Operational Excellence in Aviation MRO
Is Your MRO Designed to Grow?
When an engineer designs an aircraft or a jet engine, they consider both a static design (the object at rest) and a dynamic design (the object in motion). For example, the static design of an aircraft at rest is the size of the wings, fuselage, rudders, windows, seats, etc. The dynamic design of an aircraft is the design for performance in flight, i.e., the cruise speed, handling turbulence, stall angle, maximum bank, and much more. When it comes to our business operations, most companies spend quite of bit of time on the static design (like the physical layout of the factory), but how much time do we really spend on the dynamic design, or the design for our ‘Operations in Motion?’
In the world of Aviation, and especially on the MRO side, a high amount of variation exists. Engines ‘show up’ unexpectedly on the doorstep needing repair. Panels are opened on an aircraft and we don’t know what will be found inside that might need fixing. Parts are sent to suppliers for refurbishing, and we don’t know exactly when they will come back. These are the ‘operations in motion,’ and they happen each day. And the only way they currently happen is by management. Managers are chartered with making decisions to steer the course, to keep things moving in the right direction. Every day, they manage the operation and try to continuously improve it. In other words, if your operations were an aircraft, managers would be keeping it flying and also trying to improve it while flying, which is probably not the best design.
In the MRO industry, the business operations are intended to move information, material, and people to the right place at the right time in order to overhaul a product for the customer. With all the variation within this industry, a design for operations is crucial. Progressive companies like Wood Group Turbopower LLC, who overhaul gas turbine engines in Miami Lakes, FL, have figured out that their operations design needs to answer some key operational questions. For example, in manufacturing, how will each operator know what to work on next? How will they know when to send their work to the next process? How will they know they are on time to customer demand? What will they do when they are behind? Of course, none of these answers should be ‘go see a supervisor.’ Some questions for the shop floor: can a visitor see our flow from receiving deck to shipping deck? How will we know if the operation is on time to customer demand? In the office, similar questions apply: is our office designed for flow? In the office, how does everyone know what to work on next? When will information flow? How do we know if the office is on time?