All indicators show that the aviation industry is expected to grow marginally in upcoming years.
The predicted boost in commercial flights will benefit aviation industry distributors; increased domestic trips by U.S. residents will result in higher demand for commercial aircraft repair and maintenance. As commercial flights increase, demand for aircraft parts will grow.
Introducing next-generation aircraft increases the demand for aircraft components compatible with the newest models. Moreover, new parts are increasingly being delivered by manufacturers themselves, thereby increasing the segment’s markets share as producers claim a larger share of the aftermarket. Declining used part and supply prices helps new parts gain a greater share of the industry’s revenue stream.
An airline’s reliability is largely dependent on the maintenance of its aircrafts and this in turn is decided based on turnaround time and lead time of aircraft parts procurement and repair. So, what’s available today to make it easier for the customer to get the aviation parts they need?
Aviation parts procurement is a collection of processes that involves many steps and interactions with other company departments and with suppliers. Traditionally, procurement was paper and conversation-based, and with procurement officers interacting with long-time partners or well-known suppliers, purchasing was done at fixed prices. This process then involved creating RFQs (request for quotations), purchase orders, order acknowledgment, shipping, invoicing, and other steps, which over a period of time were done via e-mail, fax (click to view) and other forms of communication.
This form of procurement meant a smaller number of the suppliers and fewer parts available in the database. Moreover, the dependency on existing suppliers and inaccessibility to adequate parts pricing details occurred. These problems caused higher expenditures, and delays in aircraft maintenance and movement, thus hindering the airlines’ reliability.
All of this necessitated advanced aviation procurement technology. “The speed of technological development and its rapid pace has brought about new advancement and capabilities throughout the industry,” says Eric Strafel, president, Availl, A Boeing Co., DFW Airport, Texas. “Customers continue to see increased digital activity, web portals and other optimized channels that offer greater access to information, while also providing a faster and more seamless parts fulfillment process. Aviall expects this to continue and is constantly looking for ways to leverage improved technology and innovation to further increase connectivity and integration, data analysis and customer value management and optimization.”
Because of Aviall’s successful use of technology advancements, it aviation parts (including its best-in-class inventory) are more easily accessible for its customers.
“Improved integration allows customers to directly connect with Aviall’s extensive parts network and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) resulting in increased efficiencies and shorter turnaround times,” Strafel adds. “Further efficiencies are realized through greater tracking and forecasting capabilities. Aviall’s decision to invest in leading technology through our enterprise resource planning system, SAP, has allowed us to better connect with the industry, unlock the power of data and serve our customers and suppliers better by providing the right part, at the right place, at the right time. Through this technology and its capabilities, we are able to better anticipate and meet the needs of our customers and partners through improved supply chain planning and forecasting, product availability, electronic integration and value-added services.”
Wood Dale, Ill.-based AAR Corp. has customer-facing solutions with web visibility tools, systems integration, web services, marketplace integration, two-way EDI, and mobility for customer collaboration and access to business intelligence dashboards on a tablet. “This provides our customers and managers with unprecedented anytime access, transparency and functionality to track the status of maintenance projects, parts availability, purchase orders and performance metrics inside the MRO,” says Carsten Holm, vice president of digital services at AAR Corp.
Sometimes procurement combines both traditional approaches and new technologies. “There are legacy systems like SPEC 2000 and Aeroexchange for the larger commercial transport operators, but for the Regional Jet operators, they need to rely on Inventory Locator Service (ILS),” says David Susser, president, Seal Dynamics LLC, Hauppague, N.Y. “We publish our parts, inventory and lead time on these databases and update them monthly. We update ILS every evening. The larger, more sophisticated distributors are able to forecast demand by part by application to ensure that they maintain the appropriate inventory to support the global airline and MRO customer base. We take a bottom-up approach based upon speaking with customers about scheduled shop visits.”
A key development in aviation parts procurement is mobile applications. Taking integration and accessibility even further, mobile apps showcase parts, repair and order fulfillment for systems at a handheld level.
“Supply chain efficiency is all about speed and visibility,” says Holm. “Anytime, anywhere access and transparency maximizes efficiency. To meet demand in the industry for increased mobile access, at AAR we have incorporated some of the functions available through our customer-facing, integrated IT solutions into a mobile application. Now, instead of logging into a laptop, our customers can access AAR’s business intelligence dashboards on a tablet or smartphone.”
For AAR’s customer-facing application, it incorporated some of the functions from its OPS customer portal into its mobile application to grant customers real-time access to AAR’s ERP systems on their mobile devices. “They can enter a part number to view availability, review inventory item details, view associated documentation and open and shipped order details; request a quote for stock items, call/email sales rep or request an invoice; review past quotes and order online,” says Scott Ingold, vice president and general manager, AAR Aircraft Component Services, Garden City, N.Y. “MRO customers can review pending estimate, bump, material and invoice approvals on work cards in real-time on their mobile devices. Our customer-facing mobile app (B2B) allows customers to check the status of open orders, track shipping information, waybill and projected shipping date.”
