Leaders in the aerospace defense industry like Richard “Vinny” Caputo, senior vice president of the Aerospace Defense Services (ADS) division at Vertex Aerospace, say innovation and continuous improvement are the key to providing customers high-quality, affordable readiness. Caputo joined forces with Vertex Aerospace’s Quality and Information Technology departments to make accelerated readiness the Company’s priority. “Through innovative training and innovative analysis software, we’ve been able to offer customers aircraft maintenance solutions leading to increased operational readiness,” said Caputo.
21st Century Maintenance Training
Caputo worked with Vertex’s Quality and Continuous Improvement department to develop an artificial intelligence maintenance training system called Vertex Virtual Training Solutions, or V2TS, offering a customizable production platform to meet program support needs. Data is leveraged to re-create an entire virtual aircraft, including legacy airframes. By using innovations in machine learning, V2TS addresses preventable escapes of quality and continuous improvement that historically have not been effectively corrected and sustained.
Mark Graham, Vertex’s director of quality, said V2TS also solves the challenge of finding qualified technicians to work on some of our more legacy aircraft platforms by providing better familiarization training resulting in higher confidence and first-time quality. Employees are efficiently trained on all systems and subsystems in various environments without physical limitations. “This familiarization ensures technicians are fully equipped to meet and exceed our customers’ requirements as they are introduced to the flight line, hangar, and shops,” said Graham. “V2TS propels Vertex into the future of predictive, reliable, and repeatable maintenance. This results in decreased training time, increased knowledge retention, and reduced aircraft damage, which collectively increases aircraft availability rates.”
Predictive Maintenance Software
In addition to offering innovative training solutions, Caputo says the defense industry must realize the importance and value of providing customers readily available, accurate data. To meet this need, Vertex developed an in-house software solution engineered specifically to the requirements of U.S. Government aircraft maintenance and contractor logistics support programs.
Chris Dorsey, Vertex’s vice president and chief information officer, said the platform known as Aircraft Maintenance and Management Optimization, or AMMO, offers customers highly secure, affordable, and flexible digital customization options. AMMO’s digital environment is significantly transforming the data management and utilization capability of support and supply programs. Also, although customization typically implies a higher investment, the solution offers customers significant cost savings since Vertex fully owns and operates the platform.
Dorsey went on to say, “It is imperative to have the right resources in place to effectively analyze the data, report trends, and leverage findings. Solutions like AMMO redefine how flight operations, maintenance, supply chain, and technical data is collected, documented, and reported.”
Continuous Improvement Driving Future Innovation
The aerospace defense sector faces many challenges, but force readiness levels are by far the most critical. With heightened operations, a steady increase in legacy aircraft, and looming budget cuts, the military customer wants quick, innovative solutions to achieve mission success.
Implementing these innovations at Vertex has resulted in lower turnover rates, cost-effective maintenance schedules, and has ultimately accelerated warfighter readiness. Since 2016, Vertex’s ADS division has had the honor of supporting the U.S. Marine Corp’s CH-53E RESET program. During this time, Vertex has delivered 23 RESET CH-53E aircraft, accounting for 16 percent of the current Super Stallion fleet. Caputo says Vertex’s focus on continuous improvement and innovation have paid off. He explained that the Company’s RESET efforts have contributed to reducing completed RESET aircraft’s average cost per flight hour by about $6,000. Additionally, this has resulted in reduced operating costs of those aircraft by over 45 percent, with a 39 percent reduction in Direct Maintenance Man-hours (DMMH).
“We’re proud of our RESET accomplishments supporting the restoration effort to date and look forward to developing additional innovations further reducing operational costs and turnaround times while alleviating pressure on the Fleet Squadrons,” said Caputo. Until recently, ADS performed as a sub-contractor to other companies awarded prime seats on the RESET restoration contract. In July, Vertex was awarded the prime position for the CH-53 RESET task order under the Contracted Maintenance, Modification, Aircrew, and Related Services contract vehicle, or CMMARS.
Caputo believes Vertex won this contract, and several others recently because the Company continues to prioritize customer optimization through innovative solutions. “Keep the customer top of mind and never become complacent,” Caputo said. “Always look ahead for innovation opportunities, determine what it will take to get to that desired success level, and refine your business strategy to align with those objectives.” Dorsey added, “Innovation lifecycles and continuous improvement should be viewed from a timeline perspective, but more importantly should be built on the business. In order to achieve this level of innovation, it is crucial that company stakeholders continue to partner closely together. This will ensure IT continues to advance company priorities offering our customers more operational efficiencies.”