Our world is changing. And we’re not just talking about global warming, shifting demographics, and advanced technologies; we’re also talking about a new workforce slowly replacing previous generations of workers. For some industries, such as MRO, getting a new, digitally skilled aviation workforce can only mean good news. But are millennials really tech savvy? Can a “tech whiz kid” become a capable professional, who can be trusted with the lives of hundreds of people? Read more
Manufacturing products without a factory would have seemed impossible a few years ago. However, the “impossible” is slowly taking shape thanks to additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. This relatively new technology is ready to deliver a small, “mobile” factory to every OEM, MRO, and repair shop. In fact, a number of businesses are embracing additive manufacturing as a temporary or permanent manufacturing solution, as you read these lines.
3D Printing: The Future Is Just Around the Corner
Although 3D printing technology can be used by anyone, from regular people to industry giants, sustainable growth is expected to come from industrial applications, especially in the OEM and MRO sectors. That’s simply because only a large company has the financial power to design, craft, and test multiple prototypes to finally develop a product that customers will want to buy. But this is only half of the OEM-MRO equation. The other half relates to the impact additive manufacturing will have on the MRO industry.
Additive manufacturing technologies deliver incredible flexibility. To begin with, a MRO company will be able to develop “instant” spare parts and complete maintenance and repair tasks within hours. Imagine an airline looking for a MRO able to repair an airplane that has broken down unexpectedly. Instead of waiting days or even weeks for parts to arrive, the MRO can manufacture the parts needed outright and fix the airplane within several hours.
Manufacturing parts for scheduled maintenance and repairs or, more importantly, for unplanned events, with virtually no wasted materials, will help MROs reduce downtime and operating costs. Another major motivator for additive manufacturing technology adoption is the ability to produce hard-to-find spare parts or components that aren’t manufactured anymore.
The International Space Station’s 3D Print project is one edifying example of spare parts production using additive manufacturing. The first 3D printer was launched to the space station in September 2014. On November 24, 2014, the first “space” object was successfully manufactured using 3D printing technology. According to NASA officials, additive manufacturing is useful especially when spare parts aren’t available or when inventory is extremely expensive to ship. This technology brings several performance and efficiency advantages, regardless of whether a maintenance company or department is located on Mars or on Earth.
Additive manufacturing may seem too futuristic to become standard. However, the acceptance of this technology as a source of spare parts will change the course of MRO history. A maintenance company will be able not only to manufacture simple or complex parts and difficult-to-achieve geometries, as required; it can also develop prototypes to modify equipment and achieve quicker repair times.
Undoubtedly, the ability to manufacture parts on demand will affect inventory and logistics. MROs will no longer have to order spare parts from manufacturers and keep dozens of “just-in-case” replacement components on hand until the right clients come along. Whenever they need a product, they can just make it. This will probably cause a collapse of the entire supply chain, making part suppliers and even manufacturers vulnerable to extinction.
By eliminating the need for high-volume production, 3D printing shows its worth in terms of reducing production costs. Additionally, it increases part availability at the point of use and decreases shipping-, inventory-, and labor-related expenses. Although this brings bad news for a number of businesses, additive manufacturing will add new efficiencies to the operations of MROs and their clients. In conclusion, what additive manufacturing does is to dissolve the global supply chain, which costs MROs billions of dollars every year, re-assembling it as a local system, at a much lower cost.
In the following years, additive manufacturing will radically change the OEM and MRO environment. Analysts predict that the additive manufacturing market will grow to $16 billion by 2018. More and more companies, especially MROs, are expected to invest in 3D printers to produce parts as needed. But to achieve the forecasted outcomes, digital design software must evolve and more advanced and affordable scanners must be developed. On the other side, manufacturers must find a way to protect themselves against the negative consequences of this technology. For sure, 3D printing will tip the scales in someone’s favor. Who will be the winner? Only time will tell.
One of the basic features of the ProMRO module available for Microsoft Dynamics AX is the Project Quick Create. The Project Quick Create feature makes it easy for users to get started with projects in only a few clicks of the mouse. With this feature, users can create projects, contracts, work orders and invoices by only clicking a single button.
The Project Quick Create is based on a pre-configured template tailored for the needs of organizations in the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul industry. To get started, users have to enter the correct information of the task they want to accomplish on the ProMRO module.
Creating a Project in ProMRO
Follow these steps to get started with Project Quick Create:
- To create a new project, navigate to the ProMRO area and select Project Details. The Project Details window will be displayed.
- Navigate to the top menu of the Project details and under Quick Functions, click the New Project A new project pre-filled with name of business relation, description and customer PO will be created.
Next, set the customer due date on the date selection display pop up and click OK.
- The next step is to add the value on the Equipment ID. Click the drop down arrow to select the ID.
- You can also add the details of the customer to Equipment. Enter the details of the customer on the pop up dialog box after setting the Equipment ID. Make sure you check the Prompt for Engineering Value box.
When done, click OK to exit the dialog box.
