Process in the Post-IS-BAO World

Steve Brechter

By Steve Brechter
Senior Advisor of Operations, Gray Stone Advisors

Posted on July 18, 2019
Airplane technician working on large aircraft

Recently, I asked a successful aviation director what the most significant driver of operational performance is in his flight department. He said that the most significant advances in performance were made by getting his arms around the processes in the department… after IS-BAO certification.

Yes, after IS-BAO certification.

IS-BAO is Flight-Operations-Centric
There’s no better way for a Part 91 flight department to demonstrate operational excellence and implement the latest in safety practices than to achieve IS-BAO certification. IS-BAO demonstrates operational excellence for a flight department, but it is flight-operations-centric.

It focuses primarily on how to ensure the safe operation of your aircraft. It does not tell you, however, about much of the rest of the flight department. It only peripherally touches maintenance, scheduling, and business administration.

The fact is that many of the processes necessary for the efficient operation of a flight department are not touched by IS-BAO. Here’s why process documentation beyond IS-BAO is critically important for flight departments.

1. 60 Percent of Flight Department Processes Remain Undocumented
We find that IS-BAO addresses about 40 percent of the processes in a flight department, leaving 60 percent still requiring documentation. Processes that can remain insufficiently documented after an IS-BAO registration can include:

In maintenance:

  • Maintenance planning
  • Procurement
  • Inventory management
  • Scheduled & unscheduled maintenance
  • Quality control & quality Assurance

In scheduling:

  • Trip planning
  • Passenger profiles
  • Supplemental lift usage
  • Crew scheduling
  • In-flight/cabin services

In flight department business administration:

  • Accounts payable & receivable
  • Operational & capital budgeting
  • Financial & operational reporting
  • Contract administration
  • Fixed asset accounting

Successful flight departments cannot limit process documentation with just those required by IS-BAO. IS-BAO needs a companion effort to document the other vitally important processes within your aviation operation.

2. Safeguard Business Continuity
Business continuity is defined as “the process of creating systems of prevention and recovery to deal with potential threats to a company or organization.” Your parent company certainly has business continuity provisions in place. Your flight department should as well.

We once worked with an IS-BAO-registered flight department that had very little in place to safeguard itself from the loss of critical information on “how things get done.” One day, the accounts payable analyst came in and gave her two weeks’ notice. Her husband was retiring and so was she.

The department scrambled and hired a temp to shadow the analyst for her last two weeks on the job, to try and learn as much as possible about how the job was done. The two-week period was much like drinking from a fire hose. At the end, when the analyst was gone, the temp knew very little and the department fell to its knees.

Invoices from key service providers did not get paid. The interface with the parent company’s purchasing and payables systems fell apart. Trip costs did not get posted correctly in the flight scheduling system.

The scenario evolved to “critical person syndrome,” where only one person knew how the job got done. It took the department five months to recover. And it could have been totally avoided if all the department’s processes were fully documented.

3. A More Engaged & Committed Workforce
Documented processes that are readily accessible by all employees create a more visible, open, and engaged organization. There’s no longer any question about how things are done or who is responsible for what. Clearly defined processes create the baseline for all employees to question the status quo and suggest improvements that make the operation more effective and efficient.

Are some of your flight department employees—schedulers, maintenance technicians or pilots—working more hours than others? If so, it’s likely happening because there isn’t any backup for the work they do. This is totally preventable with a process-based organization.

Documented processes create a mutual understanding of what goes on, which provides backup and surge capability. A more level-loaded work environment improves work/life balance for all. Documented processes also enable ownership. Employee ownership enables flight department leaders to move the organization away from “command and control” to “empowerment.”

When linked with individual development planning, process management yields unprecedented employee growth and development opportunities. The result is a more engaged, committed, and productive workforce.

4. Greater Alignment With Your Parent Company
At every opportunity, you should look for ways to more closely align your flight department with your parent company. A focus on process provides another way to increase alignment with corporate. Process documentation is consistent with all contemporary quality management system (QMS) initiatives, such as ISO-9000, which are likely in use within your parent company.

A Process Focused Flight Department Strengthens Operations
IS-BAO is a terrific means of demonstrating operational excellence for a flight department. It serves as a foundational standard for safe flight operations. Many processes, not touched by IS-BAO, are necessary for the efficient operation of a flight department.

You can’t improve a process without first examining its “as is” state. Only when processes are mapped, documented, and optimized do you have the baseline for metrics, measurement, and improvement. Process documentation is the best means for your flight department to become the “business within a business” that aviation truly is.

Gray Stone Advisors Gray Stone Advisors
Gray Stone Advisors combines their experience both in leading businesses as well as business aviation operations to provide flight department leaders with proven strategies for excellence.

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