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Global blockchain alliance to support Africa's aviation parts industry

By , ITWeb
Africa , 18 Feb 2020

Global blockchain alliance to support Africa's aviation parts industry

Global air transport-focused IT and communications specialist SITA, together with several organisations representing the aviation Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) chain, have launched the MRO Blockchain Alliance.

This is reported to be the first industry-wide investigation into the use of blockchain to track, trace and record aircraft parts.

According to a statement released to the media, the new alliance – first mooted in 2019 at a HAECO Group event - comprises several members including Bolloré Logistics, Cathay Pacific, FLYdocs, HAECO Group, Ramco Systems, SITA, and Willis Lease Finance Corporation, supported by Clyde & Co.

The alliance will launch a proof of concept to demonstrate the use of blockchain to digitally track and record the movements and maintenance history of parts across a wide number of players – including airlines, lessors, and OEMs like engine producers, logistics suppliers and maintenance providers.

"This tracking information will be vital to managing a complex logistics value chain that can span several stakeholders over the lifetime of each individual part. Currently, there is no global database, incomplete data sharing, and only partial digitalisation. The alliance believes that the use of blockchain will simplify and speed up parts tracking while enabling the secure sharing of information between industry stakeholders," the statement continues.

SITA adds that Africa is predicted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to become one of the fastest growing aviation regions in the next 20 years with an annual expansion rate of nearly 5%.

"Yet, there are numerous challenges standing in the way of this growth, including inefficient infrastructure and systems," the organisation adds.

"Technology could enable governments and aviation industry stakeholders in Africa to address many of the existing infrastructure challenges. Most notably, blockchain's ability to securely store and share information on a digital ledger offers the opportunity for greater industry collaboration throughout the continent and to facilitate more efficient decision making."

SITA quotes PwC as having estimated that the use of blockchain could increase aerospace industry revenue by as much as 4%, or US$40-billion, while cutting MRO costs globally by around 5% or US$3.5 billion.

Savings will be derived from secure document storage, ensuring confidentiality and data privacy, improved insights on repair time and inventory, automated workflows and more efficient record reconciliation, SITA continues.

According to SITA the alliance will use blockchain to record and track two separate strands of information for each aircraft part: a digital thread and a digital passport. The digital thread provides the real-time status, chain of custody and back-to-birth track and trace of the part over time.

The digital passport - like a human passport - provides the indisputable identity of a part and contains other vital data such as certification of airworthiness to prove ownership, the organisation explains.

Matthys Serfontein, President of Air Travel Solutions for SITA says: "This initiative is part of SITA's ongoing exploration of blockchain, a technology that we believe promises tremendous opportunity for streamlining the sharing and recording of information across the air transport industry. In an industry as interconnected as ours, the ability to share and record common data in a secure way without giving up control of that data is fundamental to driving new efficiencies in air travel. This is particularly true for the MRO sector."

According to SITA, each year, the MRO industry processes 25 billion parts, while adding three billion new parts. There are 20,000 suppliers, covering 144,000 flights every day for an overall industry market representing around US$100-billion every year.

The alliance will spend the next few months in the planning phase, with the aim of going live with the first proof of concept in Q2 2020.

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