#OttawaInc: Mxi

Jun 1, 2015

Founded: 1996
Employees: 200 +
What They Do: Aircraft Maintenance Management Software

“Flying Under the Radar” has probably never been a more appropriate saying. For nearly two decades,  Mxi Technologies has quietly amassed a client base representing more than 20% of the global commercial and military market.  For some context, there are over 100,000 flights around the world, every single day. The software company, which builds solutions designed to manage the lifecycle of aviation assets, has significant brand recognition in all international markets. It’s most recent victory was winning a contract with Southwest Airlines, America’s largest domestic carrier.

However, throw around the name Mxi within Ottawa and you’ll probably get some blanks stares.  Although having clients outside the country is a key contributor to the lack of recognition, Mxi Chief Technical Officer, Jeff Cass, says locals simply have a poor track record of celebrating our successes.  Cass also spoke with IO about how Mxi tries to control the future and why they are rebuilding their entire office space from scratch:

How do you describe what Mxi does?

Conversationally I say we build software for scheduling and recording aircraft maintenance.  Aviation is a highly regulated industry, so trying to maintain control and regulatory compliance is very complex.  It’s easy to do with a couple of aircraft but very hard to do with hundreds of aircraft.

The airline industry is constantly facing rising costs: fees, fuel, labour. How do you help companies gain efficiencies and cost savings?

Maintenance is the third largest operational cost for a carrier. Yet, IT investments continue to focus on customer-facing “above wing” initiatives like e-ticketing, online travel bookings, automated kiosk check-in.  Mxi has helped evolve  “below wing” operations to deliver significant productivity improvements while always maintaining safety.

Defence operators are facing similar issues. You can tell by the F-35 discussions here in Ottawa about the total lifecycle cost. With expert forecasts ranging from $60-180 bn, predictability is obviously an art. So clients are interested in our technology because it’s a means they are able to deliver  a more predictable cost structure, with maintenance tied to the aircraft from the start

jeff Cass headshot

Jeff Cass, CTO of Mxi

You’re able to extrapolate the lifecycle cost of an asset over time?

That’s exactly what the product was built to do, and we do it for a 15 to 20 year horizon.

You predict the future…

We do (laughs)! We actually try to control the future.

What’s the difference?

Maintenance can be highly unpredictable.  In some cases, you can only react, as fast as you can, to subsequent like events. We equip customers with the ability to better control maintenance outcomes. We aren’t trying to prevent problems but help organizations closer predict when maintenance will be required.

Securing brands like Southwest, what does that mean for Mxi going forward?

These are very large scale customers. Fleets with hundreds of aircraft; they are looking for a partnership that will take them through the next 15-20 years. At the same time, the Company is in the process of adopting agile principles throughout the organization. Together this is triggering our move out to Kanata to design a space that works for our business today and into the future.

So this space will be fundamentally different than your current set-up.  Give me a sense of what it will look like…

Today we are moving much faster with high touch customer interactions, working collectively inside the company, in a much different, more ‘agile’ way. So we are moving from traditional offices and cubicles to much more open, team-oriented workspaces.

Reading about your new offices, the term “Squad Rooms” caught my eye. What is their function?

A squad room is a dedicated space for a group of self-empowered, multi-skilled, employees working on a feature set of the product. It’s a mix of design specialists, user experience engineers, testers, etc. The squad all live and breathe together. In the end, it allows us to build a better product for our customers. It enables us a much higher velocity to figure out what exactly the customer needs the product to do.

Mxi Technologies is a classic case of an Ottawa firm that is a leader in its space, a global player, and very few people in their backyard know they exist. Why do you think that happens in Ottawa?

Historically, Canadians don’t really promote Canadian companies. Whether it comes to manufacturing, innovation, medicine, etc, we tend to think world leadership is outside the country. We very infrequently look inside with the kind of pride that drives recognition forward.

Looking towards the Ottawa ecosystem, where do you see the ICT sector right now?

Has being located in Ottawa given your organization any advantages?  

Ottawa has an amazing education system, with a huge student population.  We have had a long-standing relationship with Carleton University’s’ Co-Op program, for computer science and aeronautical engineering.  We have benefitted phenomenally from being able to take very-skilled, new graduates that come out of school looking to build a career in the aerospace industry. Mxi at its core has been built by the education system that Ottawa has here.

One thing never to underestimate?
That the people you bring in to your Company can drive extraordinary results; don’t underestimate what they will bring towards making your dreams and visions a reality.                                                                                Jeff Cass, CTO of Mxi
Read more about Ottawa’s ecosystem and startups here

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