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United takes off with Enigma content management

United Air Lines is investing in its IT systems to try to save money, despite being under bankruptcy protection.

Under a deal announced last week, United, a division of UAL, is revamping the way its aircraft mechanics get maintenance information and parts illustrations using a global content management application from Enigma. 

Greg Taylor, director of applications development at United Services, which does aircraft maintenance services for United and some 30 to 40 other airline customers, said cutting costs while improving maintenance procedures is "the whole focus of why we're doing this at this time". 

United Services operates 41 repair stations at airports around the world where scheduled maintenance is done, Taylor said, and sends repair crews to other locations when mechanical breakdowns occur away from a designated service centre.

About 10,000 technicians repair planes for United Services, he said. Currently, aircraft mechanics use paper-based manuals, service bulletins and other information to review technical and repair procedures. 

By using Enigma's 3C content management application, United will be able to provide its mechanics with the most up-to-date service information, service bulletins, parts inventories and repair notes - while saving them time once needed to manually find the information.

Enigma 3C uses a standard web browser to access the information on any kind of device, including PDAs, laptop computers, desktop PCs or even tablet PCs. 

United Services began its deployment of the application last month and expects to have it completed by June, Taylor said. The airline is still researching what types of devices it will provide to mechanics to access the service information, he said.

United is deploying the software on Microsoft Windows 2000 and .net platforms. 

Other users at United will also eventually use the application to access information inside the company. Anytime anyone inside the company wants to view corporate documents online, they will use 3C, he said. 

By shaving the time employees spend looking for information, United expects the application to pay for itself within a year, Taylor said.

"Given the state of the airline industry, every penny saved is valued, so the decision was made" to bring the technology in, he said. "We wouldn't be investing in projects like these unless we were in it for the long term." 

John Snow, vice-president of marketing and business development at Enigma, said the 3C application helps make it possible for mechanics to spend "more time turning wrenches than turning pages" in manuals. 

Pricing for 3C starts at about $200,000 (£111,500), he said.

Todd R Weiss writes for Computerworld


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