Airservices to ditch paper for field techs

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Airservices to ditch paper for field techs

Move off Windows XP still in the works.

Airservices Australia is working to overhaul the legacy, paper-based processes underpinning its technical field maintenance with automated, mobile solutions, while also negotiating an overdue move off Windows XP.

The 3900 staff at the organisation - which is a government-owned corporation regulated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority - provide the aviation industry with aeronautical data, telecommunications, navigation services and aviation rescue and fire-fighting services.

Its networks span 640 sites across the country.

Airservices’ technical services division contains around 360 field technicians working out of 18 nationwide maintenance centres on radio, electrical, mechanical, lines and IT systems issues.

For the past 12 years, the field techs have been issued work orders through an SAP plant maintenance module - around 100,000 are sent out each year.

However, the processes involved in carrying these out are largely manual and paper-based, and have remained unchanged for decades, the organisation said.

“This has created shortfalls in the areas of regulatory compliance and process efficiency,” it revealed in tender documents.

Airservices is hoping to resolve its current compliance issues, as well as inefficiencies in the process, by implementing a commercial-off-the-shelf mobility solution.

The solution will include 400 laptops, tablets or smartphones for field techs, equipped with electronic forms pre-populated with relevant data. The devices will be able to receive and upload data to and from central repositories; and will be able to track data flows to confirm the right field tech has done the right job.

The electronic forms make up a key part of the project - specifically the conversion of paper-based airways engineering instructions (AEI’s). The documents give field techs direction on what maintenance activities are to be done.

There are currently around 100 types of AEIs, Airservices revealed. It plans to reduce this to 13 AEIs in the first instance.

A pilot of the new solution is scheduled for June to August 2016, ahead of a national rollout planned to commence next September.

The project will not be led by a chief information officer after the agency opted to abolish the role following the resignation of its last CIO in March last year.

Prior to his departure, former Airservices CIO Gordon Dunsford implemented a tactical overhaul of IT at the organisation, driving the agency’s $400 million IT strategy and roadmap through the board.

The IT function returned to under Airservices’ executive general manager of engineering following Dunsford’s departure.

Preparing to shift off XP

Dunsford also initiated work to migrate the organisation off Windows XP, which reached the end of support in April last year.

Airservices had initially planned to move off Windows XP before support expired, but is still running the operating system ahead of a move to Windows 8.1 and Office 2013.

According to the tender documents, it expects to commence the Windows 8 rollout this month and have it completed by March next year.

A spokesperson for the organisation said the migration had not been pushed back.

"This is a complex project that involves multiple sites around the country. Building and testing of the Windows 8 environment started in mid 2014 with the first rollout in late 2014," the spokesperson said.

"Rollout is continuing on a site by site basis."

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