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Driving Growth in the Aviation Sector Through Digital Transformation

Driving Growth in the Aviation Sector Through Digital Transformation


Industry 4.0 technologies are poised to transform the experience of stakeholders across all industries and sectors, from employees to consumers and beyond. Nowhere is this truer than in aviation, a highly competitive sector that is operating on the brink of a transformative digital era. Aviation giants are beginning to realize that they must let digital transformation in so they don’t lose out to their competitors.

Several airlines in the Middle East have already leveraged the digital transformation and SAP to transform their operations, physical assets, and the overall experience of passengers and guests. Meanwhile, in Europe, Air France-KLM has been working with Qualibrate to replace the legacy engineering and maintenance (E&M) systems of the two aviation giants with a single state-of-the-art system.

Taking place over the course of five-or-so years, the collaboration had its fair share of highs and lows, overcame seemingly insurmountable challenges, and delivered a future proof solution that will streamline E&M operations for decades to come.

In a recent webinar, Ron Apontoweil, SAP Roadmap Program Manager, and Francisco (‘Paco’) Garcia, SAP Roadmap Program Test Manager, piloted viewers through an overview of this collaboration—and we are excited to share the highlights with you.  


Setting the standard in global MRO

E&M is the Air France-KLM Group’s third-largest business with revenues close to 2 billion euros. The Group is also the world’s second-largest multi product maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) provider, serving 200 customers and more than 3,000 aircraft.

To meet the Group’s ambition of setting the standard in E&M by offering the best worldwide MRO support and services for both AirFrance-KLM and third-party customers, the Group recognized the need to overhaul its legacy systems. Most of these systems pre-dated the 2004 Air France-KLM merger and were unable to keep up with the demands placed on it by the Group’s burgeoning operations.


A collaboration defined by significant challenges

During the five-or-so years over which the collaboration took place, the team faced many significant challenges. Technical challenges naturally featured heavily, including managing on-site and offshore development, implementing 21 interfaces with legacy Air France sub-systems, and changing the Air France-KLM landscape to a five-tier landscape from a three-tier one—more on this later.

 However, perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest challenge came in early 2020 when the world stopped. The pandemic threw a huge spanner in the works for the collaboration as 90% of KLM’s fleet essentially found itself parked overnight. “It was unbelievable. It had never happened in our company’s history [KLM]… not only were many of KLM’s staff laid off, but we, as external assessors, also had to leave within a couple of weeks,” explained Ron Apontoweil during the webinar.  The pandemic also forced the collaboration to come to an abrupt stop and remain paused for almost a year until the beginning of 2021. When the project restarted, the team faced great difficulties in getting it back up to speed.“It was like running a marathon that never ends,” Ron added, highlighting the fixed timing and management attention the project came under.  


How we did it

The team relied on a five-step approach that began with a deep analysis of the project’s previous status to overcome these difficulties. The team also conjured up an acceptance definition based on strict rules and key milestones and created new test cases. Only after all this had been completed was the team able to begin testing and introduce test automation by using Qualibrate to create automated test data and test scenarios, and the creation and execution of automated test scripts.

The team’s testing approach included two cycles of functional testing. The first (‘Cycle 1’) was a manual one where they effectively started at zero and took all the critical business scenarios and some process variants to create data manually. This was then passed through a quality gate.

Once the team was happy with their progress, they moved towards the data migration stage and established strict controls to validate the extracted data. When this data migration was successfully completed, it went through another quality gate before the second part of the test cycle (‘Cycle 2’) began.

“This was our most important testing period because we tested all our business processes, all the failed scenarios from the past, and carried out authorization tests while also connecting all our interfaces and managing end-to-end functional tests,” explains Paco. “Test Cycle 2 was our main focus and included around 800 test cases and scenarios,” he added.

During this cycle, the team also began to introduce test automation with Qualibrate by automating all the business-critical cases from accounting and creating new scenarios. In just a few months, the team achieved around 95% test execution. It successfully carried out automated data migration from the pre-production environment to a live one in December as quickly they approached their January 1 deadline.

Although this part of the project was a success for the Air France-KLM team, there’s still a long road ahead for the team to move from manual testing to full test automation. They plan to achieve this in four stages of automation:

  1. Automate critical business processes
  2. Automate functionalities or processes impacted due to upcoming changes
  3. Automate business processes likely to fail
  4. Automate business processes used most frequently

Right now, the team’s focus is entirely on number one—the automation of critical business processes.

“We’re getting the best out of the tool [Qualibrate] by simulating interfaces and injecting data into places which we cannot connect to third-party systems,” said Francisco ‘Paco’ Garcia during the webinar. That’s the power of Qualibrate — it enables rapid and efficient SAP testing without sacrificing quality or dependability in other areas.

Interested in learning more about the Air France-KLM team’s recent work? Click here to watch the webinar on demand.

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