Can a B787, A350, E-JET2, A320NEO, B737MAX, MRJ fly without engineers? The aviation industry is facing a crisis of epic proportions. Does that sound a bit over-dramatic? Maybe, but unless change is made, and soon, the industry is going face severe problems.
SO, WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
Nobody can deny that at least aircraft manufacturing has a strong reputation for innovation. Even the two main manufacturers of aircraft, Airbus and Boeing, made it into the top 50 most innovative companies in the world at the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos (coming in at 33rd and 34th respectively).
From zero emission technology, to self healing planes and completely re-imagined cabin space, there seems to be no shortage of new ideas, and those willing to invest to see them realized.
But there’s one question that nobody is answering: Who will be around to keep these amazing aircraft in the sky?
According to a study carried out by the University of New South Wales, the global shortage of airline technicians already stands at around 30% and so this is not a new problem, but one that has been steadily growing.
“A crisis in the supply of aircraft maintenance skills at a global level is a major challenge, which will increasingly affect the viability of offshoring,” – Future of aircraft maintenance in Australia’, Report by the University of New South Wales.
THE PROBLEM IS DOUBLING IN COMING 20 YEARS
Both Airbus and Boeing have predicted that the global market will more than double in the next 20 years. In order to meet this tremendous growth, the 2015 Boeing Pilot and Technical Outlook forecasts that the aviation industry will need to supply more than 600,000 maintenance technicians. And it’s is not limited to commercial aviation either, this article also highlights the issue in the military sector.
But so far the industry has not been able to act and prevent this downward trend. The fight for skilled workers continues and soon salaries for the most experienced engineers will have to increase. But in an environment where airlines are increasingly having to find ways cut their costs to survive, how sustainable can that be?
So, if throwing money at the problem in the form of increased salaries will not provide long term results, then what other solution is there?
First of all, making the job more enjoyable for your workforce will have a knock-on effect of attract more people to join. Then using new technologies and ways of working could also mean that less skilled people are required to do the same jobs. By following a simple action plan, airlines and MRO’s can start to address the issue today and make positive changes:
Step 1: Start listening. Listen to your workforce, take the time to get on the work floor and find out what they need, what their ideas are. Its virtually guaranteed that these engineers will want less administration and paperwork and more time to do the job that’s in their DNA: fixing aircraft.
Step 2: Use their ideas. Take their ideas, even just one at a time, set goals and start to make changes. In my experience, people will not start asking for things that are purely in their own interest. Whether it’s the availability of an iPad on the work floor to cut down on desk-time or a better method of work sequencing, you will be able to make easy changes that will positively impact the day to day work of your team and drive up productivity.
Step 3: Don’t be afraid to introduce new technologies. Useful innovations are available, but there is a shortage of early adopters in MRO. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that MRO’s could be classified as laggards: tradition-bound and resist the innovation until the status quo is no longer defensible.
And it is, in my opinion, most definitely no longer defensible.