Aircraft Project Management: Personal Planning Throughout Your Project
Duncan Aviation has developed a process that makes a strong commitment to you as a customer. That commitment is this: From the signed agreement to the final delivery day and beyond, one person will be there for you, one person who knows your airplane, one person who will answer your questions and one person who will work to coordinate dozens of technicians.
This commitment helps to generate a completed project that is on time, on budget and that allows you to take flight from the runway knowing you couldn’t have made a better choice. Who is that one person? Your Project Manager (PM).
The role of the PM dates back to the early 1990s. By design, each aircraft project completed within a Duncan Aviation maintenance facility is assigned a PM. The PM is the single point of contact for the customer and serves as the connection between the customer and the internal teams. They coordinate the project from beginning to end to ensure overall success. This duty involves providing customer service through communication, leadership and management. The events that consume the typical day for a PM may come as a surprise. Between phone calls, meetings, aircraft photos, billing, tracking parts and email, it is difficult to define a typical day. But with each project, there are five key stages to its success.
Stage 1: Scheduling
Research is done to help establish the best pairing to aid team building and success.
Before the agreement is signed, the scheduling team gets involved to assist the sales staff with dates for input, delivery and personnel assignments. For returning customers, assignments are based on previous working relationships or specific aircraft familiarity. For first-time customers, a PM may be assigned based on aircraft make/model experience, as well as personality characteristics. Research is done to help establish the best pairing to aid team building and success.
During scheduling, a rough flow of the project is mapped and the service plan is created. The service plan is communicated to all team members and lists details of the individual work scopes completed by each team.
Stage 2: Pre-Planning
After assignments have been made, the "Sales-to-PM Handoff" is initiated. In this meeting, the project concepts and work scope plans are handed off to the PM. An internal checklist is used to ensure all information is received. A call is made to the customer to introduce the PM as the primary contact and, from this point on, the PM will have full focus on the project and assist the customer with any needs.
Proper pre-planning activities can ensure that we meet the schedule and deliver a safe and compliant aircraft.
During the pre-planning stage of every project, pre-planning meetings are held. These meetings take place in scheduled conference rooms with representatives from all teams. The goal is for everyone to be ready at aircraft arrival; the team makes sure that all questions are answered, major milestones are mapped and any pending issues are researched. The PM facilitates this meeting and coordinates open issues by assigning responsibility for resolution.
"Pre-planning on large projects before input is very critical to the Engineering and Certification group. We are all much more efficient if we develop a plan for the entire project, communicate the expectations to all groups involved and then work to the plan. Proper pre-planning activities can ensure that we meet the schedule and deliver a safe and compliant aircraft," says Lyle Schueth, Certification Coordinator.
Stage 3: Aircraft Arrival
Upon arrival, the PM will greet the customer at the cabin door, welcoming him or her to Duncan Aviation. Team representatives will be stationed at the flight desk or in a conference room to also greet the customer. Within the first few moments of arrival, the PM will escort the customer to a conference room where a debrief meeting is held with the customer and team leaders for the project. During the debrief, formal introductions are made, work scopes are reviewed and questions are addressed. For returning customers, this is a chance to catch up with old friends. Many customers request specific teams. It is not uncommon for airframe teams to develop lasting relationships with a customer or Director of Maintenance (DOM). They trust the expertise of the teams and find comfort in the familiarity that the technicians have with their airplane.
"It is good for the production teams to build familiarity with the minor differences that can exist on airplanes. In addition, getting to know the customers personally helps me to better serve them. When I know what their expectations are from past experience, it makes it a lot easier to meet their needs," says Rob Anderson, Airframe Team Leader.
Stage 4: Management
As maintenance begins on the aircraft, the PM is deep into the managing stage. It is now their goal to monitor the project flow, keep the customer informed of all activity and any unforeseen events that may arise.
The myDuncan application is a handy tool.
Customer communication is vital. Each PM will work to establish expectations for communication whether the customer is are on-site during the event or at home. Duncan Aviation provides customer offices allowing customers to remain on-site during maintenance or modification. This gives customers the opportunity to conduct their daily business and visit the aircraft as they wish. Many customers are comfortable overseeing the project from the comfort of their own office. This is due in part to Duncan Aviation’s online project management tool, myDuncan.
The web-based myDuncan program is a free service developed and maintained by Duncan Aviation to improve the experience of the customer. It enhances communication, efficiency and accessibility. It allows customers to manage their projects, making all information available anytime, any day from anywhere in the world. It streamlines information into a user-friendly environment and gives the customer access to online squawk approvals, job status reports, project history, and messaging. myDuncan is available to any customer with open projects for aircraft services and component repairs and overhauls.
"The myDuncan application is a handy tool. It keeps good track of built-up squawks, and with a big project like a 96-month on a Challenger, that can be a significant number of squawks. It helps to have both customer and service center working off the same squawk list, and to have constant access to that list, whether we are in your shop, back at the hotel or all the way back at home base," says Bob Petty with IGT Flight Department.
Also vital to any project is internal communication. The PM is a key component of this communication and works with the team leaders to coordinate activity. The PM visits the aircraft and back shops daily, always keeping up with status and looks to the future to help solve issues that may arise. Scheduled meetings known as "at-the-nose" meetings or work-in-progress (WIP) meetings are held at least weekly or more frequently as a job requires. The meetings are short, allow team coordination and, with easy access to the aircraft, critical questions can be explored and resolved.
Stage 5: Delivery & Follow-up
Delivery activities may end with the actual flight of the aircraft, but delivery events begin days prior to take-off. During the delivery stage, the PM is busy with invoices for non-final paperwork, calculating departure payment terms, coordinating test flights, ensuring completion of the maintenance entries and overseeing final touches to the aircraft. With everything that surrounds the delivery, it is the PM’s goal to make the experience as memorable as possible.
The most memorable thing that we can do is have the aircraft clean and the cabin door shut when the customer arrives for delivery.
"The most memorable thing that we can do is to have the aircraft clean and the cabin door shut when the customer arrives for delivery. This makes a huge impact on our customers and that is why this is my goal with every project that I run," says Shawn Busby, Project Manager.
Project Manager, Luke Swager, also likes to take the customer around to the teams on that final delivery day. This lets them get the personal interaction that is so important to any completed project. It also lends well when the customer requests information in the future. A customer may call in asking Luke to run an idea past a specific technician. A request like this can be really neat because we know then that the customer respects the work and it can be just as rewarding for the technician to realize that their input is appreciated.
Project Managers at Duncan Aviation are one of a kind. They are unique to the industry in that they are focused solely on project management, not employee management. Your PM is assigned to you and your project. They are there for you to answer questions and to be your eyes and ears when you are unable to be on-site. They are a part of your team as well as ours. They have the technical experience and diverse knowledge to support your project, the teams involved, your aircraft and you.
To learn more about Duncan Aviation’s project managers and their experiences, visit them at http://www.duncanaviation.aero/contact/project_managers.php.
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