Being agile, flexible and timely in a time of crisis (Studio)
Military aerospace maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services must adapt to crises, even those as severe and unexpected as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. For Honeywell, this comes down to three key factors: proximity, efficiency and flexibility.
Honeywell is a major force in the military MRO market through its Defense & Space arm, providing spares, parts and components for engines, avionics, airframes and other systems.
The company works directly with a wide range of MRO providers around the world, both third-party independent entities and government-owned facilities.
As of mid-May 2020, it was too early to establish the impact of COVID -19 on MRO services around the world, said Andy McIntyre, senior manager regional sales, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India (EMEAI) at Honeywell Aerospace. This was because there is generally a lag between increased flying rates and scheduled maintenance events.
However, operators anticipate a spike in demand for MRO in the coming months, with air forces adapting their routine tasks and missions to conduct a series of roles connected to the pandemic: for example, flying long distances to collect personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers. There is also likely to be an increased need for humanitarian relief services, McIntyre added.
‘We’re keeping a really close eye on that and talking to MROs to ensure that once they are notified of changes in flying rates, we're tied at the hip with them so that we can react accordingly,’ he explained.
To respond to a crisis like COVID-19 – and to provide the service that MRO operators demand on a daily basis – Honeywell has built its offering on three key pillars, said Yann Lepage, Honeywell Aerospace’s director, EMEAI Defense & Space sales. First is proximity, both geographically and in terms of responsiveness.
‘We have the right people, with the right expertise, located in the right places for efficient communication during times of crisis and beyond,’ Lepage explained. ‘Honeywell is close to you.’
Building on this, MROs can now become Honeywell Channel Partners and certified installation centres for Connected Aircraft satcom solutions, condition-based maintenance, and health and usage monitoring (HUMS) solutions.
This gives both fleet operators and maintainers real-time performance metrics on their aircraft, leveraging the predictive monitoring of critical components to better align with scheduled maintenance. This reduces time out of service and cuts the risk of unexpected component failure.
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The second pillar is tied to Honeywell Aerospace Trading (HAT), the company’s pre-owned equipment specialist. MROs often demand – particularly during times of crisis – an immediate solution to the requests coming from their end users, Lepage said. This requires the highest levels of efficiency.
‘We need to be quick and fast in the way we answer the customers’ needs,’ Lepage added.
To that end, HAT was created as a specialist in pre-owned equipment sales, particularly for MROs. Stock is on shelves and available immediately, at the highest standards of quality and competitively priced, Lepage said. Honeywell invests its own money in gathering this stock before any order is made, he noted.
‘We put our reputation into the quality of these parts,’ he added.
HAT has also paved the way for Honeywell’s Engine Rental Bank, providing a pool of assets available for MROs if they have an urgent need. This could be particularly useful at a time of crisis, should spare parts be insufficient to meet a sudden surge in demand. Additionally, the trading arm also enables MROs to sell their surplus stock.
The third pillar is the flexibility and support that Honeywell aims to offer MROs. This is a complex demand, but crucially important to meet MROs’ needs.
McIntyre said that a typical MRO – such as an air force’s own shop – will scale its facilities and resources depending on the number of flying hours the fleet is predicted to undertake: for instance, it will set aside a certain number of hours for the scheduled maintenance of an engine.
But if they are flying twice as much as projected, then they can also expect double the number of maintenance events for that engine.
Honeywell provides a range of services to embed flexibility, including favourable commercial terms for direct parts supply; direct access to technical documentation and intellectual property; bespoke training packages; direct OEM technical support; and a single point of contact business manager.
It works extremely closely with MROs to understand their likely demand, forecasting the right amount of spares to deal with any surge and committing to manufacture equipment at its own risk, with no contractual commitment from the customer.
‘We can’t expect them to hold massive amounts of stock on the shelf,’ McIntyre said. ‘We work with them closely to cut those long lead times as much as possible.’
The key to all three pillars is partnership, McIntyre noted, which underpins Honeywell’s ability to quickly and flexibly support MRO needs.
‘It’s all down to communication.’
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