1. Mobile comes of age with maintenance “at-the-asset”
We've talked about it a lot but in 2015, this is where mobile technology is going to have a seriously huge effect within aviation MRO. 2015 will see significant strides in the integration of mobile apps as part of a full information system across all MRO operations.
Maintenance “at-the-asset” will become the expected norm, with engineers equipped with essential mobile apps to access relevant information at the time of need, rather than the long walk to the back office or standing in line to access the terminal to get the relevant information. But this new generation of mobile devices will have apps that are targeted on maximising effectiveness, minimising user overhead but avoiding complexity in this complex operating environment.
2. First glimpses of RoI from additive manufacturing
It has been widely predicted that additive manufacturing – or 3D printing – will become ubiquitous within aerospace. Indeed the aerospace and defence sector is already a huge trend setter in terms of adopting additive manufacturing, contributing more than 10 per cent to the industry’s $2.2bn global revenue in 2012 and all indications are that this will continue to grow. Rolls-Royce and GE Aviation have already announced that they plan to fabricate parts for aircraft engines that are lighter and faster to produce through additive manufacturing.
In 2014 we saw the huge potential for this technology in aviation. In 2015 it will really show its worth in terms of reducing material costs, decreasing labour content, and increasing availability of parts at point of use, having a dramatic impact on the supply chain. We will start to see companies benefiting from a real return on investing in the technology.
3. A real business need for wearable technology
In 2014 wearables promised much but delivered little in terms of practicalities. Gartner has predicted that the wearable market will be worth $10bn by 2016 so if this respected analyst group is right, things need to get a shift on in 2015.
In civil aviation the business need is there and crying out for wearable technology. Witness the example of Japan Airlines with its use of Google Glass in the maintenance process. The glasses are worn by engineers working around the aircraft on the tarmac. Images of the aircraft are sent to maintenance specialists for assessment who then feed any issues they see back to the engineer on the ground. Work is completed promptly, can be assessed in real time and all information is recorded to assess further issues down the line.
So forget the trendy aspect of wearable technology – its potential to reduce complexity and workload for aviation operators is a clear business benefit. If the industry gets it right, and I believe it will, 2015 will see major widespread use of wearables in commercial aviation MRO.
4. Big Data holds the key to predicting the future
Big data is a concept has been around for longer than I can remember, but unlocking its secrets has still to be tackled.
In MRO, there's huge potential of using the secrets of data to enable everything from predictive analytics to greater inventory optimisation, better monitoring of usage patterns and the essential tracking and analysing the health of equipment in real-time. But so far there has been little in the way of answers for its key uses, or more importantly, the means of identifying which data is useful, and which is not.
In 2015 the commercial aviation sector will and must tackle big data head on. In particular I think in using big data for predictive analysis. By providing key data around asset failures, this can then be integrated into logistics systems to help inform and improve future designs, optimise usage and lower the total lifecycle cost.
5. Smaller vendors need to innovate
The unprecedented numbers of commercial aircraft being produced as the industry grows at 4.7 per cent annually – coupled with an ever-increasing demand for more affordable products and greater reliability – has seen an acceleration of a new trend in the aerospace supply chain.
Companies at the top of the supply chain are shifting responsibilities for increased productivity and innovation to their smaller second tier suppliers to absorb the continuing price pressures from end-user customers.
This means that in 2015, smaller vendors will be forced to radically overhaul their operating costs while driving innovation to protect relationships with their major OEM customers.
IT holds the key. A new generation of modular information system solutions are available that will allow these smaller tier two players to easily and quickly increase or change their production processes, show more transparency in their production controls, and give instant visibility of their margins.
Modularity means they can pick and mix the applications to meet their particular points of need and, to avoid the expenses traditionally associated with full blown enterprise resource planning systems, they can even opt for an Opex rather than a Capex model by deploying through the cloud.
Whatever they decide, they need to build a springboard for the future, and innovation is a must. So the pressure is on.
What technological development will have the greatest impact on the MRO sector in 2015? Cast your vote now.
Espen Olsen, European director for aerospace and defence at IFS