Software for Safer Skies

May 7, 2010 by Sibylle Hofmeyer, Benjamin Blaume

Das steigende Flugaufkommen ist nur softwareunterstützt zu bewältigen. (Foto:DFS)

The rising amount of air traffic is only manageable via software. (photo: DFS)

Europe’s air traffic control authority, Eurocontrol, expects the annual number of flights in the skies over Germany to increase by at least 50%. To continue to provide reliable coordination of this rising amount of flight activity, DFS depends on the secure exchange of high-quality aircraft information and geodata among various systems. In the future, necessary updates to this sensitive data will have to be largely automated, seamless, and fully comprehensible in order to ensure their security and integrity.

Leveraging existing SAP technologies

In implementing its strategy to meet these requirements, DFS is taking advantage of tools it already has: the SAP NetWeaver technology platform, along with the components SAP NetWeaver Process Integration (SAP NetWeaver PI) and SAP NetWeaver Portal. “Many companies have these new SAP technologies in-house, but don’t use them. If they did, they could save money and integrate their SAP and non-SAP systems without having to invest in running and maintaining expensive integration solutions,” says Ingo Burth, project lead at objective partner AG, the IT consultancy responsible for the implementation at DFS.

By achieving seamless, process-driven system integration based on SAP NetWeaver, companies can significantly improve the quality of their data and processes, thereby saving time and money. Since the platform automates workflows across systems, employees can apply the valuable time they would otherwise need for tedious routine tasks to more technical assignments. This quickly reduces errors and the associated costs. SAP NetWeaver offers further advantages in its real-time reporting and process monitoring functions, which provide current, accurate statistics whenever needed. Instead of tracking down all of the individuals involved in a certain process instance to ascertain its current status, a manager can simply take a look at the area-specific monitoring. The platform also keeps processes moving by monitoring the timely execution of every manual step and identifying capacity bottlenecks.

Read on: Focusing on aircraft data

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Focusing on aircraft data

DFS carried out its optimizations in subprojects it called MaJAN and MaGEO. The goal of MaJAN was to establish a master system for technical aircraft data – including aircraft type and engine – as issued and regularly updated by the standardization authorities. While phasing out its use of expensive paper-based formats, DFS also wanted to ensure the quality of this information at a central location before distributing it throughout its organization in a comprehensible fashion.

In its new approach, DFS imports the data into its system, performs quality checks, and transfers it into a common canonical data model. Thanks to the model-driven method applied during the implementation, the organization can implement cross-departmental requirements – such as end-to-end transparency – with the same degree of cost efficiency as future enhancements. In its SAP portal, DFS users have a Web interface through which they can access the consolidated data model and the various internal target systems the organization updates.

The framework DFS has established requires a cross-area component to make transparent data provision possible. Enter the organization’s file distribution platform, which performs its function based on special distribution workflows. These workflows specify the authorizations and responsibilities of process members, monitor the timely completion of all manual activities, and process feedback from the target systems.

Such technical responses indicate whether data has reached the target system intact, while user-department feedback tells whether the recipient encountered problems in processing the data. Digital signatures ensure the integrity of the data at every point between the source and target system. Meanwhile, the workflows improve processes by providing information on their status as needed. Feedback monitoring also ensures that processes are executed on schedule.

Read on: Keeping geodata current

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Keeping geodata current

The subproject MaGEO also saw DFS implement a master system, but for geodata and structural airspace information. Containing insights on factors such as air lanes, automated landing procedures, and the length and form of runways, this data is indispensable to pilots and air traffic controllers. DFS updates it in set intervals with special systems, which it then synchronizes with additional systems.

The new, SAP NetWeaver-based configuration at DFS maps these updates in a way that ensures their transparency and integrity. To achieve this, consultants from objective partner AG analyzed and consolidated the organization’s existing processes and implemented them in SAP NetWeaver PI. The advantage? Nearly all of DFS’s activities are now fully automated, with the remaining manual approval steps monitored to stay on schedule and supported by interfaces tailored to each area.

Decision maps out future strategy

“SAP NetWeaver PI has enabled us to significantly reduce the cost of transferring data and implement workflows that have improved the quality, security, and integrity of our sensitive aircraft information and geodata,” offers Markus Geist in summary, who served as overall project lead at DFS. The decision thus gave rise to the future strategy of the organization, which plans to use its SAP NetWeaver platform to integrate non-SAP systems. Model-driven software development is also yielding benefits at DFS by enabling it to create software and infrastructure components that can be implemented in various ways.

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