From F-18 Hornets to Boeing, Real-Time Scheduling Keeps The World Flying High

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From the time the Wright Brothers flew the first airplane to the modern era of high-performance commercial and fighter aircraft, the costs of building and maintaining airplanes has increased in complexity every year.

Before you say “duh”, let me explain the business significance of this.

For airlines of all types and sizes, the challenges of improving operating performance while also maintaining or even improving profitability are becoming more tricky.

It’s clear that U.S. carrier profitability may drop in the near term as increasing energy prices and higher labor costs offset higher revenues driven by demand for air travel. Compound that with the complex tug and pull of such issues as on-time performance, maintenance crew productivity, and aircraft utilization — in the face of variables such as weather, mechanics, and air traffic control — and you’ve got a complicated business dynamic that would bedevil even the most sophisticated company.

Long-running labor issues add yet another complication, particularly for legacy carriers. And all the while, airline customers demand a better experience without disruptions, a friendly crew (or at least not a violent crew), and, of course, safety—all at a low price.

So, where is the one area that gives one airline a leg up on another? Answer: The ability to efficiently streamline manufacturing and maintenance of their airplanes.

That’s why more companies in industries, such as airlines, aerospace, military and high tech, are turning to real-time scheduling to streamline manufacturing and maintenance strategies.

The ability for airlines to be more efficient with repairs and maintenance results in a huge competitive difference between them and a competing airline and has long-term consequences.

For example, a few years ago the US Navy began to overuse the multi-mission strike-fighter F-18. The increased global demand for aircraft carriers turned into excessive flight hours for the F/A-18. Soon afterwards, 50% of the fighter jets became grounded for maintenance issues.

In a last-ditch effort to leverage existing resource capacity to meet project demands, the Navy turned to a modern real-time scheduling software. The Navy realized a monthly planning and review process was not sufficient to handle the constant changes that define aircraft maintenance repair and operations (MRO).

The Navy’s actual maintenance plan was constantly in flux, including the number and hours needed of specialized mechanics workload on back shops, engineers and procurement. “Changing all these schedules and keeping them synchronized within and across aircraft is humanly impossible,” said Realization CEO Sanjeev Gupta.

Not only did real-time scheduling ensure that resources were shifted to the right tasks at the right time, it also changed management focus from backward looking reports to forward-looking delay or bottleneck alerts. Even the supply chain benefited because vendors were now working to synchronized schedules and real need-dates.

Resource utilization analysis showed that by solving the scheduling problem, depot production could be increased by 25% or more and aircraft turnaround times reduced by 50% or more.

From the military to the airlines to the airline suppliers and manufacturers, real-time scheduling software keeps the world’s airlines flying high.

Click here to learn how Realization’s real-time scheduling software has resulted in $6 billion in additional cash and profits for its customers.

Click here to discover how real-time scheduling made Siemens’s $30 million in the first year. And click here to see how Realization reduced downtime for TAP Airlines by 21%.

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YOUR PROJECTS HAVE A SCHEDULING PROBLEM

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According to industry analysts, $5+B were spent last year on improving project management skills and processes, as well as various PM/PPM software. Did all these billions cause projects to run faster or more efficiently? Most likely not.

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Maybe they were not solving the right problem. Your projects have a scheduling problem if:

1. You have tried creating a single source of truth but people prefer their own “back pocket” schedules

2. You have frequent meetings to resolve schedule/resource conflicts

3. Everyone is constantly firefighting and waiting on someone else

4. People are perpetually overloaded

5. High priority projects get done in half the time – which only means that, with correct scheduling, all projects can get done much faster

If you have a SCHEDULING PROBLEM, improving processes or soft skills WON’T improve project delivery or resource efficiencies. ONLY fixing the scheduling problem will.

PLEASE FIX THE SCHEDULING PROBLEM. THE WORLD IS EAGERLY AWAITING YOUR PROJECTS.

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CORE PRACTICE: GLOBAL OPTIMIZATION, NOT LOCAL

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The main pitfall to avoid with real-time scheduling is to continue with local optimization that was necessary with static plans. The results you get with real-time scheduling are superior when you use it for global rather than local optimization.

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Static plans are not useful in execution. Resources can only work on what’s available, not what was planned. That’s why, with static plans, day-to-day execution is managed with local optimization metrics like resource utilization and efficiencies. However, there is a big difference between keeping resources busy and getting projects done (more projects faster).

Let’s conduct the following thought experiment to understand the difference between local and global optimization.

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There are three identical work-streams in this experiment, and each work-stream is comprised of three main tasks:

  • Blue Tasks (B1, B2 and B3) that are performed by the Blue resources;
  • Red Tasks (R1, R2 and R3) that are performed by the Red resources; and
  • Gloden Tasks (G1, G2 and G3) that are performed by the Golden resources.

Now, imagine that you can execute these three work-streams in one of the following two modes:

  • LOCAL OPTIMIZATION MODE: “Maximize Resource Utilization” whereby resources are fully utilized and all the three work-streams are executed in parallel.

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  • GLOBAL OPTIMIZATION MODE: “Maximize Project Velocity and Completions”, whereby all the required resources are assigned to one task at a time and only after finishing that task can they start another. For example, Blue resources will have to finish Task B1 before they can start Task B2. Resources experience some idle time in this mode.

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Let’s further assume that:

  • In the “Global Optimization” mode, Blue resources can finish one Blue Task in 6 weeks, Red resources can finish one Red Task in 10 weeks, and Golden resources can finish one Golden Task in 4 weeks. This mode requires 18 (6×3) weeks of Blue capacity, 30 (10×3) weeks of Red capacity and 12 (4×3) weeks of Golden capacity. As stated before, resources are sometimes idle in this mode.
  • Resources can be more fully utilized by spreading them across three work-streams. In the “Local Optimization” mode, the total capacity required from every resource is less than in the “Global Optimization” mode. Blue resources can finish all three tasks in 15 weeks instead of 18; Red resources can finish all three tasks in 25 weeks instead of 30; and Golden resources can finish all three tasks in 10 weeks instead of 12.

Let’s now analyze which mode yields better performance.

  • CYCLE TIME: In the “Local Optimization” mode, each of the three works-streams takes 50 weeks to get done (15 weeks for the Blue Task + 25 weeks for the Red Task + 10 weeks for the Golden Task). In the “Global Optimization” mode, the cycle time to finish one work stream is 20 weeks.
  • THROUGHPUT: In the “Local Optimization” mode, the three work-streams get done in 50 weeks. In the “Global Optimization” mode, the three work-streams finish in 40 weeks (the first work-stream starts immediately and finishes in Week 20, the second work-stream starts after 10 weeks and finishes in Week 30, and the third work-stream starts after 20 weeks and finishes in Week 40). In the “Global Optmization” mode, a fourth work-stream can be started after Week 30 and can be completed by Week 50, a 33% higher throughput.
  • MANAGEABILITY: In the “Local Optimization” mode, the number of active work-streams that have to be managed at a time is three. In the “Global Optimization” mode the number of active work-streams that have to be managed is two. Simplification for departmental managers is even more. The number of active tasks that have to be managed at a time comes down from three to one in every department.

“Local Optimization” is the only option for managers when they cannot analyze the impact of local schedules on global performance in real-time. However, “Local Optimization” doesn’t make sense in the new world of “Real-Time Scheduling”.

 

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