SeamlessField Service Support

Components in modern airplane systems are so highly integrated that service or repair to one component often affects several others. In addition, the time required to resolve an in-service problem involving components from multiple manufacturers can depend on which manufacturer an operator's maintenance crew contacts first. As a result, Boeing and several engine manufacturers and airplane component suppliers have agreed upon a seamless field service support initiative to streamline the resolution of in-service problems. The initiative provides guidelines for coordinating the activities of all representatives who support the same airplane types and airline customers. The goal is quick, consistent, and effective worldwide field service support, regardless of which representative initiates the support activity.

When an in-service problem threatens to delay or interrupt airline schedules, operators expect maintenance crews to quickly estimate how long it will take to return the airplane to service. Supporting airline maintenance crews in these time-sensitive situations is a major part of the field service representative's mission, regardless of whether that person represents an airplane manufacturer or an airplane component supplier. To ensure that the necessary support is carried out quickly and with minimal coordination effort required from the operator, several airplane manufacturers and airplane component suppliers have agreed upon a seamless field service support initiative. The initiative focuses on

  1. Common processes for initiating problem resolutions.

  2. Improved communication between field service representatives.

  3. Familiarity with cross-company support requirements.

  4. Standard practices for use with all operators.

Common Processes For Initiating Problem Resolutions
Each manufacturer addressing an in-service problem requires information from an operator that pertains uniquely to that manufacturer's product. Each manufacturer may also require information needed by other manufacturers.

Seamless support gives field service representatives guidelines for gathering the information required by all involved manufacturers to initiate a complete problem resolution. This eliminates duplicate data gathering by the manufacturers and the need for the operator to supply the same information to field service representatives from multiple manufacturers.

Improved Communication Between Field Service Representatives
Field service representatives are frequently aware when a resolution requires a response from another manufacturer. When field service representatives from several manufacturers are collocated at major airports, they often establish an informal working relationship in which they share operator requirements and basic data.

However, these informal relationships can be disrupted when representatives move as a result of new airplane introductions, contractual limits, retirement, or new assignments. Seamless field service support creates a directory for each support site and a process for keeping the directory current. This helps new representatives identify their counterparts quickly and establish new working relationships.

The directory lists the operator contact information for all companies that assign field service representatives to the operator's maintenance base. It also lists each manufacturer and the 24-hour phone number, office location, name, and contact data for the manufacturer's field service representatives.

The directory provides a complete list of the systems and components each manufacturer supplies for each of the operator's airplane models. A field service representative can use this listing to identify a counterpart in another company when a resolution requires a response from multiple manufacturers.

Familiarity With Cross-Company Support Requirements
Seamless field service support provides for cross-training of field service representatives to help them understand the interactions between the support activities of the various companies. The aim of cross-training is to help representatives anticipate the needs of their counterparts to provide a more integrated response to the operator.

For example, representatives may visit the airplane manufacturer to learn how their components or systems are installed in the factory. They may also visit other manufacturers to learn how maintenance and service to other components affects their own products.

Field service representatives will continue to be experts in supporting their respective companies' products. They will not be expected to learn how to support other manufacturers' products. Though cross-training is designed to provide insight into the activities that occur before and after an individual representative provides a response, it does not involve sharing information or processes that could be considered competition-sensitive.

Standard Practices For Use With All Operators
To ensure that all operators receive a consistent level of support, Boeing administers the seamless field service support program with standard materials, such as an implementation kit that includes an implementation schedule and checklist. ("Seamless Support for System Reliability" describes an example of the success experienced by a team that followed standard practices to support an operator.)In addition, because seamless field service support is intended to be transparent to those outside of the problem-resolution process, operators may continue to initiate support requests in their usual manner and contact their usual field service representatives. The various manufacturers participating in the initiative will continue to support their products with the same number of field service representatives. Operators are also are encouraged to send their own representatives to team meetings to provide feedback on the program and to inform the team of operators' needs and expectations.

In order to resolve in-service problems quickly and consistently in a manner that is clear to operators, various airplane and engine manufacturers and airplane component suppliers have begun working through a seamless field service support initiative. Improved communication and coordination between field service representatives, in addition to cross-training about each company's products, will reduce the time required to resolve in-service problems. Providing support according to the initiative will help operators avoid the need to coordinate responses from multiple manufacturers. It will also allow them to continue to initiate queries and service requests following their usual process and rely upon their usual field service representatives for support.

