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How iOS apps help Lufthansa to ease the flying experience
How could Lufthansa improve flight operations efficiency, speed up passenger boarding and cut costs by avoiding delays? Working with Apple and IBM®, Lufthansa created a suite of iOS apps for its Ground Ops team, addressing operational excellence and resulting in a smoother flying experience for all passengers.
With integrated iOS apps, Ground Ops staff gain access to real-time information on the complete aircraft turnaround process in the palm of their hands.
Business challenge story
When does my flight depart?
Answering this simple question depends on a host of coordinated actions; fuel, catering, crew, cleaning, baggage, cargo—the list is almost endless. Flight delays are enormously expensive, both in direct costs and in reduced aircraft utilization, and of course they also have a huge impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty.
With punctuality at a premium, airlines rely on Ground Ops staff to conduct the operational orchestra that gets planes away on time. Flight Managers troubleshoot and resolve issues wherever they arise, from departure gate to baggage handling. In a typical day, a Flight Manager might be responsible for the on-time departure of up to 15 flights and could easily walk more than 10 km between gates—all while having regular calls with the office to check for any important updates.
Tobias Heep, Project Lead for Ground Ops App Development at Lufthansa, explains, “We constantly ask ourselves how we can improve our operational performance. Rather than working from paper or out-of-date information, how could we collate essential data, available in a variety of different back-end systems, and put it into Flight Managers’ hands in real time?”
Stephanie Abeler, Senior Director Service Factory Ground Operations, comments, “Transparency and alignment of information is a critical factor for a smooth, on-time performance. We knew that colleagues should not have to waste time gathering information if we can do that for them.”
“The iOS apps created in partnership with IBM iX will greatly improve the travel experience for everyone—passengers and Lufthansa staff!”
Transformation story : Go mobile to get airborne
Lufthansa imagined how the information might look on a mobile device, and selected iPhone and iPad as target devices based on security, reliability, and total cost of ownership. The company also made this choice because of an expected longer device lifetime, which would help to deliver reduced operational costs in the long term.
Tobias Heep continues, “The Apple ecosystem offers specific advantages for us, with fewer device types and software versions to manage, and our primary decision was based on security and total cost of ownership. We were aware that handing out an iPhone to employees could serve as a soft-motivation factor, too!”
To make the app project a reality, Lufthansa looked for a partner that understood the airline industry inside and out, offered iOS technical and user experience skills, and could provide a team of design and implementation experts able to integrate data from multiple enterprise sources. Lufthansa selected IBM iX®, the interactive experience specialists, and became the foundation client for Ground Ops apps within the IBM Aviation App Suite. The collaboration has created three new apps so far: Manage Gates, Turnaround Manager, and Ramp App.
Manage Gates handles above-the-wing information, such as passenger lists, connecting flights, seating information, catering and more; Turnaround Manager merges above-and below-the-wing data, including fueling, baggage, cargo, air bridge and passenger boarding; and Ramp App enables Ramp Agents to access critical ground-handling data, as well as the loading instruction, cargo, mail, baggage and special load information.
Stephanie Abeler adds, “Each app is customized to the role of the user, yet they all present identical data, ensuring that our operations are fully integrated and synchronized.”
Ramp up, scale back
IBM iX began the app design process focused on the user experience and guided by Apple Human Interface Guidelines. The process included workshops and staff interviews to discover what would make their lives easier. To provide rapid time-to-delivery on the technical side, IBM iX proposed the Agile development process, to create a flexible, iterative approach to building the solution, based on rapid and frequent feedback.
Tobias Heep remarks, “The very first touchpoint with IBM iX was the design workshop, which completely overturned our waterfall methodology. Normally we would write detailed specifications defining everything in the smallest detail and then hand this brief to a vendor, and maybe six months later the software would arrive, for better or worse.”
“The IBM iX experience was completely different and far more engaging. Our staff returned from the workshop sessions really excited.”
“For example, from a blank sheet of paper they had produced a high-fidelity design for the Manage Gates app for iOS in just three days, which detailed a day in the life of a Flight Manager and all the complex interactions, data and services needed to ensure what we call ‘brilliant basics,’ such as a flight’s on-time departure. We followed this template right through the enterprise data integration and app build processes, and the final product ended up being remarkably similar to the initial design.”
