April 22, 2019, © Leeham News: Moves by Airbus, Boeing and Embraer to increase their shares of aftermarket services are viewed by their own suppliers with a mix of trepidation or resolve, depending on who they are.
For Collins Aerospace, it’s resolve.
It’s also about become more efficient with advanced manufacturing of its parts supplied to the aerospace industry. This reduces costs, lead times and takes advantage of Collins’ own engineers and designs for value-added services to its customers.
I spoke with two officials from Collins at the Aviation Week MRO Americas conference in Atlanta April 9-11.
“The aftermarket has always been a competitive space,” says Ajay Agrawal, president of Aftermarket Services for Collins Aerospace. “That’s not new. They have been in the aftermarket for quite a long time. They tend to be our customers as well in the aftermarket,” he says of Airbus, Boeing and Embraer.
Bombardier’s continued presence in commercial aviation is questionable, given the of majority interest in the C Series, outright pending sale of the Q400 program and a desire to sell the CRJ program.
“Our view is, it just continues to push us to innovate more and bring more new value to the customers,” Agrawal says.
This added value includes predictive maintenance, partnering to get costs out and manufacturing efficiencies.
Predictive maintenance is now a major trend, Agrawal says. “There’s friction in the system and an opportunity to work for the customer to take that friction out. Where we differentiate is that we know our equipment better than anybody else, who designed it, developed it and tested it for years and years and years.
“What we are finding is that by bringing those same engineers and engineering expertise to the table in developing predictive algorithms, you can come to a level of precision and specificity that you cannot do otherwise. This is our differentiator.”
“Advanced manufacturing is an area where the industry hasn’t focused on,” says Paula Hay, Executive Director of Additive Design and Manufacturing for Collins Aerospace. “We were very comfortable building parts, because they are very safe, they are very proven. What we are finding now is we can have all that, but we can do it better, faster and shorten the lead time. That can only help our customers.”
Hay says that connecting the factories and machines provides a lot of information that may be used to find data to improve more or identify issues sooner.
“This provides more reliability for customers,” she said.
Challenges remain in adopting advanced manufacturing, she said. “Some of the equipment isn’t even wireless-capable.
“New processes have digital twin and digital modeling. We’re doing this as we’re putting new equipment in,” she said. “Then we’re working through the legacy and traditional manufacturing processes.”
Automation, robotics, connected machines and additive manufacturing have been in development for a decade and now production is underway in many areas.
“We’re seeing today a reduction in lead time of 50%-80% through additive manufacturing. It’s changed the mindset, it’s breaking down the barriers that everyone wants to say no to,” Hay said.
She hopes to have a much broader industrial base by the end of the year than she has today.