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MRO: AAR's digital strategy taking shape

Romain Guillot
14/11/2019 | 628 words
MRO: AAR's digital strategy taking shape
Rahul Ghai, Chief Digital Officer at AAR. Picture AAR
New technologies certainly took centre stage for AAR Corp. during the MRO Europe exhibition in London this year, first of all with the announcement of the use of Donecle's automated inspection drone for its Miami maintenance centre, but also with Alaska Airlines which has committed to testing the Airvolution cloud-based platform to improve its component repair processes. We met Rahul Ghai, Chief Digital Officer at AAR, to take a look at the different digital solutions adopted by the US MRO company over the last few years.

"These announcements about drone technology, around the Airvolution solution for aircraft component repair, process improvement through automation, show, if we take a step back, that we want the industry to see that we are building a real digital strategy at AAR which affects several areas", explains Rahul Ghai. He specifies that each of these initiatives was launched with a specific goal in mind, and with a specific result for each one that should favour the different activities of AAR and its customers. "For example, for Alaska Airlines, adopting Airvolution will enable them to reduce inefficiency in their processes, but it will also create an additional revenue source for AAR as a services provider", he specifies.

In terms of the increase in revenue generated by digital solutions, he also mentions AAR's PAARTS Store which now produces between 22 and 25 million dollars in revenue a year. This real e-commerce site for spare parts has continued to grow over the last few years, with a regular increase in its inventory of new parts from OEM and other sources. "We are working a lot on digitising processes for our own parts inventory so that transactions are just as smooth as for new parts, with images and the right documentation and records. This is why we are adding new digital functionalities to replace all manual actions in the best cases", emphasises Rahul Ghai.

The transactions which affect used and serviced parts and repairable parts are by definition much more complex than for new parts, with a great deal of communication before purchase, by phone, by email and with numerous documents exchanged. "We're getting very good feedback from airlines about our platform and it's a huge success", he says happily, adding that these new functionalities remove the friction from this type of process.

"And the transactions are even more powerful when we combine PAARTS Store and Quote Accelerator, our tool which enables us to construct and negotiate quotes", he specifies. Rahul Ghai thinks that these transactions will ultimately become digital in nature. "In addition to reducing inefficiency and increasing the revenue generated, there's also customer satisfaction. Of course, this is harder to quantity, but we improve it just by simplifying our processes".

AAR's Chief Digital Officer also talked about Donecle's visual inspection solution which was announced a few days before the MRO Europe exhibition. He told us that this one-year trial was just a start and that the aim is most definitely to develop this activity. "As Donecle is based in Toulouse, the solution was naturally configured for Airbus single-aisle aircraft. We worked with Donecle for a few days to adapt it to Boeing's 737 family", he tells us, specifying that AAR had committed to 150 inspections.

"We are working on the regulatory approvals to replace the traditional visual inspections and if we manage this we will then be able to consider other locations, and why not use the solution on wide-body aircraft", he tells us. He also specified that Southwest was one of the operators in question, but that it wasn't "just Southwest and not just 737s" involved. Remember that AAR has five main maintenance sites in the United States (Indianapolis, Miami, Oklahoma City, Duluth and Rockford) as well as two sites in Canada.
Romain Guillot
Chief editor
Cofounder of Journal de l'Aviation and Alertavia

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