Improving Aircraft Engine Maintenance with Blockchain Technology
A blockchain solution to improving aircraft engine maintenance by reducing inefficiencies.
Block Aero Technologies, Hong Kong
Rolls Royce currently supplies its cutting-edge aircraft engines to more than 400 airlines across the world. They can be found on some of the most popular commercial aircrafts such as the Boeing 787.
Each engine goes through rigorous and complex maintenance processes during their lifespans. They involve manual checks and paper-based records which result in inefficiencies and expenses.
The aircraft manufacturer is convinced there is a better way to do engine maintenance so its aviation division partnered with Singapore's SIA Engineering to search for a blockchain solution. Together, the companies sought to widen the pool of expertise by launching The Rolls-Royce Blockchain Innovation Challenge.
The aim was to find either a blockchain startup or professional enthusiasts who would be able to build an innovative blockchain-powered solution to address the challenges in engine maintenance.
Blockchain is one of today's most exciting technologies, around which there is a lot of hype. At its most fundamental level, blockchain is just a chain of blocks, not physical blocks but digital information ("the block") stored in a database ("the chain").
The technology is expected to change aircraft maintenance in general in several ways - by making record-keeping more accessible, by tracking every part in stock, by linking the entire supply chain and by establishing trust in the used parts market.
Blockchain applications could provide airlines with transparent records of every element in their supply chain, including the origin of parts, specifications, and knowledge of what maintenance was performed on which component, by whom and when.
The open innovation contest challenged participants to develop a solution for a scenario involving replacement of a major component in an engine that entailed a 17-step workflow.
Among the steps in the workflow are maintenance are defect rectification, engine returning to powerplant shop and job completion and billing.
The blockchain solution had to cover three or four steps in the workflow. It also needed to have specific features, including integration with stakeholders and traceability and transparency.
Before working on their ideas, teams were presented with detailed information about the maintenance process of an aircraft engine so they could see where in that process, their solution could intervene and provide support.
Following the submission deadline, solutions were judged according to such criteria as code quality, readability and security and reliability. Five finalists were shortlisted and invited to a pitch to industry leaders.
The overall winner was Block Aero who outperformed fellow finalists. They are already in the blockchain space and have a pilot project with Sanad Aerotech and Etihad Airways to improve engine overhaul time by enhancing cooperation between parties that collaborate on aircraft asset data.
For winning the Rolls Royce Open Innovation Challenge, Block Aero received a grant of up to $37,000 from Enterprise Singapore and are participating with Rolls Royce in a blockchain proof of concept.
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