From design to delivery
Taking the design concept, IBM iX deployed global teams on an Agile development process that saw the Manage Gates app emerge as a functioning iOS prototype in just a few weeks. IBM arranged for development sessions in Cupertino, California, and at the IBM iX team in the IBM Travel & Transportation Industry Studio in Toronto, Canada.
Curiously, such rapid execution surfaced new challenges. To drive the app, for example, the Agile team requested new data feeds from Lufthansa’s core systems at short notice, which created new challenges.
“The big challenge was to ensure that the back-end development was able to keep pace with the front-end development,” says Tobias Heep. “With continuous refinement and design iterations every couple of weeks, we created new data feed requirements. While the IBM iX team marched forwards, internally we were on the hunt to figure out where we could source and stream the data. Sometimes we would discover that the technical gaps were simply too great to be closed within short timescales, which led us to revise the design and deliver the additional functionality at a later stage.”
The apps are supported by IBM Mobile Solutions, which provide the integration, development and management services to support iOS apps. IBM Mobile Solutions enable app portfolio management, testing services, distribution and security services—all essential for enterprise operations. IBM deployed its global delivery model, with on-site business experts and analysts supported by off-site code and development. This approach gave Lufthansa the ability to scale back or request additional resources according to project demands, helping to achieve delivery points in a very efficient and flexible working manner.
Tobias Heep comments, “IBM iX was able to scale up and down flexibly, particularly during phases where speed of delivery was essential. With the Manage Gates app project successfully delivered, we started on the Ramp App while the Turnaround Manager project was still in progress. IBM expanded the resources very successfully with its local and global teams in order to deliver both projects in parallel.”
“Throughout the project, we worked together virtually as one team, with shared responsibilities and commitment to success, even though some team-members were geographically distant. The collaboration was very effective, with sessions in the IBM Travel & Transportation Industry Studio in Toronto, Canada, and the Development Garage in Bengaluru, India, and the outcomes were high-quality iOS apps delivered on time by a single, integrated IBM and Lufthansa team.”
Stephanie Abeler remarks, “Close collaboration between business users and the IT function is crucial for continuous digitalization projects, and Lufthansa and IBM achieved excellent rapport.”
Maintenance done 90% faster – Korean Air
With Watson, Korean Air is developing an intelligent detection system to improve operational efficiency and on- time performance.
Watson ingested structured and unstructured data from multiple sources including technical guidelines, non-routine logs, technician notes, inventory, troubleshooting time and material cost data, and in-flight incident history.
Watson Discovery, Watson Natural Language Understanding, advanced content analytics previously hidden connections that help maintenance crews diagnose and solve problems more quickly, with more confidence. IBM Travel AI-based solutions
Further, if an issue occurs in flight, the cabin crew can report it immediately to ground operations. Watson will access data from similar issues in the past and compare this information against technical guidelines including necessary materials and fixing time. Maintenance technicians fix the issue on the ground and enter their actions into the system to add to Watson’s knowledge.
With Watson, maintenance managers can also identify trends of issues in each season and can take these insights to the original equipment manufacturers for improvement.
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Over 200,000 maintenance cases per year are addressed 90% faster
Korean Air needs their over 2,000 maintenance employees to be able to act faster. When Watson delivered actionable insights on the root causes and solutions of issues, Korean Air shortened its maintenance defect history analysis lead times by 90%.
The maintenance employee can now see patterns of defect and failure on equipment to make preventive maintenance allowing them to spend more time getting people places on time—and working to keep their 25 million passengers happy.
Airlines, hospitals, businesses, educators and governments are working with Watson. In 45 countries and 20 industries, Watson is helping people make sense of data so they can make better decisions while uncovering new ideas.
How Korean Air worked with Watson – IBM Travel AI-based solutions
- Watson ingested a variety of structured and unstructured data related to maintenance for the hundreds of planes in Korean Air’s fleet.
- Maintenance defect issues are reported by flight or cabin crews to ground operations.
- Maintenance employees access data from lookalike cases against technical guidelines.
- Watson assists to decide probable cause and recommends solutions so that they can be quickly addressed by technicians.