GE Aviation and Microsoft Azure Build a Track and Trace Blockchain ‘TRUEngine’ for Aircraft Parts

  • GE Aviation used Microsoft Azure to create blockchain ledger for aircraft parts.
  • The company is looking to secure customers from their existing clients, like Delta and Southwest.

As Microsoft’s Azure blockchain platform evolves, other companies have started to trial opportunities to track items that have not been introduced to the blockchain yet. GE Aviation, for example, has created a supply chain track and trace ledger with the use of blockchain technology. This company makes up about 60% of the airline industry and will likely influence the rest of the industry as well.

The blockchain was built as a derivative of Ethereum, and the GE Aviation Digital Group plans to make it possible to share, which means that their many partners can examine its use as well. The goal is that this leger will keep up with the data regarding the manufacturing and life of the registered aircraft engine parts. Specifically, reports from CoinDesk say that this ledger will become even more important with the recent developments with Boeing.

Blockchain CTO of GE Aviation, David Havara, said that the goal of the group will be to trade the parts as they are created and to track the engines as they are shipped out. This information will be helpful to show how the engine works when it is installed while telling them the times when repairs are necessary and when it goes back out.

GE Aviation is a source for commercial airlines and even the military to purchase aircraft engines, employing 700 staff members around the world. Along with the blockchain, the Digital Group has created multiple solutions in 3D printing, IoT, and data science.

Havara pointed out that the creation of the blockchain was actually over two years of work, involving multiple partners like MTU Maintenance. The blockchain itself is an Ethereum-based permissioned fork. He added,

“What we are calling it, kind of internally, is ‘TRUEngine.’”

With the new structure, data will be organized in a way that makes it easy for the ecosystem to store all the data at the users’ fingertips. With this information, Havara said,

“If you think about it, a quality event in the aircraft engine industry is catastrophic. And to research that takes months of manual time. Driving efficiencies, accountability, and visibility into the process of making an engine will make us all safer.”

Senior director Mike Walker at Microsoft said that that new ledger is a lot like a “tapestry” in that the creation of it is much like

“stitching together their entire supply chain into one view – so you’ve got a full understanding of all the partners; you’ve got one ecosystem repository instead of hundreds, if not thousands.”

Aircraft engines are primarily hosted on paper for their tracking, and about 60% of them end up moving to different companies within 5 years, which is why it is so important to document these changes. The documentation is hard to keep up, requiring that customers like Delta and British Airways keep up with flight history records, which show how much each part has gone through in their time on that aircraft. The information goes back to GE Aviation, and the use of a blockchain is much easier to maintain.

Selling the parts cannot happen without the necessary documentation recorded, which Havara calls a

“crisis in the industry.”

Explaining, he said that there are “tens of millions worth of dollars of inventory orphaned,” because the process of recording these details digitally was not an option. Walker added that the use of blockchain has made a ledger that improves the cost efficiency and safety of the parts while developing a new business model. There have already been many industry players to be invited, but he could not name them yet. Havara commented that they were seeking out the companies that have already made purchases through their brand, suggesting that the invited companies could include Delta or Southwest.

Right now, the blockchain is more of a “production pilot,” as Walker sees it. There is no formalized pricing model yet, but Havara expressed that the company is “ready to sell” this blockchain opportunity, adding that there are more and more companies that are “asking about it” daily.

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