Aviation paperwork comes in forklifts

Imagine the following scenario: A company leases an A320 aircraft for a five-year term. Time flies (imagine that) and before they know it, it’s time to return the aircraft back to the lessor. To terminate the lease, the lessee returns the aircraft back, along with a literal pallet full of paperwork. Think forklift just to move it. But here’s the catch. The lessor, along with everyone else in aviation, knows that paperwork is king—which means that even though there’s enough paperwork to start a forest fire, they will happily sift through each scrap of paper with a fine-tooth comb.


But is this a case where the paperwork really doesn’t matter? Perhaps it’s overkill like the piles of paperwork you sign when you purchase a house and then you never see the documents ever again?


Nope. Not today. Not ever.


Why paperwork matters

The reality is that the lessor goes through each document and in the end, inevitably finds missing paperwork. Say the lessor discovers that over the course of the five-year lease term, multiple repairs were completed among the thousands of components and piece parts on the aircraft. Repairs are common during the lease term. Let’s pick a number and say that thirty-nine FAA Form 8130 tags are not accounted for, which is code for missing paperwork on thirty-nine parts. Sure enough, the lessee has a very good story as to why all thirty-nine forms are missing, but sadly, a good story is not enough. No matter what explanation you concoct, if you’re missing quality documents, all thirty-nine parts are required to be re-certified (repaired or overhauled).


The final price tag to the lessee for the missing documents? $1.9 million USD.


The scenario above is unfortunately real, extracted from a recent conversation I had with the CEO of a large aftermarket services corporation. Aircraft quality documentation + the physical part = value. Like peanut butter and jelly, Lucy and Desi, and Timon and Pumbaa, you cannot separate the two.


We had one dot, but we knew it was missing its friends.

Connecting the dots is perhaps the most important step to innovation. So many failed innovation attempts occur due to failure to connect the dots from your one great idea to the other dots of related or even un-related ideas.


Our first major dot with Blockchain technology was simple. Back in June of 2020, Honeywell had fully integrated its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to its Blockchain platform. In a nutshell, this was Honeywell’s commitment to store all critical events related to the manufacture and repair of aviation parts on the Blockchain ledger. In addition, we took it one big leap further and also integrated quality form data to the ledger as well. At this point, we deserved a respectable golf clap. We had all this data, including quality paperwork, inside the ledger, but now what?


So fast forward six months to December and like all great inventions, it started with a genuine customer problem. The problem we faced in the marketplace was simple: Honeywell wanted to list just over one billion dollars in excess inventory, but we lacked the manpower to load all the quality documents against the listing. Remember, to list anything for sale on GoDirect Trade it requires the three P’s: Price, product images, and paperwork. It might seem like a no brainer to require these three simple things for ecommerce but in a $4B industry where virtually none of it is transacted online, sellers simply aren’t set-up to collect and organize these digital artifacts.


In the case of Honeywell, even though it had embedded the digital artifact collection process into their existing operations, it did not have the manpower to assemble the listing packages on the $1B in inventory. For every part Honeywell wanted to list, someone would have to go into their ERP system to download the quality paperwork and then re-upload it into the GoDirect Trade marketplace.


At this point, you’ve probably already connected the dots between the quality form data that resided in the Blockchain ledger and the GoDirect Trade marketplace. I mean, SO obvious, right? Since the marketplace was already connected to the Blockchain platform to provide part pedigree data, now all we needed was for the platform to start providing the quality paperwork as well.


Gargantuan time savings

The time and efficiency savings were monumental. $1B in inventory equated to roughly 25,000 listings and each listing would have required at least seven minutes in quality paperwork touch time. That’s over 2,916 hours, or 365 work days, we would have spent on the ridiculously manual process of downloading / re-uploading quality paperwork.


The graphic below illustrates how the marketplace receives the required listing data from the Blockchain platform in real-time.

Quit playing games with my nerdy heart!

For those familiar with the challenges around missing aviation paperwork, this solution should immediately scream “Game Changer”. Remember the scenario above? Where the lessee had to cough up $1.9M USD due to missing paperwork? With a Blockchain eco-system, had the lessee always repaired their parts with a repair shop that utilized this technology, the concept of missing paperwork becomes a thing of the past. The data that resides inside the Blockchain platform is secure, immutable and accessible to the trusted eco-system. A game changer, indeed.


My take for the future.

I believe that naysayers of Blockchain will always find a reason why this technology isn’t going to work. And for those naysayers, by all means, please continue to move on at the glacial pace that you’ve been moving. But for companies like Honeywell, that not only recognize valuable technologies but are also willing to get up to the plate and have those critical, “at-bats”, we’re going to continue to separate ourselves from the pack.


So, if you find yourself always stuck in second gear, or maybe in straight up "park" if you haven’t already started, use 2021 as a fresh start to Blockchain innovation. Stop thinking, start doing. Stop the theoretical, start the proof-of-concept. Stop the dabbling in made up problems, start solving real customer problems.


This is the way.

This is Sparta.

This is 2021.


I don’t want Honeywell to be the only aerospace company making Blockchain tidal waves. I want someone else to also make some trouble. In fact, we need others to make some trouble, otherwise progression never takes place. Sure, we’ll make mistakes. Spray some Windex on it and carry on. The unknown is scary but try to walk around like everything is fine—even though down, inside your shoe, your sock is sliding off. Bottom line: Keep trudging forward and keep doing.


Here’s to a New Year full of promise, real applications to solve real problems, and maybe just a little bit of trouble on the road ahead.


Let's Talk Trade Again,


Lisa Butters