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Juggling parts

Keeping a helicopter in the air demands access to a steady supply of backup parts in case the machine breaks down.


July 18, 2007
By Helicopters Canada

Keeping a helicopter in the air demands access to a steady supply of
backup parts in case the machine breaks down. Yet many Canadian
operators and smaller repair shops may not be doing enough to ensure
they have the right part at the right time. In fact it is a continuous
challenge to determine what parts should be stocked and at which times.
The result is often a last-minute scramble to locate and express ship a
critical part. Meanwhile, the helicopter sits in a hangar rather than
out in the field where it can earn money.

"AOG
(aircraft on the ground) is the worst time to be thinking of purchasing
parts.You end up paying a lot more since there is no time to shop
around." said Bert Vergeer, vice-president of London, Ontario-based
AV-Base Systems, a maintenance and inventory software developer. "It is
all about getting control of the situation."

In 1997 it was
estimated that approximately 80% of North American operators and MROs
were inadequately equipped to handle inventory. Even those with
computerized systems reported a hodgepodge of spreadsheets to control
inventory (while manual white boards kept track of maintenance) and
outdated in-house tracking systems. Vergeer suggests that in an era of
just-in-time service to customers, too many companies still remain a
few steps behind.

"We’ve seen a 50/50 ratio. Half the companies
have too much inventory – certainly stock that will never move – the
other 50% have clear indicators of potential stock storages." he said.

Compounding
the problem is a scratch-pad culture where part numbers are routinely
scribbled on a piece of paper and piled on top of the desk. This
approach works fine for the individual for the moment, however aquiring
later access or providing access to others is often limited. Some
individuals are able to retain this information in memory. But when
they leave, this only source of information leaves with them. It
represents a huge resource and financial sinkhole with most companies.

How
do you correct the imbalance? "There's definitely a juggling act to
please our accountants and our customers," said Shaun Stubbs, manager
of ACRO Aero-Parts, the parts sales division of ACRO Aerospace.

ACRO
has approximately 30,000 line items in stock at any given time. The
heart of its parts management system is a fully integrated computer
program that keeps track of inventory levels along with what is flowing
through the system. "Everything is issued out on the computer. As the
part is removed for each job it is reduced on the system," Stubbs
pointed out.


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