MRO challenges – setting the scene
Contemplate a situation where an aircraft cannot fly because the right spare part and/or engineering team is not available. The operator faces passengers, or cargo shippers, that cannot travel.
For the operator the immediate task is to satisfy the ‘6 rights’, to find:
- the right part
- at the right time (now)
- in the right place
- in the right quantity
- at the right price (preferably)
- with the right engineer.
For example, most parts searches are not simple. The constraints applied to each required part’s technical data demands detailed specification – to ensure that the right part is ordered. To assure this, multiple interactions occur between the expeditor and the requestor, to confirm the suitability of the available options.
What this demonstrates is that aviation is complex. There are many participants, not just the aircraft operators. Delays are expensive (aircraft not being allowed to fly is the extreme example). Observing regulations is an ever-present, and unavoidable, requirement. Worst of all, the current approach is inefficient. It needs new thinking, and action.
Moving beyond traditional boundaries
In this context Maintenance and Repair Operations (MRO) must no longer be thought of as ‘just providing a covered working space for engineers to perform repairs and servicing’. In an ever-competitive aviation environment, MROs must evolve to embody an integral set of sophisticated processes aimed at better using assets, including:
- all manner of spare parts and components.
The goal for such a successful MRO is to support the business success of Aviation organisations across its supply chain. The key measurement is increased aircraft availability along with reduced cost of maintenance.
To deliver this, MROs in the future must focus on integrating a plan which supersedes traditional design and construction, of hangars and machine shops, as the basis for aviation operations. Taking such a step – beyond the conventional – is what the MRO industry should aspire to. By extending its reach outside the ‘home’ organisation and instead involving all who can contribute. This is where efficiencies can appear.
Opportunities: MRO involves more than aircraft
MROs provide necessary maintenance for aircraft. These can include everything from scheduled base maintenance to line maintenance including the daily and weekly checks, as well as defect rectification. Line maintenance MROs, for example, replace wheels, brakes and LRUs (line replaceable units) as well as fluids. When complete, such MROs enable aircraft to continue in service. The corollary applies: when some part is unavailable, the aircraft becomes unfit for purpose and are not permitted to fly. This unscheduled unavailability is when costs mount.
The above encompasses a simple but difficult truth. MRO involves more than aircraft and engines, landing gear and sub-systems. Equally important are ‘the parts’ (including components as well as liquids – such as differing forms of oils and fluids).
For example, skilled engineering staff (the people) must be available, often 24 hours a day, in order to react to unforeseen circumstances, such as a breakdown or sudden defect. Yet those skills are useless if the engineering staff do not have access to the spares they need to make a repair or complete a service. Similarly, having to hand the appropriate part (or fluid) is useless if correctly qualified staff are unavailable to install and certificate what has changed.
Aircraft, people and parts are bound together. Aircraft, people and parts all require certification. Current MROs are often stymied by ‘simple complexity’. Much of traditional MRO is hidebound by chains of phone calls, emails, text messages and more in order to find the right qualified people and parts. Whether within an organisation or between third party organisations this ‘discovery process’ is:
- error-prone (in an industry that does not tolerate errors)
- time consuming.
On top of this, even when the right part, or person, is found, there are the complications of price lists, fees, delivery and documentation to assess and compare, in addition to ensuring that the correct certifications are in place.
Simplifying and speeding up this is where the opportunity lies for a full-service MRO ecosystem.
What such an MRO ecosystem could add
To enable an MRO ecosystem there needs to be some form of common platform. Such a platform would bridge:
- the multiple internal silos within most aviation organisations
- otherwise distinct third party organisations (for example, parts distributors), and their silos.
- An MRO platform should, therefore, connect:
- aviation operators (for example airlines)
- original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)
- parts distributors
- parts exchanges.
The objective of an MRO ecosystem must be to provide visibility of parts, repair capabilities, capacity and resources to aviation operators – on a real-time basis. With such an MRO ecosystem AOG desks, store clerks, planners, mechanics, operations managers and more will use modern technology – whether an SMS or an email or via a portable device or even a hotline – to find what they need, price it, order it and obtain constant updates.
One way is to deploy advanced APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). These are the mechanism by which differing ERP systems can connect.
In addition, a fundamental part of the MRO ecosystem premise is that ‘the broader the pool of participants, the more likely it is that an ecosystem will deliver the needed answer faster and with less effort’, thereby:
- eliminating frantic emails and phone calls
- avoiding the need to sift through price sheets from multiple portals or screens
- reducing the turnaround time to avoid costly AOG situations
- peeling away the errors and duplications that plague traditional MRO.
Put another way, the deployment of APIs becomes the lever to broaden the ecosystem, by reaching out to all participants. As with other ecosystems, Metcalfe’s Law applies: the more who join, the greater the impact and utility – for all.
The Ramco Parts Anywhere ecosystem
Ramco envisions a frictionless supply chain for MROs – based on an ecosystem in which a network of many complementary players share real-time stock information through a Parts Anywhere Platfrom. Using the latest B2B connectors and state-of-the-art stock management APIs, the Ramco Ecosystem ‘stock search’ and ‘material procurement’ screens provide smart popups to show not only internal stock availability but also the real-time stock yesterday of ecosystem-connected suppliers. In effect, all participating MROs, part suppliers, distributors, OEMs and airlines can share part availability data.
This is why the Ramco Parts Anywhere Ecosystem includes all of these, from MROs, part suppliers, distributors, OEMs and airlines, via the Ramco Anywhere cloud platform. Such ecosystem capabilities enable material planners to:
- initiate buy actions direct from connected parties, much as they do with an internal stock transfer
- raise a demand or order
- propagate this through stock replenishment/buy APIs or via Spec2000-powered B2B connections to the end supplier
- observe and track the order status, from acknowledgment to shipment to delivery.
When both the supplier and the end customer are on the Ramco platform, this extends automatically to create back-to-back transactions in each respective system. The result is faster responses and delivery, and is a far cry from today’s practices.
For many, blockchain represents the next technological wave that will disrupt. And blockchain has relevance for an ecosystem for MROs, OEMs, part suppliers, distributors, etc. If a mechanic on the tarmac can use blockchain-based maintenance logs to track the entire life cycle of (say) an aircraft engine or aircraft sub-assembly, he can ensure authenticate replacement parts are installed without having to check with other parties or trawl through physical records. Because parts and aircraft histories are immutable on a blockchain, everyone gains confidence.
Productivity increases once mutually accepted trust exists. An ecosystem based on blockchain technology possesses a high added value. Whoever brings a blockchain MRO ecosystem to market will address a host of today’s problems.
Ramco is a fast growing enterprise software player disrupting the market with its multi-tenanted cloud and mobile-based enterprise software in the area of HCM and Global Payroll, ERP and M&E MRO for Aviation. Ramco Systems focuses on Innovation and Culture to differentiate itself in the marketplace.