5 Most Important Things to Know Before Buying Aviation SMS Database

SMS Pro Aviation Safety Software Blog 4 Airlines & Airports

5 Most Important Things to Know Before Buying Aviation SMS Database

                                                              Northwest Data Solutions

Posted by Christopher Howell on Dec 6, 2018 10:00:00 AM  

I Don’t Need an Aviation SMS Database!…or Do I?

Many aviation service providers today are researching features and capabilities to acquire databases to address documentation requirements of their aviation safety management system (SMS). Alternatively, these operators are not looking to acquire an SMS database, but to:

  1. learn how to design an SMS database in-house; or
  2. cobble together single point solutions to satisfy SMS regulators.

Why are aviation SMS databases important?

What should an aviation service provider know before running out and buying the cheapest SMS database on the market?

Aviation (SMS) are composed of structured processes. In most cases, aviation SMS enforce, and in other situations, encourage, aviation service providers to manage their SMS according to best practices established by:

The reason SMS databases are so important to aviation service providers is that many SMS documentation requirements need long term data storage and retrieval strategies from many disparate data sources. Let that sink in. You may even wish to re-read that sentence. The important phrase is:

long term data storage and retrieval strategies from many disparate data sources

For readers whose eyes are rolling back in their heads, this simply means that you need to store and retrieve data from many areas of the SMS that have different data elements, such as data from:

  • Safety reporting;
  • Accident investigations;
  • Hazard identification;
  • SMS Training;
  • Risk controls; and
  • Safety communications.

SMS Databases Automate Labor Intensive Tasks

In an SMS, there are many risk management activities that are time sensitive with due dates that cannot slip through the cracks. Otherwise, SMS regulatory auditors will identify your substandard safety performance and issue audit findings. After reacting to repeat audit findings, operators either:

  • end up complying and get proper tools to address substandard performance;
  • modify company’s risk management processes; or
  • lose their certificate (in two to four years based on my experience).

In addition to alerting safety teams and management of “problems in your risk management processes,” SMS databases are use to accurately automate labor-intensive data analysis and monitoring tasks, like

  • generating reports and trending charts;
  • providing and tracking SMS training;
  • detecting trends and automatically alerting management of trends;
  • collecting safety reports from various sources (web, email, third parties);
  • tracking hazard identification processes;
  • risk management processes;
  • safety communications;
  • setting and monitoring key safety performance indicators (KPIs or SPIs).

Based on many years of observations, aviation service providers are not having problems with reacting to events and applying corrective and preventive actions, the problems I see are operators having problems are managing the documentation. As I mentioned earlier, there data management tasks required in an SMS are no joke.

Furthermore, operators know what is most important to their operations (KPIs), their problem arises from:

  • monitoring;
  • measuring; 
  • analyzing; 
  • identifying trends; and
  • documenting results and corrective actions when necessary.

SMS is structured process. Operators need help documenting their risk management processes. As they start working the process and documenting their actions, then they will start being able to demonstrate continuous improvement of the SMS.

Factors Determining Benefits of SMS Database 

To help safety teams in their search for an aviation SMS database, here are a few things to consider before you throw time and energy into implementing aviation SMS software or building your own. Not every aviation service provider needs an SMS database.

I’ll be the first to tell you that some operators should not purchase an SMS database. Their safety culture and management commitment will not support long term data management initiatives.

There are several considerations that determine whether an SMS database will add any value to your company, such as:

  • Top management commitment;
  • Safety budget
  • Organization’s size and complexity;
  • Existing technological capabilities;
  • Employee technological maturity;
  • Maturity of SMS implementation;
  • Short term strategic business initiatives;
  • Effectiveness of regulatory oversight; and
  • Safety culture.

What Is an Aviation SMS Database?

Northwest Data Solutions

As of 2019, the Australians and Canadians are still the ones who most fully embrace the ICAO 2006 SMS mandate. These requirements are explained in ICAO Document 9859.

The rest of the world can learn from the growing pains suffered by the Canadians and Australians during their SMS implementations. For those of us that have been following SMS from the beginning, we have been able to identify trends in their SMS implementation processes.

Since these two countries paved the “SMS way,” countries following in their footsteps can leapfrog technological hurdles faced earlier by these two countries. “Leapfrogging” is a concept that you may run into during business and economic discussions. The best example that always sticks with me from my college days is the “mobile phone” example.

Third world countries adopted mobile phones without having to bear the huge expense of “hard-line” phones. In short, they leapfrogged over the hard line phones and directly adopted mobile phone technology. This leapfrogging allowed these counties to forebear the horrendous expense of telephone poles and tens of  thousands of miles of telephone wires.

Along the same vein, aviation service providers that are not in the leading technological edge of SMS data management can leapfrog technologies that have proven ineffective in managing SMS documentation requirements, such as spreadsheets and poorly integrated “point solutions.”

If your company has more than 50 employees, you should not consider spreadsheets to store SMS data. You will regret this and the accountable executive will not be pleased with the unnecessary risk. Another rule of thumb based on over a dozen years of observations is:

Do not use spreadsheets in companies with high employee turnover, even for small companies with 15-20 employees.

Point Solutions Next Phase of SMS Data Management Evolution

Point solutions are software products designed to satisfy one major business requirement, such as:

  • Safety reporting system;
  • Auditing system; 
  • Document management system; or
  • Training and qualifications system.

There are companies like Sabre and ETQ that actively search to acquire and market point solutions to provide to the aviation industry. These companies don’t generally develop solutions, but acquire point solutions and add them to their stable of software offerings.

