• Innovation Quarterly: Customer-centered data analytics at Boeing Vancouver

    by Rachel Kelly | Jan 31, 2017


    Harvesting data is only the beginning of integrated operational problem-solving for complex organizations.

    In the era of increasing data, countless hours are spent parsing vast amounts of information, turning data into knowledge and deriving actionable data-driven insights that help customers save money, improve efficiency and minimize disruptions.

    Airline operations involve a network of airports, a fleet of aircraft and a team of employees separated by long distances. When a disruption hits, critical and immediate decisions are required. Make the wrong decision, and schedules get off track. Passengers become frustrated. Brand loyalty is on the line.

    Getting back to schedule as soon as possible requires complex coordination with various departments across the airline. When a disruptive event occurs, airlines typically go through a decision-making process that includes identifying the issue, gathering the impacts, developing, comparing and choosing a recovery solution. Finally, the chosen solution is executed.

    One of the biggest challenges faced by airlines today is the ability to view all disruptive events in one place at one time. Airlines and their operational stakeholders must constantly monitor many disparate systems in order to gain an understanding of the current operational situation, a very time consuming task. And during day-of-operations, time is one of the most valuable resources.

    What makes understanding the severity of a disruption—and how a delay will propagate downline—even more challenging is that not all delays are created equal. For example, a 180-minute delay that only affects a single flight may not be as important to mitigate as a 30-minute delay that affects several flights downline. Connecting passengers and cargo onboard also plays a big part in saving a particular flight or mitigating a specific issue.

    Boeing Vancouver Labs, which opened in September 2016, applies data analytics, rapid product development and agile software approaches to a variety of complex problems facing the aviation industry today. The intent is to deliver tangible insights and results—challenges like prognostic maintenance, fuel optimization and integrated disruption management.

    Our goal is to develop customer-centered data-analytics software solutions that are customizable, scalable and modular, so that airlines may implement them incrementally within existing complex systems, enabling a future with no surprises.

    This includes exposing and quantifying the most significant systemic sources of disruptions in an airline’s operation with root cause delay tracing, delay cost calculation and airline delay benchmarking to help airlines anonymously understand how their operation lines up against other similar airlines.

    Boeing Vancouver Labs works with Boeing’s global team, including other Boeing subsidiaries such as Jeppesen, to focus on solutions for the entire airline life cycle that are powered by analytics. This involves planning to day-of-operations to post-operations analysis, in order to help customers improve their processes, boost resource utilization and increase overall situational awareness across their entire operation.