You'll often hear small talk among your co-workers about how awful turn-around-times (TAT) are. They're a constant headache, almost as much as an AOG.
Believe me, you're not alone.
I recently caught up with the VP of Maintenance at JAL and he mentioned the same issue. He was frustrated and even with contracts in place, working with the largest OEMs and MROs on the planet, TATs and quality are a constant frustration. How does that make you feel? He pays premium prices and still has the same problems as you. See, it could be worse.
We hear about this problem every day.
Common cycle time issues
A lot of effort goes into reducing repair TAT but that's not where the only problem occurs. A good portion of your longer lead time problems can be reduced from inside your operation...
CENTRAL SUPPLY / STORES
When an unserviceable unit is identified it's removed from the aircraft and replaced. Of course how this happens is a little more complicated than my amateur explanation.
Once this happens a unit in stores is vacant and needs to be replaced (you may want to read about component insurance).
Ideally repairing the removed unserviceable asset is the decision to make but it first has to go through stores. Often, this is a painstaking process. A technician will get pulled into other tasks, leaving the removed asset useless. He then will get the unit back to stores when he finds the time.
Think about this question:
Once the unserviceable aircraft part is removed, how long does it take you to properly return it back into stores?
A task such as deciding what MRO to send the repair to and processing the repair orders are culprits of extended aircraft rotable cycle times.
Once it's decided which MRO will be used for the repair the asset must be prepared for transit. Processes like boxing, crating and foaming, if not done right can lengthen the process but also increase the risk of asset safety while in transit.
This area doesn't get much attention but has potential to save hours off internal processes.
During staging the critical question to ask yourself is how long does it take to pull the unit from stores to having it ready for outbound logistics?
Transit time is often a hot topic for two reasons, the time it takes to get to the destination and cost.
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We run into so many logistics problems that are avoidable. The worst part is 95% of all freight forwarders are a pain to work with.
We have customers who shipped us pallets for repair but their freight forwarder quoted them door to airport. Once it gets to us we had to clear it through customs and deal with other third parties to get it delivered. We've even had one freight forwarder hold the pallets for an additional 7 days. Upfront the price looks attractive but it's unrealistic and not fair for the consignee or consignor unless they want door to airport. Lack of communication makes transit times longer than they need to be.
This is why pre-planning is so important.
WORK IN PROGRESS (WIP)
During this stage, it's the responsibility of your repair partner to get the unit completed in the shortest amount of time.
Unfortunately, there's still a lot of processing delays on both ends.
When a unit is quoted it should be approved or denied in the shortest amount of time. Waiting days and even weeks significantly increases your cycle time and risk of stock outage.
The critical question for the WIP stage is how can you reduce your approval or denials to only a few hours instead of a few days?
INBOUND LOGISTICS AND RECEIVING
Deciding the best route to get your assets back to you is important.
When you receive the now serviceable asset, does it typically sit ideal on the receiving shelf for days?
QC processes are common and a good thing I might add, but they're terrible if they require overly processed tasks. If it has to go through QC, how long does it take from QC acceptance to get the serviceable unit into stores?
Even worse, some airlines have everything shipped to one central location. This then requires another shipment to the location that needs the component. Redundant activities add complexity to the returned asset supply chain, lengthening your rotable cycle time.
Here are some ideas on how to reduce your aircraft rotable cycle time with little effort
Many airlines put a lot of effort into reducing repair times to improve asset performance, as I mentioned above.
For the average airline, every day they're able to cut a day from their cycle time amounts to $1M in inventory shed from the balance sheet.
The problem is you put all of your attention on one portion of your end-to-end cycle time. When you strictly focus on repair TAT you forget about the importance of central stores processing, removal, staging, outbound logistics, inbound logistics and receiving and inspection.
We had a customer who sent us 20 assets for repair. By the time they coordinated everything on their end, 14 days had already passed before we even got the units. Of course, repair TAT is important, but those are 14 days we're not getting back.
Each stage has the potential to cut down a day off your rotable cycle time.
Here are some ideas:
- If you have excess inventory you may need repaired in the future, ship it to your repair partner and have them hold the inventory for future repairs. This will eliminate the time needed for stores, staging and outbound logistics.
- Streamline the process of removing the unserviceable asset into stores. Can you automate this?
- Don't destroy shipping boxes. Make sure you have the material to ship assets properly and efficiently.
- Know your transit times before you commit to a repair.
- Build a relationship with a freight forwarder, one that knows your needs inside and out.
- Make quick decisions during the repair process.
Focusing on the areas in which you can control your aircraft rotable cycle times will profoundly affect how long repairs take. Make a valiant effort to cut your times in half at every stage, this could save you millions.