Providing catering service on an aircraft is challenging. The Last Mile Logistics (LML), which defines the physical journey from the Customer Service Center (CSC) to the aircraft, is a very detailed and important process within airline catering and includes Information Technology (IT) challenges. We had the chance to talk about this with Andreas Bleyer, LSG Group’s Director Global Operations Processes – Last Mile Logistics.
What is the project all about?
In one sentence, it is about process, software and data harmonization, and the corresponding standardization and simplification.
What are the main goals of your project?
The overall goal has been to create a more efficient and standardized process and software landscape to ultimately save money and time. The method we are using to achieve this is process and data harmonization.
In this project, the process was to remain unchanged, making it therefore important for the software to adapt to the current operation, and not vice versa. LML is a very important process, and not only from a strategic point of view. It is the face to the customer representing LSG Sky Chefs. It was important for the LML process to be standardized, so every Customer Service Center (CSC) can be provided with the same software version without requiring expensive, custom-made solutions. This may be a bit boring for the end-user but is “cleaner” and more businesslike for the company as a whole. To sum it up: Transparency and compatibility between the CSCs are among the main goals.
In order to stay on top of future developments and requirements, another goal is to implement a standard template for future deployments. The entire documentation of both internal and external processes has to be standardized.
Last but not least: Communication between dispatchers and drivers is essential. Our CSCs in North America (NAM) use the latest Mobility and Web Application version on smart phones, while two large CSCs in Germany still use cell phones instead of smart phones. With regards to harmonization, we aimed for a common solution concerning both hardware and software as soon as possible.
What was the situation within LSG Sky Chefs before you started the project?
Our operation is organized in CSCs all over the world and differentiated between large, medium and small CSCs. Regarding the large CSCs, I faced the situation, where in Europe, there had been four different software versions. In the US, we had only one version in use which was again different to the ones used in Europe. Compared to North America, the European CSCs used an outdated version. Furthermore, the driver´s cell phones in use at the time were no longer available. Believe it or not, our users in the CSCs were very happy with their customized solutions and both regions had been working together very well and supported each other with implementations and research questions. Looking at the big picture, the complexity associated with managing these different versions inevitably drives huge financial and maintenance burdens for LSG Sky Chefs.
This sounds like a demanding situation. What was your first step?
The first step was to analyze the actual operations at the various locations (i.e., Europe, North America and APAC) to figure out the reason behind the variety of different software versions. Obviously, as mentioned before, the end-users liked their individual solutions, but at the same time, the overall solution was not efficient due to all the individualized coding. My focus areas were: the people, processes, and systems used. This information was documented to enable us to better define the big picture. Regarding the software, the European CSCs’ version was upgraded to the same state-of-the-art version in use at the NAM CSCs. Using the same version of the software solution promotes the standardization of Last Mile Logistics processes globally and is the crucial condition for cross regional developments and improvements. At the end of this process, we had nine well-defined LML processes which gave us the possibility to define a global standard for all our CSCs, resulting in a clean and more businesslike solution.
How about the implementation of this standardization and harmonization?
As a result, we came to the best suitable and economical LML operation model with a standard dispatching process, supported by an easy to use IT solution, including standard training materials and implementation approach. We studied the current use of LML operating models to represent and compare them schematically. After analyzing the time management and use of resources, we defined a standard set of software rules. Why should we use more than one software version if we are able to come up with one standard LML operating model?
Did LSG get any support in this project?
After finishing the internal process definition, the software needed to adapt to these changes. Supported by a software provider, our various LSG Sky Chefs software versions were consolidated into one single standard catering version on an identical IT infrastructure. The common goal on both sides was the standardization of the software solution. Together with the above-mentioned software provider, we developed a so called “implementation book” to simplify and speed up further deployments and provide a certain guarantee at the same time. Within this document we defined clear responsibilities and activities. Despite the fact that several parties may be involved in one component, the responsibility lies with exactly one party. The standard modeling and the configuration of the version is well-described to guarantee all CSCs have the same look and feel including colors, data inspector, working, rules etc.
What are the benefits for LSG Sky Chefs?
As the project approaches completion, we have a mixture of benefits that we are already experiencing, and we expect more in the future. Nowadays, the internal processes are documented. With the implementation of the standard catering software version, we experience less change requests and changes. If change situations do arise, they are discussed and have to be carried out according to a standardized process. In the long-term, this will lead to a better and more stable software solution quality. At CSCs where they are already in use, the current mobility dialogues on the smart phones of the truck drivers support this state-of-the-art technology and are, for sure, a project highlight. All of this results in lower costs. Going forward, we will be able to improve the implementation time and software quality due to standardization when we rollout the software to new CSCs.
What further benefits do you expect?
As we primarily focus on our large CSCs, we expect to include small and medium operations in this process. The past set-up did not allow this due to cost reasons. We are expecting further improvements on both the operational and the strategic side of the business regarding standardization due to a similar infrastructure and less changes. In addition, the harmonization is also a benefit for the end-users as data formats and software GUIs are now standardized and the usage is similar globally.