In a few instances, these companies will integrate multiple point solutions into a single platform or product and relabel the new “integrated solution” under their brand. You may know this as “white labeling.” A white label product is produced by one company and then rebranded by another company to make it appear as if they made it. 

Point solutions may satisfy a particular business need, but often are not easily configurable to meet unique business needs. This becomes more true with white label SMS solutions because the company marketing the SMS solution doesn’t have the technological ability to easily customize the solution.

Another disadvantage of point solutions is that technical and customer support are not as responsive because support tickets are routed from the solutions provider back to the original software developers, and then returns through the same process. This “support ticket routing game” becomes obvious when tech support takes more than a couple hours to contact you with a solution to your problem. If technical support and flexible configuration capabilities are important to your company’s long term data management strategy, point solutions should not be considered.

The advantage of point solutions is that they are cheaper than fully integrated databases that have all the features required in a complete SMS database. Most operators don’t need all features in the beginning of their SMS implementations, so a point solution scratches the immediate itch.

Point solutions are a short-game strategy. There are valid business cases for adopting point solutions, but if you are a small company with fewer than 60 employees, these point solutions will come back and haunt you in five to six years into your SMS implementation. Larger operators may have available IT resources to integrate multiple point solutions, but if you are a smaller operator, or your IT support staff are overworked, then you should avoid point solutions in your SMS implementation.

Integrated Point Solutions Comprised of Multiple Databases

Point solutions usually have at least one database for each system; therefore, if your company has six point solutions to manage all SMS documentation requirements, then you will potentially have at least six distinct databases to store data. This is not an efficient data management strategy for aviation SMS.

Unfortunately, this complexity is hidden from clients who buy an integrated solution comprised of multiple point solutions. To the customer, they are buying “Brand X SMS.” They think they are buying “one product” when in reality, they may be buying 6 or 8 different “white label” products wrapped in a cute package with fancy marketing speak. Unsuspecting customers may not know what is under the covers until years later as they wonder why it is so hard to have a user-friendly configurable system.

The quickest way to spot these “white-label” integrated SMS solutions is look at their public facing documentation. How much detail do they show? If they don’t show much detail about their SMS solutions, chances are that this will be a white-label SMS package that may have been created for another industry, like:

  • Chemical;
  • Energy (petroleum);
  • Automotive, etc.

Best SMS Database is Designed For Specifically for SMS

The best solution with the lowest long-term maintenance cost is the single, enterprise-capable SMS database that was designed specifically to address aviation SMS documentation and performance monitoring requirements. An easy way to tell if an SMS database was designed specifically for the aviation industry is to look at the industry types the company markets to. It becomes highly unlikely the SMS database was built for aviation SMS when the SMS database provider is also selling to the other industries, like:

  • Automotive;
  • Chemical; 
  • Food;
  • Construction; and
  • Oil and gas.

Is it important that your SMS database provider sells to other industries? Are you concerned about the depth of SMS database provider’s subject matter expertise? These are both valid points to consider.

Retooling Systems In-House to Manage SMS Data Needs

Similar to the white-label software providers, some operators have been re-tooling existing database solutions, such as SharePoint and Spiceworks to serve as their SMS database. We have seen some ingenious hacks using “help desk support software” that was designed to support IT teams. The business argument was that the price was right.

This is again a short-game strategy.

As we have seen in Australia and Canada, in the early stages of the SMS implementation, safety mangers don’t know what data they are going to collect. What are they going to do with the data once they get it. These safety managers were addressing one implementation point at a time, without the experience of what the end game looks like. It was only years later, usually six to eight years, that accountable executives and safety teams realize that they had an unrealistic picture of the final product – and by final product, I’m referring the fully implemented SMS.

Based on what they knew at the time, safety managers adopted available tools in house, which were the spreadsheets, point solutions or retooled software solutions hacked together to satisfy the “immediate need” to demonstrate “something.”

Major shortcomings these operators finally realize after about three-to-five years is that they lack:

  • automated notifications of schedule slippages;
  • real-time SMS performance monitoring;
  • KPI management and KPI monitoring;
  • industry-accept hazard identification and risk control monitoring;
  • SMS-specific charting tools to analyze data and spot trends; and
  • automated email notifications from major activities (feedback and task assignment notifications).

As you can see, point solutions are great and scratch an immediate itch, but lack long term sustainability. For a long term SMS data management strategy, don’t implement your SMS using point solutions.

Benefits of an SMS Database During SMS Implementation

We have worked with hundreds of aviation service providers in many countries since 2007 as they implemented SMS, or as they re-implemented failed systems. We provide an SMS database built following ICAO’s four components. In short, we have seen hundreds of SMS implementations and we are also SMS data management experts. We are not white-label SMS resellers, but genuine aviation SMS database architects and developers.

We have worked with many different types of operations, which is very cool for us. As you may know, it is not just airlines and airports that are required to implement formal SMS. The list also includes, 

  • Aviation maintenance;
  • Air traffic control;
  • Flight Schools;
  • Aviation equipment manufacturers;
  • Ground handling companies.

In the early days after ICAO mandated formal SMS adoption, the Canadians and Australians resorted to tools they knew best and had in-house, including:

  • MS Word,
  • MS Excel, 
  • MS Access, and maybe
  • SharePoint.

After several years of implementing their SMS, many of these companies realized that the data management requirements of fully implemented SMS required professionally designed SMS databases. To be perfectly candid, they didn’t realize this solely on their own, but from SMS auditors. This became even more evident for companies with more than 100 employees, regardless of whether they were:

  • Airlines;
  • Airports; or
  • Aviation maintenance organizations.

For the major operators with more than 1,000 employees, these companies have IT support that could either develop their own system or integrate multiple point solutions to address regulatory requirements.

