If you’ve been keeping up with conversations around the hangar, you’ve likely noticed all the talk these days about supply-chain management in aerospace maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO). Supply-chain management techniques, including supply-chain mapping and risk analysis, have emerged as major contributors to efficient aviation maintenance and repair.
The spotlight is turned toward the supply chain, with just about everyone talking about it; yet, “only around 15 percent of airline executives have identified where the key risks lie when it comes to the parts and equipment that keep their aircraft flying,” writes Jeremy Torr in a recent Aviation Week article. The article goes on to cite research indicating that more than 90 percent of airline CEO’s feel unprepared for a supply chain disruption.
Pretty scary statistics considering a typical aerospace supply chain includes voluminous part distributions orchestrated between numerous suppliers across multiple time zones. With so many variables involved, disruption is bound to occur. Factor in the holiday travel blitz, government instability in emerging markets, unforeseen weather events, and the increasing pressure to meet the needs of a global community, and disruption becomes a practical certainty. Ignoring it and hoping it will sort itself out is likely to be an exercise in disaster.
So what’s to be done? According to supply chain experts and global aerospace parts distributor, Kapco Global, one of the first solutions to mitigating supply chain risk is to consolidate suppliers and develop quality relationships and open communication with the minimum number of distributors necessary to meet all MRO requirements. Working with distributors who are educated in the needs of commercial aviation can go a long way in nipping supply chain problems in the bud.
“When vetting a distributor, be sure they have a genuine understanding of your needs as an aerospace company,” says Kapco CEO Andrew Todhunter. “Aerospace is a deadline driven industry, and if meeting time requirements isn’t tops on the list of distributor services, find someone else.”
Second, consider outsourcing all or part of supply chain mapping to your distributor. With years of inventory data and close relationship with suppliers, distributors are in the perfect position to bridge MRO needs with supplier capabilities, anticipate potential shortages, and analyze data trends that can stave off potential crises.
Kapco also recommends investigating a distributor’s delivery capabilities. Research their warehouse locations. Inquire about their growth trajectory. It’s important to work with a distributor who is not only able to meet your needs today, but is also ready and waiting to meet the needs of your business as it expands into new markets and geographies.
In short, be prepared, and leave as little to chance as possible. Map out potential supply chain problems in order to navigate through them, and make sure you are working with people who understand your needs as they change in response to your analysis. Keep accurate records and create forecasts and scenarios based on past experiences. A hold-up in an airline’s MRO supply chain can mean big headaches, hassle, losses in ticket sales, and a ding on the reputation that can have lasting repercussions.
While it’s impossible to plan for every possible outcome, strategic supply chain management can go a long way toward stopping a potentially huge MRO issue before it even begins.