By Kevin Deal, Vice President for Aerospace & Defense, IFS North America
From the advent of new manufacturing materials to new entertainment systems, the civil aviation support industry is changing dramatically, and these changes have a knock-on effect on the companies that specialize in maintenance of aviation assets, component repair shops, as well as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Here, Kevin Deal, Vice President for Aerospace & Defense IFS North America explains how all parties involved in Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) can adapt and remain competitive in a landscape of rapidly advancing technologies.
Given the numbers of aircraft in service today and how critical passenger safety is, MRO has now evolved to become a major market within aviation. Visiongain predicts that the value of the commercial aircraft MRO market in 2014 will reach a huge $53.4bn. It expects this trend will continue but the market will face many new challenges, including from some OEMs such as Boeing looking to increase their market share. Traditional third party MRO providers will need to adapt to this changing market in order to remain competitive.
The drivers changing the market
New technology coming into the sector in the form of composite materials, carbon fiber, super-alloys, avionics and advanced in-flight entertainment, each brings to the industry widely different MRO demands. Add to this the fact that many items are becoming commoditized and therefore disposable, and it's clear that these changes are increasingly affecting how manufacturers deliver into the industry.
But what's driving these changes? The market is increasingly being driven by a need to improve fuel efficiency and reduce costs wherever possible. Combine this with the fact that some OEMs are starting to offer MRO themselves – particularly where they supply a state-of-the-art part – and that some airlines are beginning to reduce outsourced work by bringing maintenance back in-house, and it is clear that third-party MRO companies must keep up.
And this is a scenario we are familiar with in our daily lives. Take your local mechanic at a small auto garage, for example. He has to keep up to speed on changing technology with all of the cars available in today's market. In previous years, we all would have taken our cars there to be serviced after the first three years of ownership had passed, but increasingly we are having to stay with the OEM as technology advances and local, smaller shops can't keep up with maintenance requirements.
So how does this affect MRO in the civil aviation market?
MRO essentials – mixing old with new
With new technologies coming into the market, there is a need for what could be termed an effective 'duplication' of capabilities. For example, carbon fiber is coming in to the market, but a lot of companies are still using aluminum on some of their planes. As a result, MRO shops have to be able to deal with both forms of material simultaneously. They must be able to monitor and manage maintenance programs to ensure that the correct metrics are available to evaluate different parts in their lifecycle in real-time.