These smaller to mid-sized companies also tried in-house solutions and point solutions. Finally, they had come to realize that it is easier, more cost effective and less risky to simply acquire an SMS database from a company that focuses on such systems. After all, you don’t buy an aircraft from an auto manufacturer. Subject matter expertise runs more deeply in a company that dedicates its energies to satisfying SMS data management requirements.

From my experience, aviation service providers in the Middle East and Europe didn’t suffer as long as the Canadians in their SMS implementations. This may be due to better training or a better understanding of the data management requirements of these fully developed aviation SMS. If you are an operator in the Middle East, your biggest challenge will be to acquire top management commitment and support to acquire tools to demonstrate SMS compliance. Each geographic region has their own challenges. Luckily, I’ve been blessed by being exposed to most regions around the world.

So what does an aviation SMS database offer before, during and after an SMS implementation process?

  • Centralized data storage;
  • SMS gap analysis tools to evaluate existing tools and processes;
  • SMS implementation management;
  • Secure access by all members of the aviation organization based on role;
  • Improved data security;
  • Improved organizational communication; 
  • Enhanced accountability;
  • Less risk to the organization; and
  • Real-time SMS performance monitoring.

Best Practices Achievable Using SMS Databases

Professionally designed aviation SMS databases can also ensure that operators are following data management best practices. When multiple managers have access to the same data, there is less chance to ignore reported hazards and safety concerns. There is increased accountability and transparency across the organization’s SMS.

In addition to best practices, employees become more involved in the SMS when the SMS database is user-friendly and the workflows are logical. There is nothing more of a buzz-kill than a crappy SMS database that doesn’t work or is not user friendly.

A poorly designed SMS database is a threat to your safety culture. I learned long ago that an airline will suffer a long time before ditching substandard software. It is expensive to change. You have to consider

  • legacy data to import into the new system;
  • training employees on the new system; and
  • reviewing SMS manual to align risk management processes to new software.

The point is that it is less expensive to choose wisely in the first place. Otherwise your company’s safety culture will suffer for many years to come, unless you get out of the bad relationship within the first year or two.

SMS Databases Encourage Repeatable Risk Management Processes

SMS is a structured process. Perhaps the single most important advantage of an SMS database is that it facilitates repeatable risk management processes. Business rules can be enforced to ensure designed risk management procedures are followed according to your SMS manual. This becomes increasingly important for larger companies that are “process driven” or companies with high staff turnover.

The SMS database also reduces risk for the accountable executive. They can be assured the SMS is performing in all areas of the organization and alert management when substandard safety performance is detected. If your company needs repeatable risk management processes, and you don’t have time to develop your own, the quick fix is to acquire an SMS database.

Not having defined risk management processes becomes especially more important when the operator still doesn’t have a good SMS manual. SMS manuals are a major concern for new SMS implementations as safety managers work diligently to organize:

  • Safety policies;
  • Duties and responsibilities of key safety personnel;
  • Organizational chart;
  • Safety reporting processes;
  • Risk management processes;
  • Auditing and safety assurance;
  • Hazard analysis (safety risk analysis); 
  • Safety training;
  • and so on…

Some SMS database solutions have an SMS manual template to get new operators started on the right track and to reduce frustrations. SMS manual templates allow safety managers to get a huge jump start on their SMS implementation. This becomes increasingly important when safety managers come to an organization with poorly documented risk management processes. 

Safety managers without documented risk management processes are grasping for some sort of help, and these SMS manual templates are wonderful because they have well-defined, industry accepted best practices already incorporated in the SMS manual templates.

What to Expect from Aviation SMS Software?

When we talk about an aviation SMS database, it is important to understand that the database is simply half of the solution. The user interface is the other half. Most safety professionals think that the SMS database and the user-interface are the same. However, if the safety manager has an IT background, the safety manager will realize the database is only used to store organized data in logical tables, like a spreadsheet.

To be absolutely correct, SMS software, in most cases, is a Web application. This is a detail that may not excite you, but if you are thinking about buying an SMS database, you will also be getting the front-end where the user interacts with the database using pretty workflows and business logic that prompts you to do something. The Web application may also enforce data restraints, such as required fields, or send email notifications when you assign a task to another user.

To us in the IT world, what I described is a Web application, but you may recognize it as a “software program.” There is a database in the back end that stores data. You can think of the database as having hundreds of related data tables. Software (the Web application) accesses this data, either retrieving or storing the data according to security and functional requirements of the software.

An aviation SMS software program offers little value unless the user interface is:

  • Full-featured;
  • Intuitive;
  • User-friendly;
  • Flexible (or configurable); and
  • Easily adaptable when technologies change (such as from desktop to mobile).

When you shop for your aviation SMS database, consider your goals and needs. For example, if you are already using SharePoint, you may not need a robust version-controlled document management system integrated within your safety portal.

At the bare minimum, your aviation safety database should consist of the following:

  • Web-based hazard reporting forms;
  • Automated email notification of events;
  • Risk management workflow to assess, classify and perform investigations;
  • Corrective/Preventive Action tracking;
  • KPI management and monitoring;
  • Data analysis and export features to MS Excel; and
  • User-friendly charting and graphing tools.

Again, these are the bare minimum features the cheapest aviation SMS database software should offer. The more sophisticated systems will have:

  • Offline features for safety reporting and auditing;
  • Proactive hazard analysis (safety risk analysis);
  • Hazard and risk registers;
  • Message boards with “read files”;
  • Auditing suites for scheduling and managing audits;
  • Training and qualification management; 
  • SMS training delivery and tracking of initial and recurrent SMS training; and
  • SMS performance monitoring dashboards.

