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Aviation News MRO, the challenges of an expanding world

MRO, the challenges of an expanding world

Léo Barnier in Orlando
25 APR 2018 | 609 words
MRO, the challenges of an expanding world
© MRO Americas / Aviation Week
Visitors, exhibitors, new features, contracts and more, all the elements came together at MRO Americas 2018 which was held from 10th to 12th April in Orlando (Florida), confirming once again the dynamic nature of the maintenance industry. While the figures themselves varied little, everyone was able to agree that the perspectives for growth are huge, with the combination of several factors: rise in air traffic, order books remaining at record levels, increase in outsourcing with the appearance of new operators and the economic choices made by certain traditional airlines, extending the operational lifetime of their planes, increasing their range of equipment, creating new service offers and so on.

Richard Brown, the main Aviation and MRO consultant for the ICF agency thinks that the market will double over the next twenty years. Business would then rise from 76 billion dollars today to 140 billion in 2037, driving by emerging markets, with the Asia-Pacific region at the forefront.

This current good health is also translating into innovation with digital transformation and mass data use. This is opening up a host of perspectives to optimise maintenance: extension of the intervals between two inspections, change from preventive to predictive, continuous improvement circles where operational feedback provides benefits for design and production for EOM, new tools and more.

The other side of the mirror

The showcase looks impressive, but it should not hide the numerous challenges that the MRO world needs to face. Part availability as close as possible to customers remains a major objective which OEM and MRO companies are still having trouble meeting. While digital tools can certainly help anticipate demand, they are not enough to structure the whole supply chain. Certain small suppliers are having difficulty absorbing sharp variations in output, especially with parts with long production cycles, while their size obliges them to have the exact level of spare parts stocks if they don't want to see their prices rocketing.

Moreover, it is often these same suppliers who are reluctant to take the leap into digital, due to a lack of investment capacity or the ability to recruit people who are qualified in these new technologies. This problem can also be seen in many small MROs, who provide vital local assistance to major worldwide networks. This then puts an end to the digital continuity and innovation circles desired by the OEMs. Despite the initiatives from the sector's main players to help them, it will take time to fill in the digital divide.

These "small companies" risk being put in an uncomfortable position by the major changes which are being experienced in the sector, with more and more consolidation: Rockwell and B/E Aerospace, Safran and Zodiac, Melrose and GKN and so on. This horizontal expansionism by equipment providers links up with the vertical expansion by manufacturers, starting with Boeing and Airbus. Local actors therefore risk having trouble finding their place - if not by joining forces with worldwide giants - and taking the full force of current pressure on prices, just like the race to technology.

In the end, all stakeholders will have to resolve one final problem: recruitment. The growth in activity is currently combining with a generational gap, and the lack of qualified personnel is starting to make itself felt at all level: engineers, technicians and mechanics. The sector needs to do everything it can over the coming months to both develop its training capacities and also attract young people into these mechanical trades, otherwise it will be confronted by a real lack of labour over the next five years. Here again, the "small companies" risk being the ones to bear the consequences.
Léo Barnier
Specialized journalist
Industry & Technology, Equipments, MRO


 
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