Aircraft MRO: technology will save the day.

This is not the first time we’ve talked about this issue, but the message still coming from the market is very clear: we’re facing a serious shortage of qualified aviation engineers and the impact on the industry is likely to be huge.

Let’s start with some simple maths

 According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)1:

  • In the next 20 years, airlines will have to add 25,000 new aircraft to the current 17,000 strong commercial fleet

Which means?

  • By 2026, we will need 480,000 new technicians to maintain these aircraft and over 350,000 pilots to fly them

And all of this in an industry that’s struggling to attract new recruits while the current workforce is ageing (on average a large proportion will be retiring in the next 10-15 years). It’s no wonder then that in its ‘Aviation Growth Is Outpacing Labor Capacity’ report2,  Oliver Wyman predicts that the number of people leaving the maintenance technician workforce will dramatically outpace the number preparing to enter it for most of the next decade.

The issue is clear, what can be done?

Obviously there’s a strong need to address recruitment  strategy to attract people to – and keep them in – the profession. And adequate training required to ensure that these engineers can keep up with the pace of innovations in aircraft. But these are more long-term solutions which will take time to put in place and yield results. What can MRO’s be doing right now to put them in the best position to meet the coming challenges?

 Technology will saves us

MRO’s need to “Invest in technology and tools to provide the mechanics what they need at the point of use.”2

Brian Prentice, partner at Oliver Wyman,

Emirates Airline president Sir Tim Clark has been extremely vocal about the difficulties the industry is facing, recently quoted as saying “Guys, there’s a storm coming and if you don’t get on and deal with it you will perish.”3 His view? Instead of treating technology as a peripheral side project, airlines should be including advanced tech as a core element of the business.

What he’s saying simply makes sense.  Across just about every industry and market technology has been responsible for a revolution of some kind,  and recent and upcoming innovations in aircraft design will of course do the same for aviation. But as the aircraft get more advanced, the MRO’s which keep them in the air will need to do the same.

Start at the beginning with basic MRO processes

“The airline industry which has traditionally been fairly Jurassic in its thinking needs to get its act together pretty damn quickly because we are so process driven”3

Sir Tim Clark, President, Emirates Airline

The way things currently go, MRO engineers are burdened by a huge amount of administration and inefficiency in the way maintenance is performed. From dealing with paper work orders, to needing to make multiple trips to the back office and stores; so much of their time and energy goes into something other than actually fixing planes, which any engineer would probably much rather be doing. By employing technology (that already exists in most cases) so many benefits can be realised. For instance:

  • Paperless working: using a tablet to collect, complete and send work orders means not having to leave the aircraft or the hangar floor. Reduce wasted time in the process and leaving more time for real maintenance.
  • Turning data into insights: by digitalizing MRO processes you create real data that can be harvested and used to make improvements in processes. You can even predict when maintenance needs to be performed, resulting in less unplanned maintenance and less ground time.
  • Use of robotics: When you know what to do and when, automated solutions can be used to perform basic tasks. (e.g. greasing, Nitrogen refill, oil checks) and gain more time for real maintenance.

In conclusion

While the predictions for the industry could seem pretty frightening, there are real steps for MRO’s to be taking which will help lessen the impact. But those steps need to be taken right now.

At MROair, we have been successfully working on making MRO processes leaner and faster, allowing engineers to work digitally, and using the data they generate to create dashboard oversights for management.  And there’s a lot more to come in the future.

Interested to know more? We’re waiting to hear from you! Get in touch for a demo




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