Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lessons Learned From Maintenance Mergers

Article at Aviation Week by Heather Baldwin on 23 December 2010

Quoting Hal Heule, president of HMH Consulting, who was senior VP technical operations during the America West-US Airways merger.

"There are three standout issues maintenance organizations should have a plan to address."

1. Communication. The announcement of a merger causes immediate distraction in any workplace. (Will I have a job, will it change, will I have to move?). "It is important to address them head-on, repeatedly, with solid information. Otherwise, rumors and misinformation will take over and degrade job performance, increasing the likelihood of a maintenance error."

2. Training. Heule’s biggest “lesson learned” from the America West-US Airways merger was in the area of training. “I wish we’d done more of it, and I wish we had done it better,” he says. If he had to do it all again, he would "beef up the training department and slow down the training process, devoting more time, attention and resources to this critical area." By neglecting the “why” in training people try to answer it themselves and overlook what they need to learn about the new organisation. If employees are not 100% onboard with why the new way will be better, that limits their ability to engage with the material.

3. Integration workload. Not surprisingly, it takes a lot of work to integrate two major airlines. Maintenance leaders cannot expect to handle the added workload and still fully perform their jobs.

Where there are redundancies, consider redeploying personnel to areas such as training, which need more attention. Another option is to split the workload: give one person responsibility for merger issues while another runs the day-to-day airline operations.

Taking the time to manage communications, plan out training that addresses the “why” behind forthcoming changes, and keeping all maintenance personnel employed through the merger—even if it means assigning new, merger-related responsibilities—vastly reduces the human factors issues that can lead to error.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Motorcycle Simulator Shows Slow Is Not Always Better

Article at AutoEvolution by Alina Dumitrache on 6 December 2010

Study performed by researchers at The University of Nottingham's Centre for Motorcycle Ergonomics & Rider Human Factors used motorcycle simulator to analyse rider behaviour.

Three groups of riders, namely novice, experienced and those who had taken advanced motorcycle training, were out through the same scenarios .

The findings showed that experience on its own does not make riders safer on the road and in some cases the experienced riders behaved more like novice riders. Advanced riders used better road positioning to anticipate and respond to hazards, kept to urban speed limits, and actually made better progress through bends than riders without the formal advanced training.

“It has demonstrated clear differences between the rider groups and potential benefits to advanced training above and beyond rider experience and basic training. Whilst experience seems to help develop rider skills to an extent, advanced training appears to develop deeper levels of awareness, perception and responsibility. It also appears to make riders better urban riders and quicker, smoother and safer riders in rural settings," said Alex Stedmon from the Human Factors Research Group.

Why we must always factor in the human element

Article on Arabia Aerospace website by Ali Al Naqbi on 8 December 2010

Increasing automation on the flight deck is supposed to improve safety – but many pilots are questioning whether, in fact, automation overload is putting aircraft at risk. Research into human factors has thrown up some evidence that cultural differences may not be adequately considered in automation design, training, certification, and operations. If they are not factored in, they may have resulting effects on performance and how automation is used.

At the same time, automation design may not be guided by a philosophy that gives adequate attention to the proper role and function of the human and to human capabilities and limitations. This may compromise system effectiveness and safety.

Pilots from different cultural backgrounds should be involved in the basic design of the avionics functions and of the training systems.

IEHF Oil & Gas conference

Taking the time to reflect back on the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (IEHF) conference in November titled Human & Organisational factors in the oil, gas and chemical industries - More information here

Jim Wetherby, ex Space Shuttle pilot and now working for BP in the US, made a very interesting observation. After the Deepwater Horizon oil platform was lost, relief wells were drilled. These represented the same technical challenges as the original well, and were carried out by the same companies (Transocean drillers, Haliburton cement) yet were delivered ahead of time without incident. So it is not the case that the organisation could not drill for oil in deep waters. But it is easy to forget how dangerous these activities can be, and this complacency leads to critical items being overlooked and forgotten.

The presentation "Not on my shift" by George Petrie (Petrofac) showed how a focus on avoiding problems can work at the sharp end. This involves giving supervisors real ownership of safety, making them feel personally responsible for what happens when they are in charge.

At a higher level, the presentation from Caroline Sugden (HSL) and Peter Jefferies (ConocoPhillips) illustrated the concept of a high reliability organisation, which is one that manages to maintain almost error-free performance. These organisations have a certain set of characteristics including an 'intelligent wariness' and knowing where the 'edges of the safety envolope' are.

I felt these three presentations really gave us an insight into a future direction for safety management, culture etc. They were in contrast to some of the other presentations that gave a good account of current approaches, which may, in my opinion, be based on too simplistic idea of what really makes the difference between success and an accident.

This was another excellent conference from the Institute, and all presentations were very good. Looking forward to the next in 2012