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What Is Advanced Aviation SMS? → Safety Management Systems

Posted by Christopher Howell on Mar 1, 2021 6:00:00 AM Find me on:

What Is Advanced Aviation SMS Series?

What Is Advanced Aviation SMS? → Safety Management Systems

Aviation SMS Must Be Business First—Safety Second

Does your aviation SMS make money? Probably not.

Why not? Most aviation SMS failures result from operators consistently neglecting to follow the prescribed aviation SMS recipe as originally designed. Other operators treat SMS as a "check-the-box" obligation to satisfy as expeditiously as possible, thereby consciously neglecting the "presumable benefits."

Aviation service providers with more than ten employees should benefit financially from the SMS prescription whenever they have sufficient business activity to comfortably sustain operational expenses. Unfortunately, this is not reality.

Marginally profitable businesses maintain a higher risk of SMS failure because they lack the resources to correctly implement the prescribed SMS formula. These operators cannot afford to leave money on the table and must look at SMS as a business opportunity and not a regulatory burden.

Related Aviation SMS Implementation Articles

SMS Are Stagnating World Wide — It's Obvious Help Is Needed

In 2020, The Aerospace Safety Software Company (TASSC) assumed responsibility to help remedy this perceived systemic shortcoming. TASSC recognizes that many preventable accidents will come from our weakest links; i.e., operators lacking resources or motivation to properly reduce risk to as low as reasonably practical (ALARP).

It only takes one renegade to destroy the lives of many.

Smaller Companies Face Uneven Playing Field

Smaller operations often lack the significant business activity to support additional expenses required from the ICAO-designed SMS prescription. This results in "half-implemented-paper-SMS" that may pass audit review, but not reap desired benefits.

As a rule of thumb, if your operation has more than 15-20 employees, you should be seeing SMS financial returns within three years with a proper SMS implementation. If you find yourself as one of these small, disadvantaged companies, I encourage you to research TASSC's affordable, basic compliance database, appropriately labeled ABC.

Aviation SMS is designed to generate profits. Is yours? If not, the reason lies at the beginning of this article.

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Who Benefits From Advanced Aviation SMS Series?

Advanced Aviation SMS is a business-education topic reserved for sincere aviation professionals. If you only want a "check-the-box SMS" waste no time here. These are not get-rich-quick tips. To become successful, they require a properly implemented SMS with an integrated, highly interconnected system based on the entire "Four Pillar SMS framework."

Operators need a holistic SMS and not the farce we've seen repeated across the globe that focuses almost exclusively on:

  1. Safety Risk Management (SRM); and
  2. Safety Assurance (SA).

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Which Groups Can Ignore This Advanced Business Series

Safety teams seldom expand the SMS "safety scope" when management only requires a "paper SMS" to satisfy business objectives. Furthermore, not every operator needs additional revenue from their SMS implementation. Other business considerations may affect "proper SMS implementation," removing the need for long-term maintenance costs of their safety initiative. I'll go into detail about this in another article.

Similarly, there is a small subset of operators with complex, short-term business missions that require aviation SMS for contractual purposes. These operators lack both time and specialized resources to be distracted from their primary mission. Quasi-military, firefighting, and oilfield transportation operations contribute to this group.

Both of the above groups see SMS as a short-term obligation. Consequently, they spend as little time as possible during their initial implementations. The topics in this Advanced Aviation SMS series may not be suitable for these groups, as these techniques require discipline, patience, and an understanding of the complete aviation SMS, not just bits and pieces.

Base Audience — Providing Assistance Where Assistance Is Appreciated

SMS Pro supports hundreds of safety managers across the globe. Our secondary goal for this Advanced Aviation SMS series is to help SMS Pro companies become more profitable using:

  1. science and technology to focus on opportunities instead of merely "threats and hazards;" or
  2. to strategically create a competitive business advantage.

Since SMS Pro operators already have the necessary tools, they will be the easiest to help as I demonstrate these database-agnostic principles to operators using other flexible, yet complete SMS database platforms.

Aviation SMS can realistically generate financial returns for any operator with more than 20 employees using SMS Pro or another flexible, configurable, "advanced SMS database."

