A recent study on the state of the aviation maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) industry identified a number of factors that are causing MROs to take a hard look at the way they operate. They are facing increased competition because of the reduced market that has trickled down from the economic troubles experienced by the aviation industry as a whole.
In addition, competition is increasing because outsourcing has started leveling off and original equipment manufacturers are increasing the aircraft maintenance services they provide. As a result of this increased competition, MROs are revising their business models to operate more efficiently and better meet the needs of airlines. Technology can help MROs address these goals, specifically the technology they use to communicate.
The aviation industry is an extensive, diverse, and mission-critical environment that requires reliable and robust communications at all levels. When it comes to communications, aircraft maintenance professionals are caught in the middle, so to speak — they are at the crux of business efficiency, quality control, and passenger safety. Their ability to communicate quickly and efficiently between industry stakeholders makes the difference between available aircraft and passenger satisfaction. Whether you are an airframe mechanic or an avionics technician, your ability to convey technical requirements, provide status updates, and relay project completions or delays is what keeps the industry moving forward.
Mishmash of technology
As with any large, diverse, and evolving enterprise, the communications infrastructure for the aviation industry is often a mishmash of technologies that were installed over many years and intended to serve individual groups of users or specific functions without consideration for how they might interoperate with other technologies.
Take radio networks as an example. Airport operations, airlines, and their service officers are major users of this group communications technology. In fact, most airside operations like security, airplane marshalling, refueling, baggage handling, catering, and maintenance are managed by staff equipped with radio handsets. Most of these radio networks are private, as are the dispatch services that are typically provided from different locations.
Within terminals and operations buildings, however, telephony is the mainstream communication technology. Employees that have to interface directly with airside operations staff from their desks are required to also have one or more radio handsets available. This can become an expensive requirement for large airports and airlines that may employ hundreds, if not thousands, of workers with cross-functional communications needs.
Two-way radio systems used by the majority of aircraft maintenance professionals were never designed to interoperate with telephony, intercom, and other broadcast systems commonly used in the passenger terminals and at operations centers. In addition, the business processes designed to mitigate these incompatibilities are themselves a contributor to inefficiency and higher costs.
The state of the aviation industry and its broken communications system provides MROs with an opportunity to improve operations, solve communications inefficiencies, and increase business. While the study noted that airlines are looking for additional revenue opportunities in a return to outsourcing, opportunities to increase efficiency, and reduce costs, while improving communications reach and effectiveness already exist internally. And, according to the study, increased efficiency and reduced costs could be the key to new business.
Total maintenance support
The study identified the selection criteria airlines use in choosing MROs and other suppliers. The results showed that airlines identified total maintenance support as the most important factor in selecting an MRO provider. In addition, airlines identified quality, turn time, and lowest cost as the top three criteria used in choosing suppliers in general.