AYX delta airlines case study

Clearer Skies Ahead: Delta Air Lines Enables Technicians with Alteryx Automation

Delta Air Lines future proofs aircraft maintenance to avoid long-term grounding time with analytics automation

AYX delta airlines case study

Delta Air Lines Key Stats

Industry: Airline/Travel
Department: Technology/Operations/Maintenance
Region: North America

manual spot check audits / Enable maintenance planners with automated reporting

matched 700 flying aircraft with 34 maintenance stations

workflow saves employees 750 hours annually

Clearer Skies Ahead: Delta Air Lines Enables Technicians with Alteryx Automation

Delta Air Lines, a pillar of the airline industry since 1925, is known for being a thought-leader in their space, and never more so than in the last few years. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a stalled industry, Josh, a project leader responsible for data analysis & reporting for the line maintenance and base maintenance departments within Delta TechOps, used data and analytics with Alteryx to future proof the business and stay ahead of the curve.

“When the pandemic hit, we took a step back to build more robust processes that involved analytics and automation, many of which we’re still using today,” said Josh, Project Lead for Delta TechOps. Throughout the pandemic, Josh’s central role was to compile, manipulate, and analyze data and create reports for leadership that drove discussions and important business decisions.

One of those discussions involved improving Delta’s existing manual aircraft maintenance tracking process. Unknown to the traveler, most of the time a plane isn’t in the air, it’s undergoing maintenance in a service station. This can be short term, lasting a few hours, or long term, lasting overnight or up to a few days. The goal of airlines like Delta is to perform maintenance checks efficiently to ensure the aircraft is as safe as possible and customers can get to where they need to go, thereby maximizing the customer experience and maintaining Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) compliance.

When the pandemic hit, we took a step back to build more robust processes that involved analytics and automation, many of which we’re still using today.

A better way to track maintenance schedules

Every morning maintenance planners needed to check maintenance schedules for incoming planes or “tails,” as they’re referred to in the industry in reference to the unique 5-digit code on the tail of every plane, serving as the plane’s license plate. When necessary, planners would create work packages defining the different maintenance work each tail required. Each Planner is responsible for 70-100 aircraft and would go through spreadsheets to check incoming tails and work packages.

This tedious, manual process of reviewing spreadsheets usually took an hour a day, which throughout the year quickly added up. If a maintenance date shifted, it caused a chain reaction for the work queue down the line. After a certain date had passed, it was difficult to make changes to any aircraft work packages. Realizing this, Josh’s first project with Alteryx Designer was to automate this process.

Automating this process helped catch changing scheduling dates that were sometimes overlooked manually, giving planners more time to revise work packages. Josh’s automated workflow delivers an email to planners every morning with maintenance schedules that had changed, which helps ensure all the appropriate maintenance gets scheduled without any hiccups, avoiding downstream maintenance delays, increasing effectiveness, and helping meet FAA compliance.

I know everybody was happy to not have to do spot check audits everyday anymore.

Future proofing the friendly skies

If a type of aircraft hasn’t flown to a station recently, there’s a possibility AMT’s service qualifications for that particular aircraft may have lapsed. This problem became especially apparent during the pandemic. “A handful of times, we would have a station manager call us not expecting a certain type of plane to be there and catching them off guard. We had so many AMTs move around or leave during COVID that their qualifications were completely different than what we were used to. We used to have more AMTs to look at the aircraft. Once we started ramping up again, we started to see the pains.”

While the differences between an Airbus A321 and Airbus A321neo might be small, such that an A321 AMT might know 99% of an A321neo, that AMT would be required to take a 3-day familiarization course. “Now imagine receiving a Boeing when you’re expecting an Airbus — training would take weeks. If you’re a station manager, you need time to prepare your crew.”

Oversights happen in every industry, but they are especially expensive for airlines. If an aircraft comes in for maintenance, but the work cannot be done, that plane cannot fly its intended routes. Another plane can take its place but swapping out an aircraft may mean differences in seating capacities, flying ranges, fuel efficiencies, and more — which can all lead to additional costs the airline will need to pay.

In comes Josh’s second Alteryx workflow, which automatically cross references current flight schedules with years of data detailing which aircraft types have been in specific service stations. This ensures that the service station that is scheduled to receive the tail is qualified to operate on it. Josh envisioned an unfortunate future where something slipped through the cracks, leaving customers and margins the victims.

“A good way to describe what we’re working on now is future proofing,” Josh explains, “trying to get ahead of the curve.”

With 34 maintenance stations aligned to 700 lines of flights, the old process relied on manual induction date checks, audits, and tribal knowledge. Josh’s workflow aims to solve this match (or mismatch) between AMTs at maintenance stations and flying routes, especially as flying has returned to normal. His goal is to have station managers get an email report to help them see if an aircraft type has been to a specific maintenance station before, how many hours it will be grounded for, and help AMTs prioritize what training they might need.

We had so many AMTs move around or leave during COVID, that their qualifications were completely different than what we were used to. We used to have more AMTs inspecting the aircraft. Once business started ramping up again, we started to see the pains.

What’s next?

Data and analytics have already proven to be a huge advantage for Delta Air Lines, helping them inform the business, streamline processes, and reduce errors during uncertain times. Josh will continue to leverage analytics and automation to help Delta Air Lines not only optimize workflows, but also prepare for whatever challenges come next.

Josh Leverich
Project Leader

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