SMS Pro Fulfills SRM & SA Compliance Requirement

SMS Automation Increases Chances for Financial Success

Tow tractor pulling luggage carts airport

SMS Pro possesses advanced technology to correctly implement aviation SMS as prescribed by ICAO and other standards-setting bodies, such as IATA and IS-BAO. Operators can then systematically harvest the promised financial benefits without constantly worrying about SMS regulatory audits. Again, I stress that you will not need SMS Pro to benefit from this business education series. However, you will need an automated SMS database for sustainable success.

SMS is Business. SMS is a 'System!'

For all SMS Pro users reading this, if you have been using SMS Pro for over three years and have not yet benefitted financially, these Advanced Aviation SMS articles require your attention. I urge you to share them with your colleagues and senior management.

In short, you have the vehicle to attract profits, but you lack either the business background or insights to generate revenue from the required aviation SMS implementation.

We are here to offer business-related insights on how to use all SMS-integrated-component features to your competitive advantage. In most cases, these suggestions demonstrate how to tweak your safety-focused SMS into one that senior managers can use to capture and execute opportunities spawning from the SMS risk management framework.

Aviation SMS is powerful! Knowledge is power, and knowledge is money.

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Business Success Required to Convince Managers to Implement SMS

Before SMS became law, the aviation professionals drafting SMS requirements understood that aviation SMS implementations would fail unless positive financial rewards were "theoretically attainable" from formally managed safety-system initiatives modeled after successful quality management systems. This financial consideration is repeatedly reinforced by reviewing the various cost-benefit analyses conducted during aviation SMS' legal deliberations.

These resulting financial considerations gave birth to "business-focused-aviation SMS" as it should be implemented. Historically, pure "system safety" approaches proved too limiting, again focusing more on SRM and SA without providing a holistic management approach. Among the lacking elements were:

  1. Safety Policy to set rules, tangible goals and provide employee protections; and
  2. Safety Promotion to continually educate and communicate the message of safety awareness.

SMS Quality Quiz

Let’s Be Honest, Yet Promote Safety as Highest Ideal

SMS founders argue strongly in SMS guidance materials that aviation SMS remains chiefly a business activity providing an additional benefit: enhanced safety for the global aviation transportation system.

"Enhanced aviation transportation safety" is a noble objective, to be sure. But why can't we have more money too? We can, and this becomes evident if you understand the "SMS" framework and implement all elements prescribed in the Four Pillars.

Reduced losses result from improved operational quality. Therefore, one should logically interpret that successful aviation SMS implementations rely upon an integrated safety-quality management approach.

Related Aviation SMS Articles on SMS and QMS

Aviation SMS Implemented as Safety First, Business Not at All


The purpose of this Advanced Aviation SMS series is not to tear down existing SMS implementations. Safety will not improve if we take an adversarial tone.

If you are reading this, you must realize that SMS implementations are not fulfilling the original vision. This is obvious to trained safety professionals who have been monitoring SMS from a global perspective.

A root cause of these lackluster SMS implementations is that operators implemented SMS as a "safety-only" initiative, which is perfectly understandable. A holistic SMS approaches safety as being mutually beneficial for:

  1. Operators;
  2. Stakeholders; and
  3. Regulatory agencies.

We all are supposed to benefit from aviation SMS. Are you? Probably not. Are you angry? You should be.

Let's fix this together! This Advanced Aviation SMS series explores logical strategies that are within the reach of most operators, regardless of your financial situation. If you are in a developing country, I recommend that you research the ABC SMS database for an affordable, basic solution that focuses on compliance, and not advanced bells and whistles.

Final Thoughts

Relying on spreadsheets will never be sustainable for a financially performing SMS.

If you expect to earn revenue from your SMS, you will need automation.

During this Advanced Aviation SMS series, we'll visit all four SMS pillars to explore common-sense strategies. These strategies will help resurrect your dormant SMS.

Automation will allow you to implement these strategies quickly.

Automation will allow you to monitor the effectiveness of your changes.

Automation will allow you to efficiently tweak the "SMS recipe" depending on your safety culture and the business environment, which always changes.

Automation is the key to a financially productive aviation SMS.

To use these Advanced Aviation SMS strategies, you will need automation.

How Is Your SMS Automation?

We are a market leader in aviation SMS automation. These short videos provide a glimpse into what we refer to when we mention "automation."

Watch SMS Pro Demo Videos

Last updated in March 2024.

Topics: Aviation SMS Implementation, 3-Safety Assurance

Site content provided by Northwest Data Solutions is meant for informational purposes only. Opinions presented here are not provided by any civil aviation authority or standards body.



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