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Master data management solutions that don’t work

Master data management, often considered under the umbrella of MRO (maintenance repair operations), is a vital part of any mechanical engineering protocol. To see the implications of poor MDM, it often helps to look at projects bigger than your own.

The NEAR spacecraft is no longer news, but still serves as a warning while people are still making the same mistakes as they did prior to 2001 (when NEAR touched down on the surface of Eros and sent its final messages back). It’s amazing NEAR ever reached its target, because at one point it was almost lost after an accidental fuel dump. It wasn’t human error as such; an accelerometer told the on-board embedded firmware to execute an abort code.

However, it was an incorrect abort code; the ship was fine, but relying on untested software. Two versions of the software existed, maintained on separate, uncontrolled servers meaning anyone could alter the software. This is what happened, unfortunately. It was this set that flew off to the asteroid belt; all because of messy MRO maintenance.

Similarly, at Chicago airport, when the FAA realised it had lost the source code to all the software controlling the air traffic. It had been kept on the machine of one disgruntled software developer who quit the job and deleted the lot. Six months of reverse engineering finally deciphered the encryption key to the spare set.

Scale this down to your own project, and it’s easy to see how data can be corrupted, lost or deleted. If you’re having trouble with master data management or MRO maintenance, we at Enventure Technologies can help.

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