May 13

GE Aviation has built a supply chain track-and-trace blockchain with the help of Microsoft Azure.

GE Aviation Digital Group aims to shares a self-built derivative of ethereum across an aviation industry consortium of partnerships. GE Aviation supplies 60% of the global airline industry with jet engines. The use for the blockchain ledger they have developed is to monitor and collate data tied to the manufacture and life cycle of aircraft engine parts. Given the recent disasters at Boeing this comes at a crucial time in the airline industry.

David Havara, blockchain CTO of the GE Aviation Digital Group told CoinDesk that “Our vision is being able to trace parts as they are manufactured and the engine when it’s shipped. Then how that engine performs in the field, when to repair it and then re-enter it into the field.” Havara said his team had been working for more than two years with partners like MTU Maintenance to build the blockchain, a permissioned fork of ethereum. “What we are calling it, kind of internally, is TRUEngine,” said Havara. “If you think about it, a quality event in the aircraft engine industry is catastrophic. And to research that takes months of manual time. Driving efficiencies, accountability and visibility into the process of making an engine will make us all safer.”

GE Aviation Digital Group, a business unit within GE Aviation employs around 700 staff globally, selling software to the wider industry. Aside from blockchain experience the group also works in the data science and 3D Printing space with a focus on the Internet of Things.

Mike Walker of Microsoft, a senior director of applied innovation and digital transformation likened the ledger to a tapestry stitching together GE Aviation’s entire supply chain in a single view. “So what we have done brings cost optimization and significant safety improvement, but now we are exposing a new business model. We are creating a profit center for what I lovingly referred to as ‘the boneyard’ in Texas, where essentially they put all these parts where they don’t have the GE Aviation genuine paperwork – and you can do that for all the other boneyards out there, too.”

Part of the process of tracking airline parts requires GE Aviation’s many customers to maintain records of flight history and show the cycles flown on each part, this data is then returned to GE Aviation for analysis and tracking to ensure parts are replaced in line with requirements which can lead to an extensive tracking consideration.

“We can’t sell those used parts back into the open market without the proper paperwork,” noted Havara. “Which is really a crisis in the industry at the moment. At our warehouse facility in Texas, there are tens of millions worth of dollars of inventory orphaned, because over the last 20 years we didn’t have a digital solution to get that paperwork to sell those parts back into the market. We are targeting companies who have already bought our engines – so it could be Delta or Southwest or BA – and they have a maintenance contract with us. We have a kind of ‘razor and blades’ business model where we sell you the engine and then you will sign a maintenance agreement to be TRUEngine-certified and we will maintain that. So, we are rolling this out to our maintenance agreement base.”

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