A Link in the Supply Chain

A Link in the Supply Chain Views from Aircraft Parts Distributors By Michelle Garetson April 1999 This is the kind of day where I don't want to see the boss in the hangar," grimaces Pete Schroeder, director of maintenance for...


A Link in the Supply Chain

Views from Aircraft Parts Distributors

By Michelle Garetson

April 1999

Michelle Garetson This is the kind of day where I don't want to see the boss in the hangar," grimaces Pete Schroeder, director of maintenance for Wisconsin Aviation Maintenace Inc., in Watertown, Wisconsin. "We just so happen to have three of our own aircraft in here today in various stages of inspection and repair. It's Friday afternoon, and we need to find parts to get these planes back out and making money."

Schroeder's lament is probably not an uncommon one in maintenance shops. Aircraft need to be in the air to be profitable, but they also need to be inspected and maintained to keep them safely aloft. Many times, old or damaged parts can be the link that breaks in the chain between the sky and AOG.

Aircraft parts distributors are important facilitators in keeping operations flowing smoothly by providing necessary parts and components as quickly as possible. This relationship hasn't changed much over the years, but the process in which communication and transactions are accomplished certainly has.

PC Changes Parts
"The fundamentals of general aviation parts distribution have changed little, explains Jim Quinn, vice president of marketing for Dallas-based parts distributor, Aviall. "Certainly the aircraft technology hasn't been advanced — even the newest aircraft models are similar to designs of 25 and 30 years ago. The use of computers has enabled advances in order entry and communications technology."

The introduction of computer technology for communication, inventory tracking, distribution, billing, etc. to the aircraft parts distribution arena, has greatly enhanced the ways of doing business. Two important by-products of computerization have been a sharp reduction in errors in orders and inventories, and a reduction in lead time necessary for customers to order and receive items.

Aircraft Parts International (API) in Memphis, Tennessee has a sophisticated system that has really proved itself in tracking inventory and streamlining operations. "Our system is barcoded and works on real-time," states Phil Botana, API's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "When new stock comes in, our personnel uses RF (radio frequency) scanners to log items into the database making them immediately available. This system is also designed to track history of parts to spot trends in demand, which allows us to monitor shifts in ordering practices and it has certainly helped to increase inventory turnover."

Set Your Sites
Going further, the Internet has created another venue for parts distributors and their customers to access information and products. Customers worldwide can log on anytime, day or night, to search for parts, place orders, and be assured that their items will be sent out — sometimes in the same day.

"Aviall uses the Internet extensively," says Quinn. "We were the first aircraft parts distributor to offer online ordering capabilities back in 1996 through our web site (www.aviall.com). Our site continues to evolve as we add more information and services, and as we work to make our order entry function even easier to use."

AAR Corp, headquartered in Wood Dale, Illinois, offers two Internet-based parts support sites for customers and both can be accessed through the corporate web site (www.aarcorp.com). SuperSpares, at (www.aarsuperspares.com), is an on-line distribution channel for aircraft spare parts used mainly by commercial airline customers in AOG situations. The AAR On-Line Parts Warehouse (http://warehouse.aarcorp.com) was launched in November 1998 and offers more than 100,000 line items. It caters to those customers ranging from operators of general aviation aircraft, including piston and business turboprops and jets, on up to those in long-haul and regional airlines operations. It is not meant for AOG situations but more for those who order parts periodically. Ken Cooper, product support manager for AAR Distribution, a division of AAR Corp., sees these sites as tools that enhance their business. "They will not replace the people portion of the business," says Cooper, "but certainly help to facilitate orders for customers. Another use is to customize JIT (Just In Time) inventory management programs, which can be tailored to the specific needs of the customer."

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