Counting every rivet, the largest passenger airplane in production, the A380, has about four million parts. Now Honeywell’s aerospace division is working with Hyperledger Fabric to put them all on a blockchain.
On Aug. 5, Honeywell announced that it is fully integrating the records the Federal Aviation Administration requires it to keep on every aircraft part bought, sold, or repaired onto its GoDirect Trade ledger.
The enterprise blockchain-based database not only lets Honeywell partners and airlines quickly source and buy parts, it contains the very detailed records—”trace documents”—required by the FAA.
“Honeywell’s offering is like a search engine, but it works for anything and everything related to aircraft parts and service,” said Lisa Butters, Honeywell’s general manager for GoDirect Trade. “Honeywell manufactures and repairs thousands of aerospace parts each day, and now all of those events, including the generated air worthiness certificates, go on chain. In aerospace, this is a game-changing technology that will simplify and transform recordkeeping for aircraft owners and airlines around the world.”
More than 2,700 companies use the 80 storefronts currently hosted on GoTrade Direct.
Still using paper and phone calls
In an earlier Hyperledger case study of GoDirect Trade, Butters said that in the $4 billion aircraft parts industry, “less than 2.5% of all transactions are done online. Think about that. Business is still done the old-fashioned way.”
The system Honeywell is seeking to displace with its immutable and easily searchable ledger is a hodge-podge of vendor websites the firm said looked “like Craigslist, only with no prices or images. Only the most basic information, such as a part’s condition, was posted online with the seller’s phone number.”
So even if a buyer found the exact part they needed, an average of two days of phone calls, emails, and even faxes was required to sort out the details and certifications paperwork. This includes a complete history of a part’s ownership, use, and repairs. Aircraft often have a 30-year service life, and average five to six owners.
It’s an error-prone process, and inserting an uncertified or counterfeit part into the supply chain could have “dire consequences,” Honeywell said.
“Parts sellers have tried platforms such as Amazon in the past,” Butters said in the case study, who is also Honeywell’s applications owner for blockchain technologies. “But their efforts were unsuccessful because of the nuances and safety regulations involved in the aerospace market.”
Aside from its inability to handle the technical intricacies of the paperwork, Amazon’s platform required credit cards instead of the purchase orders many buyers prefer to use in payment.
By hosting all that data on a blockchain, GoTrade Direct lets customers input incomplete data for a part—just a serial number, for example—and then search out the part’s history and fill in the missing paperwork to be submitted.
“Blockchain is unique because it’s a team sport,” Butters said on Aug. 5. “This isn’t just about Honeywell data. In fact, this is not just about aerospace data. Whether you are in aerospace, automotive, electronics or consumer products, I envision all manufacturing OEMs and repair shops pushing quality documentation and part provenance data to the blockchain, so customers have easy access.”