To sum this up, your SMS database scratches the itch affecting all aviation safety managers:

“how and where do I store all my SMS documentation?”

SMS Performance Monitoring Is Required

Your accountable executive has major responsibilities to the SMS. For starters, they need to make sure their SMS is properly implemented and working as designed across the entire organization. They also need to regularly review safety performance. Whenever problems are identified, either by the safety team or by external auditors, they are responsible for fixing the substandard safety performance.

In order to assure the accountable executive that the SMS is performing, you will need tools to monitor SMS performance. SMS performance monitoring dashboards and email notifications (or alerts) afford accountable executives some assurance that the SMS is performing as expected. The alternative is the accountable executive may as well be on another planet, unaware of what will happen to him should a major event occur.

The unaware accountable executive will be the one who is not committed to the SMS and will not support the SMS budget for the SMS database. The unaware accountable executive deserves a “spreadsheet SMS” because they are telling the safety team that all he is concerned with is a “paper SMS.” He just wants to check the box.

I’ll keep repeating that a “paper SMS” is not always a bad thing. There are business cases that support “checking the box.” However, if your company really is sincere about benefiting from SMS risk management processes, then the accountable executive needs to budget for an SMS database to effectively monitor SMS performance and be able to respond to substandard performance in a timely manner.

What Options Do I Have with Aviation SMS Databases

When it comes to aviation SMS software solutions, the options are virtually endless and are growing daily. Technology constantly changes, so even the existing aviation SMS databases are changing rapidly.

Most of the popular aviation SMS solutions are subscription based and some have the option of hosting on your server. With a subscription to aviation SMS database software, the subscription payments are typically monthly or annually. Costs vary by the number of employees or number of aircraft. Operators that focus pricing on the number of aircraft are commonly flight operations specific and their solutions are not as flexible as those that don’t focus on aircraft.

There are also some free aviation SMS solutions on the market. Free aviation SMS software may be great for starting your SMS program, but don’t expect to have all the features of a paid subscription. Smaller operators and many governmental agencies without an aviation SMS budget typically sign up for the free aviation SMS subscriptions.

Are Aviation SMS Databases Right for Our Company?

If your company has more than 20 employees, you should invest in an aviation SMS software program to save yourself pain and misery caused by managing the aviation SMS requirements.

Experience has shown that aviation service providers will suffer about eight to ten years of pain before realizing that they need help managing all the data associated with required aviation SMS documentation.

If you don’t have top management support, then an aviation SMS database may not be your answer. Lack of top management support is the number one reason why aviation SMS fail.

A good rule of thumb is; if your company has 40 or more employees, you will definitely need software tools to manage your data. Otherwise, expect to have audit findings and know that you will suffer repeatedly whenever auditors come calling.

What Benefits Can We Expect with Aviation SMS Database

We will review the benefits described above:

  • Centralized data storage;
  • Secure access by all members of the aviation organization;
  • Improved data security;
  • Improved organizational communication;
  • Enhanced safety culture;
  • Repeatable risk management processes;
  • Enhanced accountability; and
  • Less risk to accountable executive.

Which Aviation SMS Databases Are Worth Considering?

There are probably three or four aviation SMS software providers that have comparable products. If you Google “aviation SMS software,” you will find the top companies on the first page. Aviation SMS database programs are not that expensive, with some of them as low as $100 per month for smaller operators.

Before you purchase an aviation SMS software solutions, make sure the database will be able to grow with your needs. Also, research how the SMS database will help solve your problems when you are implementing your aviation SMS program.

Did I mention that we provide an SMS database?

If you need an SMS database,

  • we are not white-label; and
  • we have a single, enterprise-grade database; with
  • excellent customer support

 

After watching the videos above, you may have questions. Sign up for a live demo. No pressure.

Published August 2015. Last updated January 2019.

Topics: Aviation SMS Database

Site content provided by Northwest Data Solutions is meant for informational purposes only. Opinions presented here are not provided by any civil aviation authority or standards body

SOAR Next-Generation SMS Audit & Safety Issue Resolution

SOAR+

is a computer-based safety of operations audit, risk assessment and resolution of safety issues (ROSI) process supporting E-IOSA, IASA, ISBAO as well as SAIs, EPIs, DOD, ICAO, regulatory compliance, NetJets, internal QA/evaluation, and/or custom audit protocols.  SOAR+ raises the bar by risk-ranking audit standards, then reporting results in an intuitive, executive-friendly format that establishes a means for quantifying returns on investment (ROI) in safety.

SOAR+ is imminently configurable; e.g. A CASE version of SOAR+ is set to be installed at a major US based Maintenance & Repair Operation (MRO) soon; providing services to Pratt & Whitney, the US Air Force and UPS among others.  SOAR+ is also under consideration to support the US Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Federal Transit Authority (FTA) implementation of safety management systems (SMS) in US municipal transit and rail operations.  Could also work for airports, shipping, and hospitals it: wherever safety and compliance is linked to performance.

SOAR “AAP” is a flight data monitoring (FDM)-based safety of operations-assurance, risk management, airman-ship assurance and asset protection utility incorporating the identical ROSI process as SOAR+.  Unconstrained by traditional flight operations quality assurance (FOQA) paradigms, SOAR AAP optimizes the use of aircraft flight data recorders, the so-called “Black-Boxes,” before the crash: to optimize operations, training, and to actually prevent accidents by making practical application of information that is traditional used only to conduct forensic inquiry…after the fact.

