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The VIPER Experience

"One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men.
No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man."

Elbert Hubbard

Keywords: VIPER, maintenance management, control systems, planning, optimisation.

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The VIPER Experience [P012]

This paper discusses the evolution of VIPER into a fully-fledged, commercial project control system that uses Earned Value as its core progress reporting system. VIPER is designed to optimise repetitive project cycles (in this case, aircraft maintenance and repair programs) in a data rich environment.

Business and project communities are facing a number of contradictory pressures:

  • The downsizing and deskilling of their work forces, particularly in the technical support and middle management areas.

  • The increase in litigation and lack of tolerance towards any delays, processing errors and/or omissions.

  • The need to be ever more efficient with reduced project budgets and shorter timeframes.

  • The increasing complexity of many projects and project systems.

The combination of these factors is creating pressures on business systems (with particular reference to project control systems) to deliver enhanced efficiency and process integrity whilst minimising risks.

During the heyday of project management software development (in the 1970s and 80s), it was "normal" for businesses to employ project and senior schedulers in permanent well-paid positions and to maintain staffing continuity within their businesses technical and administrative areas. This structure allowed staff to develop deep domain knowledge and to "know", just by looking, when something was incorrect or missing (as well as having the resources to correct the problem).

In the leaner, meaner environment of the 21st century, these luxuries are no longer possible. Systems need to be designed with the prudential checks and balances that experienced staff used to be able to provide, incorporated as an intrinsic part of their overall processes (as well as being super efficient).

The VIPER system is used to manage and schedule aircraft deep level maintenance programs for the ADF and a number of commercial businesses. VIPER integrates maintenance data, timesheet data, hangar floor reports and project scheduling using a number of data integration, management and automated capture processes, which has in effect created an "expert" system. Since its introduction, VIPER has generated cost savings in excess of 30% to the ADF deep level maintenance programs.

The approach embodied in VIPER allows project control systems to be designed utilising the most effective components (Scheduling, MRP, Timesheet, Data management, Accounting, etc) and then to integrate the data capture, information flows and analysis to ensure prudential processes are mandated whilst optimising the overall efficiency of the business unit.

The evolution of VIPER has also provided valuable insights into the way carefully structured information flows can influence business outcomes. These "lessons learned" are applicable to many process and are discussed in detail at the conclusion of the paper.

Author: Patrick Weaver presented by Dr. L. Bourne at the 2003 AIPM National Conference.

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