GSE Expo 2000 Report
Buyer: Worldwide Flight Services
By Richard Rowe
As one of a handful of internationally active ground handlers, Worldwide Flight Services offers a valuable insight into how such handlers approach equipment procurement, writes Richard Rowe.
As any seasoned ground handler will point out, ground service excellence stands and falls on turnaround time and quality. This is one reason why, although welcome, technological advance in ground support equipment is reviewed extremely carefully by handlers to ensure that they still have the ability to cross utilize the equipment in multiple locations and environments.
There is a curious paradox at play. While vendors the world over raise equipment standards to make operations more efficient and comfortable for the end user, some of those same end users nonetheless get skittish when it comes to perceived bells and whistles on their equipment. The simple fact is that the more technologically advanced equipment becomes, the more the opportunity for potential problems can exist.
No one could accuse Worldwide Flight Services of being a business slouch, and certainly no ground handler creates a network that spans North America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Hong Kong by being backward. But Worldwide nonetheless preaches simplicity first when it comes to GSE procurement, and that is likely to remain the case until the reliability of a given piece of equipment is established.
Scott Whitfill, Regional Director of Maintenance at Worldwide, is as keen as the next person to embrace new technologies and ideas, but is mindful of the company’s limitations. Even more so than any airline, almost every decision he makes must be based on availability of parts and ease of maintenance.
"The timeliness of being able to turn equipment out to us is crucial in the contract business," explains Whitfill. "Rarely do we have more than 30 days, and frequently less."
"It’s about the ability to go to several vendors who can supply our needs at a cost saving to the company," adds Whitfill’s fellow Regional Director of Maintenance, Philip Beauvais.
One thing that Whitfill looks for in any piece of equipment is simplicity of construction. "As much as possible I would like my mechanics to be able to go into their local parts store and not have to rely on the manufacturer for everything. My stations just don’t have the time or days to wait for what should be common items or parts to come from the manufacturer.
"I believe that is the direction the industry has been going in for a while. Usually in any presentation of a piece of equipment, vendors bring up how a certain amount of parts is available locally. This is something that is really important to us as a ground handler."
As Beauvais adds, it may make the difference between choosing one vendor over another.
The need for simplicity is never far from the surface, and not least when it comes to maintenance. "For the last two years, Worldwide Flight Services has been asking for CD-ROM manuals, but many vendors don’t have them available," explains Whitfill. "We would welcome this advance in technology as it would simplify much of what we are doing now.
"It is inevitable that as manufacturers build the new generation of equipment they are going to add more electronics and get more computerized, but there can be overkill," cautions Whitfill. "The question is whether the support is going to be available in the form of computerized documentation and training. Vendors do provide training, but as a ground handler we must be sensitive to the overall cost of sending enough people into a location for training.
"Again we welcome advances that are going to make equipment more reliable. However, we will review the changes and advances to ensure they meet our needs."
Could it be that the manufacturers are moving a little too fast for some sections of their customers? And if so, whose role is it to bring end user and vendor together?