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Richard ScarbroughJul 12, 2023 3:43:01 PM5 min read

Why Implement Digital Transformation in Aviation Maintenance?

Change is coming to aircraft maintenance, and those unprepared will be left behind, regulated to the scrap bin of history. Paper-based work orders, cardboard job cards, and Component Maintenance Manuals (CMM) in three-ring binders are going the way of the VHS, typewriters, and white-out. 

Digital transformation will alter the landscape in ways we are now beginning to imagine. The changes needed to onboard these projects are scary; according to the Harvard Business School, 50% will fail. The odds are not in your favor.

So, do half of us just give up now and forget it all? Did Maverick ever get the number of that truck driving school for Goose? Don’t fret; all is not lost. There is a way through the darkness and into the digital glow of flatscreen monitors. Just like Bob the Builder, can we do it? Yes, we can!

Change is scary

So, Harvard states that half of all new initiatives die on the vine. That is a daunting statistic. Why would anyone apply for a Project Manager certification with that track record? Often the project is not flawed, but the delivery method leaves much to be desired. Harvard also says that an effective change management strategy is crucial for change management to succeed. 

Regarding digital transformation, the delivery method is typically a bland inter-office memo stating, “Starting Monday, all mechanics will type their job card information into the computer.” Wow, I cannot imagine that bringing scorn.

As one bad apple can spoil the entire barrel, it only takes one dissenter to sway team opinion. 

As a 145-certified repair station, the FAA provides guidelines as a roadmap to light the way. Digital transformation has no such road map, and leadership must find a way to rally the troops to their cause. That endeavor is far from easy. And, while challenging, not one person has uttered the term impossible. New Designated Engineering Representatives (DER) repairs can save units, Snap-on improves the grip of a screwdriver, and even airplane companies debut new models. It can happen. 

Leadership has to sell the change to their team. Without the support of the workers, the project is doomed. In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie teaches us to “Arouse in the other person an eager want. He who can do this has the whole world with him. He who cannot walks a lonely way.” In this case, the lonely way could lead to bankruptcy.

Ok, great, so change can happen. How? 

Start with WHY

The first question is not how but why. What if the root cause of the dismal success of the rate of projects has nothing to do with the project itself? Indeed, some projects were horrendous, and humanity is much better off with them having seen the light of day. A few could bring tremendous value to society, but their leadership fumbled the delivery, and they exploded on the launch pad. Those projects could have used a better PR Firm.

Author Simon Sinek explains why some projects never achieve the glory they deserve. Sinek has a popular theory about the value proposition of selling ideas called the Golden Circle. Value props are no different from initiating change management; they are all sales, marketing, and influence. If a company wishes to launch digital transformation, it must first sell it to the leaders, stakeholders, and employees. The Golden Circle comprises three rings:

  • WHY - to digitally transform
  • HOW - to digitally transform
  • WHAT - to digitally transform


The trouble, he states, is that the project owner begins with what the company will transform to and how they will do it. They rarely explain why it is essential. Simon states to get people to follow you truly, start with why. His famous statement is, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” Tell them why the company needs digital transformation.

Transparency is key. Did you read the above where I wrote change is scary? Well, surprise change is terrifying. You will send them running to the hills. Another action is to consider everyone in the building a stakeholder, especially the frontline workers. Once the project leader distributes the intel, gather feedback and pay attention to the results.

Leif Babin relays a story from his days as a Navy SEAL officer in Iraq “The leader must explain not just what to do, but why.” This excerpt from Extreme Ownership, co-written with Jocko Willink, takes lessons learned in combat and applies them to the business world.

A brand new day

Begin each project with the end goal in mind. What does your company look like after a successful digital transformation? Securing buy-in from the stakeholders increases the chance of success. Honesty, transparency, and proper execution raise the confidence level of the entire organization.

Each person has different motivators than the others. Everyone wants more money and time off, but you must see beyond that. Once you crack the code of converting a majority to the side of progress, you can move on. One company that did so was Clemens Aviation. After successfully implementing EBIS 5, Daric Dunn, Chief Inspector, proudly states, “The program has been an absolute game changer for us as a shop in its current state, and as such, we actually enjoy using it and all it can do.”

Now the fun begins! Here are some ways you can celebrate the new digital processes:

  1. Keep a counter going to track the number of trees saved.
  2. Have you seen the price of printer ink? Use the extra money for a pizza party.
  3. Remote work for inspectors doing AD research, no more dragging binders everywhere.

Before you know it, everyone will wonder how they ever managed before the change.

Each successful project builds on the previous one. Once the company establishes street cred with the shop floor, those once-impossible conversations are possible. Some of the hardliners may even introduce new ideas for continuous improvement. Hey, it can happen!

Mark S. Schulz, Founder of #DigitalAircraft, implemented digital transformation at approximately 400 companies. He states that collaboration at all levels is the key to a successful implementation. Seeing companies succeed is his passion; it is his why. 

Would you like some of that goodness Daric is talking about? Let EBIS help equip you with the tools needed to transform your company from dirty work cards to accessible solutions in the cloud. Hit the link below, and say hello. We are ready to help you tell everyone about your why.


Richard Scarbrough

Richard is a US Navy Veteran, A&P Mechanic, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University graduate. His experience ranges from general and corporate aviation to helicopters, business jets, and commercial airliners. Former owner of a 145 repair station, he's currently a Program Manager for a major airline and MRO and a member of the T-C-Alliance. Follow him on Twitter at @RScarCo.