Software-maker IFS has partnered with China CAMC Engineering to develop a WeChat-based interface to IFS Applications, letting mobile users easily access information in their IFS Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.

Kevin Deal, vice president for aerospace and defense at IFS North America, says WeChat has been integrated for both CAMC and Jiangsu Ligang Electric Energy Group. Rapid growth in both companies meant staff needed to interact with the ERP system to send and receive important business information anywhere, any time. WeChat, with more than 700 million users, “was an obvious candidate for integration.” 

Integration was a relatively simple task, taking three months for Ligang and six months for CAMC. IFS’s modular design eases integration with third-party systems, and a standard framework, IFS Connect, provides a standardized interface. This makes it easy to connect external devices, various clients and other processes.

 IFS believes messaging platforms also have promising applications in aircraft maintenance. “Engineers use these applications in their everyday lives, so it makes sense to exploit them in the work environment,” Deal observes. 

 Deal cites sign-offs of aircraft, long a problem in aircraft maintenance. Aircraft can’t take off without approval by a maintenance engineer, which can take a long time depending on the maintenance type. An airplane grounded unnecessarily can cost as much as $150,000 an hour in lost revenue, he estimates. “With IFS Applications delivered on mobile messaging platforms, engineers can quickly and easily approve, reject or forward maintenance information to get the aircraft back in the air as soon as possible.” 

 Messaging applications enable communication with colleagues in real-time, accelerating knowledge transfer and completion of maintenance tasks, without engineers returning to hangars for consultation.

 Overloading maintenance engineers with full ERP functionality while they are engaged with repairs, “doesn’t make sense,” Deal says. But messaging apps like WeChat offer a streamlined platform to log simple maintenance updates on mobile devices. “Information on asset history, part records and a list of repairs performed can be easily displayed on an understandable interface.” 

 IFS has a dedicated research and development laboratory and Center of Excellence looking for innovative ways to deliver information easily to aviation maintenance users. It has already announced developments in voice-enabled applications, wearables and augmented reality, in addition to WeChat.