly two separate and distinct online interface portals into what is now the new Sikorsky 360™ platform.
Gharibian stated in an interview with Heliweb Magazine that maintaining two separate sites was labor intensive and greatly lacked efficiency. In addition to the modernization of technology, one of the primary driving factors behind Sikorsky’s efforts was the desire to markedly streamline the customer experience. This, along with combining two platforms into one, not only did that, but by default, streamlined and made the manufacturer’s side more efficient also. “Being able to leverage the tech data and include the ordering of parts is a significant improvement” states Gharibian, continuing, “The interface is also entirely new, built from the ground up, including the HELOTRAC® tool. It has taken the better part of the year, and we included a dozen customers during the beta process spanning many types from single aircraft operations to fleet operators. We’ve kept the Sikorsky 360™ name but the rest is totally new.”
The enhanced site and app technology now integrates the Sikorsky 360™ content library and the former Sikorsky customer portal, allowing single-stop access to technical content, publications and notifications, view subscription based services, order parts, make claims, check inventory, request a quote and the ability view historical data in a single location. Customers can also report an AOG event, view e-notifications such as AD’s, request shipments, or quickly search for parts.
Included as part of the revamp, Sikorsky’s subscription based NextGen HELOTRAC® Maintenance Management System becomes part of the single source programming, featuring a more user-friendly integration with other Sikorsky products such as, Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals, maintenance planning, parts ordering, and HUMS data. According to Sikorsky, the improved system also offers additional fleet analytics and fleet management functionalities that can improve S-92, S-76, S-70i and S-434 helicopter operator efficiency.
For those unfamiliar with the Sikorsky technology platforms, another offering designed to enhance safety at the pilot and flight crew level is the iFly Sikorsky™ suite of applications, launched in 2014. These applications, part of Sikorsky’s Electronic Flight Bag solutions, provide operators a one-source tool that makes useful aircraft information readily accessible in the cockpit and allows Sikorsky to publish content electronically via Sikorsky 360™ through push notifications. The iFly set of tools allows for preflight planning, performance predictions based on ambient conditions, aircraft configuration, and places useful information such as; normal operating procedures, checklists, emergency procedures, aircraft supplements and other manuals all within easy reach, on the pilot’s iPad. Sikorsky announced in March of this year that it had launched its S-92 and S-76D Flight Crew Operating Manuals, which help pilots understand the intent of each helicopter’s system operations. These FCOMs are also available as part of Sikorsky iFly suite of pilot applications.
Sikorsky’s customer support organization’s relentless focus on safety enhancements and improving customer satisfaction shows that the company has listened to customer feedback and taken their approach to the next level, likely one that will serve in the future as a benchmark to other manufacturers. Gharibian noted, “Having the right material, the right information and the right support, helps our customers operate helicopters much more safely than trying to wing it.” Concluding with, “We know our operators have a choice in what they fly, we want to be the safest, the most economical, and the best choice for our operators, so we’re doing everything we can to support that.” With Gharibian at the helm of these and other improvements to the customer experience, Sikorsky has shown that they will likely be the one to beat for customer support in 2018.
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