The six elements essential for the collaborative maintainer of the future
Like many industries, aerospace and defense is facing a silver tsunami, with retirements outpacing recruitment. The veteran technicians who make up the bulk of the maintenance workforce are on their way out, leaving behind a shrinking crew of more junior maintainers. Without the benefit of the instinctual, gut-feel knowledge that comes with decades of experience, and with a dwindling number of senior colleagues to turn to, these newer maintainers will be relying more than ever on institutional knowledge contained in interactive electronic technical publications (IETPs) and interactive electronic technical manuals (IETMs) to plug the gaps in their understanding.
The capabilities of IETPs – and the way maintainers interact with them – are therefore becoming increasingly significant in determining the expertise of an institution’s workforce. For maintainers to be passively referencing documentation is a wasted opportunity. Truly future-looking electronic publishing requires IETPs to become more dynamic and responsive than ever to keep pace with continual developments in engineering and to foster the acquisition and reinforcement of new skills.
At RWS, our vision is to empower maintainers to collaborate – both with each other and with the IETPs – to build and share their knowledge. To achieve this, we’re in the process of enhancing LiveContent S1000D, our market-leading class 5 IETP, along the following six capabilities that are essential to the collaborative maintainer:
- Integrated diagnostics. LiveContent allows the process data module’s diagnostic capabilities to be integrated into the asset’s health monitoring system, helping the maintainer diagnose problems much more quickly and accurately. We currently support this approach across multiple weapon systems operational in the field.
- Guided procedures. LiveContent shows the maintainer a clear path to repair the asset. Moving forward, we will leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to provide tailored suggestions based on input, conditions and historic best practice.
- Integrated training. LiveContent enables the in-context storage and viewing of training videos within a maintenance publication. A crucial next step in empowering the collaborative maintainer will be to provide AI-based, contextual training: when the maintainer gets stuck, the system will notice and offer relevant training snippets mid-procedure to get repairs moving again.
- Integrated mobility. Whether they’re up close with an asset in a hangar or fixing a vehicle in the field with no network access, the maintainer always has access to the knowledge they need, thanks to LiveContent’s native mobile application capability for disconnected utilization anywhere, anytime. Any notes, comments or corrections they make while offline are sent for resolution once connection is re-established.
- Contextual assistance and collaboration. To harness the power of collaboration, maintainers will be able to ‘phone a friend’ when they reach a stumbling block. Calls between multiple colleagues will be possible directly from the mobile device, along with context sharing. Future IETPs will also incorporate an intelligent assistant to offer guidance.
- Closed-loop feedback and user-generated data. Maintainers will be able to flag errors or suggest updates. Their comments will be aggregated and sent for resolution. Data generated by app usage will also be collected and analyzed in order to suggest system and training improvements.
Together, these six capabilities will form a virtuous circle: IETPs will both train and be trained by maintainers, empowering the users to develop their skills and share their knowledge across the enterprise. The sooner this cycle is embedded into institutions, the better – the window of opportunity to capture the invaluable unwritten knowledge of experienced maintainers is closing as they retire in droves. Fortunately, with several of the six essential IETP capabilities already available in LiveContent S1000D and the rest in progress, the collaborative maintainer of the future is almost here.
We discussed these key collaborative features in detail and demonstrated some of them in action in our January 2022 webinar – watch the recording to learn more. We also hope to see you at the S1000D User Forum on June 20-22, 2022, where one of our subject-matter experts, Ron Stonecypher, will be speaking about his experience deploying S1000D IETM and IETP assets for the US Navy. You can register for the forum here.
To learn more about LiveContent S1000D and the rest of the Contenta publishing suite, click here.