By Janine Wegner, Dell Technologies
It’s been said that the only constant is change. In business, it’s largely influenced by the need to innovate and deliver experiences faster than ever to meet rising customer expectations. But how do organizations know where to optimize and when to innovate? Collecting the right data across every touchpoint of the customer journey is key but applying intelligence to that data is what unlocks its full potential.
Republic Airways knows that. The company was recently awarded the TechPoint Mira Award for Large Enterprise of the Year in Indiana for its transformational approach to how it operates by focusing on technology. To operate 1,000 regional flights a day under three major U.S. carrier brands, Republic’s flights must consistently offer a safe, clean and reliable flying experience. This mission requires its 6,000 pilots, flight attendants, maintenance technicians, and support associates to trust operations will go smoothly.
Meet the Digital Navigator
Nirav Shah, vice president of information technology, is described as the “digital navigator” by his colleagues as he connects the workings between IT, operations and other departments in the company to deliver on the technology targets that keep Republic’s turnaround time low and service levels high.
For him, the real innovation in the airline industry is happening in the backend. IT needs to move away from being the business’s order taker to become a real innovator, helping management and staff deliver on business goals and objectives, he says. Shah often wonders, “How can we efficiently deliver the right services when they are needed most? How can we deliver on all these promises with zero impact on our operations?”
To answer these questions, he looks both inside and outside of the industry to find cutting edge technologies, like robotics, virtual reality and agile initiatives, as well as methods to improve daily operations. He sent Republic on a holistic digital transformation journey that allowed the company to be agile when it comes to their IT, operations and workforce.
Using Data to Stay on Schedule
To be agile and scalable at the same time, Republic needs data, and lots of it. With sensors everywhere, data is coming in from about 200 airplanes and hundreds of pieces of deployed equipment. Add data from flight personnel and control towers and airports, including arrival and departure times, possible delays, issues with aircraft, etc., and you have an enormous data exchange around the clock. Using this data intelligently allows Republic to optimize flight and operation schedules as well as proactively perform airplane maintenance. This benefits the end users and the passengers, too, as they depend on the timeliness of the airplanes to get from point A to B.
“The route might look the same, but the operations will be different every single day.”
—Nirav Shah, vice president of information technology, Republic Airways
There are many factors that go into an airline being able to provide a safe, reliable and timely experience over and over again. “The route might look the same, but the operations will be different every single day,” says Shah. Working with intelligent data insights helps everyone involved – from passengers to crew to airport operators. It also provides two benefits for Republic’s bottom line: It saves thousands of dollars every day as they don’t have to do the extra work to get back on track or make schedule adjustments, and it contributes to securing business in the future as their partners know they can depend on them, says Shah.
Transitioning to Remote Work Without Business Interruption
Republic’s corporate employees, called associates, traditionally work from designated office spaces in its headquarters or the command center in Indianapolis. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., the company was quick to respond. Thanks to proactive thinking and an agile technology environment, they implemented a work from home solution over the course of a weekend, building remote work kits for 100+ associates traditionally in the office.
“Republic was always set to work from home even though it was never tried,” says Shah. “It worked so well that at the end of that first week the entire corporate office transitioned to a remote work setting over the weekend – without any business interruption.”
But not all associates were able to operate remotely. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) required the associates working in the command center to continue doing so. Knowing they had the technology in place to support the remote work, Republic asked the FAA to allow dispatching remotely in case of high-risk exposure. This was a first for the FAA and Republic. Thanks to their agile and secure technology environment and preparedness, they are on track to receive the rare approval for dispatchers to do this vital job safely from home, when necessary.