There are disparate systems for managing assets among manufacturers, operators, transporters and maintenance groups, he said. The lack of standardization results in limited traceability, and non-compliance costs are high, especially considering there are two million to three million parts on a commercial aircraft.
If participants in the aircraft parts supply chain submitted transaction transcripts onto a purpose-specific ledger that only authorized participants would have access to, managing the records would be considerably more efficient. The manufacturer could begin the blockchain for the asset, and each participant would add blocks of information to it.
The distributor would notify the chain that an asset was transported from point A to point B, for instance, while the operator would register the number of flight hours the asset has undergone.
The digital transcripts could include a complete copy of the original transaction or parts of it, which the transaction owner decides to share among the chain’s participants.
The digital transcripts would include a work order, a maintenance order or a shipping movement. The digital copy would exist in each participant’s underlying business application, such as an enterprise asset management or a resource planning system.
De Vos claims the blockchain could deliver a 100% verifiable, traceable history of asset life cycles in real-time. At the same time, each participant in the chain would retain the features and benefits of its own business applications to operate its business.
Benefits would include improved data quality, minimal manual data entry, a traceable record of serial numbers, more accurate maintenance histories, improved trust among participants and reduced costs.
To apply blockchain technology to the aviation industry, technology providers will have to work with software providers, regulators, airlines, MROs and logistic partners, de Vos said. Technical performance also has to be considered, since the latency of transactions and computing power could undermine achieving consensus in a chain. Data privacy, ownership and security must also be addressed.
If these challenges can be addressed, de Vos said the technology would be adopted by organizations at a single point in time in a supply chain, or at multiple points in time if an organization has a vast asset structure and supply chain.
Aviation assets last several decades, so it makes sense to begin the traceability of existing assets at an agreed date when the relevant parties can support the distributed ledger. Participants would benefit from complete traceability if a distributed ledger were in place when an asset enters a supply chain.
De Vos envisions aviation parts blockchains to start as highly purpose-specific since the technology today faces serious scalability challenges. If an asset owner decides to move to the blockchain, it would make more sense to have everything on-chain since it would be easier to trace the audit trail.
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