AAR software engineers custom-designed an inter-company mobile app (B2E) that allows management and sales teams to answer customer questions about parts availability and provide a quote with a few clicks. While not having to set up a laptop or place a call to submit a request is a bonus, the app’s primary goals were to eliminate the need for additional user IDs and passwords; to retrieve data from existing databases without redesigning the functionality used by its Web applications; and thirdly, to collect information on the mobile app and save data to the database using existing APIs.
“However, that doesn’t mean that every mobile application need has to be fulfilled with a custom application,” says Serdar Yorgancigil, director, IT applications at AAR. “There are scenarios where an off-the-shelf mobile application was the better solution for us. We integrated our Oracle BI dashboards that provide real- time tracking of maintenance projects with a mobile BI application for tablets and smartphones.”
The Internet has vastly improved how aviation parts are evaluated, bought, sold and delivered. Website platforms are comprehensive buying and selling tools meet all your program needs. for aircraft parts and retables, millions of line items from the parts and retables, millions of line items from the parts databases of companies throughout the aviation industry are made available.
Stratford, Conn.-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. has improved its web experience to have one point of entry for all digital customer interaction. Sikorsky360 provides customers with the ability to place orders, check parts and AOG status, access services and financial information, view craft data, and contact Sikorsky for additional support.
Textron Aviation has a dedicated team and tools for inventory faster turnaround. Quality OEM parts forecasting and planning driven so that when a customer needs last longer and are manufactured to an AOG or stock part, it is available. Inputs are not only for new meet the highest standards. parts, but also rotables and kits, and the forward stocking of parts Capabilities — AAR performs beyond its primary warehouse operations hub.
“Our mobile friendly Ecommerce site allows customers to review parts availability, pricing and ordering,” says Brian Rohloff, vice EASA and CAAC. president, Textron Aviation customer service, parts and programs; Wichita, Kansas. “We are in the process of rolling out a class leading technical publications interface called 1View which provides customers the ability to view illustrated parts catalogs and transfer selected items to the parts procurement module.”
Internet usage and the growing use of social media have increased the capability to match and locate prospective customers to businesses that sell parts along with manufacturers. It provides a higher level of communication, service and value to customers. “The Internet continues to be an important tool for connectivity and integration in the industry as it presents a truer parts demand picture and provides inventory access that is typically just one click away for businesses, 24 hours a day,” says Strafel. “New tools for forecasting and SAP real-time availability provide significant savings for customers and offer a great competitive tool for parts sourcing and ordering. Customers are able to use our website to order thousands of products from OEMs across any of our 40 customer service enters. With our enhanced integration and ease of ordering, we are able to offer an unmatched convenience to the aviation marketplace.”
One way in which this integration is being utilized is through Aviall’s partnership with Rolls-Royce’s Fully Integrated Rolls-Royce Service Team (FIRST) network, which provides global support for the Rolls-Royce M250/RR300 helicopter engine. The FIRST network offers a variety of services for the industry and includes Aviall and its global distribution footprint along with the Authorized Service Network Team licensed and supported by Rolls-Royce. Through this partnership, Aviall is the exclusive provider for Rolls-Royce M250/RR300 engine technical publications, as well as new parts, components, modules and the exchange of line replaceable units.
While cyberspace has many benefits to parts procurement, Susser warns that a customer complaint he frequently hears is, “companies advertising on numerous platforms that they have inventory on parts and the do not exist.”
The Parts Network
A recent aviation parts procurement trend helping customers get their parts faster is companies establishing parts inventory outside their centralized warehouse operations. Because Textron Aviation has distribution centers located in Europe, South America and Asia, in addition to its domestic centralized warehouse, along with connectivity to the parts rooms at it 20 company-owned service centers, its parts are often available within hours. “If a customer contacts us with a unique part requirement, we also have visibility to the inventory at our network of authorized service facilities,” says Rohloff.
Textron Aviation has invested significantly in transforming its parts distribution network. Once its orders are received via website, phone, e-mail or fax, signals can be managed for the urgency required by the customer including counter-to-counter service, or even next day. “Our team understands the need to support AOG situations and works to support requests after the cut-off times on specific transactions,” says Rohloff. “We have also developed many error-proofing logic points within our picking and stocking processes, ensuring that the parts we send to the customer are the parts they need. Examples are serial tracking, lot tracking, shelf-life tracking and quantity validations.”
Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. has a new customer care center that includes a fleet management system and AOG resolution center dedicated to improving aircraft availability and customer satisfaction using the latest intelligence and analytics capabilities. It utilizes HUMS (health and usage monitoring system) data to minimize any downtime a customer may face. This data shows individual aircraft and fleet records, which allows Sikorsky to focus on further product improvements. Through a focus on aircraft availability, the company is continually identifying means to lower direct operating costs by extending periods between inspections, improving reliability, and establishing new repairs while also working to further reduce any delays in delivering parts or answering technical questions.