The old adage that any aircraft maintenance task can be accomplished once you have the right “parts, people, and paperwork” rings as true now as it did when Charles Taylor maintained the Wright Flyer. That said, it’s unlikely that his paperwork required a second set of eyes for review and approval per an approved quality control and assurance (QMS) program. With numerous new airframe manufacturers of all sorts entering the market, building out supply chain support networks from a clean sheet of paper represents both opportunity and risk.
We traditionally think of supply chains as the backbone of manufacturing. They also serve a critical role for operational support. Airline maintenance organizations maintain fairly complex operational supply chains with details often residing in the brains of highly experienced component repair coordinators. These typically center around regional hubs and operators’ ability to route parts between stations, hubs and approved repair shops. Parts and airplanes often chase each other across complex networks in an orchestra of costly logistics. These arrangements are often propped up by the human network of like-minded players at other operators who are willing to loan serviceable parts on short notice.
BREAK FREE FROM THE PAST
Legacy airframers, component manufacturers and MROs have long-established distribution networks to handle part routing, repair and redelivery. Ideally, these are optimized to match the respective fleet networks, MRO capabilities and the logistics needed to connect the two. In reality, the operators and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) each carry their own burden of decisions and investments. These may inherently be at odds with each other and are often driven by operator demand. The design of those distribution networks is likely more indicative of past operations rather than what the future might hold for new, modern aircraft.
For an OEM participating in the aftermarket, managing an effective support network is more complex than that of an airline. This results from the need to integrate the demands of multiple operators over disparate networks. Compromises often manifest themselves in reduced service levels by limiting stocking and repair nodes thereby driving up lead times. Alternatively, OEMs may “throw money at it” by overstocking parts and deploying too many repair stations. Fortunately, this is not common practice. Ultimate nirvana is a part and repair provisioning strategy that balances component value, carrying costs and repair turn time. The result? Best-in-class support while avoiding waste.
You can achieve this nirvana for yourself by following these steps:
1. Maximize reliability by deploying proactive metrics and forecasting mechanisms to drive down component removals.
2. Optimize maintenance touch time through tailored programs that reduce or eliminate unnecessary demand.
3. Deploy tools that leverage analytics, including Monte Carlo simulations and Poisson distributions, to determine the right support mix to satisfy demand.
As new OEMs enter the market, maximizing the service level per dollar of investment may well become the differentiator that determines the winners and losers for this next generation of aircraft. Plan now to be a winner.