Safety Management Systems (SMS) for aircraft manufacturers and maintainers?

by Blake Gibbons

Institution: Cranfield University
Year: 2014
Keywords: Human factors; reactive; proactive; risk; assessment; regulatory; EASA; IATA; FAA; CAA; ICAO; JCAB; MRO; AMO; rulemaking; aviation; nuclear; Quality Management Systems (QMS); ISO9000; ISO9001; production; culture; transportation; Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA); Obeya; hazard; assurance; aviation; airframer
Record ID: 1390799
Full text PDF: http://dspace.lib.cranfield.ac.uk/handle/1826/9213


There is much dialogue in the global aviation industry about Safety Management Systems (SMS) and how it should be integrated across all domains of the industry including aircraft design, production, flight operations, overhaul and maintenance, suppliers, service providers, airports, and so forth (Johnson, 2012). Regulators have made significant progress in recent years to implement ICAO’s SMS into airlines, albeit as a required or recommended practice. More recently the regulators are seeking to implement SMS into the aircraft manufacturing and aircraft maintenance domains. This research reviewed regulatory publications from multiple countries to assess the technical makeup of SMS, and understand what regulators are requiring, or recommending, and when. It was found that global regulators accept the ICAO published definition of SMS, but different regulators have varying approaches regarding implementation. However, they are consistent in initially targeting airlines for SMS implementation. SMS comments range from “The best thing since sliced bread” to “Worst thing since the creation of the FAA; I don’t need anyone telling me what’s safe when I already know it; waste of time and money”. This investigation experimented with field tests to connect the engineering, production and airline domains into one ICAO SMS model. Results indicate that because the different domains are risk-specific, the application of one safety risk management model to all domains is not viable. The SMS model applies to airlines because airlines’ primary risk is about operational safety. Aircraft production and maintenance is about production risk – therefore the risk model must be centric to process risk. Field test 3 tailored the ICAO SMS risk architecture to assess and mitigate process risk as applicable to the aircraft manufacturing and maintenance. Although the SMS architecture was usable, the content and focus was significantly adjusted to be production process-risk centric, to the point where the term “SMS’ was deemed out of place. The resulting model was therefore named Production Risk Management System (PRMS). Following the emergence of PRMS from field tests, this investigation reviewed industry, research and regulatory arguments for and against SMS in the airline industry, and correlated those arguments with the benefits and non-benefits of PRMS for the manufacturing and aircraft maintenance domains. The researcher advocates PRMS as a viable model that meets ICAO SMS-like architecture for aircraft production and maintenance. Methods were identified for developing and implementing PRMS, and for evaluating its ROI. If and when “SMS” is truly mandated in these domains, the researcher proposes PRMS as a viable model that should be considered. Furthermore, the researcher proposes that PRMS can be an effective production risk management system that can enhance the organization’s existing QMS, regardless of “SMS” regulations.