Laurent Martinez (Airbus): "Skywise is a completely revolutionary approach to services"

Interview by Léo Barnier in Orlando
23/05/2018 | 1702 words
Laurent Martinez (Airbus):
Laurent Martinez, SVP, Head of Services by Airbus. Photo © Airbus
We met Laurent Martinez, Head of the Services business unit at Airbus during MRO Americas in Orlando in April. Boosted by the signature of four Skywise contracts, he looks back at this announcement and the developments he is forecasting over the coming months for Airbus, its customer airlines, its suppliers and MRO companies.

You announced four new contracts for your Skywise digital services platform at MRO Americas. Are you on track with your forecasts for the number of customers and fleet volume?

We are completely on track with our objectives. We are even very pleased with the market dynamic with eight customer airlines during the Singapore Airshow in February and four new airlines here in Orlando: Allegiant Air, our first American customer, WOW Air, Small Planet and Primera Air.

There are two significant elements. First of all, with these twelve airlines in the Skywise family, we will have 1200 aircraft connected when the service is set up. We will then gradually rise to 2000 when all of the aircraft that have been ordered are delivered.

The second point is that Skywise is now firmly on the agenda for all the discussions I have with the airlines I meet, and I've met nearly fifteen of them in a week. There's a huge amount of interest and our Airbus-Palantir combination has excellent credibility. The concrete elements that we provide for predictive maintenance aspects or effective data collection with FOMAX - which will be certified very soon - are differentiating for airlines.

I can really see a change in how airlines are seeing things since I started talking about Skywise with them twelve months ago. They all tell me "we really need to get onboard, otherwise we'll lose ground in an area which is such a major development for our industry".

What's specific about the "FHS-TSP powered by Skywise" flight-hour support contract you have signed with Primera Air?

We are now using Skywise to stand out with our equipment services. Linking Skywise's digital capability with FHS, with Integrated Material Services at Satair, or with NAVBLUE for flight operations, is a major strategic element to move services into another dimension compared to what we are doing today.

We have launched this new "FHS powered by Skywise" service with Primera Air, with the objectives of combining Skywise's digital capabilities with Airbus's Flight Hour Services (FHS). The idea is to convert how we work on FHS from a reactive way at the moment to a proactive way. We are able to predict the failure of an item of equipment two to three weeks before it actually breaks down, with a depth of field in prediction.

There is a second key element: the ability to have stock which depends on predicted part use, which we call "the right part at the right time in the right place". We have seen parts demand fluctuates according to fleet age and use, maintenance events and so on. We are able to model this requirement to enable us to eliminate waste through too much stock or missing elements due to lack of stock, and so reduce financial and operational risks.

It is a completely revolutionary approach to services in terms of FHS aspects. We are very happy to develop this service with Primera Air and we are going to develop it industrially for all of our FHS customers in the future.

When are you planning to bring Skywise into service?

We'll be launching it gradually, but all of the twelve airlines will be in service within the next six to eight months.

With 1200 aircraft connected, will you have the critical size to operate at full speed?

Absolutely. Those 1200 aircraft already account for 10% of our in-service fleet and these airlines have a huge number of aircraft on order, with AirAsia or easyJet for example. The fleet will therefore grow quickly.

As I'm speaking to you, 35 other airlines are showing definite interest in joining the Skywise family. We've not finished making announcements and are signing contracts very regularly. We have also signed a new contract during MRO Americas, which we haven't announced yet.

Primera Air is launching the FHS powered by Skywise service. © Airbus

Will this digital transformation enable you to resolve current supply chain issues for spare parts?

This will enable the supply chain to anticipate needs. We currently have a completely reactive system. In the world of operations, nothing happens until there is an event such as an equipment breakdown. The patient needs to actually get sick before we react, and there there is a whole series of stages: we need to remove the component, send it to a workshop, repair it and so on.

We want to turn things on their head and start to anticipate repair or replacement requirements with this dynamic time model, and then push the supply chain so that the parts are already available when the event occurs. This is what we call a "dynamic inventory" and "dynamic supply chain" in relation to the current "reactive supply chain".

When will these services be put in place?

We will be developing them step by step with our customers over the next eighteen months, but with very concrete elements already. Our objective is not to have a "one size fits all" solution, but services which are adapted to the needs of each of them.

What's important is that with Skywise and all of our digital-related services, we are closer and closer to airlines' operations. We have learned that it is by working with services' end users we develop effective usage cases and operational improvement routines. So, we are working with Primera Air and a certain number of customers to implement this "dynamic inventory" and "dynamic supply chain" in an extremely practical way.

We have ambitious long-term objectives: we are targeting up to 30% reduction in operational disruptions thanks to Skywise and a 20% improvement in availability with FHS powered by Skywise type services.

Where are you with extending Skywise to the other group subsidiaries - Airbus Helicopters and Airbus Defense & Space - and your suppliers?

Skywise has been designed to be used at group level. The platform is already being used in part by Airbus Helicopters and Airbus Defense & Space, but I don't know the details. However, we can tell you that we're looking to develop Skywise for suppliers, for OEMs and for MROs, in particular in our Airbus MRO Alliance (AMA).

We recently conducted workshops with managers of six AMA members on the capacity to develop Skywise for MROs. And there should be announcements that Skywise is being opened up to suppliers within a few months.

We you be helping these MRO companies and suppliers to make the move into digital?

Some of our suppliers are already well on the way, such as GE Aviation. We are going to be working with them, but they don't need us to help them. Others don't necessarily have these capabilities. We will certainly be helping and working with our MROs and suppliers ecosystem to enable them to take advantage of Skywise, to increase its internal efficiency and improve our customers' operations.

Do you think that these innovations will enable a real digital continuity to be established, with continuous innovation circles between design, production and operations?

That's the goal! Thanks to FOMAX and all of its use cases, we will be able to have better understanding of how components and the plane behave. This will enable feedback in relation to design and engineering and enable us to improve our reliability and of course prepare for future generations with much finer information.

Of course, there are major players on the market, but don't all small structures risk causing breaches in this digital continuity?

That's a good point. I think that the role of Airbus, via AMA, is to be able to support MROs who don't necessarily have the capacity to invest. These are fairly heavy financial investments, but also investments in terms of people, which are certainly the most difficult to find.

This is why we are delighted to be able to offer AMA members the opportunity to take part in the Skywise adventure with us.

Where are you in terms of AMA's deployment? Will the alliance be expanding?

Our priority is to develop our relationships and added value of our customers, the members of AMA and Airbus, with our six founder members. We are open to a second wave of members, but it won't be before six to twelve months, on a very limited level and with complementary companies who are not in head-on competition with the existing members. We want members who 100% agree to play a collective part in AMA.

Do you have other partnerships outside AMA?

We have a joint enterprise with SIA Engineering Company in Heavy Maintenance Singapore Services (HMS Services). We also have a joint enterprise with Singapore Airlines in the Airbus Asia Training Centre (AATC).

We are also developing partnerships with OEMs such as Thales in Singapore, for avionic repairs, or start-ups such as UnaBiz for ground service equipment (GSE).

We work a lot at group level with this start-up ecosystem in the innovation field to be able to access the technologies of the future, such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and so on, which have the capacity to bring in elements which will enable services to stand out.

Is there any desire to extend these partnerships to other regions around the world?

There is always a geographical equation linked to market dynamic. The Asia-Pacific region, with China, is the most dynamic region in the world, the region where we maintain the most partnerships, but North America is also an extremely important region.

I was in Latin America recently and the dynamism I saw in the airlines which have set up over the last five years is just fantastic. It really is a continent that we'll be looking at closely, with airlines which are very open to innovation.
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