- If you checked the Prompt for Engineering Value box, the Engineering Value screen will appear. On the screen, you can set the engineering test values for the equipment. Generally, you would have to work with another system or a spreadsheet to coordinate the test values of the equipment. The reference will be attached directly to the invoice, contract and quote throughout the project, allowing you to refer to it at any time without the need to look at a spreadsheet for additional assistance.
- Close the screen after setting all the Engineering values.
The next step is to set the values for the Estimate Center, Work Center and Person Responsible for the equipment.
- When done, click the Services tab on the bottom half of the Project MRO screen. To fill the values in the Service ID fields, enter the service or choose an available service from the drop down arrow. The only services you can choose are those already available at the Estimate center. However, you can use generic service names so that you can use them in other projects.
- Select the Service Profiles you want added to the project. The Service Profiles will be added with their existing line values. You can go through the values and customize them for your project. To edit a value, simply click on its column and enter the new value.
- After editing the Service Profile details to meet your requirements, click OK. A new project with the details you provided will have been created. Through the ProMRO Quick Create Process, the work order is created at the same time.
Your new project will be available on the Project Screen. You can see the details of the project by clicking on it. On the General tab, you can view the project contract and estimate project. Keep in mind that the project contract is automatically created with all the information you need by the ProMRO module when you create a Quick Project a project.
To view more details of the project, navigate through the Status, Address, Other and Dimension tabs. Click the close button to exit the screen.
You can also view the details of the Estimate project by clicking through the Overview, General, Status, Setup, Address, Dimension and ProMRO tabs. The ProMRO tab shows how all values are reference able from a single screen, including the equipment, service profile and quote. On the Equipment ID, you can drill down to specifics of the equipment, for example check whether there are customer specific details that you may have entered when creating the project.
Lately, the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) industry has experienced a series of changes that define a higher level of complexity. Consequently, most MRO companies are focusing on integrated service offerings, which go beyond regular maintenance and repair activities. To guarantee the best service quality, the support offered by MRO companies is evolving towards wearable technology, with a significant impact on the future of MRO.
MRO Europe Conference and Exhibition at a Glance
Unsurprisingly, the 17th annual MRO Europe Conference and Exhibition held from October 7 through October 9, 2014, confirmed the need for new technologies in the MRO sector. The event brought together airlines, manufacturers, suppliers, militaries, governments, and many other organizations that serve the global aviation industry. One of the most important and widely discussed topics revolved around the impact of wearable technologies on MRO.
Although Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) invoke intellectual property rights to restrict access to technical documentation – a measure that may prevent MROs from serving customers in the future – the MROs that operate in this market are struggling to implement new technologies, in an effort to adapt to the needs and demands of their current customers. Since MRO technicians and mechanics will have less time to access aircrafts due to increasingly stringent airport/airline security constraints, wearable technologies have become essential components for the future of MRO.
Practical applications of wearables, such as Pebble Watch and Google Glass, have shown that technicians and mechanics get better results when working around aircrafts. That’s because the new technologies allow them to access far more information than they can get on site, send accurate aircraft status updates, and stay in touch with engineers on the ground until the best solutions to specific problems encountered on aircrafts are found. By deploying new technologies, engineering teams will also be able to see exactly what pilots are seeing (error codes, readings, etc.).
Besides the technological impact wearables are expected to have on this industry sector, the future of MRO is governed by three major trends:
- Financial – Many MRO products are currently combining financial with maintenance packages to offer the end consumer the ideal mix of advanced engineering solutions and financial hedging. Power-by-the-hour programs along with lease and asset buyback schemes are components of numerous MRO projects, allowing customers to benefit from the latest technologies at lower costs than previously possible.
- Business – Airlines and air charter operators are planning to replace older aircrafts (e.g. Airbus A320, Boeing 737, etc.) with new models. The shift towards new aircrafts along with wearable technologies will reduce the need for heavy equipment repairs in the MRO market, impacting especially the hangar-based MROs. The companies refusing to embrace new technologies that allow them to go to clients’ locations to perform specific maintenance and repair tasks will probably become extinct in the future. Additionally, OEMs are starting to play a major role as technical data centers. However, turning technical-minded manufacturers into customer-focused service providers is no easy job. Therefore, the good news is that OEMs will need to team up with MROs to execute most of their service contracts, at least for the moment.
- Economic – The mixed messages about the global economic situation put pressure on all those involved in the aviation industry. Since most MROs are forced to accelerate the retirement plans for the older generation of workers – fact that negatively impacts labor volumes, including maintenance and repair activities – airlines and air charter operators are investing more in advanced technologies and training so that their in-house teams will be able to perform maintenance and repair tasks. The new trend towards developing in-house technical teams adopted by an increasing number of airlines represents a major threat to independent MROs.
Although multiple applications have already shown the advantages of using wearables in different industry sectors, including MRO, the key to making the most of cutting-edge technologies is to create a sustained behavior. By integrating the solutions available on today’s market with wearables and helping users understand the benefits of using the latest technologies, MROs will be able to implement effective operational strategies, which will have a positive impact on the future of MRO, eventually saving the entire MRO ecosystem.