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Sam Swaro

HCL helps to transform an Aerospace customer’s conventional system testing approach to ensure business continuity in the new normal
Sam Swaro Associate Vice President | December 16, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues around the world, many global aerospace companies are feeling the impact caused during this uncertain time. Commercial aviation companies are facing multi-dimensional disruptions, ranging from production interruptions, reduced demand, the steep decline in traveling, customers deferring delivery of new aircraft, declined demand for spare parts due to less maintenance, etc. Aircraft manufacturers being capital intensive by nature, it raises short-term concerns about cash flow and liquidity as well.

While the entire world struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic and its cascading repercussions, it has become increasingly difficult for businesses to sell products that involve customers to 'look, touch, and feel’. When it comes to previewing a Cabin Management System (CMS) that goes on an aircraft, it can only be imagined how challenging it can become. Some aerospace industry leaders faced the similar challenge when the pandemic first hit shores. Typically, the process involves inviting customer pilots, crew, and dealers for an immersive experience. With increasing travel restrictions worldwide, the aerospace companies had to figure out a new way to run tests with its customers and dealers. HCL has been supporting the design and development of Aerospace Cabin Systems products for leading organizations for over a decade and continues to do so to support their business in the new normal.

HCL has been supporting design and development of Aerospace Cabin Systems products for leading organizations for over a decade and continues to do so to support their business in the new normal.

As the coronavirus outbreak became more serious, the most valuable lesson that businesses learned was that the difference between success and failure can be marked by a slight change in how we approach problems and where we look for solutions. In today's world, most organizations are encouraging their employees to look for new ideas to solve COVID-19 related challenges. In the quest for such new ideas, one may tend to overlook the new use of available products and solutions, revisit the applicability of existing tools and push the envelope of these tools to solve new problems. One of our major aerospace clients took the latter approach and decided to use the HCL developed GUI Preview Tool to solve the above-mentioned challenge. System Testing takes up to two days, depending on the complexity of the CMS, and involves hands-on trials of the switches and controls, running on the hardware installed on racks instead of in the airplane. The tests allow users to try out the software configuration and line replaceable units (LRUs) as if installed in the airplane and suggest any changes before the installation takes place.

Rising coronavirus cases worldwide, national lockdowns, and the consequent travel restrictions were hindering customers from experiencing the GUI in person. The ultimate goal was to enable our aerospace client to offer its customers the same level of reliability and efficiency they would get in physical testing. The use of the HCL GUI preview tool enabled the customers to test GUI remotely to make sure everything flows and operates like they expect it to. Once deployed for Customer testing, the GUI Preview Tool could do the same testing as if the customer was able to trial the hardware on-site.

The GUI preview tool does not show the output of the action but does give feedback to the customer. For example, the customer might push a button to turn on a light. They will not see an actual light switch on in the program but will see the color of the button change, just as it would in the aircraft. The tool offers other benefits, such as preliminary system design. HCL had developed the GUI preview tool well before the pandemic, but it was not being used that much due to other testing methods in place. Covid-19 pushed it over the edge, by creating new challenges that required an innovative solution. We had to be able to do things virtually to deliver that software configuration to the customer.

With the GUI preview tool, travel costs are eliminated, both for the customer and the dealer, saving them both time and money. Not only has end-customer (crews, pilots, dealers etc.) feedback been positive, but the GUI preview tool allowed the customer to conduct business as usual despite the challenges posed by COVID.

HCL empowered its customer to alleviate the growing backlog of the CMS System preview tests by helping its engineers deploy the GUI preview tool software. Since August 2020, the HCL’s customer team has conducted 10+ CMS previews and virtual installations.

The virus outbreak has posed great challenges to the worldwide economy. The ripple effects of the pandemic will have far-reaching consequences beyond the spread of the disease. At the same time, crisis situations like these are also a strong driving force behind creativity and innovation. The more difficult the situation, the more it demands to be approached in a refreshed fashion. Organizations should not focus on the problems caused by the disruption. Rather focus should be on implementing and encouraging creative thinking and problem-solving to remain relevant in the current unprecedented times. Looking for new products or solutions is not always the answer. Instead, revisiting the resources we have and reapplying them in a newfangled manner can help organizations emerge stronger, no matter how complex the scenario is.