With a fleet standing just short of 90 aircraft, Swiss International Air Lines is one of many carriers across the world increasingly looking to leverage parts manufacturer approval (PMA) components for its aircraft maintenance operation.
“Even though certain restrictions regarding usage might exist, we still see a lot of potential in PMA parts,” says Jörg Sulser, head of technical purchasing and supply chain at Swiss. Sulser says that the airline has increasingly looked at PMA parts as it felt suppliers have more effectively addressed customer needs in the past few years.
He sees the PMA advantages as bringing about shorter lead timed, lower prices while offering better or at least the same level of quality as that of OEM factory-made parts.
While PMA offerings have developed over time with more choice for airlines, one challenging area of recent years has lied in the availability of used serviceable material (USM). This is partly due to the slowdown of retirements, which in turn, has led to fewer teardowns. As a result, this means the USM market has become increasingly squeezed.
Sulser says Swiss has extensive coverage of its components through several pooling contracts, with the carrier not performing any in-house parts repairs of its own. Outside of the pooling scope, Swiss still manages many components by placing purchase orders and steering the repair process.
Given the size and scale of parts pooling operations, Sulser says the airline holds certain expectations when entering into an agreement with a components supplier. “The pool providers have to be very flexible to adapt to our needs,” he says. Examples cited by Sulser include the need for a dedicated home base stock to cover immediate demands, commercial inclusions of beyond economical repair cases or changes of part number scope over the contract period.
Over time, Sulser feels the pooling concept will develop further, taking into account factors such as changes in operation, technology or the airline’s supply chain. It’s in the latter area where new technologies will make an impact, with Sulser identifying one specific innovation. “Blockchain technology could be applied to capture all component history of pool components and make it easily available to the relevant stakeholders,” he says.
A look at the component strategies of airlines will feature in the February issue of Inside MRO.