Bob Poole
Manager, New ModelIntroductions

Boeing Field Service
Boeing Commercial
Airplane Group

Seamless Support For System Reliability
Airplane reliability issues affect the way airlines plan and perform maintenance, order spares, and schedule airplanes for revenue service. Understanding and controlling these issues require cooperation between suppliers of onboard systems and components that seldom arises by chance. The seamless field service support initiative developed by Boeing provides the guidelines for manufacturer field service representatives to achieve and sustain that cooperation. Coordinating field service support can contribute to process and product improvements for all suppliers and help suppliers enhance customer satisfaction.

Though manufacturers and suppliers normally provide data on the reliability of their own products, these data do not always translate directly into airplane availability or readiness information. Three factors complicate efforts to provide reliability data that are of practical use to the airlines in their own operational environment:

  1. Airline-unique factors.

  2. System and component interdependence.

  3. Human communication styles.

Airline-Unique Factors
Airline-unique factors include maintenance and usage practices that vary from airline to airline. For example, readiness criteria can vary not only between airlines, but from one airplane model to another within a single airline fleet. An airline might consider a fault in the in-flight entertainment system of an airplane that serves a very long route sufficient cause to hold that airplane back from dispatch. The same airline might consider a similar fault in the entertainment system of a short- or medium-range airplane insufficient cause to keep the airplane out of service. Other airline-unique factors include

For systems and components that have an established service history, effects of most airline-unique factors can be estimated based on historical data. For new products, these data must be projected from laboratory test results and experience with similar systems. This is far from an exact science. The seamless field service support initiative provides a forum for suppliers to share information on airline-specific factors. This can help suppliers compile service data and generate relevant historical information more quickly, which increases the practical value of their reliability estimates.

System And Component Interdependence
Airlines are often less interested in the reliability of individual components than in the reliability of whole systems. Designed-in fault tolerance and redundancy often make it difficult or impossible to predict the reliability of a whole system simply by combining the reliability data of individual components or subsystems.

Teamwork of the type facilitated by the seamless field service support initiative has proven essential to successful resolution of airplane reliability issues. For example, three years ago, Sundstrand conducted several independent investigations of reliability issues involving the integrated drive generator (IDG) on the 747-400. When resolution proved elusive, we coordinated a new effort that included representatives from the customer airline's engineering and maintenance groups and from Boeing engineering, systems engineering, and propulsion organizations.

The team trusted no hearsay or "self-evident" assumptions about anything. We demanded documentation and objective proof of every piece of evidence--no aspect of system performance or aircraft operation escaped our scrutiny. This required an unprecedented willingness on the part of all representatives to entertain the possibility that their product's reliability data might be challenged.

This openness was possible because a seamless team is fundamentally different from the team concept that many of us learned in the schoolyard. On a seamless field service support team, the "us-versus-them" philosophy that often rules the competitive sports team is replaced by an "us" philosophy--the "them" disappears. Each member of the team realizes that none of us looks good if we don't all look good.

This truly seamless effort led to identification of actual root-cause, system-impacting issues that were coordinated with the responsible parties for resolution. Our team grew to include representatives of the engine manufacturer and others, as required. It was ultimately formalized as Boeing SRP 24-006. Although the initial target of these activities focused on the IDG, the end results were system-wide reliability improvements. Experience resolving a root-cause field issue with airline customers suggests an equally descriptive name for the seamless process--good business!

Human Communication Styles
The seamless field service support guidelines spell out some basic procedures that are essential to professional cooperation and mutual understanding among field service representatives. These guidelines help avoid misunderstandings that could arise from personal or cultural differences in communication styles.

For example, field service representatives often overhear customer comments or take part in discussions that involve another manufacturer's product. It's not always obvious when it is appropriate to pass those comments on to the other representative. The seamless field service support guidelines help address this ambiguity by stipulating that all affected representatives will be included on correspondence and other business communications concerning the products they support.

I was involved in an effort involving the override jettison fuel pump on a 767. A pump diffuser at an operator other than the lead airline had been found broken, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration responded immediately by issuing an airworthiness directive to inspect these pumps. The lead airline was fully briefed on this event. Action items fell simultaneously to Boeing and Sundstrand to understand the cause of this diffuser breakage and determine corrective action. The Boeing and Sundstrand engineering departments coordinated closely throughout the entire process.

The cooperative atmosphere of seamless field service support and timely communication allowed Boeing and Sundstrand to address the concern to the customer's satisfaction.

Modern jetliners are complex products, operating in a very demanding environment. We must all accept the fact that problems will arise from time to time. The real challenge is to use the structure of the seamless field service support team to eliminate unproductive sidetracks and hurdles so that resolution can follow with minimum resistance.

David Ayars
Senior Field Service
Engineering Representative
Sundstrand Aerospace

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