SOAR+ Attributes –

  • Audit standards can be derived and/or imported into SOAR+ from any source: from ICAO, host country regulations, to internal airline oversight, quality control and quality assurance processes.
  • A gap analysis and corrective actions tool exemplary of highest standards in SMS.
  • Supports SAIs, EPIs, specific regulatory requirements (SRRs), as well DOD and Enhanced-IOSA requirements.
    • Also available as an IOSA-attainment sub-routine providing a sequential guide to air, ground and maintenance operators in achieving and maintaining IATA registration.
  • Standards and findings are risk-ranked in advance of the audits, and after, to guide in prioritizing effective action plans.
  • Reports are normalized to 100% to facilitate effective communications with non-technical stakeholders, and to
    • Establish a basis for quantifying return on investments in safety.
  • Both SOAR+ and SOAR AAP fill significant lapses in virtually all existing SMS computer-based utilities,
    • Can be integrated into existing SMS software.
  • There are Enterprise versions,
    • And versions capable of supporting-
      • Mobile devices,
      • Laptop PCs and
      • “Cloud-based” access.
    • The ROSI process includes prioritization of findings on the basis of safety and/or business, political and economic concerns, supporting unparalleled root cause analysis, safety risk assessment (SRA) and corrective actions implementation, validation, and assurance processes.

•     Indeed, SOAR+/SOAR APP may represent a credible foundation for what can best be described as “Next-generation SMS.”

SOAR+ is deliberately configured to be useful measuring the attainment of standards in virtually any environment. For example, SOAR+ could be a useful means to measure attainment of implementation standards in Ebola prevention and treatment procedures, methods and protocols, to report results in an imminently intuitive executive-friendly format, to measure the risk of failure to implement complete and comprehensive corrective measures, to conduct safety risk assessments on proposed corrective measures, to document approval of an accountable individual before deploying proposed corrective actions, to verify and validate implementation, controlling performance creep by means of a continuously renewable improvement process, and to quantify return on investment in health and safety of the population.  We would need to dissect Ebola prevention and treatment protocols to identify standards and then deploy auditors to record their observations in the SOAR+ safety of operations, risk assessment and resolutions of safety issues utility.

Annex 19 – The Next Steps in Proactive Safety Management

Annex 19 – The Next Steps in Proactive Safety Management

By Danielle Kelly

Sextant Readings Solutions - SMS ICAO Annex 19For the first time in 30 years, ICAO are set to release a new Annex – Annex 19 – that pulls together current safety management practices and future expectations for facilitating safety risks that exist in our lands and skies.

The Annex looks to promote and enhance the alignment between the state and service providers and operators, which in my opinion should be welcomed and can only be a positive thing. Sharing and learning from each other is good, it’s what we are taught as kids and is something we would do well to remember as adults. ICAO have provided us with Annex after Annex of standards and regulations depicting how things should be done in the industry, with lots of references to safety for operation of aircraft, air traffic services, aerodromes, and airworthiness. This new Annex brings together all of these different provisions to further embed safety oversight and systemic risk sharing, but shouldn’t we be doing this already anyway?

There is a lot of emphasis on the management of safety risks, focusing on what we don’t want to happen, and on the sharing of information. However, how worthwhile the sharing of information actually is depends on what is done with it. ICAO appear to be providing an answer to bridging the gap between simply being aware of other industry incidents and proactively managing and implementing further mitigation strategies to prevent the same thing from occurring on our own watch. But why has it taken a new Annex to be published for us to do this, shouldn’t this be something we should be doing as part of working practice? How do organizations learn and share?

It seems ICAO have produced this Annex to show that it is no longer acceptable just to Prevent, Detect and Respond; we need to be able to learn and share information, particularly as the demand for air travel increases. To that end, ICAO has offered greater support for the next generation of safety management systems. The co-ordination effort being established between State Safety Programs (SSP) and the SMS provides an opportunity to improve the performance of the existing SMS to meet state safety policies and objectives, state safety risk management, assurance and promotion.

Like I said before, we can no longer be seen just to be preventing, detecting and responding to occurrences. Learning isn’t just about reporting, understanding, implementing and then backtracking; it’s much more than that – learning is the sharing of knowledge and information, so let’s get more information about our controls instead of the outcomes.  How about we manage the precursor and build our resilience?

Now, it’s all very well saying this but how do we actually achieve it?

Well, we need to start somewhere…so how about our controls? Do we have confidence in our controls?  If not, why not? And what do we do about it to make sure we are confident in the controls in place?

Yes, States play a role to establish and prescribe a State Safety Program in order for us to achieve an acceptable level of safety. However, it is up to the service providers and operators who fundamentally need to demonstrate and actively manage risk and the effectiveness of mitigation strategies through their own Safety Management Systems.

So, where do we go with Annex 19?

Well, we have to make time to look at what we’ve got; we know an SMS will give us the means to do everything we need to do and to be able do them effectively in terms of manage hazards and associated risks, log incidents and occurrences to be able to report on performance. There will no doubt be policies and procedures with associated workflows that are required to be followed to ensure the investigation is appropriately dealt with.

With Annex 19, we need more than this. We need a platform to not only do all the things we need to do, but also all the things we want to do; such as anticipating and predicting, strengthening our position and giving us confidence in our controls. Because if we’re not doing that…well…in the eyes of Annex 19…are we doing it wrong?

How does your SMS measure up against the new Annex 19 recommendations?

Sextant Readings Presentation on SlideShare has been viewed over 1,750 times

The Sextant Readings presentation – 8 Steps to an Efficient SMS – has been viewed over 1750 times on SlideShare.

Positioning the “8 steps to an efficient SMS” is intended to clarify some of the mis-information about Safety Management that is rife on the internet.  There is a lot of hype about SMS – usually focused on the particular strengths of a vendor’s offering.

