In light of the current developments in the MRO world - significant growth, supply difficulties, storage costs, lack of human resources, new economic models - optimising planning is vital. At least, this is what the French consulting company Accelean thinks. So, the company took advantage of the MRO Americas conference and exhibition in Orlando (Florida) last April to present its Acumain software solution. This solution is intended to manage machine and human resources capacities.
Accelean is regularly approached to resolve workload and capacity planning and balance capacities and had built up significant experience in designing spreadsheet-based tools, as Michel Carron, President at Accelean Management Consultants explains. After repeating this process several times and producing similar results, the consultancy company has decided to move away from its core business to develop a proprietary software solution. In 2016 it launched Acumain, an application which is able to work independently or in relation with an ERP (business resource planning application).
"We are in a system which needs to adapt very quickly", declares Michel Carron. "This is why we have integrated a variant logic into Acumain. We can propose different planning variants for the same type of project, which will generate different scopes for the work to be carried out. In forecasting mode, the tool will enable a variant to be selected according to the elements you have available before the work starts. When the work starts and the inspection phases have been carried out, you can adjust the variant you have selected in the tool then continue to refine it as information arrives. Acumain then adapts the planning. "
The President of Accelean also said that Acumain is even able to manage project planning - such as equipment repair - which is characterised by a dual control mode: first of all, in push flow from the arrival of the equipment until the quote is sent to the customer, the phase where the MRO company has little visibility and needs to go quickly, then in pull flow for the repair phase with a delivery date promised to the customer. "A traditional ERP is unable to manage this dual model", he continues.
Michel Carron feels then that Acumain can adapt to all types of maintenance and project. "We started from detailed knowledge of our customers' activities and the difficulties they encounter in this planning process", he confirms. "This business knowledge means that Acumain isn't an off-the-shelf product. There isn't just one Acumain; there's one for activities on airframes, one for engines, one for equipment or even one for major projects with complex cycles, which takes account of the sub-assembly and workload on elementary part concepts. "
Michel Carron also identifies composites as a very interesting area of application, as by their nature their repair is very difficult to standardise: "It is a perfect example of how repair can vary". Maintenance cannot be scheduled for damage caused by events such as impacts to the fuselage or the wings and the human resources needed cannot be forecast either.
Accelean is now planning to develop Acumain in light of the development in the mass use of data. The predictive maintenance tools might then soon supply Acumain directly to strengthen its planning capacities.
Nevertheless, Michel Carron warns that this movement could also make planning work more complex. "The development of predictive maintenance is completely changing the playing field for simple equipment, for example. When you have a piece of software which tells you that a particular item of equipment risks generating a breakdown and so a risk of AOG or worse, the operator will choose prudence and remove it. We estimate that the volume of equipment removed under these conditions will increase and probably in significant proportions, which should generate difficulties for workshops in managing and planning their activities, as well as increased costs. "
As a management software solution, Acumain requires an implementation phase with work to establish the basic data which will define the variants. The standardised ERP information cannot be reused in their current format and so Accelean needs to adapt it and enhance it in cooperation with its customer. Later, project feedback may be used to enhance the variants and, by extension, the ERP data. This will guarantee more reliable commercial proposals for MRO companies, adds Michel Carron.
Currently, this process has been carried out for the AFI KLM E&M aerostructures activity - which has been an important customer of Accelean since 2013, specifies the chief executive - with operations beginning in 2017. Contacted for a range of other functions, Accelean took the opportunity to propose Acumain to the Franco-Dutch group.
This first setup followed an incremental logic. After an initial experimentation phase at CRMA, a subsidiary of AFI KLM E&M, the solution was adopted by the group's engines department with the Forward project, in the context of the Perform 2020 strategic performance improvement plan. These first steps were carried out in a spreadsheet environment, but enabled the bases to be laid for the future application. Acumain was then switched to its current format for the aerostructures activity.