When StandardAero Component Services analyzes its composite materials requirements, it considers four factors.
“We start by looking at the specific types of materials we have used, on average, over the past three to six months, along with lead times, shelf life, and our suppliers’ minimum order requirements,” explains Roberta Savage, senior procurement specialist for the commercial and military engine component MRO. “We also look at how many repairs of a specific kind we did, and the materials requirements.”
According to Savage, no orders are placed until this full trend analysis is completed, especially in cases where “high-risk” items, such as adhesives and bonding agents—some with shelf lives of as little as six months—are involved. “Our planning is under constant evaluation especially with regard to film adhesives, which represent the highest risk given their very limited shelf lives.”
What complicates matters further, explains Savage, is that many high-tech adhesives have only a handful of production runs per year, and orders must be placed early. As an example she cites FM®57 film, a condensation polyimide adhesive manufactured by Cytec Industries. The OEM produces it four times a year, she explains, at specific intervals, and given demand, it should be ordered two months in advance of production.
“We have to place our order at least two months before each production run. However, when you consider the time we put in to analyze the amount of FM® 57 we’ll need, the two-month lead time for the order, and the manufacturer’s testing, the whole process could take four to five months before we receive it.”
Given the combination of limited shelf life and limited production, Savage reports that standard day-to-day purchasing practices cannot be applied to composite materials, especially when it comes to long-term supplier contracts.
“It’s better to negotiate shorter-term procurement contracts of no more than a year in length. Frankly, I’d be very apprehensive even with that, because there’s a lot of decision making involved—on the fly.”