If you’ve been contemplating switching from your current aviation maintenance software, but the task of searching for a new software program seems overwhelming, consider these tips before you get started.

First, determine your reason for dropping your current aviation maintenance software:

  • Is it antiquated and/or no longer supported?
  • Has it become too costly to maintain with annual license fees, upgrades and software maintenance fees?
  • Does it not support modern technologies that you want to use?

Then, figure out what your main challenges are in your current aviation maintenance software?

Here are just a few common challenges that maintenance folks at many airlines and charter operator face today:

  • Is data entry time consuming? Do multiple people across different teams enter the same data in different screens?
  • Does it create “silos” of data across departments, making it difficult for one team to know what another team is doing?
  • Are workarounds part of your normal work processes, creating spreadsheets to track what your software can’t?
  • Is it complicated to train new hires, which leads to user error?

Next, take some time to think about what would make life easier. 

Make a list of your ‘must-have’ items. For instance:
  1. Maintenance software that removes the clutter and offers a simple easy to read screen format?
  2. What about alerts to help manage situational awareness from a busy operation?  
  3. Or maybe a communication piece that kept everyone up-to-date and in-the-know?
  4. Does your software need to have the capacity to work on any mobile device? 
  5. Are wearables important to you? What about paperless?

Once you have an idea of what your challenges are today and the improvements you would like to see, it gives you a focus to begin researching the wide range of maintenance management software that’s in the market today. 

A decent place to start is Capterra.com, which lists current aviation maintenance management software and provides company information all in one place.

  • Look for software companies who are active in keeping up with modern technology and trends.
  • With today’s technology a cloud-based software is optimal (less stuff for you to deal with!)
  • Make a list of all the software companies that provide all the elements on your ‘must-have’ list.

Determine your current budget. 

  • Many aviation maintenance software companies have different levels of service. 
  • Don’t forget about the cost for hardware, software, license fees, implementation and support fees, as well as other costs that may not be obvious. 
  • Modifications to support YOUR operation are probably not included, so find out the rates to have changes made.
  • Make sure you know upfront if training and support are included in the quoted price.

Review the demos if available.

  • Many software companies will offer a demo even if it’s not listed on their website. 
  • Consider the ease of use when reviewing the demo. Is it easy to figure out or will it require a significant amount of training? 
  • Compare the demo to your current software. What elements does it have that your current software is missing?

Based on the results of your search, meet with the vendors for your top three-to-five companies to research further. 

  • Ask for a demo. 
  • Find out if the company provides a free trial, which would allow your team to determine the ease of use and give an opportunity to check out the software on your schedule, prior to making the investment.
  • Also, when meeting with the vendor make a point to recognize their customer service skills. Are they easily reachable? Do they respond in a timely fashion? 
  • Ask to speak with several other folks in their organization to find out if they REALLY understand the aviation industry, or if just the sales guy understands the business.

After you have met with the top contenders it should be fairly easy to narrow it down to one or two vendors. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for multiple meetings, and build a relationship with the vendor from the beginning so the transition to your new maintenance management software will be a smooth one.

A few “takeaway” tips to remember:

  • The transition to a new system does NOT necessarily have to be painful. Have a strategy, understand your current challenges and know what your ‘must-haves’ are before you begin your research. 

  • Not all software programs are created equal. Choose the the right software for your organization – it’s not just a question of ‘which one is cheapest?‘ The right software will pay for itself by increasing efficiency, reducing costs, improving communications, or all of the above!
  • Look for software companies that offer a trial period prior to purchasing and take advantage of it to be sure the software is a good fit for your company. Have a team of users, i.e. Records, Planning, Maintenance Control, Quality, Materials, and Line Maintenance that can help you ‘kick the tires‘ during the free trial. 
  • Choose a vendor that offers an excellent support option. This is an important feature that will allow you to receive the full value from your investment. You could end up with frustrated users, incorrect data, and potentially regulatory findings if you don’t have a vendor that supports your operation.