Nick Ward, VP Digital Systems for Civil Aerospace in Rolls-Royce shares how IntelligentEngine gets the data flows that are its lifeblood and ensures security for all participants.
As a pioneer in cutting-edge technologies and with customers in more than 150 countries, Rolls-Royce is at the forefront in developing aircraft engine technology. The company has about 13,000 civil and 16,000 military engines in operation around the world. In order to be able to mobilize the value of experience with all of those engines, an increasingly important element for the business is the information flow among all parties, including in-house development engineers, suppliers and customers. This article will introduce readers to how Rolls-Royce tackled that challenge and the software solution that made it all possible.
BLUE DATA THREAD DIGITALIZATION PROGRAM
Rolls-Royce has often been a pioneering original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and not just with the quality and innovative flair that it brings to its engineering. More than twenty years ago, the company was a pioneer in servitizing the aircraft engine business through ‘power by the hour’ and its TotalCare initiative. For that to succeed, and it has, it is necessary to have the capability to follow and manage the engine throughout its operating life, a process known as product lifecycle management (PLM). So, it is no surprise that Rolls-Royce is today pioneering another key step forward in the area of lifelong engine maintenance, linking engine field data with ‘return on experience’ insights to optimize fleet management, supply chain, and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) service delivery. But, no matter how good the service and the technology that underpins it might be, nothing can stand still.
That’s why Rolls-Royce is bringing TotalCare bang up-to-date with a digital-centric generation called IntelligentEngine. The IntelligentEngine is a form of cyber-physical services where the physical engine, the services that surround that digital engine and Rolls-Royce’s digital capability are indivisible. The IntelligentEngine is connected by data. It is contextually aware of its own operating conditions, the environment through which it’s flying and what is happening with the rest of the fleet. Furthermore, the engine comprehends all of this information in a way that can support making smart decisions to maximize engine availability while minimizing maintenance costs and disruption. To bring this revolutionary idea to reality, Rolls-Royce created ‘Blue Data Thread’, a program connecting every Rolls-Royce powered aircraft, every airline operation using Rolls-Royce engines, every maintenance shop and every factory. It is a comprehensive solution that answers the need for maintenance data exchange with thousands of aircraft powered by Trent engines. That thread is humming with data, and information flows in both directions making the whole operating chain smarter.
The Blue Data Thread program supports a two-way movement of data using a new suite of applications called ‘Intelligent Insights’ that provide a window into the reliability, health, the remaining life of and the efficiency of engines. Airlines can retrieve that data from within the applications for use in their own digital ecosystem. This way, airlines who share their data will get value in return from the access that the system gives them to the whole universe of engine data which will, in turn, enable their own predictive maintenance capability with the resultant improvements in engine reliability and service quality.
Performance and engineering information is exchanged with Rolls-Royce and used within their digital twins. But the airline is in control of that data, because they own it, they decide how they share it and whom they share it with. Rolls-Royce uses that data to model at the engine, the fleet and the network level. Engine health and component lifecycle drivers are identified, and the company forecasts maintenance requirements many years in advance, to ensure that their repair network and factories have the right capability and capacity to meet the needs of customers. But above all it’s about creating a step change in delivering TotalCare to airline operators. This means more availability, less disruption and fewer maintenance interventions. All of this is free within TotalCare.
It would be unreasonable to ask airlines to share information with Rolls-Royce and not reciprocate by sharing information about their fleet back to them. The Blue Data Thread program is about an exchange — a two-way movement of data. That is achieved using a new suite of applications that Rolls-Royce calls ‘Intelligent Insights’, providing a window to the reliability, health, the remaining life of and the efficiency of engines. Airlines can retrieve that data from within the applications for use in their own digital ecosystem.
AN INTELLIGENT APPROACH TO MAINTENANCE AND RELIABILITY
Just as the content of the system relies on airlines sharing their information, so Rolls-Royce has worked with a number of partners to create the Blue Data Thread that makes IntelligentEngine possible. For nearly thirty years, there have been programs to try and predict engine component wear and engine health on the ‘prevention is better than cure’ principle. The availability both of huge quantities of data and the software to process those data into useful information are more recent developments that have made predictive maintenance an achievable objective through solutions such as IntelligentEngine which is able to work with any MRO/M&E system.
Air travel is a very time-sensitive process in which any unplanned and/or unforeseen delay can generate a chain of costly delays, expenses, plan changes and emergency engineering jobs. Anything that can offer the prospect of less unplanned delays will be welcomed by airlines and passengers alike and will also make for better scheduling and allocation of engineering resources. In that context, Rolls-Royce is using IntelligentEngine to drive the target of as near to 100% availability as possible for Rolls-Royce powered aircraft.
Leveraging the full scope of digital capability
The digital thread and digital lifecycle help Rolls-Royce to understand how all those components and systems are operating in service. The company is on the brink of being able to bring that manufacturing data together with the engine health data to leverage their combined effectiveness. There have always been huge amounts of data generated by aircraft engines. As we move towards digitization of processes, even more data is being generated, and the means are being developed for using that data to improve aircraft availability. What is the right data? That’s where data analytics comes in.
Rolls-Royce is creating a ‘digital twin’ of each of their engines. This operates on many levels. It goes right down to every jig and tool that is made and is a whole, through-life digital twin. It will give a much richer data set of what is built, put on test, and then passed on to the customer. Digital twins are one part of Rolls-Royce’s ‘Intelligent Engine’ vision, which sees the physical engine seamlessly combined with maintenance services and digital technology. This starts from the manufacture of the engine, all the way through to the end of its life.
