A management system isn’t about computers. An effective management system involves having clearly defined duties and responsibilities; documented policies and procedures; trained personnel; processes for risk assessment and a compliance monitoring function that checks that all the other parts of the system are working. It’s possible to have an effective management system without using computers, but the system can be made a lot more efficient and effective with the right management system software.
So what features should you look for when choosing management system software? I suggest the following:
A good document control system will ensure that all your people have access to the latest version of manuals and documents right where and when they need them. It will eliminate the tedious task of updating manuals by replacing pages and ensure that updates can be drafted and approved without being confused with the ‘live’ versions. You can have good document control using paper manuals but modern technology such as the ‘ipad’ means that these are almost redundant; electronic manuals are now cheaper, easier to distribute and make all your documents searchable.
A good document control system could be integrated with an ‘electronic flight bag’ (EFB) that can be used on the aircraft to provide maps and charts. This EFB can then be expanded to include functions like aircraft performance, flight planning or loading calculations.
Compliance Monitoring (or Quality Management)
Your software package should enable you to record your compliance monitoring (or quality management) programme; that is to say the schedule of all the audits, inspections and other activities that enable you to check that your operation is complaint with relevant regulations and company policies. It should show the due date and scope of every activity and allow the auditor to develop and record checklists for use during audits. Once the audit is complete the software should be able to show any findings and the corrective/preventive action and assign these to the responsible manager. Crucially the software should generate reminders when action is due or overdue and, ideally, accommodate different ‘views’ so that individual managers see actions assigned to them while allowing the Compliance Monitoring Manager and Accountable Manager to have an overview of all activities.
Many ‘quality management’ software solutions involve a lot of ‘overhead’, they are expensive and time-consuming to install and require extensive staff training. The best solutions are more intuitive so that users need less training and the systems can be set up in a few days. The very best systems allow audit results to be entered during an audit using a mobile device such as a tablet, thus reducing the time spent writing audit reports.
Safety Management software needs to do much more than record safety reports and the action taken (although that’s important). The software should facilitate the three elements of risk management (hazard identification, risk assessment and risk mitigation), preferably using a recognised methodology such as the ‘ARMs Methodology for Operational Risk Assessment’. The best software tools will make the whole risk management process easy by allowing online reporting and will also process the data into safety performance indicators that form the basis of your organisational safety assurance.
Paper files can be used for crew and staff training records but they are limited by the inability of paper to be in more than one place at a time. Training records need to be available to trainees, instructors and management as well as being available for audit. With most companies operating in multiple locations and conducting training remotely the best solution is to have ‘cloud-based’ records that can be accessed independently of location. Good training records software will generate reminders and warnings when checks or training events are due and will record the required content of each specific event.
The best training software solutions will allow training records to be completed online, eliminating the need for paper and reducing administration time for instructors. It can also serve as a tool for standardisation of training by giving instructors timely access to the required syllabus for each course and making sure that an item that isn’t completed in one training detail is automatically ‘carried over’ to the next.
Flight Time Limitations
Under the new European rules Flight Instructors have to comply with a fatigue avoidance scheme in the same way as airline crews. Rules to be introduced for non-commercial operations in 2016 will mean that corporate and private aviation operators will also need to monitor flight and duty times. There are many software packages available for managing rostering and flight-time limitations but most of these have been designed for large airlines with hundreds of crew. Many small operators use paper-based systems or ‘excel’ spreadsheets to monitor duty periods. These are far from reliable and while they may be cheap to set up they are likely to be expensive to run in terms of the effort required and the risk of non-compliance.
A good software solution for managing a flight time limitation scheme will be easy to set up, but it must be possible to tailor the limits to the particularities of your organisation’s scheme. It should be capable of warning crew and operations personnel of any exceedances of the scheme, preferably before the exceedance occurs (i.e. a delay on one trip may trigger a need for increased rest or an exceedance of cumulative limits later in the month).
I’ve visited organisations that have been implementing ‘management systems solutions’ for over a year and still haven’t got them working. In addition to the purchase and licensing costs these systems have wasted thousands of euros in management time and have done nothing to improve the organisation’s management system. I therefore believe the most important feature of a software solution is that it should be easy to implement and intuitive to use. If I was purchasing a system then I wouldn’t want to see a big upfront cost. Paying an annual licensing fee means that the software provider is incentivised to keep improving the product and that the user is free to change if something better comes along.
McKechnie Aviation can recommend a single could-based software solution to help with the management of your business that meets all of the above requirements. The only way to see if this will work for you is to see the system in action so get in touch today to arrange a demonstration.