Mr. DRSV Varma takes a look at how digital strategies can help aviation manufacturing and MRO businesses to advance to the next level

Given the high cost of owning an aircraft fleet, airlines today are looking to pay for the function of the system and not for the CAPEX of its ownership. This behaviour is encouraging OEMs to use innovative business models that can efficiently budget costs across the product life cycle. OEMs are also producing next-generation aircraft and products which comparatively need a lesser degree of maintenance, further denting the Aircraft MRO business. These market dynamics necessitate aircraft MROs to servitise their offerings by augmenting their existing portfolio with more value-based services. They need to enhance their existing business models and fix process inefficiencies to gain a competitive edge.

The commercial aviation industry is seeing rapid growth accentuating the demand for MRO facilities. The rising middle- class population with surplus spendable income has created a high demand for air travel. This, in turn, has impacted the growth of global commercial fleet and is disrupting the aviation industry order.

The MRO business too is showing bullish signs for the coming decade. Though newer equipment will require fewer maintenance visits, aircraft MROs will continue to see an upward business trend driven by the slow pace of retiring aircraft. This growth will further be propelled by production and delivery challenges of new generation aircraft. Airlines are looking for MRO partners who can beat cost and time expectations while offering the best quality, dependability, and customised services.

To be competitive and to gain differentiation, aircraft MROs are gearing up by servitising and expanding their portfolio, and resorting to digital transformation. The paucity of trained technicians and mindset of millennials is also pushing the need to adopt digital technologies for servicing the technically sophisticated aircraft.

Digital technologies to deploy for Aircraft MROs:
Use of Augmented Reality aids in identifying and tracking defects with unprecedented accuracy and offers the right fix to bring systems back to service-ready condition with quick turnaround time.

Additionally, robotic applications and image processing techniques increase the effectiveness and reliability of inspections while reducing human errors.

By leveraging blockchains, MROs get a whole new perspective on the treatment and fidelity of data with the right security measures in place. Additionally, the use of IoT and cloud technologies for asset management enables the optimised and efficient use of costly and sparse resources improving the bottom line for MROs.

Additive manufacturing is also revolutionising spares and obsolescence parts management, and making in-roads swiftly into the MRO space.

Another significant technology comes in the form of digital twins. It is being used to receive early warnings and predicting system behaviour for effective, proactive maintenance. Tying the data together across the MRO value steam by using the digital thread offers world-class customer-service experience coupled with transparency on the work scope.

Big Data analytics are also being leveraged for asset health management and to streamline maintenance schedules by predicting failures accurately. Furthermore, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have made it possible to clone the expert mode of analysis in the accurate diagnosis and pointed root cause analysis.

Implementation of such digital technologies will be successful if OEMs have no barriers and restrictions in sharing proprietary information with MROs. The evolving digital technologies come with a price and MROs should pursue innovative avenues for funding their digital aspirations. The digital transformation for MROs has to be fast-paced, and it requires them to be more agile and flexible. MROs should also find the right skill set and engineering partners to drive their well-planned and strategised digital journey.

Two major developments that can disorder MROs is the increased focus on advanced materials and changing business models. While smart and self-healing materials can largely eliminate the need for repair, MROs can shift gears in picking up the skills for sensor technologies that control this self-healing behaviour. Also, adopting the right business models is the key to remain competitive and ahead in the game. MROs should focus on bringing in process efficiencies, defect-free repair methodologies, faster turnaround times, optimised spare parts inventory, and co-ordinated logistics. A simultaneous intersection of capacity increase, process improvements and digital transformation will create MROs of the future as entities who are resilient to combat the ever-growing competition threat.

Working on the forefront of technologies, Cyient has observed that digital strategies when executed in time can swiftly take aviation manufacturing and MRO businesses to the next level. Coupling this digital journey with NORMs (New Order Revenue Models) will aid MRO companies to create significant and continuous business value for their customers.

Mr. DRSV Varma is Head of Operations at Cyient Singapore. Cyient provides engineering, manufacturing, geospatial, networks, digital, and operations management solutions to global industry leaders. Cyient leverages the power of digital technology and advanced analytics capabilities, along with their domain knowledge and technical expertise, to help clients solve complex business problems. As a Design, Build, maintain partner that takes solution ownership across the value chain, Cyient empowers its clients to focus on their core, innovate, and stay ahead of the curve.