Aviation Week & Space Technology, Dec. 9, 2013

Is Your Part Reliable?

By Robert Trebilcock Keene, N.H.

Predicting when and where a part might fail is a major challenge to any fleet operator or repair organization. However, whether a part is performing as advertised--whether it is reliable—poses a major risk to any repair organization or equipment, component or parts manufacturer that warranties its product or its work. For that reason, reliability is a major risk that needs to be controlled.

That's because the price of a part, a service offering and a warranty program is predicated on the cost of maintaining that part over its lifetime, according to Janice Davis. The group vice president of supply chain for a telecommunications company, Davis was for eight years the chief procurement officer for an aircraft manufacturer.

During that time, this manufacturer developed a rigorous metrics model associated with contracts with its suppliers to support its warranty and service programs. Two of the most important metrics were the mean time between unscheduled repair and the cost of repairs over the life cycle of the part, both of which were estimated and charted for warranty purposes before bringing a system to market. Those metrics were then tracked across individual fleet operators and aircraft.

"If we saw that unscheduled repairs were trending upwards for a specific fleet or that the cost of repairs in the aftermarket were higher than estimated, those were early warning signs and alerts that something was wrong," says Davis.

These warning signs were taken as a signal to sit down with the internal engineering team, the fleet operator experiencing a problem and the system suppliers. "If we weren't getting the cycles we estimated, it could be that the design was not robust enough for the expectation of the part, it could be that the operator wasn't maintaining it properly or it could have been a quality issue with a supplier," says Davis.

The point, she adds, is that by tracking the right metrics, her organization could have fact-based discussions with its customers and its suppliers to get at the root cause of the problem and reduce supply chain risk as well as improve overall customer satisfaction. "If you don't understand the root cause of the problem, you just end up flying parts around the world to keep a plane in the air and continue to have negative costs on the overall supply chain," she adds.

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