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The Data Difference

Airbus revamps MRO network, with a digital twist.

When Airbus disbanded its original MRO network back in 2013, it cited an outdated model that placed a few aftermarket providers above the rest. Why, Airbus reasoned, shouldn’t it share its engineering prowess and institutional knowledge with any MRO provider that saw value in working on the OEM’s products? 

Last week, Airbus announced a new collaboration that would place a select few MRO providers in a dedicated “MRO Alliance.” 

What’s changed? In short, the push to leverage data. 

The Alliance will grant MRO members—and, by extension, their customers—the OEM’s engineering bona fides, Satair spare parts supply chain prowess, and years of in-service support experience. More importantly, it also will include access to Skywise, the just-announced Airbus data platform that—Airbus hopes—will do for airframers what GE’s Predix is already doing for operators of GE and CFM engines.

Skywise, an open-data platform, is where Airbus will seek to digitally connect its operators and MRO providers. It also will link Airbus’s digital offerings, such as the real-time health management service it rolled out on the A350 and has expanded to the rest of its in-production models, to operators. EasyJet, which is helping Airbus beta-test the new system, has created event-based alerts around several common technical faults based on patterns uncovered by combining its internal data—removals and the like—with Airbus’s fleet-wide metrics.

For MRO providers, tapping into the Airbus alliance grants them access to powerful analytics capabilities that their customers want. For Airbus, the MRO shops are an easy gateway to customers.

The initial list of what Airbus says will be a limited number of Alliance members includes AAR, Aeroman, Sabena Technics, Etihad Airways Engineering, GAMECO and China Airlines. More telling, perhaps, are two names missing from the list: Air France Industries-KLM Engineering & Maintenance (AFI KLM) and Lufthansa Technik (LHT). 

Both MRO providers have rolled out data-driven predictive maintenance offerings, which, on the surface, seem to compete with what Airbus is doing. Perhaps AFI KLM and LHT—both members of the original Airbus MRO Network--will become Alliance members, or perhaps they feel as if they don’t need what Airbus is offering this time around.

With their own data analytics offerings in the works, the latter isn’t out of the question.

TAGS: Big Data
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