Part Two: 8 Things Everyone Should Know About Supply Chain Management and Aircraft Line Maintenance

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Guest Post: Bimba Jayawardena, Manager - Procurement and Logistics at FITS Aviation. With 6 years in supply chain management and 12 years in research and development hands on experience, she’s a powerhouse in the industry. She is now a  Manager of Procurement and Logistics at FITS aviation. She’s responsible for providing total procurement and logistics services.

In part one, I looked at the impact of information sharing on supply chain management and how the changing requirements of airline operators will need to be met through adaptable aircraft line maintenance processes in the future.

It considered how new flights, such as Qantas’ Perth to London route, will raise questions over appropriate build and maintenance planning for buyers and suppliers.

This was further identified by a recent Boeing article discussing the future of Dreamliner construction and the rise of technology.

I previously presented a basic introduction to supply chain management, the benefits to shared information, the type of data shared between buyers and suppliers, and the technology that best facilitates the process.

This post continues the conversation and looks at what else needs to be considered to achieve best practice in the construction and maintenance of new aircraft.

Not read the first article? You can read it here should you wish to.

5. What is the impact of information sharing on supply chain performance and coordination?

While information sharing is typically seen as a way to solve problems in supply chain management, it often comes with conditions attached. With both positive and negative consequences, the system should consider what data is shared and what the implications may be.

The positive:

  1. Real-time information allows for effective aircraft line maintenance with vendors, manufacturers and clients, lowering the cost of operation and reducing cycle length. Overall efficiencies are seen throughout and lean management becomes the primary driver.

  2. With open-access to data that is required to meet demands, buyer/supplier relationships are strengthened through trust and repeat this business. This type of process often is seen in the long-standing relationships between two parties.

  3. Through access to information, both parties can benefit from reduced delivery time and increased logistical effectiveness. This means that components are delivered on time, to the right location, minimizing consequential delays through waiting for data.

The negative:

  1. When customer data sets are inaccurate, suppliers receive misinformation relating to requirements leading to potential over-manufacturing of components, shipping errors and incurred costs. This affects both parties and can deteriorate performance of the chain.

  2. Over-sharing of information may lead to errors in decision making. Access to data could see unnecessary conclusions being made and suppliers responding based on expectation rather than necessity. This results in risk-averse supply chain decision making, impacting cohesion.

  3. Commercially sensitive information getting in to the hands of supply-chain competitors. This can result in either the supplier losing business to another supplier or a distributor being frozen out if a client sees better financial returns through direct negotiation with a supplier.

6. What are the barriers to information-sharing within a supply chain?

In any type of collaboration, there will be challenges.

Whilst some of these can be identified through SWOT and PESTEL analysis, some will simply become apparent through the process.

Here are some of the common difficulties businesses experience through supply chain management:

  • Socio-cultural – International partnerships can yield real value but socio-cultural differences can present unique challenges. Focus on what you can influence and don’t forget you are dealing with people. This can be the single biggest contribution to overcoming adversity.

  • Technical – Different companies will prioritize investment in technology with varying levels of importance. This can mean variances across technical and operating requirements, trained staff and infrastructure. What some view as standard, others may only dream of.

  • Financial – Not everyone in the supply chain will be able to invest in the latest IT equipment and software. As a result, information-sharing platforms will be limited to the lowest common denominator, making data translation between partners difficult or impossible.

  • Organizational – Deemed to be protecting their prize asset – information – some organizations will simply have cultures, practices and strategies with high bureaucracy making them reluctant, or unwilling, to share data with external partners.  

  • Managerial – Everyone’s different, therefore every approach taken should be considered different. From technical knowledge to resources, managers are a reflection of training and experience. Some may refuse to share information, worried about its confidential nature.

Don’t forget, just because an organization does something a different way, doesn’t mean that they can’t be a valuable stakeholder.

Take the time to learn and understand their needs, find common ground and ensure that you focus on the solutions, rather than the problems.

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7. How can cross-cultural differences between buyers and suppliers influence the value of information-sharing?

Working with partners around the world can be challenging. Differences of opinions, values, beliefs, philosophies and social orientation, can reflect in tense and complicated working relationships that result in extra time being spent managing the process – impacting cost and effectiveness.

Cultures place varying levels of importance against information. The way that it is received, digested, and acted-upon, can be dependent on the country and culture of the business you are dealing with.

It is important to understand these potential conflicts ahead of doing business but don’t be put off. Open communication, a clear dialogue of what is needed, and expected, and the development of trust can be the simplest way to overcome these challenges.

8. How does knowledge-sharing provide value to buyers and suppliers? In which circumstances can it help both?

Open information is the quickest route to effective supply chain management.

With an open dialogue of data flowing both downstream and upstream, processes and systems that are optimized, ultimately reduce time and money in the successful planning of aircraft line maintenance.

These procedures can lead to robust “lean practice”, improving trust and customer satisfaction for all in the chain. This big picture approach benefits everyone, and time spent working on achieving this is time well spent. It strengthens sustainability and optimizes performance rates.

Without the collaboration of buyers and suppliers, the supply chain can falter. When it does, the impact to every organization involved can be massive.

The best approach is to work towards open communication, shared information, and building trust to safeguard your business from disruption.