Soaring to greater heights with optimized decisions

Author: Sanjay Nair

Yet another flight delay? We’ve all been in this situation, but as a frequent flyer, this is what I detest most about travel. After going through the long lines at security and customs checkpoints, I look forward to the airport lounge (reaping the benefits of being a frequent flyer) as it offers a welcome respite. But imagine working at ease in an airport lounge, then being informed that it is now time to turn off your computer and head to the boarding gate. And then, after rushing to finish up my work and making my way hastily to the gate, I find that my flight is delayed by 45 minutes or an hour. Frustrating would be an understatement.

While flight delays are sometimes unavoidable (particularly when they are due to safety issues), minimizing such delays should be a top priority for all players in the air transport industry. After all, improving on-time performance not only bolsters customer loyalty and builds brand value, but also helps airlines reduce significant costs that can add up to billions of dollars. Indeed, these delays cost an astonishing amount.

It is true, though, that many of these delays are caused by circumstances that are beyond control of the airline, such as poor weather conditions. But, apart from these instances, airlines can improve their punctuality and save costs by optimizing their operational processes such as maintenance, operations control, network planning, and ground operations.

Take maintenance, for example.

Maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) is a complex process that has strict and specific requirements to guarantee the safety of passengers and aircrew. Proper maintenance is after all an essential contributor to the high levels of safety that we experience today.

Maintenance facilities are typically managed by the Engineering and Maintenance divisions of the airlines, although it is also common that those facilities can be outsourced to independent MRO companies. Their activities can range from simple spare part replacements to an entire overhaul.  As MRO is an asset intensive industry, even minor improvements in the way day-to-day technicians operate can have a major impact – resulting in substantial efficiency and cost benefits.

A key metric that MRO providers use to monitor their maintenance process performance is turnaround time (TAT) – which refers to the amount of time (typically measured in days) taken to fulfill a maintenance request. By reducing their turnaround time (while, of course, maintaining repair quality and lowering costs), MRO companies can unlock significant value.

In order to reduce maintenance downtime, some best practices that airlines adopt include preventative maintenance, scheduled shop visits, and performing repairs in conjunction with other planned maintenance events. In all of this, gathering accurate data is the first crucial step in identifying and improving inefficient processes. Poor data on the availability of spare parts and capacity, for instance, could result in costly delays.

And then the big question: what do we do with all this accurate data that has been gathered? If this data cannot be transformed into optimized decisions that can add value to a company, it is essentially useless. This is where the use of an algorithm-based, intelligent optimization solution becomes an integral part of the decision-making process. With a decision-centric optimization solution, MRO providers can make the most of their data to increase the efficiency of their maintenance operations while maximizing aircraft flight time.

Many MRO organizations are now recognizing the need for such decision-centric optimization solutions, which enable them to make real-time optimized decisions concerning capacity, materials, inventory, and technical skills for improved operational performance and profitability. Optimized decision making is fast becoming a critical competitive differentiator in the MRO industry and throughout the business world.

At a recent meeting, I was thrilled to hear compliments being showered on ICRON for helping our customer achieve “the shortest repair turnaround time in the entire MRO industry”. What a record-setting performance! And the value of it all?

Enough hint on who my favorite airline is. With their usual on-time performance, I hope to cozy up under a blanket and treat myself to a movie marathon during my next flight.


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