QOCO ROLE IN THE ROLLS-ROYCE PROJECT TO DATE
All of these great ideas and innovative processes rely on a near seamless exchange of data which, in turn, means a way for the various components in the system to communicate with each other and to do so automatically. To that end, Rolls-Royce has selected QOCO Systems and its solution, EngineData.io, as the data exchange platform to support seamless integration between airline maintenance information systems and Rolls-Royce digital services for airlines that use Rolls-Royce engines.
The Rolls-Royce and QOCO partnership began in 2018 when Rolls-Royce chose QOCO to accelerate its global digitalization initiative. QOCO’s deep industry expertise, capability to deliver robust data exchange solutions for airlines, and the state-of-the-art proven solution EngineData.io made it a prime candidate to become Rolls-Royce’s strategic partner. Rolls-Royce’s customers share data with the OEM so that the best possible service outcomes can be provided. With accurate and timely data Rolls-Royce can treat every engine as an individual unit, helping customers to achieve high engine availability and reliability while minimizing maintenance. It’s part of the IntelligentEngine vision in which QOCO enabled seamless data exchange between various Maintenance & Engineering (M&E) systems and Rolls-Royce digital services, for clients worldwide operating with modern Trent 1000, Trent XWB, and Trent 7000 engines.
Richard Swallow, Head of Digital Service Readiness at Rolls-Royce said; “We are delighted to be able to offer our customers a practical solution to data collaboration. EngineData.io gives airlines complete control over the data they choose to automatically share with and receive from us. And they have confidence that the data transfer is fully secure. It’s very effective, reducing the effort required by our customers to operate some services by over 50%”.
More importantly, this is only the first stage of the Rolls-Royce and QOCO partnership. Together, we have the necessary expertise and skillset to pursue digital transformation in the aviation industry and give airlines rapid access to the benefits of data-driven solutions while tackling typical integration issues. Rolls-Royce and QOCO will continue to work in tandem to help airlines optimize business processes. By automating real-world data exchange with Rolls-Royce digital services and EngineData.io, carriers can reduce operational costs, gather insights on each trip, maximize Trent engines’ utilization and optimize maintenance schedules.
ENGINEDATA.IO: THE RATIONAL FOR USING QOCO TECHNOLOGY
At the heart of QOCO’s contribution to the Rolls-Royce IntelligentEngine is the software solution EngineData.io. But what is this solution and how does it work?
What is EngineData.io?
A seamless integration and data exchange platform, EngineData.io is a SaaS (Software as a Service) solution that enables secure, automated data streams between the main collaborative players in the aviation industry. The four cornerstones of the solution make this possible:
Improving the LLP (Life Limited Part) data for instance can result in a longer time on wing whilst remaining within the OEM specifications and performance values.
An overview how EngineData.io works
QOCO has produced a handy graphic (figure 1) to illustrate how EngineData.io enables the data exchanges necessary between the various parties involved in engine life-cycle management in order for there to be a collaborative effort for better engine reliability.
WORKING WITH QOCO – THE ROLLS-ROYCE VIEW
At the end of 2020, Rolls-Royce was able to review its relationship with QOCO and to form a view on how working with the software solutions developer had gone so far. The conclusion for Rolls-Royce was that EngineData.io solution was enabling secure, automated data streams between Rolls-Royce engines and airlines. As a result, Rolls-Royce and QOCO will continue to work in tandem to help airlines optimize business processes. By automating real-world data exchange with Rolls-Royce digital services and EngineData.io, carriers can reduce operational costs, gather insights on each trip, maximize Trent engines’ utilization and optimize maintenance schedules.
Meeting Rolls-Royce standards for quality
For a business such as Rolls-Royce, whose reputation and future business rests firmly on the market’s perception of their quality and the quality of their products, one critical issue is that everyone involved with the business and its processes should also be recognized as meeting the highest quality standards in their field. This is of particular importance when handling the sensitive data exchanged in an aero-engine maintenance program. QOCO certainly meets that standard.
On June 30th, QOCO Systems passed the ISO 9001 and ISO 27001 certification audit. ISO 9001 ensures that organizations can deliver consistent quality of products and services to the customers and, moreover, increase customer satisfaction. ISO 27001 indicates requirements for establishing and maintaining an effective information security management system in the organization. The detailed process leading up to the certification audit helped QOCO to formalize existing processes, develop necessary documentation, improve information security guidelines and in essence, build a management system from the ground up.
As Laura Auhto, QMS Project Manager at QOCO put it, “This has been a huge effort from everyone at QOCO and I’m extremely proud of our crew. The reception for the new processes and policies has been overwhelmingly positive despite the unavoidable hurdles along the way and people have been extremely helpful, cooperative and open-minded. And now that we have the system set up, we need to make sure the processes and policies serve us, our teams, and our way of working also in the long run. The ultimate goal is that the QOCO Management System offers us a format to continuously improve and keep serving our customers better and better.”
Although this program will continue to develop over the coming years, Rolls-Royce is confident that everybody in the IntelligentEngine process will have greater confidence in sharing their data, knowing the quality standards that QOCO has achieved and knowing that that quality runs as a thread right through the service that Rolls-Royce offers to all users of its aircraft engines.
Nick Ward, Head of Product Management for Digital Services, Civil Aerospace at Rolls-Royce
QOCO Systems Ltd
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