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How Edinburgh Airport’s tech transformation journey helped it meet its compliance goals 


Nicky Chenery, general manager of SafetyCulture, and Edinburgh Airport’s security compliance team explain the crucial role technology must now take in managing compliance – and take us through the Scottish gateway’s journey to a more transparent, secure, compliant, and sustainable model.

As air travel continues to ride the uncertainty of the pandemic, the demand to prioritise passenger health and safety and meet compliance obligations has never been more important.

Risk is inherent in the aviation industry: complex operational processes, the sheer volume of foot traffic, stringent security protocols, aircraft and logistical equipment, it has it all. Therefore it comes as no surprise that aviation is the greatest champion of the checklist.

From airport cleaning and cabin turnaround checks to aircraft maintenance or baggage handling, the uses are extensive and broad. The aviation industry also has the operational challenge of multiple suppliers, subcontractors and dispersed teams working simultaneously: making for an ever-changing environment with many moving parts.

Satisfying the regulator or tick-boxing mandatory checks is one thing. But now against the backdrop of the pandemic, compliance has to be front-of-mind for aviation if it hopes to return footfall and reinstate passenger confidence. Health and safety has always been essential, but now it’s a major brand differentiator – for customers, suppliers and staff alike.

Traditional methods are failing the industry

The simple checklist is tremendously powerful. It breaks down often complex or lengthy processes into manageable chunks, reduces the margin of human error and holds us accountable. A simple check can, quite literally, save a life.

However, manual, analogue methods that rely on paper or spreadsheets leave us vulnerable and add administrative burden, at a time when all airports are struggling to do more with less. This was one of the greatest challenges facing Edinburgh Airport, which welcomes more than 14.7 million passengers annually and was battling with its paperwork.

Keeping on top of compliance with spreadsheets and long paper-based processes threw up a number of challenges for Edinburgh: management struggled with availability, completion rates were poor, and legibility of reports was a constant issue. Combined, these created difficulties when it came to effectively analysing compliance data to present to regulators.

Getting everyone on the same paperless page

The Edinburgh Security and Compliance Team needed a solution that would revolutionise their processes, eliminate non-compliance and tackle completion rates. Technology can do some of the heavy lifting here, unlocking new opportunities and shouldering some of the challenges the sector faces.

Creating digital checklist templates custom-made to their unique operational processes, Edinburgh Airport began making the move to a paperless existence with iAuditor by SafetyCulture. By rolling out an easy-to-use app accessible from any mobile device, they could quickly and easily get those all-important checks into the hands of their staff on-the-ground.

With the elimination of paper (not to mention the sustainability benefits that brings), Edinburgh Airport also dramatically reduced the risk of sensitive data and information loss. It’s much harder to misplace an iPad or phone than paper – and if you do, it’s security locked!

As the challenges of the pandemic unfolded, there was an added benefit. Even as their compliance management team moved to working remotely, they were able to retain the same real-time visibility as they would have had on the ground, with information syncing seamlessly to the cloud from frontline staff completing checks on the ground.

Mapping out a bird’s eye view

The scale and complexity of any airport make it a real operational and logistical challenge to understand what’s really happening at any given time. Paper-based processes also only provide a two-dimensional insight to what staff are seeing – and, often, take considerable time to get into the hands of those who need to evaluate the findings.

These challenges are what underpin the need for technology adoption when it comes to compliance. Edinburgh Airport finds the additional contextual information truly valuable – checks and inspections now include videos, photos, images and more, giving the Compliance Team a way to enrich their data and report in ways they couldn’t imagine before.

It also empowers the team to visualise what is happening and use that information for continuous improvement. In one example, the team pulled imagery from a report which is now embedded into training as a visual aid to close down non-compliance. When airports have the full picture, they can move from reactively fixing failings to proactively preventing them before they materialise.

The Edinburgh team has brought this data to life with an integration to Tableau, allowing them to create live dashboards and detailed reports they can analyse. Not only does it help them identify issues or risks quickly – and get them resolved – it also helps them demonstrate to their regulators that they’re doing everything they should.

Edinburgh Airport now proudly sits at zero non-compliances for poor record keeping.

Passenger and staff safety calls for greater visibility

The situation for travel and aviation continues to be unpredictable and ever-changing. Placing passenger and staff safety front-and-centre calls for constant vigilance and the ability to react fast in the face of any risk or lapse in compliance. To do that, we have to have real-time visibility of what’s happening. Paper-based processes don’t cut it.

The ‘digital revolution’ is long-established in aviation – touchless travel, digital passport control, self baggage check-ins… we’re seeing mass adoption of technologies globally in a bid to meet growing passenger expectations and protect the bottom line. Compliance, however, continues to lag behind.

At a time when health and safety has never been more relevant – or more critical – isn’t it time to cross the digital divide?




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