crew resource management

What to Look for in Crew Resource Management Software

Protecting the passengers and crew of a flight is the top priority of every airline, and great strides have been made in this area in the past 40 years or so. Back in the 1970’s, researchers found that human error was involved in more than 70% of plane crashes. Many of these errors were attributed to failures in decision-making, leadership, and team coordination. With these findings, airlines realized changes needed to be made, and the result has been fewer fatalities. 2016 saw the fewest airline accidents per one million flights ever, continuing a steady decline since 1978. The turning point appears to be the introduction of crew resource management.

Crew resource management is evolving.

Airlines first adopted crew resource management shortly after the crash of United Airlines Flight 173 in 1978. The idea was to empower co-pilots by helping them call into question actions taken by the captain if the captain was in error. Captains were still meant to be in charge, but crew resource management made the culture far less authoritarian in nature. The crew could keep each other in check without feeling that they were overstepping their bounds.

Crew resource management has evolved over the decades. All available resources, such as equipment and personnel, are put to use within a management system to improve flight safety and efficiency. Problem- solving, decision-making, and threat detection are enhanced thanks to the promotion of non-technical skills such as teamwork, communication, and situational awareness.

The effectiveness of crew resource management has resulted in the expansion of this strategy to other industries. Some railroad crews in the U.S. and Australia have adopted crew resource management principles to enhance safety on trains. Training programs for emergency responders have been developed to improve teamwork and reduce errors during rescue operations, which is an idea being considered for firefighters. Perhaps the industry with the most experience outside of aviation with crew resource management is healthcare, where parts of the strategy have been in use since the 1990’s as a way to prevent the spread of infection. All of these cases encourage frequent communication when mistakes are noticed, no matter who is making them.

Crew resource management serves a wide range of functions.

The aviation industry, however, is still where crew resource management is used the most. Several core elements are crucial to having a well-functioning management system in place. The first is proper communication and cooperation. This goes beyond the people in the cockpit to the entire cabin crew, the dispatchers, and even air traffic controllersl. Without this willingness to work together and challenge each other, the crew won’t get very far, even if the perfect procedures have been established.

Another key element of crew resource management in aviation is precise threat monitoring. Data from the Line Operations Safety Audit (an observational process developed by the University of Texas Human Factors Research Project) demonstrates that 98% of all flights face one or more threats, with an average of four threats per flight. Identifying threats early before they turn into a serious problem helps the crew address them without endangering anyone. These threats can include internal issues, such as a hostile work environment among the crew or aircraft equipment malfunction, or external situations like dangerous weather, aircraft location, low fuel states, and more.
Equally vital is the need for feedback within this management system. Without proper feedback, procedures become rigid and don’t evolve as necessary. With the right feedback, practices and procedures can be adjusted and better ideas introduced to help crews respond to new and changing threats. Feedback promotes change to enable more effective responses when evaluating  threats, and without it, the system would quickly become outdated.

Consider these key elements.

Several elements have proven essential for successin being successful with crew resource management.

Communication

Communication among crew members must be clear and succinct. Principles of crew resource management include verbal and nonverbal cues. There should always be a way to address any possible communication problems as well.

Workload Management

The crew’s workload must be kept to  more manageable levels. This must take into account a variety of factors, including physical demands, mental demands, time for completion, and more. If workloads are too heavy, even for one person, fatigue can set in, which may lead to more errors. And considering that errors occur in 82% of flights, with an average of 2.8 errors per flight, this is one issue in desperate need of a solution. Manageable workloads keep everyone engaged and active.

While some decisions made while flying are automatic, some require more information and perhaps even discussion. Knowing how best to reach a decision and obtain full agreement with the chosen course of action will makes operating an airplane much easier.

Conflict Resolution

On occasion, crew members may believe differently about how to tackle a problem or threat. Effective crew resource management outlines how to resolve these differences of opinion, ensuring the problem is solved and everyone is still on good terms afterwards.

Leadership

Skilled leadership is vital to any safe flight. Crew resource management principles promote leadership and instill that skill in the top authority on the flight. The principles also allow for crew members to challenge leadership when appropriate without becoming too confrontational.

Team Management

Flight crews work as teams, which means interacting with a wide range of personality types, occupational experience levels, and more. Crew resource management principles establish systems to help everyone work together and accomplish their tasks as a team.

Stress Management

Stress can come from many different sources, both from work and from outside of work. Stress management involves recognizing the signs of stress and identifying ways to ease that stress. Some common methods include regulating sleep and regularly engaging in exercise.

CRM enhances crew resource management.

When it comes to finding the right software to use for crew resource management, the right discovery may come from another CRM product: customer relationship management. Customer relationship management is similar to crew resource management in that it focuses on communication. In the case of CRM, it tracks customer interactions, behaviors, past histories, and more to help businesses gain a better understanding of who their customers are and what drives them to make decisions.

This concept can be extended to flight crews, which is particularly important since flight crews change all the time and employees work with different co-workers on a regular basis. With the right software, airlines can keep track of their employees, monitor behaviors, gauge how employees work with others, and much more. Through pursuing this strategy, airlines will ensure crews operate at peak efficiency while also promoting safety, which will contribute to continuing help continue the decline in air crashes.

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