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Aerospace ERP Buyers Guide: Choose an Aviation Maintenance ERP flexible enough to handle today’s challenges

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Current market conditions are bringing a lot of turbulence to the aviation industry. Covid-19 took a huge toll on vacation and business travel. While vacation travel will rebound as Covid-19 wanes, business travel isn’t expected to return to pre-pandemic levels. Companies have discovered that it’s a lot cheaper to bring people together via Zoom meetings than to pay for them to travel.

The price of aviation turbine fuel has also skyrocketed following the unrelenting rise in global oil prices. And then there’s the ban on importing Russian titanium which is needed to make engine parts and landing gear for long-haul jetliners. Difficult market conditions like these will certainly affect profits. Airlines will be looking for new ways to cut costs to offset losses.

MROs vs OEMs

Shrinking profits in recent years have already forced industry leaders to come up with ways to trim budgets and maximize earnings. One of the ways they’ve done so is by rethinking the whole approach to aviation maintenance. The traditional approach to this work has been to let the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) maintain the airline fleet. In recent years, that has been changing. Maintenance, Repair, and Operations shops (MROs) are increasingly taking on the work of airplane maintenance and repair. Experts think this trend of outsourcing airplane fleets for repair and service will continue to grow, and that MROs will continue to take more of the OEM’s share of the airplane maintenance market.

MROs have been successful at luring business away from the OEMs because their work processes have generally returned the airplanes into service faster with no loss of quality. MROs have been quick to see the value in adopting sophisticated aviation business management software technologies. Aviation software helps them service and repair the aircraft efficiently and promptly get it back into operation. Increased efficiency brought about by aviation ERPs has been the main reason why MROs have been able to cut into the airplane maintenance market – a market that once exclusively belonged to OEMs.

Today, 60% of heavy aircraft maintenance is outsourced and MRO partners are chosen based on the service and quality they provide. That percentage is expected to steadily rise. Aviation Week Fleet forecasts that the MRO market for the military fleet maintenance market alone will exceed $1.1 trillion over the next 10 years. 

Independent MROs must be able to deliver exceptional service and confidently bid, manage and deliver on the contracts they win. An aviation ERP makes it possible to accurately bid and quote, plan and schedule and release the aircraft on time. An ERP for aviation streamlines the whole process: cost tracking, reporting, billing, analysis, insight into the supply chain, procurement, stock and warehouse management, tools, material, and parts availability are all handled by the ERP. An aerospace ERP can also efficiently manage financial and HR teams, compliance management, licensing, and other work processes.

ERPs: helping Component MROs succeed

All ERPs streamline business processes through integration, improved visibility, automation, data analysis, reporting, tracking, and simplifying customer relationship management. Accounting, financial and human resource management are also often incorporated into an ERP. Component MROs utilizing such technologies get an enterprise-wide overview and control of business operations.

Key features of ERPs

Superior contract management - ERP software provides support for customized contract creation. Once the contract is created, it is then tracked and monitored across multiple departments. Automation makes the collaborative process proceed swiftly, helping mitigate errors. Analytics assess how the contract will impact sales, materials, and billing. This helps companies create accurate bids so that projects don’t go over budget.

Production planning and control -  ERPs support the planning needed for routing, scheduling, and executing workflows and monitoring and reporting progress. By introducing better planning capabilities, companies work cost-effectively with minimal staff. Supply chain snags can be quickly addressed or new strategies and processes can be easily incorporated so that there’s always an effective use of materials and work crews.

Predictive Analytics - Computer models of workflows help improve efficiency. Predictive analytics assess real-time data and suggest how workflows and productivity can be improved. These features also support invoice efficiency and can be very helpful when it comes to improving the accuracy of non-routine estimates.

Comprehensive Materials Management - Supply chain management is eased by an ERP since the system not only creates effective job schedules but assesses inventory to ensure that all tools and aircraft components needed are available to complete the repair.

Allows for continuous improvement - Many modern ERPs are flexible and can be adapted as new business processes and workflows are developed. For example, since business travel is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels, the aerospace industry is beginning to consider producing fewer twin-aisle aircraft and more single-aisle planes capable of flying overseas, to offer an enhanced customer experience. Producing and maintaining planes like these will require a whole new set of business processes. New materials that are more resistant to corrosion, oxidation, and wear and have improved thermal properties are also being developed. A flexible ERP can accommodate new workflow processes industry changes like these would require.

Aviation maintenance is a high-regulated, complex industry. Controlling costs and budgets, complying with regulations, ensuring personnel safety, extending machine life, and maximizing efficiency are common objectives of an aviation ERP.  Aerospace ERPs are tailored to meet these goals and have added specific industry functionality to improve workflows.

