Aviation Week recently hosted its first in-person conference since the start of the pandemic, MRO Americas. While the show did look a little different this year, attendees were excited to get back to meeting in-person and reconnecting with colleagues across the industry.
This included leaders from our very own Delta TechOps, Delta Material Services and Delta Flight Products, who attended the show. We asked for their main takeaways from the conference and if they noticed any key trends or common issues/challenges that could be impacting the aviation industry across the board. Read on for their top takeaways and recap of the event.
Quest for Efficiency & Reconnection
Airlines, lessors, MROs, OEMs, and aviation companies have been navigating the impacts of COVID-19 for over a year now. “While at the conference, I kept learning everyone’s teams are a lot leaner than they were 15 months ago. People are in search of solutions that can help them do more with less,” said James Blackwell, Managing Director, Sales – Delta TechOps and Delta Flight Products. Retirements, voluntary leave programs, and involuntary staff reductions have led to less personnel, but not necessarily less work. Business units are now turning to solutions that go beyond just supplying manpower. Instead, they are looking at maintenance packages and programs with MROs, IT solutions that support multiple functions, material support packages, and more.
In addition to the impact personnel changes have had on manpower, it’s also had an impact on collaboration between companies throughout the industry. Many colleagues have departed companies, changed roles, relocated, etc., and original points of contact may have changed. “Some attendees revealed that a main part of their attendance at the show was to reconnect with companies,” mentioned Doug Nowinski, VP, Sales – Delta Material Services. “While you could visually see it was a smaller show, you got sense that people were trying to move beyond the pandemic and get back to normal, re-building relationships and catching up with associates.”
Here’s our take: Airlines should touch base with their MROs, material providers and other support organizations and reconnect with colleagues across the industry. Teams should consider discussing the packaging of MRO services, material, and other support functions to streamline maintenance activity. A full-service MRO can offer streamlined service and solutions for the entire spectrum of fleet and asset management.
Supply Chain Disruption & Material Availability
“The supply chain, ranging from raw material production to overhaul providers, is strained and will continue to struggle to produce at pre-pandemic levels,” said Robert Schultz, President – Delta Material Services. Airline suppliers were severely disrupted as a result of the pandemic. Certain imports & exports stopped, production facilities shut down or reduced output, and contracts were reviewed to determine where support was needed at the time and stopped in other areas.
For activities such as required maintenance that continued throughout the year and are returning to normal levels, parts availability could become an issue. While some took the “down-time” during the pandemic to process part-outs and make material available, the majority consumed inventory while electing to not repair material. As a result, demand for Used Serviceable Material (USM) is trending positively, and it appears some airlines are in a position to increase spend on USM. Additionally, others are looking at acquiring surplus parts.
Here’s our take: As the industry exits the pandemic and airlines are ramping up, ensure your supply chain and maintenance organizations are connecting on a regular cadence to determine when and at what frequency material will be needed. Selecting a provider with material across a variety of aircraft and engine types will result in a smoother ramp up process.
Bow Wave of Maintenance Activity
Not only did certain supply chain functions take a pause, but various airlines opted to halt maintenance activity unless it was required or critical. “Many airlines consumed inventory but didn’t put it back through the repair process,” said Sonny Stern, VP Sales & Marketing. Determining how much capacity to bring on and with which fleets to do so, combined with government regulations & other fleet considerations, create a challenge for maintenance planning & activity. “I anticipate a bow wave of maintenance activity as airlines start to ramp up their operations, especially in the domestic arena,” Robert states.
International and long-haul carriers continue to be impacted and are seeing a slower return to travel. Europe specifically and the limitation of travel in this region, even domestically, affects platforms like the B737 and A320. Engine types like CFM56 and V2500 continue to see delayed shop visits and less need to support these engines, resulting in lower demand for USM on these platforms.
Here’s our take: Prevent costly downtime by connecting with your MRO provider to ensure your assets are ready to return to service once demand changes. A full-service MRO can help you multi-task and provide you with customized solutions and a single point of contact for all your maintenance needs.