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Introduction to Process Description Library

Airlines and airports have processes in place to improve efficiency and to reduce risk of failure. Failure can range from lost luggage to aircraft missing an approach. Because there are so many variables involved in aviation operations, documented processes are evaluated to determine whether adequate controls exist to minimize risk and to recover should a hazard manifest itself.

To receive a certificate, airports (aerodromes), charter operators and scheduled operators must have documented procedures to perform common tasks. The list of operators in the previous statement is not all inclusive. These documented procedures may be in a general operating manual or other likewise titled manuals and policies.

Processes are designed to communicate, train and provide guidance in the case of emergencies.

Purpose of Process Description Library

Most certificated operators have their business and operating processes well documented. These processes may belong to a particular manual, such as the GOM. These manuals have a table of contents that is commonly broken down into section, subsection and occasionally subsubsection.

SMS Pro has a classification scheme dedicated to business processes. By default, the business processes classification schema comes from the FAA's ATOS (aviation transportation oversight system) schema, which is broken down by System, SubSystem and Element. SMS Pro users can modify this schema according to their needs. Many operators simply ignore this and don't use classify their issues by business process.

There are advantages to classifying your hazards and reported issues by their associated business processes. As time passes, you will be able to detect trends and identify business processes that require modifications. How do you know a business process requires modifications? When you start seeing that the same business process appears in reports associated with safety, security, quality, compliance or environmental issues, then you may consider reevaluating the business processes and the controls you have in place. This is where the Process Description Library helps you out.

The Process Description Library was not meant for a manager to copy/paste all the business operations into this tool. Rather it provides a checklist-like template to modify existing processes that have been identified as having problems. Most sections in the Process Description Library are optional. Use the sections that are applicable.
The template sections include:

  • Purpose
  • Process Description Library
  • Scope
  • Interfaces
  • Stakeholders
  • Responsibility
  • Authority
  • Procedure Description/Flowchart
  • Materials/Equipment/Supplies
  • Hazards/Controls
  • Process Measures
  • Targets/Goals
  • Assessment
  • Change Management
  • Qualifications of Personnel
  • Documentation/Attachments
  • Review History

The above outline has been suggested by Alan Stolzer et.al. in Safety Management Systems in Aviation (2008). We used this book as an inspiration for the Process Description Library. Other SMS Pro improvements also resulted from studying this book.

What is a Process Description Library?

A process description library is a catalog of your business processes. In SMS Pro, the Process Description Library is a collection of business processes that you have identified as need change. By using the process description library, you can work as a team to document requested change.

Why Use a Process Description Library?

The Process Description Library is a change management tool. Throughout the evolution of SMS Pro, from 2007 to 2013, there have been several methods used to document changes.
These include:

  • Submitting Issues and managing item in Issue Manager (SMS Pro's Risk Management Framework)
  • Process Description Library (2009)
  • Management of Change v1 (which is an enhanced Process Description Library)
  • Management of Change v2, which provides another template checklist approach

The compelling reason to use the process description library is for collaboration. You can work on the same document as a team and the entire team can see the changes made by others.

Another reason to use the process description library is the template. Each section has a description of what is required within. This makes it very easy to understand what is required in the change management process.

Who Prepares the Process Description Library?

Process Description Library

SMS Pro's Process Description Library is used by the entire cadre of managers. This is where a meeting of minds come together to draft proposed changes to business processes. When all managers agree that the proposed changes will better serve their needs, they will seek top management approval (acceptance) and sign-off. A hard copy PDF can be generated if required or sections can be copied and pasted into OPSECS manuals.

Who initiates the change management process? In many cases, the safety committee will be analyzing charts and searching for trends. They may make recommendations for a particular manager to initiate the process. Other times, the safety manager will initiate the process and pull in existing documentation into the selected process. Once the "process" has been initialized, managers can work through the template to make required changes, paying particularly close attention to hazard identification and controls to mitigate risk, transfer risk and recover from hazards that may have manifested themselves.

How is the Process Description Library Prepared?

The Process Description Library has three dropdown lists that reflect the business processes used for classifying issues. SMS Admins have required permissions to modify the business processes classification schema. If the business process that you wish to modify does not exist, the SMS Admin will need to add it to the list.

Once in the list, a manager(editor) goes into the Process Description Library to initiate the edit process. If existing documentation exists, it is easiest to copy and paste from existing documents into the templates provided. Then managers can apply the necessary changes, acquire acceptance and sign-off from top management and then publish.

When is the Process Description Library Prepared?

The Process Description Library is not the module where you will spend most of your time while managing your aviation safety management system. It has been designed as a simple template tool to help you manage change in your business processes in a collaborative environment. Whenever a manager, employee or external stakeholder initiates a change request, the SMS Admin will determine whether the appropriate item exists in the Business Processes classification. If it does, then the change is assigned to a particular manager who will work through the change management process according to your policy and resource availability.

Once the process has been entered into the safety management system, it will live there forever. This will allow managers to easily modify the business process in the future with minimal preparation time. Also, one should not forget the benefit of having your business processes in this library.

When processes are listed in your library, and safety managers are classifying reported hazards and issues according to business processes, the task of identifying faulty processes will be much easier. Improved organizational quality and effectiveness will be the end result.

Sources of More Information

Safety Management Systems in Aviation (2008), by Alan Stolzer, et. al.

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