Toyota, Boeing & Airbus have something to teach Aircraft MRO’s (B787, A350, Toyota FT-1 concept) Part 2/3

Why do aircraft MRO’s have challenges to realize their planned cost savings? Check out my article about #lean #boeing #mro #aircraft #cost #silo #struggle #learn #change #habbitsLean maintenance: some challenges, many more benefits

In my last post (Lean Part 1 of 3) I discussed the proven benefits of employing the Lean methodology to aircraft MRO: up to a 50% improvement in efficiency. So why hasn’t it spread through the industry yet?

Well, a few reasons.

Not taking a fresh view

For a start, most airlines lack operating managers with industrial-engineering or manufacturing backgrounds and promote mostly from within. The problem with this approach should be familiar to all: more often than not, what you need is fresh eyes on the problem. Lean processes get stuck because it’s hard for people to make adjustments to the accepted way of doing things, so a jump start needs to come from outside.

Boeing is one company that has recognised this and is working with an external company who is developing Lean leadership teams, bringing these individuals into the Boeing organisation whenever needed.

No clear goals

Many MROs are struggling to gain perspective in setting their goals. Too often management sets individual goals – reducing the number of tools, the number of engineers on the floor or improving planning to better control stock levels. However due to the lack of a bigger, overarching goal they are not providing a better performance towards their customer, the airline. The results they need – shorter turnaround times or lower levels of deferred maintenance – are not achieved.

This can be avoided by changing the focus. Taking a step back and looking at both external customer (the airline) and internal customers (the aircraft engineer) and what they have in common: they both want to have the job finished as soon as possible, without interruptions.

Cost reduction measures often fail

I’ve seen many times that MRO’s don’t achieve the cost savings they project in their business, investment and ROI plans. This is how it usually goes: the kick off happens with the project team, there’s enthusiasm in the first weeks, but as it becomes months then people are getting – quite naturally- absorbed by their daily business. Action items become continuously postponed and the energy goes out of the project. And once that goes, it can be very difficult to get it started again.[PICTURE]


More research from McKinsey points to two key problems:

  1. Addressing the problem too narrowly with a silo approach: it’s something for the technical department, or operations, maybe it’s for the commercial department… In fact, it is all of these; companies that achieve lasting cost improvement recognize that cost is a problem that requires working across traditional functional boundaries.

  1. A failure to see that the real barriers are deep-seated habits, not just small-scale issues that middle managers can fix if given the right push.

By addressing these issues, MRO’s can see at least a 20-25% improvement in performance, which will undoubtedly deliver cost reduction. But it shouldn’t be underestimated how big the task is to be accomplished. Truly lean companies such as Boeing and Toyota are rare for a good reason.

In my next blog I will share with you a number of ideas to help overcome the issues above and truly make Lean work for aircraft MRO.


  2. Excellence in cost management: A new era for aerospace
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