SELECTING MX PROVIDERS
Finding the right MRO
Effective aircraft ownership and operation are critically dependent on the quality of chosen maintenance, repair and overhaul activities. Matching needs and capabilities, including developed alternatives, is key to successful outcomes.
Information given in the table above describes the main characteristics of MRO providers according to the segment in which they offer services. Percentages shown are in terms of cost. These are derived from several sources and should be considered as approximations only. The MRO provider may be independent, closely affiliated with an OEM, or an OEM itself.
MRO industry trends
The MRO business has evolved over many years with accelerating pace driven by 7 primary forces:
1. Increased focus of OEMs on MROs. Aircraft and engine OEMs focus on the MRO business by offering total care solutions. OEMs are specially positioned to leverage data from electronic monitors on many aircraft and perhaps even to control scheduling of aircraft maintenance.
2. Globalization. Low-cost labor locations such as India, Latin America and China are set up for MRO service. Asia enjoys net inflows in labor-intensive, heavy-maintenance airframe MRO activities, whereas the United States is a net exporter. However, reduced labor intensity of airframe heavy checks as the fleet renews and increased intervals will be offset in emerging markets by increasing labor rates.
3. Shifting markets. The strongest drivers of growth are the engine and component markets. D Check costs will improve with new technology, while engine and component sectors will take a larger market shares.
4. Substitute parts. The FAA Parts Manufacturer Approval (PMA) allows non-OEMs to reverse-engineer OEM parts and sell them at significant discounts, the provider being accountable for quality and performance. Use of serviceable material and repaired parts is also gaining acceptance to control costs.
Duncan Aviation offers services such as aircraft sales, airframe and engine maintenance, AOG support and avionics installations. Main bases are LNK & BTL. Duncan recently announced a partnership with Avionica to distribute and install satellite comm and data collection and transmission equipment.
5. Aircraft health monitoring systems (AHMS). AHMS enables predictive maintenance (PM) by monitoring and assessing the health of components in real-time, predicting failure and determining appropriate actions. Collection, storage, aggregation and analysis of data are key factors.
6. Live and predictive maintenance. Operators rely on data to limit part failure and reduce costs by replacing components before they cause breakdowns. This approach cuts labor costs by avoiding unscheduled repairs, out-of-service events, and cost for employee time-on-tools.
7. New technology. Several technology trends require MRO providers to have—or acquire—the skills to keep up with advances such as:
• Green engines that offer greater fuel efficiency and lower emissions than conventional engines. They require less maintenance and reduce cost of ownership, but their designs and material requirements oblige service providers to develop new skills and capabilities.
• Composite materials—increasingly common in new aircraft—calling for different maintenance skills from service providers and opening opportunities for new providers.
Expertise in aluminum does not
necessarily translate to expertise in composites.
• Additive manufacturing (3D printing) used to fabricate aircraft components (plastic/metal brackets, fuel nozzles, etc) and out-of-production parts on-demand, reducing manufacturing time, material costs, labor content, and making parts available at the point-of-use.
• At-the-asset maintenance, a derivative of mobile technology and part of a full information system across all MRO operations used to access relevant information at the time/place of need.
• Wearable technology such as Japan Airlines' use of Google Glass worn by maintenance engineers working around the aircraft on the tarmac. Images are sent to maintenance specialists for assessment who relay any possible issues they see back to the engineer on the ground. Work is completed promptly, can be assessed in real time and all information is recorded to assess issues further down the line.
Banyan FXE performs airframe inspections, evaluations, mx and repairs. The company minimizes downtime by assigning avionics techs to work on panels while mechanics are tasked with frame and engine duties. Banyan also offers paint and interior completions.
Technical advances are rarely free of functional issues, implementation challenges or compromises. The following concerns reflect a few of many opportunities to further the state of the MRO technical art:
• Increasing role of OEMs in aftermarkets. OEMs, while competing directly in the aftermarket, increasingly charge for technical support and access to technical information. Since engine OEMs control the majority of the aftermarket at the point of powerplant sale, close cooperation between MROs and OEMs becomes even more important.
• Value of reduced timing. Contrary to common thought, turnaround time shorter than planned may not be desirable. When an aircraft is withdrawn from service for heavy maintenance, its return is carefully planned. An earlier return may be difficult for the MRO to accommodate as another aircraft may not be ready to be withdrawn from service to keep the maintenance line active.
• Factors worth measuring. A recent study identified 130 processes as being part of most large MRO businesses, of which roughly 10% are deemed high-yield (materials availability, reliability tracking, etc.). Initiatives to quantify the benefit of each MRO process must carefully consider whether or not each such exercise has value.
• Increasingly fly-by-wire. As aircraft electronic systems become more complex and continue to replace mechanical systems, increasingly specialized skills will be required for aftermarket service and repair, which may invite OEMs deeper into the service mix.
• Information-driven MRO. Sophisticated real-time aircraft health monitoring and centralized maintenance systems will create a plethora of data and greater dependence on electronic diagnosis and less on in situ analysis. However, collecting data is one thing; deriving meaningful, reliable information is quite another.
Analytical techniques must ensure high-quality decisions and avoid false positive indications. Moreover, data ownership remains a point of dispute between operators and OEMs, the former allowing the latter to use the data in their parts-removal and analysis process to sell replacement components and services.