Completion delays in aircraft maintenance are costly. Quick turnarounds and minimal aircraft downtime are critical components in cost reduction for any maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) operation. The British Airways Maintenance facility at Cardiff (BAMC) takes pride in being a highly focused company that has become the benchmark for aircraft maintenance. According to Phil Morgan, Senior Team Leader for Inventory and Tooling, completion delays financially impact the business and create complications in fleet maintenance planning.
BAMC performs all the major maintenance on British Airways Longhaul Fleet of Boeing 747, 767, and 777 aircraft. Their engineers carry out modifications to both aircraft and cabins along with embodiment of Boeing modifications including some basic engine maintenance.
To perform the assigned maintenance tasks, BAMC inventories over 5,000 parts and over 1,000 various types of tooling some of which is vendor managed inventory (VMI). The VMI is stored at the BAMC facility and replenished by the vendor at agreed intervals.
BAMC has two centrally located tool cribs where inventory is stocked. The upper level crib stocks all the direct material or spare parts used on the aircraft, and the lower level stocks all the indirect material which is durables and consumables (gloves, abrasives, drill bits, washers, rivets, etc). Although the tool cribs are centrally located, there was still walk-and-wait time to get project materials at both levels of the tool crib. With the grab-and-go process and manual data entry to determine replenishment, they were often faced with inventory management challenges that had a direct impact on completion deadlines. Challenges such as:
- Inventory stock-outs
- Accountability issues
- Inefficient work flow processes
Seeking a cost-effective solution, the BAMC management team began to research various commercial software tooling programs. They discovered that by adding an additional software program to their SAP system, the cost would increase exponentially. According to Mr. Morgan, adding more software to their current system would have been considered an ancillary IT solution for them.
As part of a continuous improvement initiative, Buck and Hickman, one of BAMC’s valued-added supply chain partners, proposed a web-hosted inventory management software called CribMaster. The secure web-hosted methodology has many advantages including faster installations/implementations and reduced burden on IT personnel. The system also provides the database administration, on-going technical support, and upgrades with no expensive implementation fees.
BAMC made the decision to move forward with CribMaster in a three-phase implementation. They started with a manageable project first and grew the system from there. Phase one was the implementation of the Buck and Hickman VMI portfolio.
The system works like this. When a maintenance engineer requires material from the tool crib, a hand-held scanner is used to read three barcodes to collect data, first the employee ID badge, second the material being taken, and last the project or aircraft bay assignment. When the repair is completed, the returned material is scanned back into the tool crib. All the information is stored in real time. The CribMaster system accurately monitors usage, tracks consumption and budget, and automatically or manually issues purchase orders. Reports generated by the system provide historical data for managers to analyze product usage by person, team, maintenance bay, and aircraft.
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