A Brief History Of Technician Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting. Humanity first used troubleshooting eons ago, maybe when the first wheel broke, the first chariot crashed, or the first time a bow broke as an archer attempted to shoot an arrow. The user looked at the broken item and asked, “What’s wrong with this thing?”

If an answer came and he figured out “How” to fix the shortcoming when the next break occurred he knew to first check whether the initial failure repeated. If not the troubleshooting-then-fixing process repeated.

The Challenge With Traditional Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting skills moved down through the generations a more-or-less tribal manner until people began to write documents and instructions for their inventions and some began recording maintenance records and accumulating proven troubleshooting steps.

Handing down such accumulated knowledge underpin training in virtually every business – from the engineers to the mechanics maintaining appliances, machines, computers, cars – and, of course, aircraft. Thanks to ATP’s focus on collecting, organizing and cross-referencing maintenance records and reports data, today’s maintenance technicians enjoy the ability to instantly and quickly tap into the experiences of their peers around the world, one of whom has likely seen their particular problem before.

ATP’s Solution For Troubleshooting

When ATP announced its acquisition of CaseBank Technologies, it brought together two complementary solutions to aid ATP’s achieving its strategic vision of unified process management, enabling customers to drive dramatic improvements in productivity, cost savings, operations compliance and aircraft utilization.

As explained by Chief Technology Officer Phil D’Eon, ATP Software Solutions’ tools help technicians quickly identify what works to correct problems – and, in the process of simply using the system, enhance the data ATP mined to deliver its clients guided failure diagnosis based on tens of thousands of events spread across the various disciplines in aircraft maintenance.

Fulfilling The Need For Effective Troubleshooting With Modern Technology

ATP Software Solutions SpotLight® & ChronicX®

The goal is common to aircraft maintenance shops and personnel around the globe: Find the problem, fix it and return the aircraft to service – as quickly as possible. Troubleshooting remains Step 1 to identify the cause of the event.

“The technology itself was designed to advance troubleshooting through the collective experience of technicians,” D’Eon explained. “Even though traditional manuals address troubleshooting, the updates are too slow. If you look at the changes over the life of the aircraft, parts lists and repair instructions are driven by design changes, which are relatively infrequent.

“But if you look at troubleshooting manuals, the amount of new information coming in takes off like a rocket –technicians in the field are discovering new types of failures every day – a rate much faster than the troubleshooting documents can keep up with.”

“SpotLight helps technicians keep up with the latest knowledge about possible failures.”

ATP Software Solutions’ products work as a team, with the process starting when the technician takes fault codes or failure symptoms and enters them into ATP Software Solutions SpotLight software, which triggers an interactive troubleshooting session. “We consolidate the possible failures into a database, and intelligent software goes to work asking incisive questions.  Some of those questions can be answered by other modules, such as aircraft data downloads, defect history, and maintenance configuration records” D’Eon said.

“Now every time a technician discovers something different or new, the system captures it, and overnight we add the new failure mode to the database so it’s immediately included in the troubleshooting guidance delivered to field technicians.”

ATP Software Solutions’ data is a combination of engineering knowledge and field experience.  The latter comes from both users of the software and from ChronicX, a tool that automatically identifies troubleshooting difficulty issues in aircraft defect reports.

SpotLight, in turn, provides rapid troubleshooting guidance leading to quality-controlled answers – “Solutions” ATP calls them – from the software’s diagnostic database. Based on the massive ChronicX database it uses, SpotLight helps deliver to technicians with the latest information on the problem facing them.

ATP Information Services and Software Solutions Connection Continues The Flow Of Information

After SpotLight launches a troubleshooting session and shows what’s been tried before, the software can interface with ATP Information Services’ Aviation Hub Cloud Platform to find the appropriate documents, start work orders, and run a check on whether all the aircraft is up to date and in compliance with applicable Airworthiness Directives (ADs) and Service Bulletins (SBs).

“If troubleshooting guidance wants to know if a certain SB has been applied, the linkage with ATP Information Services records can show the technician the answer immediately,” D’Eon said.“If it has not been applied, SpotLight can signal ATP Maintenance to launch a work order, and upon confirmation of the fix, end the troubleshooting session.”

The modules are tightly integrated via protocols that let them communicate with one another. An ATP Information Services-subscriber technician is alerted to repeat maintenance needed – say an antenna check. The ATP software brings up the documents needed to do the work while, in the background, it checks SpotLight for other problems; SpotLight cross-references ChronicX and finds a relationship to an unrelated problem – and that solves both issues.

All these abilities are accessible with the full range of computer tools common in today’s shops, from smartphones to tablet computers, to notebook and desktop machines.

And they all work in harmony to speed the process of delivering needed maintenance – and move the aircraft back to service as efficiently and economically as possible.

About the Author: ATP

ATP is the leading provider of maintenance tracking, flight operations, inventory management, repetitive defect analysis, and troubleshooting software. The company’s applications help reduce operating costs, improve aircraft reliability, and supports technical knowledge sharing and collaboration within the business aviation, military/defense, commercial aviation, and OEM industries.

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