MRO Innovations Can Offset Flat Market Projections

Technological innovations are exciting, but they also require an engaged workforce.

Around the world we’ve seen business headlines declaring “flat is the new up” or “down is the new flat.”

The civil aftermarket is no exception. Pundits proclaimed that the MRO market could see a revenue spike this year because airline profitability increased, fuel prices remained low and older aircraft stayed in service, but so far that anticipated boost hasn’t happened. Canaccord Genuity analysts say that after the second quarter, “the number of MROs running behind on their business plan has increased from 34% in first-quarter 2015 to now 49%.” Sean Broderick analyzes why in his article.

While the economic reality might not be great news for MROs, it points to the fact that airlines’ cost-containment practices—scrutinizing workscopes, seeking used serviceable material and deferring maintenance when possible—will continue. 

So what is your company doing about this? Business-as-usual strategies are not going to work. Innovating is the key. This issue is full of examples of companies doing this.

JetBlue delivered Apple iPads to all of its line maintenance technicians—enabling it to meet its Aug. 1 deadline. The airline expects to see increased productivity and improved technical dispatch reliability as a result.

Lufthansa Technik developed a milling robot for automated repairs of carbon-fiber reinforced polymers on wings and fuselages.

AFI KLM E&M’s CRMA subsidiary developed a repair for a GE90-115 fan hub frame that it says can save $1.5 million per incident.

EasyJet started using Blue Bear drones to inspect fuselages for damage, which the airline reports can decrease checks to a few hours from more than a day.

Technological innovations are exciting, but they also require an engaged workforce.

As Tony Lowery, JetBlue’s vice president of technical operations, says, “Whenever new technology is introduced, you have to institute change management by involving those people who will be directly impacted.” JetBlue did this by having its maintenance technicians participate in each stage of the mobile device-evaluation process.

Is innovation embedded in your work culture? It should be, because it helps your bottom line—and builds engagement.

Boeing’s Outlook forecasts, released in July, predict that the industry will need 30,000 new technicians annually—or 609,000 over the next two decades.

Simply retaining employees is not enough. Competition for the best and the brightest exists industry-wide. Now is the perfect time to innovate, engage employees and embrace new technologies. 

Keep up with Shay on MRO’s blog: AviationWeek.com/mro and on Twitter: @AvWeekLeeAnn

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