However we view Safety Management in the context that safety is a direct result of  “A management system based on professionalism and safety principles” of an organization.  There are many ‘pieces’ of management system support in the offerings from so-called Safety Professionals.

At Sextant Readings we believe that supporting the management of an organization based on the principles of professionalism and safety is our business.  You can see the presentation here:


IS-BAO Audit Capabilities

Our IS-BAO Audit team consisting of Sextant Readings Solutions registered auditors and those of our business partner Mentair Group.  Mentair Group has been actively involved with IS-BAO since its inception, and has a great deal of experience in Stage I, II, and III recurring audits.  Together with Sextant Readings Solutions experienced auditor team, we offer you experience, knowledge and guidance that are commensurate with your new or mature SMS environment.

Services Offered

Audits

  • IS-BAO Audits
  • Regulatory Compliance Audits
  • Internal Evaluations
  • Quality Assurance Audits
  • Safety Assurance Audits
  • Gap Analysis for SMS Standards, IS-BAO, ACSF or FAA requirements for Part 121
  • Third Party Audits
  • Audits of Client’s vendors
  • Repair Station / MRO (CFR Part 145)
  • Fueling operations
  • Ground handling (FBO)

 Training and Education

  • Safety Management Systems for Executives
  • Safety Management Systems Practical Concepts
  • Safety Manager Training
  • Quality Auditor Training (Initial and Lead)
  • Internal Audit Program Development
  • Safety/Quality Manager Development

Implementation Services

  • Safety Management System (SMS)
  • Quality Management System (QMS)
  • Continuing Analysis Surveillance System (CASS)
  • Internal Evaluation Program (IEP)
  • Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP)

Airport SMS

 

Airport SMS

Sextant Readings Solutions - airportsAirports across the world are using Q-Pulse to streamline safety, risk and quality management processes. FAA Part 139 Airports benefit from Q-Pulse supporting Daily Inspection, Self Inspection, Annual Audit, Emergency response planning, Personnel and Asset management.

Q-Pulse provides enhanced safety levels, mitigates risk and encourages an overall safety culture across the airport facility, in line with ICAO Safety Management System (SMS) requirements.

ICAO Annex 14 demands that member states introduce regulations to ensure aerodromes have an effective SMS in place. ICAO recommends that airports base their SMS around four main components:

  • Safety Policy
  • Safety Assurance
  • Safety Risk
  • Safety Promotion

By implementing Ideagen Gael’s Q-Pulse as their Quality, Safety and Compliance management solution, airports have a framework to use as the foundation to their SMS needs, allowing airport operators to meet the ICAO’s requirements effectively and efficiently. Through Q-Pulse, they have a single point of reference to manage all compliance activities, eliminating duplication of records and effort. Policies, processes and work instructions are controlled, managed and distributed with a minimum effort and with full visibility of any outstanding actions. Safety related events are captured into one system for investigation and analysis to allow identification of risk and resultant mitigating/corrective/preventive action(s). Internal, Customer or Regulator Audits can be scheduled, planned, conducted and reported with actions requiring follow-up being managed as required. A view of outstanding actions is always available to ensure compliance activities are being completed on time and effectively. Risk management, supplier and staff competency can also be managed effectively through Q-Pulse providing the ideal oversight of your compliance activities and status.

For each of our customers, Q-Pulse is customized to streamline existing processes benefiting the organization with a greatly improved workload management that improves efficiency throughout. During the last decade, as regulators have introduced SMS guidance, Ideagen Gael has worked closely with the aviation community to develop solutions that help integrate quality, safety and risk management processes and information in order to reduce bureaucracy, identify improvement opportunities and improve overall safety and quality levels.

Finland’s transport regulator increases efficiency and improves reporting times to ECCAIRS

Finland’s transport regulator increases efficiency and improves reporting times to ECCAIRS

TraFiThe Traffic Analysis department of the Finnish Transport Safety Agency (TraFi) is involved in the collection and analysis of safety and environment information regarding Finland’s transport system. As part of their reporting obligations, the regulator is required to submit both accident and incident reports to the European Co-ordination Centre for Accident and Incident Reporting Systems (ECCAIRS).

However, cialis after recording high and continuously increasing aviation occurrence reports, mainly down to their limited resources, the regulator identified a need to increase the efficiency of their occurrence management process, improving reporting times to ECCAIRS.

Ossi Kasurinen, TraFi’s Safety Information Adviser, said: “Saving occurrence reports manually into ECCAIRS database requires a lot of work and was extremely labor intensive at times, especially as we have limited resource in which to do it. We required a solution that would help us to streamline our occurrence report management process as well as feed the ECCAIRS database more efficiently.”

TraFi develops safety of the transport system across Finland, promoting environmentally friendly transport solutions. It is responsible for transport system regulatory duties across the four main transport sectors of air, rail, land and sea, and so it was crucial they found a solution which would improve their occurrence management and analysis processes.

With Ideagen Gael’s Q-Pulse solution, TraFi benefit from a fully integrated safety occurrence reporting and incident management solution, allowing their aviation community to raise occurrences in multiple formats before being processed directly into Q-Pulse.

The regulator also use Q-Pulse for their safety data management and enjoy seamless and automated integration with the ECCAIRS database which has streamlined their previous manual processes to provide more effective safety oversight of Finnish Civil and General Aviation.

Ossi added: “Q-Pulse is customizable and makes it possible to import and export data from and to other systems, cutting down the manual process dramatically. As our data is stored in Q-Pulse, we will be able to analyses it using the solution and, as the solutions is used by a few of our aviation customers, there may be possibilities that we can experience some synergy benefits in data transfer also.”