Aerospace ERPs Tailored Functionality

Aerospace ERPs add specific functionality to support aircraft maintenance and repair including:

  • Automated processes that assist in the creation of airplane maintenance work packages - Maintenance work packages define specific tasks that are to be performed when an aircraft arrives for maintenance or repair. The ERP streamlines the creation of the work package and uses AI to generate the most efficient scheduling of the work team. Artificial intelligence also helps ensure that all the tools and materials needed are in stock and available. Additional orders and task cards can be added to the package as needed, and once the work package is created, the system tracks the repair/service process from the time of the work start to its end date. If any problems occur, the system can send messages to keep all necessary personnel informed.
  • Tailor-made functionality to ensure no line maintenance checks are missed - Defect rectification and inspections are efficiently handled on a collaborative aviation ERP. The ERP can also update warehouse inventory status to ensure that any parts or supplies used are ordered as needed. Formerly siloed departments are united on the ERP platform.
  • Efficient handling of corrective maintenance, preventative maintenance, and predictive maintenance - Aviation ERPs can deploy several workflow procedures for corrective maintenance, preventative maintenance, and predictive maintenance. For instance, if a C check is required, an aviation ERP can launch a whole new set of deep inspection business processes to be performed on the aircraft, helping to ensure nothing is overlooked and that the repair is executed with the highest quality.
  • Support for integrated process monitoring - An aviation ERP provides workers with a constant 3D view of machine quality. This advanced machining feature aids in the production of quality parts. Expensive part rework is eliminated because the tool inspection can take place before executing critical machining steps, saving both time and money. Process monitoring not only helps in air fleet repair and maintenance but also supports aviation R&D efforts. New models and new processes can be tested in computer simulations before any expensive machining takes place. Information can be accessed, evaluated, and shared with authorized personnel via the ERP
  • Provides End-to-end process visibility - A  complete overview of all phases of airplane maintenance and repair with complete traceability and compliance is provided. With a real-time overview of the whole work cycle and deep insight into each step along the way, accurate forecasts and budgets become possible. When Depot Total Action Time (TAT) is accurate and the aircraft returns to service on time, high customer satisfaction is achieved.

Evaluating Aerospace ERPs  

Once you decide to invest in or upgrade to a modern MRO ERP, you’ll face many choices.

Most all on the market will help manage supply chain complexity and offer integration, automation, data analysis, and reporting traceability. They will differ in flexibility, customization ability, and cost. Some will have user-friendly dashboards. Are the dashboards customizable? Can the system scale as your business grows? Can it automate financial reports, purchase orders, and expense reports? If you need support for IoT, can the ERP offer it? What accounting and financial tasks does the system handle? Can it track inventory?

These are some of the questions you will want to ask as you evaluate the different aircraft maintenance software available today.

IFS: An Enterprise Software Market Leader

IFS has industry-specific solutions for the aerospace aftermarket industry and a proven track record when it comes to fleet management needs. IFS ERP bring full visibility into every stage of operation.

An IFS software suite comes loaded with aviation-specific tasks on a user-friendly platform. Best of all, IFS offers more configurable features at a slightly lower price than its competitors. If you are looking for informed decision-making, streamlined workflows, and an ease-of-use standpoint, IFS is a strong choice.

IFS Solutions for Component MRO

IFS Applications offer management support for four core processes: Service and Asset, Manufacturing, Project, and Supply Chain. Its software suite is rich with aviation-specific solutions and maintenance efficiencies designed to maximize revenue.

MROs choosing IFS Applications have experienced:

  • 60% reduction in work package creation
  • 30% improvement in base maintenance productivity
  • 50% reduction in depot TAT
  • 18% improvement in timely quoting, status reports, work approvals, and invoicing

The modular nature of an IFS ERP allows companies to choose the functionality they need now with room to grow as their needs change. IFS’ modular design requires less time-consuming ERP customization. Enhanced part traceability and predictive maintenance capabilities are built into IFS systems. IFS software improves both long-range and line maintenance planning and offers collaborative, multi-department visibility.

Other vendors may offer specific industry tools, but most are built with rigid architecture and on-premise hardware requiring a long and expensive IT implementation. It's not cost-effective.

IFS Cloud-based SaaS solutions require minimal training and are affordable for small to mid-size MROs.

Specific IFS industry tools: IFS Maintenix solutions

IFS Maintenix solutions can be put to work fairly quickly and do not need the long implementation time and high capital cost that legacy IT hardware, software, services, and support requires. IFS Maintenix offers two user-friendly solutions that support the regulatory and safety compliance that’s required by Part 145 and Part M repair stations. Plus, IFS Maintenix dashboard displays can be configured to be role-specific.

IFS offers two solutions for airframe MROs:

  • IFS Maintenix Fleet Planner offers automated planning on a user-friendly interface. Choose either a Gantt chart or KPI checklists. Fleet Planner takes into account hangar capability, work crew, ferry time, and more. It can be used to create “what-if scenarios” to predict outcomes and select the most efficient schedules and project plans. Traditional spreadsheet planning is replaced by a collaborative system that can align plans with many departments with immediate insight into part availability. The whole workflow planning process is optimized.
  • IFS Maintenix Line Planner allows for granular planning, taking into account workloads at stations. The data is fully sharable and helps ensure all checks are made. Less time is spent on repetitive scheduling tasks; the system lets managers spend more time problem solving The system continually monitors workflows. All essential information is available in real-time on a single screen accessible to authorized viewers.

Both of these time-saving IFS tools support long-range and strategic planning. Collaboration is easier and results in strong, efficient plans that produce great yield. This software updates via the cloud, so companies avoid the additional expense of upgrading legacy technology.  

Astra Canyon specializes in IFS Solutions for the Aerospace Industry

While IFS develops feature-rich ERP aviation business management software, the ERP application will only be as effective as the consulting organization providing the implementation to your exact business needs and requirements. Let us help your business soar to new heights with IFS ERP.

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