Over the years, considerable progress have been made to Crew Resource Management (CRM). One of the reasons is that errors made by pilots are highly visible and have immediate consequences on safety. In addition, pilots are also seen as the last line of defense against errors. For these reasons, research on activities such as communication and teamworking skills initially focused on pilots. In contrast, errors made by maintenanace personnel are latent and thus Maintenance Resource Management (MRM), the maintenance version of CRM has recieved considerably less attention.
In their efforts to enhance safety, the aviation industry as a whole have recognised that there is a need to minimise errors across all facets of aviation. Because of this, the trend nowadays is to move further in their approach to reduce errors. Thus human factor programmes have expanded to include people in all facets of aviation such as air traffic controllers and of course maintenance personnel.
Maintaining aircrafts is a complex and demanding endeavour. It consist of numerous interrelated human and machine components. The complexity of such interface mean that errors are likely to be introduced and ways to detect errors and deal with them are needed. The safety of the flying public is first and foremost dependent on the proper functioning of the aircraft and its components. In any maintenance process, it is the ability of maintenance personnel to work together that determines its success. The very nature of the industry is such that engineers and mechanics will often need to work together, therefore communication and team working skills are important.
Although most errors in the maintenance environment are latent, they cannot be ignored as they have the potential to contribute towards fatal consequences in flight. Once an aircraft leaves the hanger, the sound functioning of all systems on board will be one of the important precursors to whether a flight will get from one point to another safely. Indeed, maintenance plays such an crucial role in flight safety that it is the reponsibility of the aircraft's owner or operator to ensure that they are properly maintained . In United States, studies have shown that maintenance factors is a contributing factor in 18% of all accidents. History is abound with notorious examples of how maintenance errors contribute to accidents.
Examples of maintenance related accidents
|Aloha Airlines Flight 243||Hawaii||28 April 1988||Fuseledge failure in flight caused by inspection failure|
|United Airlines Flight 232||Iowa||19 July 1989||Inspection failure which led to uncontrolled engine failure and loss of flight controls|
|Continental Express Flight||Texas||11 September 1991||Separation of horizontal stabillizer. Maintenance personnel did not replace screws on it.|
|Northwest Airlines||Tokyo||01 March 1994||Engine seperation caused by incomplete assembly|
What is common is all these cases is the there is an urgrnt need for changes in aspects of the organisation relating to human performance. Increasing diligence in maintenance will probably have prevented these accidents. In addition MRM will help airlines avoid significant financial burdens imposed by loss of lives, flight delays, cancellations, turn backs and diversions.
MRM was developed from CRM after the fuseledge of Aloha Airlines Flight 243 was ripped off in flight and had to amek an emergency landing. Investigations led to attention being turned to maintenance errors as apotential cause of accidents. MRM and maintenance human factors training are thus developed.
The importance of maintenance
(Video embedded from YouTube on 2nd October 2009)
What does MRM do?
MRM does not just stop at the operational level; the mechanics and engineers. It is for staff at all levels of an organisation. Essentially, it orientates the entire organisation towards a safe and error free performance. It creates awareness about what human factor elements are and how they affect performance. The overall objective is to integrate maintenance technical skills, interpersonal skills and human factor knowledge in a way that increases communication effectiveness and enhance safety. Since MRM has got its roots in CRM, they share common goals such as:
- Improve communication skills
- End authoritative attitudes in supervisory staff.
- Improve team working skills
- Improve assertiveness among mechanics
- Provide people with human factors knowledge
MRM programs are designed on the need to improve interpersonal communication, teamwork, increase awareness about human performance limitations, and understand organizational factors that may contribute towards accidents. The programs are intended to influence the attitudes and behaviours of maintenance personnel. As noted by Patankar & Taylor (2008), positive attitudes in the maintenance environment can lead to improved communication, cooperation, coordination, performance, quality and flight safety.
In addition, MRM also helps managers understand how their decisions affect workers' behaviours.
The Success of MRM
According to Taylor (1998), there was evidence that human factor training reduced the number of occupational injuries and damage to aircraft. In addition he also found airlines reap impressive Returns On Investment (ROIs) from MRM programmes. Examples where MRM training have been successful are:
- Continental Airlines
- US Airways
- United Airlines
+Sustaining Change Through MRM Training
Patankar & Taylor (2008) reviewed current MRM training programs and found that they initially had a positive effect on performance and that engineers' enthusiasm had increased which led to increased performance. Unfortunately it was short lived, and it was found that there was a decline in attitude and an increase in frustration exhibited by engineers. Engineers were expecting more support from management and other colleagues with regards to communication and collaboration taught and promoted in the MRM programs. The lack of enthusiasm from management and co-workers saw engineers becoming discouraged in the MRM initiatives and they felt that there was no future for methods taught in the program if they were the only one using them.
Engineers individualistic nature meant that there was no communication between colleagues leaving engineers feeling they were the only ones employing the principals of the MRM training and they saw no future if they were alone in supporting change. This individualism leads to low level of trust between management and other engineers.
Trust and communication are noted by Patankar & Taylor (2008) to be the two most important elements in creating a positive safety culture. Taylor and Thomas (2003) emphasize that trust, communication and professionalism are the most important factors to create a positive safety culture and sustain it. Lack of communication between management and engineers, and engineers receiving little or no feedback regarding safety initiatives works against trying to sustain a positive safety culture. Employees perception of management's commitment to safety is vital to the success of positive change. To sustain a positive safety culture the organisation as a whole must have a real commitment to safety. Employees perception of management's commitment to safety is vital to the success of the safety process. MRM training programs provide employees with the tools required to create positive change, but without commitment evident throughout the company it cannot be sustained. This commitment must be communicated through the many layers and levels of organizational heirachy across different departments, and the evidence of feedback with the ability to make change to improve the system must be present.
Lalo, M. (2005). A Look at Crew Resource Management AND Maintenance Resource Management. Retrieved from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3744/is_200503/ai_n13454211/pg_2/?tag=content;col1 on 01 October 2009.
Gramopadhyea, A.K & Drury, C.G (2000). Human factors in aviation maintenance: how we got to where we are. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V31-40PGW5B-1&_user=572227&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1031696443&_rerunOrigin=scholar.google&_acct=C000029098&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=572227&md5=5cc646459e440a5535c27f3c8d3cc44a on 01 October 2009.
Flin, R., Connor, P. & Mearns, K. (2002). Crew Resource Management: Improving Teamwork in High Reliability Industries. Retrieved from http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/ViewContentServlet?Filename=Published/EmeraldFullTextArticle/Articles/1350080303.html on 02 October 2009.
Pantaker, M. S. & Taylor, J. C. (2008). MRM Training, Evaluation and Safety Management. The international Journal of Aviation Psychology, 18(1), 61-71
Taylor, J. C. & Thomas, R. L. (2003). Towards Measuring Safety Culture in Aviation Management: The Structure of Trust and Professionalism. The International Journal of Aviation Psychology, 13(4), 321-343.
Resources for Maintenance Resource Management Instruction. Maintenance Resource Management Instruction
Want to know more?
- FAA Advisory Circular on MRM. AC No 120-72.