“Our Q-Pulse solution has completely taken over our day-to-day operations in regards to managing safety and environment information. As well as receiving multiple occurrence reports from varying systems, we can manage and classify these reports before easily exporting them into ECCAIRS. It has helped us improve overall occurrence management – and the solution’s analysis functionality will help us fulfill our duties despite the limited resources that we have.”

GCAA lead the way – choosing Q-Pulse as the solution

GCAA lead the way – choosing Q-Pulse as the solution

iStock_000002708193LargeThe General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) is a federal, autonomous body set up to oversee all aviation-related activities in the United Arab Emirates. Created in 1996, the GCAA provide designated aviation services with observance to safety and security to strengthen the aviation industry within the UAE and its air space.

Regulating over 550 organizations throughout the UAE, the GCAA required an electronic auditing system which would allow them to easily demonstrate traceability of audits and analyses their findings within and across organizations.

By implementing Q-Pulse, developed by Ideagen Gael Ltd, the GCAA moved from their laborious paper-based system to an electronic auditing system, allowing them to holistically analyses the audit findings and issues from their regulated organizations.

In doing this, the GCAA became the first such regulator in the world to use Q-Pulse for their entire internal and external auditing processes.

The Background

The aviation industry in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the few growing markets in the world. Founded in 1996, the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) regulates Civil Aviation across the UAE, ensuring that safety and security is being met to regulatory standards.

Since its inception the authority has made considerable progress as the aviation industry in the UAE continues to grow, embarking on bold new initiatives to provide a better service for the aviation industry.

Modernization of the air traffic control center program, radar equipment’s and the establishment of new facilities to serve the aviation growth in the UAE are just some of the projects initiated by GCAA. The GCAA have also been busy behind an overhaul of civil aviation services in the UAE, creating the necessary infrastructure required to bring them in line with the rapidly growing market. These include state-of-the-art Air Traffic Control systems; Civil Aviation Regulations and AIP upgrades; Flight Safety Services procedures; internal HR structures and policies; and a host of other activities to ensure safe and efficient services.

The UAE were the first in the Middle East region to introduce Satellite Navigation GPS approach procedures, when it was introduced for Dubai International Airport.

The Challenge

With over 550 organizations – from Aircraft Operators to Air Traffic Control centers – GCAA realized that it was imperative they moved from their dated and laborious paper based auditing system. Previously, evidence and findings had been collated through a series of impractical phone calls and e-mails – meaning traceability was then hard to demonstrate.

The GCAA recognized that they needed a single, clear system to relay their audit findings from their hundreds of regulated clients and organizations, and allow them to analyses those same findings quickly and easily.

By turning to Q-Pulse – developed by Ideagen Gael Ltd – GCAA had found the most comprehensive and flexible software tool that met their auditing needs, allowing them to integrate all their audit schedules and findings electronically in one centralized place.

Ismaeil Mohammed Al Balooshi, Director of the GCAA’s Aviation Safety Department, said: “It was becoming increasingly difficult to keep on top of our auditing. Our previous system was paper based and having used this for several years it was proving extremely complicated when trying to retrieve and access information, such as previous audit findings. A need arose to analyses trends and source potential problems – which ultimately made it more difficult in ensuring aviation safety to industry regulations.

“At the GCAA, we regulate hundreds of organizations across an extensive range of services in the UAE such as Aircraft Operators, International Airports, Dangerous Goods forwarders as well as training, medical and maintenance organizations. So our new system had to show we were actively ensuring safety in all the organizations we regulate.

“What we needed was a system that allowed us to integrate all our auditing schedules, findings and evidence into one easy to use database, allowing all our regulated organizations to submit their evidence centrally. But also one that had the scope to extend beyond our initial auditing requirements into areas such as document control for manual and other such approvals, plus the scope to manage a fully integrated SMS system.

“We found Q-Pulse – and quickly realized it provided the solution to our immediate and future needs.”

The Solution

By implementing Q-Pulse, the GCAA became the first such regulator in the world to adopt a centralized electronic system deployed directly into the organizations they regulate, firmly establishing a robust scalable solution capable of managing audit, document and SMS activities.

The unique and groundbreaking new project allowed the authority to introduce an innovative idea and completely overhaul their previous auditing system.

Through Q-Pulse, the GCAA integrated all of their audit schedules and findings – in areas such as Airworthiness, Flight operations, ANAs, Licensing and Security – into one central database. Instead of working with a traditional paper based and laborious system, all of GCAA’s auditing plans and results can be found through easy-to-use Q-Pulse features yielding significant benefits.

All of the authority’s regulated organizations are now managed within Q-Pulse to track all their audit activity and findings, plus keep a copy of the latest version of their approved manuals. Previous revisions are also automatically archived and can be retrieved on demand. The latest version is always available at the point of audit thus findings can be raised against them, checklist questions or ad hoc findings, all of which can easily be graphically analyzed.

Q-Pulse has allowed the GCAA inspectors to plan and process their audits from creation to final closure, while regulated organizations interact with Q-Pulse to resolve their audit findings. This has had a hugely positive impact on both the GCAA and their regulated organizations, with response times being cut dramatically for issues needing resolved for example.

As with any similar organization managing a large quantity of other organizations, the result is a vastly improved regulator/regulated relationship. Strengthening this bond has resulted in the better control and scheduling of audits, an improved sharing of knowledge across disciplines and an easy, user-friendly tool to analyses the results. In industry terms, the GCAA’s innovative decision to introduce Q-Pulse has resulted in an upsurge in market confidence – and safer skies above the UAE.

Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, who took up his role as GCAA’s Director General in 2006, said: “As the first CAA in the world to adopt this approach, the GCAA has taken a truly proactive stance in maintaining and improving safety and security oversight.

“As well as being an innovative project with a truly unique approach, it is extremely encouraging to see technology being applied in such an innovative way. This is within an industry in which it is imperative both to take full advantage of the advances that are occurring around us, and to keep pace with the continuing expansion in the region’s aviation sector. This will assist the GCAA in establishing a strong infrastructure to formulate the basis for their safety and security resolutions and enforcement action. This platform is also used by many of our partners in the UAE civil aviation industry which will allow us to streamline our related processes, and hence allow us to provide better services to our clients.”

Safian Baharome, Quality Assurance at flydubai, revealed their improved relationship with the GCAA has helped boost their Quality Management. Safian said: “We have found the GCAA’s interaction with Q-Pulse as helped us manage our non-conformances better. The CA/PA module has enabled us to track our non-compliances better and provide data for analysis and review while the ‘My Action’ provides a snap shot of any findings that are outstanding. Q-Pulse will also prompt and flag any non-conformances that are still open so that they would be able to be closed in a timely manner. Q-Pulse has enabled us to not only manage our audit findings better, it has provided us with easy data extraction for our CI program.”

Tony Mackenzie, Manager of Operations and Compliance at Etihad Airways, said: “This is an excellent step forward in the UAE and light years ahead of some countries in Europe. Well done.”

The Results

By implementing Q-Pulse as their centralized auditing system, GCAA eradicated their confusing paper based methods and ensured that the gap between the regulator and the regulated – a huge problem experienced across the entire aviation industry – was bridged. As the regulator, GCAA now have complete control of their audit schedules and timelines and can share knowledge across disciplines, something they previously had difficulty in achieving.

By implementing Q-Pulse, the GCAA provided their 50-plus inspectors and over 550 regulated clients with a simple and easily accessible auditing database. Analyzing their audit findings has also been made realistically achievable within an acceptable timescale. Q-Pulse allows GCAA’s auditors to study findings easily and effectively, meaning they can learn and target areas of improvement across region, regulation and industry.

In terms of the regulated, GCAA’s implementation of Q-Pulse has provided them with one place for all their evidence collation – allowing them to prepare for audits and see all their historical findings.

Donald Maciver, Managing Director at Ideagen Gael Ltd, said: “This project is poised to bridge the gap between the regulated and the regulator that has been such a source of frustration within the aviation industry worldwide. Ideagen Gael is an experienced provider of aviation safety solutions, and Q-Pulse is without doubt the solution of choice within the aviation community.”

Ideagen Gael Ltd’s Chief Operating Officer, Ashley Marron, insists the benefit for both the GCAA and their 550 regulated clients is clear. He said: “The GCAA visionary approach of working with their regulated customer base has expanded the interaction of Q-Pulse to over 550 customers via the web. The GCAA have undoubtedly taken advantage of the fact that Q-Pulse is a robust scalable solution ideal at handling this extensive level of data reporting and action management.

“With over 50 inspectors alone within GCAA, the annual number of audits performed and findings raised is enormous and the operational benefits taking place internally by implementing Q-Pulse in terms of process management and scheduling is also significant. Imagine then the benefit of using the powerful Q-Pulse Analysis functionality to analyses trends across all the audits the GCAA perform. Utilizing the Wizards functionality and mandatory fields, a disciplined approach to data entry, the GCAA’s vision of using the data trend analysis proactively can be achieved. I am really excited about the impact and success of the project.”

Within the GCAA, Q-Pulse will also serve to enhance communication between their internal divisions. This will enable the authority to provide an integrated environment offering safety and security while meeting their commitment to provide the highest standards in aviation safety and security.

Abdulla Al Housani, the GCAA’s Audit Development Manager, said: “As the audit development manager, I’m looking forward to the long term benefits that we’ll get from using Q-Pulse. Not only will we get valuable analysis from the performance and areas of development of our audited organizations, but we’ll also be able to improve and develop our Inspector performance and auditing techniques.

“As we are using one system for all GCAA audit programmers we’ll be able to learn across the organization and develop best practice with our Inspectors, plus new Inspectors will also benefit from this system as they’ll be able to use the data generated from previous audits across the GCAA.”

Sextant Readings Solutions partners with Ideagen Gael Ltd to deliver comprehensive quality, risk, and safety management solutions to the America’s aviation industry

Aviation Fatigue Risk Management integration with Jeppesen CrewAlert

FRMS Integration

Fatigue has been cited as a contributing factor in aviation accidents. Therefore, a robust Safety Management System (SMS) must take fatigue into account. Capturing and analyzing data within the SMS provides tangible evidence to both airlines and pilots on the effect of fatigue.

An effective Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) will rely on a culture that encourages reporting of observed hazards during operations. Under this culture, the pilot will be comfortable feeding back information on their performance during a flight. The analysis of the data captured provides information to the airline operations department, allowing them to proactively manage the impact of fatigue and adjust their recommendations for flying hours and rest times. This analytical, proactive approach to fatigue risk management builds on the same principles as those applied to SMS.

Ideagen Gael have partnered with Jeppesen, (Press release) a unit of Boeing Flight Services, to provide airlines with a new automated solution to report crew fatigue. CrewAlert, an iPhone application built on the Boeing Alertness Model (BAM), has been designed to help airlines and their crews manage alertness and fatigue. Through the partnership, CrewAlert is able to automatically submit crew fatigue reports directly into Ideagen Gael’s Q-Pulse product. This co-ordination allows airlines to create safety reports that aid root cause analysis when working to reduce crew fatigue