Thursday, February 7, 2013

Overcoming Aviation SMS Data Management Challenges

How to Overcome Aviation SMS Data Management Challenges

Aviation safety managers at airlines and airports must do an incredible amount of work to implement an effective aviation safety management system (SMS). Safety managers must:
  • Coordinate aviation safety policies;
  • Make sure that historical copies of aviation SMS policies exist (version control);
  • Ensure everyone knows their SMS duties and responsibilities in the organization; manage risk;
  • Communicate & promote safety, security, quality and compliance issues;
  • Manage identified and perceived risk;
  • Airlines & Airport Have SMS Data Management Issues
  • Document all risk management activities...
and the list goes on and on.

Airline and airport safety managers are hard conscientious workers. Most have the "I can do it" attitude and are very enthusiastic, energetic employees. Once safety managers start trying to comply with the aviation SMS requirements that stem from ICAO guidelines, they realize the quandary that is almost always lost on upper management.

Quandary of Effective, Well Implemented Aviation Safety Management Systems

An effective SMS generates a lot of data and can be difficult to organize coherently. When aviation SMS data are not managed properly, airlines and airports will lose monetary benefits that others with well-planned and implemented aviation safety management systems are realizing. Plain and simple. Money will be lost and service quality will not improve at an optimal rate. Not only will loss of money result from a poorly designed and implemented aviation safety management system, but also the potential competitive advantage that comes with orderly SMS data management strategies.

Expert Aviation SMS Data Systems

Safety managers are not data management experts. Therefore, safety managers need tools to perform their tasks in a timely, professional manner. Upper management must support safety managers' case for tools. After all, aircraft mechanics cannot perform aviation maintenance activities without the proper tools, so why would upper management believe that safety managers can manage complex aviation safety management systems using MS Word, paper, MS Access and spreadsheets?

How to Gain Top Management Support for Expert Aviation SMS Systems

Aviation SMS Systems Generate Lots of Data
Upper management must be educated in the momentous task given to safety managers. An aviation safety management system is not implemented overnight. Often, three to five years are required to fully implement an effective SMS program. To further safety managers' cause, safety managers need something to give to upper  management to support their cause for tools  that assist in more effective SMS data management strategies...such as a  high-level SMS Architectural diagram. An effective technique outlines the existing operation and compares it with the optimal solution so top management can compare and draw their own conclusions.

Major Problem With Most Aviation SMS Implementations

A major problem with the majority of SMS implementations is that they are being implemented by "safety experts" who are not data management experts. We don't mean to denigrate these aviation safety professionals. Most are very good as subject matter experts, but their subject matter expertise is not aviation SMS data management principles. NorthWest Data Solutions in Anchorage, Alaska has a team of aviation safety data management experts that have become world-renown safety experts with the design, development and support of SMS Pro, a Web based aviation safety management software program. NWDS provides airlines, airports, aviation maintenance, FBOs and flight schools with tools to show management how many organizations are configuring their SMS systems. These tools will show upper management the pitfalls and make them aware of the corner they may be backing themselves into.

Three Common Approaches to Implementing Aviation SMS Data Programs

NWDS witnesses three SMS data management architectures being implemented in everyday consulting and speaking with aviation service providers:
  • Decentralized;
  • Centralized; and
  • Hybrid.

Small Companies Mostly Use Decentarized SMS Data Management Strategies

The decentralized SMS data management strategy is very common technological approach found in smaller organizations with fewer than 100 employees. An aviation SMS data management architectural diagram may be found at

Preferred Centralized Aviation SMS Data Management 

The second approach is the centralized aviation SMS data management approach. An illustration of the centralized aviation SMS data management strategy, which is the companion to the decentralized version can be downloaded at The Centralized SMS Data Management Approach is the preferred method for many reasons, which we will cover in great detail in future blog posts. For now, understand that your organization will receive REAL sustainable value after implementing a centralized system.

Benefits of Centralized Aviation SMS Data Management

Among the benefits of the centralized approach are:
  1. Save time and money having all your data in one location for everyone with proper authority to access the data. Users don't have to hunt and ask, "Who has the last OIR?" Data are located in one location, so backing up the data is easier, more efficient and less expensive.
  2. Enhanced security: Your data requires security to be applied at one location instead of at many. Security may be applied by roles or by individual permissions.

SMS Pro is a centralized SMS data management tool that will allow your organization to continue to realize monetary benefits year after year.

Aviation SMS Data Management Experts to Help!
SMS Pro allows for the entire organization to collaborate and communicate effectively using the same data.

Reports are available to everyone with permissions.

Auditors can easily see the information to make their tasks easier and managers can see real-time reports with the utmost ease to identify trends and manage organizational safety, security, quality and compliance issues.

SMS Pro is available for airports, airlines, helicopter operators, flight schools, air traffic control and MROs.

When you purchase SMS Pro, NWDS' friendly staff efficiently guides you step by step during the implementation phases.

If you need help with your aviation SMS implementation, an SMS Partner is always available. SMS Pro has a network of SMS Partners around the globe.

About NWDS - founded in 2003 by six software engineers, NorthWest Data Solutions (NWDS) provides custom computer programming and systems design services. NWDS creates many types of software, including e-commerce, financial, defense, engineering, logistics, aviation and more. In 2007, NWDS developed SMS Pro™ a web based SMS application that supports an organization's overall SMS through safety reporting, safety documentation, safety risk management and safety assurance. SMS Pro™ is currently used by aviation organizations in the U.S., Canada, Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East to help manage their SMS programs. NWDS continues to support SMS Pro™ and add new functionality. NWDS offers custom contract programming services in the U.S. and Canada and is managed by Chris Howell, one of the founders. Their headquarters is in Anchorage, Alaska. For information on NWDS visit their website at and to learn more about SMS Pro™.

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