Maintenance can be a tremendous lever for growth and competitiveness for companies in the aeronautics and defense industry.

The aeronautics sector has enjoyed enviable health for several years which has not been denied. Even if fluctuations in the price of fuel sometimes have a downward impact on the choice of airlines to invest or not in new aircraft, the order book of the main manufacturers – Airbus and Boeing in the lead – is full for several years. . In France, the dynamism of air traffic recently prompted Groupe ADP to revise its growth forecasts upwards, with the announcement of the probable crossing of the 100 million passenger mark in 2017.

This good health is also found in the field of defense. In France, the Scorpion army renovation program recently confirmed the order for several hundred new generation military vehicles from the consortium made up of Nexter, Renault Trucks Defense and Thales. Another example in Europe: the MBDA missile ship received an order from the British Ministry of Defense for nearly 650 million euros a few weeks ago. In France, as in many countries around the world, defense programs have been considerably strengthened in recent years, and this trend will continue under the pressure of geopolitical instability.

Service at the heart of Aeronautics and Defense organizations

In such a context of growth, maintenance activities take on an even more strategic and decisive dimension, both from the point of view of the operational capacity of the equipment and of the budgets they represent. Whether in the field of defense or in that of civil aviation, manufacturers must meet much higher conditions and expectations from their customers.

The case of the French Defense Ministry is a good illustration of this trend. After being pinned down by the Court of Auditors in 2014 for the significant increase in MCO (Maintenance in operational condition) expenses of its military equipment, the Ministry of Defense has taken certain key decisions to improve the management of its MCO budget. This is now taken into account from the design of the equipment, and special attention has been paid to maintenance contracts, which are becoming global and which involve more severe delay penalties for manufacturers.

In order to make maintenance more efficient operationally and financially, equipment manufacturers in the aeronautics and defense sector must adapt to these new levels of requirement. It is their performance and their competitiveness, and even their survival. Their strategy and their maintenance service offer must in particular take into account the following key points:

  • The evolution of contract models – On the one hand, the generalization of operational support contracts covering complete services, from the delivery of equipment to repair and maintenance services. And, on the other hand, the growing adoption of Performance Based Logistics, similar to the Power by the Hour contracts prevalent in the airline industry.
  • The ability to anticipate and react – By relying on ever more precise and reliable forecasts, combined with advanced analysis tools, manufacturers must be able to organize themselves upstream and respond as efficiently as possible possible for unplanned events. This is all the more crucial in the field of defense, where a strong mobilization may be necessary in new operational theaters, all over the world. As such, predictive maintenance represents a decisive technological innovation.
  • Inventory optimization – this involves both ensuring the availability of spare parts in the right place at the right time, and controlling the cost of inventory. The management of spare parts stocks is all the more strategic in the A&D sector as these are often complex and expensive parts. Apart from the fact that the price of certain parts is very high, not being able to supply the necessary part quickly can also result in AOG (Aircraft on Ground) incidents, which are synonymous with significant financial losses. It is therefore essential to be able to correlate inventory management of spare parts with the service levels included in each contract, and to organize inventory physically and geographically accordingly.
  • Service innovation from maintenance technicians – the last link in the chain is just as important. Technicians working on site can significantly improve service levels thanks to innovative technologies and connected information systems. They are the direct interface between the industrial manufacturer and the customer, and it is they who convey the image and performance of the company. It is therefore essential that they have the best tools, for their own efficiency and for customer satisfaction.

The operational availability of equipment and materials is a fundamental criterion in the industry, and it is up to manufacturers to organize themselves to minimize downtime. With the growth of the aeronautics and defense sector expected for the coming years, the pressure on maintenance operations and the management of spare parts will continue to increase.

More than ever, original equipment manufacturers and independent distributors of aircraft components and services will need to rely on tools and technological innovations to ensure parts availability and greater efficiency.