Brent Ah Kee: An Acquiring Mind

Feb. 1, 2003
Interview with Menzies Aviation Group's Head of Procurement, Brent Ah Kee.

Name: Brent Ah Kee
Title: Head of Procurement
Company: Menzies Aviation Group
Location: Crawley, West Sussex, UK
First job in Ground Support:
Ground Handling Consultant for South African Airways in Johannesburg, South Africa

Q. Who or what influences your buying? Who do you consult with?
A. The buying I do satisfies the needs of the various companies within the aviation group - Menzies World Cargo, Menzies Ground Services, and Menzies support services: Connect, Connect2Work, MC Services, Execair, AMI, AMI Quality Express, KISS, and Aviation Medical Services - in terms of fulfilling their customers' requirements. Menzies operates out of approximately 80 airports in

21 countries, and handles over 500 airlines. One of our biggest spending areas is on ground support equipment and something we put into place last year was an internal team of experts dealing specifically with GSE. My team consists of members representing our requirements in North America, South America, Asia Pacific, and Europe. We also have someone specifically for cargo needs, a member for health and safety issues, myself, and one of my procurement colleagues. We work as a team to identify things like standardization and GSE opportunities within our network. Standardizing terminology has helped us because it differs across the States, Europe, and the East. Environmentally, we look at things like electric bag tractors or hydrogen-powered vehicles or gas-powered vehicles. Having a global team of specialists really helps. It also makes sense for our interface with suppliers, whereas it would be very difficult for me to have to know everything.

We're also putting together a system for identifying and advertising internally our surplus equipment. Last year, we shut down our Korean operations at Incheon and we suddenly had a whole host of equipment available. Now, I can make my colleagues aware that we have this equipment and instead of having to buy from outside the network or buying brand new, I could move something from one station to another.

Q.What are some of the challenges you encounter in your day-to-day?
A.We have such a wide range of requirements. We haven't as yet identified standards, in terms of equipment or options as we find ourselves in 21 countries and we deal with a number of suppliers. Also, there aren't many manufacturers out there that could supply uniform products across the board. Economic pressures on airlines to reduce their costs is also a challenge for us as we try to win as much business possible, and are constantly trying to find ways of reducing our costs. Obtaining equipment can be rather difficult as you basically have 60 days in a standard contract to turn around and change from Supplier A to Supplier B. I also see the impact on suppliers as they are not able to stock a lot of equipment just to have at the ready, but are still required to make deliveries in as short a time as possible.

Q.Any suggestions for equipment manufacturers?
A.If anyone out there has something that will help us perform smarter, better, quicker, and more economically - I'd like to see what they have. I'm happy to see anyone and I'm always willing to learn. In our relationships with manufacturers, it would be preferable to have a variety of products for a variety of needs as well as product that could be used across a range of aircraft. This would allow us to minimize our costs and maximize investment. Of prime importance now across the UK and Europe is low-cost airlines and we look to source equipment that meets with their principles. That is a huge and developing market here and last year we launched our low-cost handling division, KISS.

Q.Trends you're seeing or predictions for the future?
A.Low-cost airlines/handling will continue to grow as will consolidation in handling companies, GSE manufacturers, and airlines. Manufacturers will need to be specialists in a range of equipment rather than just being a specialist in tugs, for example. Similar to the what the airlines are doing in terms of their code shares in order to provide their flying public with a wider network, handling companies will need to provide the airlines, as customers, with a network that fits in more closely with the destinations that the airlines fly to. Equipment manufacturers will also need to do this because we're looking for companies that can provide us with a range of equipment on a professional basis, rather than having 10 different suppliers for 10 different pieces of equipment. I think that trend will continue. A further growth area is in equipment leasing. We do not have any major leases but I believe it is an area that can provide benefits to handlers and is something that needs closer examination.