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The Inventory Challenge of Predictive Maintenance

Fewer unscheduled events provides a benefit but increasing reliance on sensor data can have negative consequences.

For all the excitement about data analytics and predictive maintenance, is the technology ultimately a good thing for MRO sales?

For airlines, the promise of fewer unscheduled maintenance events and better life tracking of parts is clearly exciting, but will also mean lost maintenance work for sections of the aftermarket.

The counter-argument is that digital capabilities improve an MRO provider’s ability to win business by improving its offer on cost, service quality and turnaround time.

However, it’s worth noting that an increasing reliance on sensor data can have negative consequences as well.

Ahmed Safa, divisional senior vice-president engineering at Emirates Engineering, points out that workshop repair processes have become more reliant on maintenance messages and fault codes to rapidly troubleshoot parts, but parts pre-emptively removed under a predictive maintenance approach may not have a fault code. 

“Troubleshooting a component off wing is harder because of all the missing system sensors, logic and monitoring circuits that are captured in the fault codes,” he notes.

Thus it takes longer to troubleshoot parts, which in turn puts pressure on an MRO provider’s contractually agreed turnaround time.

“This situation could result in parts being returned to serviceable inventory without a good repair, leading to an increase in rogue units or a large uptick in inventory float levels due to longer turnaround times and higher removal rate," he says.

“The multi-million dollar question is: who would foot the bill?”

To find out more about these and other questions concerning technology’s transformative influence on the MRO sector, see the cover feature of September’s Inside MRO. Also discussed in the feature is the disruptive potential of technologies including robots, exoskeletons, assisted and virtual reality, electric aircraft and 3D printing.

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