Tyson Foods Transitions to Modern Aircraft Maintenance Solution
Tyson Foods is a multi-national, protein-focused food company that produces about one in five pounds of all the chicken, beef, and pork sold in the United States. Their products are behind some recognized brands including Tyson®, Jimmy Dean®, Hillshire Farm®, Ball Park®, Wright Brand®, Golden Island®, Aidells®, and State Fair®. Tyson Foods is also the leading protein provider to many national restaurant chains, including quick service, casual, mid-scale, and fine dining restaurants.
Some might not realize that aircraft are a vital part of the company’s operational efficiency and customer responsiveness, with plants and customers all over the country. Steven McPherson, Chief of Maintenance for Tyson Foods Aviation Department, explains, “Our fleet of aircraft are on the move regularly. We fly everyone from engineers to the members of the leadership team and board of directors.”
Tyson Foods currently operates and maintains six Dassault Falcon aircraft out of two bases. The aircraft include three of the Falcon 2000EX EASy series, two Falcon 50EXs, and one Falcon 7X. McPherson and his team of expert maintenance technicians are responsible for maintaining the airworthiness of this fleet per FAA regulations and corporate policies and associated documentation. He adds, “On average, our aircraft see 50 flight hours per airplane a month and must be ready at any hour of the day. We’ll get a call at 3:00 AM to have an aircraft ready to go in response to an issue at a plant somewhere in the U.S. or in the world. We fly regular shuttle services to Chicago and to our plants – the company relies on us to be ready when they are.”
The Aviation Department has relied on electronic measures and services to support record keeping, compliance, and maintenance functions for the last 15+ years, but found that not all maintenance programs are created equal.
Dissatisfied with the features, flexibility, and services of their previous maintenance tracking service, McPherson and his team began looking at the different options on the market in late 2017.
After considerable evaluation, the team opted for the Flightdocs Enterprise maintenance record compliance and management solution. McPherson recalls, “During evaluation, we liked the ease of use, the modern feel, and the developer’s willingness to adapt to our unique processes and workflows.”
While excited about Flightdocs’ many features and mobile opportunities in the early days, the maintenance team had two big concerns about making the switch: loss of critical data during the transition and learning a new system.
McPherson’s primary concerns focused on the loss of data. “We thought we might lose some records — but that didn’t happen. It was probably one of the easiest changes that we’ve done since I’ve been in charge.”
His maintenance technicians agreed. Jared Harrison, Senior Aircraft Maintenance Technician adds, “A transition like this is always a little scary at the beginning because it’s out of our control. But it was seamless from one platform to another.”
Use of the application has also been a pleasant surprise. McPherson, now in his third year as Chief of Maintenance and tenth year with Tyson Foods, explains, “We’d been with our previous provider for 15+ years — we were used to the way it worked, so we were a little nervous, but Flightdocs smoothed the transition.”
Easy Clicks and Connections
Now, one year after enrollment and full implementation, all of the Aviation Department team members have a favorite feature or functionality.
One of the most popular features among the maintenance team is the Due List capabilities. Joshua Butler, Senior Aircraft Maintenance Technician, explains, “It takes one click to pull up the daily task list with due dates and time remaining for completion. If I need a part number or to look up part compliance, the information is right there on the app. When we change parts, we can see how long a part lasts very easily – other programs don’t do that. Flightdocs makes it easy to see times, verify parts, verify correct information and compliance.”
Craig Graham, Senior Aviation Maintenance Technician with 20 years of experience in avionics, points to overall ease of use. He joined Tyson in 2018. He adds, “Until I came here a year ago, I had never used Flightdocs — and it was a breeze to pick up, intuitive — and it’s mobile.”
Harrison agrees and further emphasizes the convenience of having the maintenance tracking system on the floor of the aircraft, saying, “If I want to verify work was completed or someone has a question, the information is at my fingertips.”
The entire team points to the filtering capabilities as the biggest surprise. Butler adds, “With our last program, we couldn’t search within the program. With Flightdocs, we can filter by life limited items, by date, by inspection items, pretty much anything. It’s one of the benefits of the app on the phone or iPad. I can get on the phone and look for that part, on that logbook and find what I need quickly.”
Graham agrees, adding, “I use search and filter options all the time. It will pull up everything to do with a part number, like the main landing gear wheel. It shows up and I scroll down to get the serial number.”
McPherson says he uses Flightdocs and the filters to project budgets and manpower for a week, a month or two months, saying, “It’s a proactive approach to scheduling aircraft downtime.” McPherson says his favorite feature of choice is eSignature, explaining, “Managing logbooks with eSignature is seamless and improves our overall efficiency. The advantage of an eLogbook is there for you all the time. The system automatically connects a part serial number to an airworthiness directive or service bulletin. We used to have to call the record department; now it’s at our fingertips on iPad, phone or desktop. We can pull up due lists, project months out for what’s coming down the road in terms of inspections and maintenance and plan our flight schedule months out.”
Graham agrees and greatly appreciates the sign-off and editing processes facilitated through Flightdocs as well. “My biggest problem with computer-based spreadsheets was lag time to approval. Used to be you filled out a log book entry and it went into a queue. Now I fill it out, review, sign, and it’s done. If you make a mistake, you can edit within the system, safely and securely.”
Finally, the maintenance team is especially happy with the customer service — one of the top reasons they looked for a change a year ago.
Butler, “With our old provider, we would often have questions about features or capabilities, or requests for features and functionality, but it would take days to call us back. With Flightdocs, response is immediate. We call and a knowledgeable person picks up the phone and provides answers. We have a short amount of time to dispatch aircraft and have to be efficient with maintenance. When we run into a snag, someone will answer and help us.”
Graham agrees, adding, “Customer service is excellent. Two rings and a knowledgeable person picks up the phone and can answer questions. ”Better yet, says McPherson, “They adapt the system to our needs. If I ask them to put page numbers on log books or change from full sheet to half sheet, it gets done. We had a number of reasons for making the switch in providers, but customer service is by far the biggest reason — and it’s been terrific.”
Streamlined for Flight
Overall, McPherson and his team believe that Flightdocs has helped streamline day-to-day activities, made it easier to verify the records, parts, maintenance schedules, or find or correct discrepancies.
“One of the really helpful tools for us is scheduling,” confirms Butler. “Flightdocs has cut down time to find weekly to-do items and document inspections tasks. It used to take hours to schedule a week of maintenance on our aircraft. With Flightdocs, I can look through all tasks on the due list and schedule tasks and parts changes in about 45 minutes.”
McPherson also believes it has saved time and labor. He says, “Instead of spending a majority of our time on paperwork, we can focus on maintenance. A log book entry used to take 45 minutes, now it’s done with a few clicks of a button. It used to take on average one hour of paperwork for every two hours of work. We’ve cut that paperwork process to about 30 minutes or less. We spend more time on the aircraft instead of behind a desk doing paperwork.”
The team is also more efficient. Butler adds, “I do all the maintenance planning. With Flightdocs, I know when we have down time scheduled, parts that need to be changed, etc. We know exactly what needs to be done on what aircraft. Other programs have not given us the flexibility of searching on individual aircraft. Flightdocs gives us that option.”
“Bottom line,” says McPherson, “Flightdocs makes us more efficient. The evolution of maintenance tracking has been pretty major. My guys tell me every day that they wouldn’t go back. Flightdocs is the modern era; it’s easy to use, has a short learning curve, lots of functionality and customer service is top notch.”