Over the last decade, the aviation industry has experienced unprecedented growth, leading to major shifts and changes in the way the market has functioned and will function going forward. Since the end of the downturn almost a decade ago, Revenue Passenger Kilometers (RPKs), a common measure of airline performance, has averaged year-on-year growth of over 6% (source: IATA). This growth has been a boon for airlines and is indicative of the overall strength of the global economy. However, with growth comes challenges. One of the most pressing of these challenges for airlines, and adjacent maintenance organizations, is the ongoing struggle to meet labor requirements.
A recent article published in Forbes describes the workforce challenge in detail. Boeing estimates 189,000 technicians will be required to meet demand by 2037 – a number that, as outlined in the article, excludes military demand. As it currently stands, the industry is far off from that number and trending in the wrong direction.
As more baby boomers retire over the next several years, the aerospace industry has lagged in recruiting new technicians from younger generations to take their place. Adding to the struggle, providers often find themselves competing for labor, as automotive, technology, and other industries regularly look to recruit aviation technicians due to their high level of technical competence and customer focus. As a result, organizations have looked for strategies to ensure a healthy pipeline of workers to support operations. The Forbes article highlights how AAR, one of the largest global MRO providers, has taken proactive steps to recruit, hire, and retain new talent through public-private partnerships that extend opportunities at community colleges and provide tuition reimbursement for the two-year degrees often required for technician jobs.
Another example comes from Liebherr, an aircraft systems OEM with a robust aftermarket MRO capability, that has partnered with the Michigan Institute of Aviation Technology (MIAT) to develop a pipeline of qualified technicians. Almost all MRO businesses are taking or considering similar steps, and it’s become a common practice throughout the industry to focus on early recruitment and training – while also aiming to improve working conditions, modernize the work environment, and streamline the hiring process in order to attract qualified talent.
But what if you could meet near-term labor requirements by improving the productivity of your existing workforce?
While all these activities can have a positive impact on the future of the industry, the best answer for airlines and MROs may come from inside their own walls. In order to meet rising demands and bridge the gap left by labor shortages, with support from Proudfoot, airlines can transform their operations and improve the productivity of their existing workforce.
New aircraft bring new and more efficient maintenance procedures; however, suppliers for legacy aircraft often continue to use practices and procedures that are antiquated and lack efficient innovations that have been established since the aircraft’s initial launch. Practices like analyzing and reorganizing work centers, implementing visual management systems, improving back office flow, and other rapid transformation efforts can have an immediate and significant impact on labor productivity and the bottom line. At Proudfoot, we have enabled this in practice with our clients many times. Our Aerial MappingTM technology and functional MRO team, identify deficiencies, and implement effective change projects that provide benefits, in just a matter of weeks.
What if you could reduce you labor downtime by 20% by identifying bottlenecks and improving the process flow for repairs? For a major heavy maintenance provider, that could equate to hundreds of unneeded employee requisitions currently frustrating your HR department and left unfilled, daily. With Proudfoot, you can optimize these productivity improvements, while seeing a 20-25% improvement in Turnaround Time (TAT) and major capacity expansions in your hangar or shops!
Our MRO team has been at work with several international airlines, MROs, and Tier 1 suppliers to transform workforce behaviors and improve operational efficiencies. We work with clients to create and sustain foundational active management protocols and tools that lead to improved productivity, continuous improvement, and increased capacity. Too often we see organizations and cultures where new tools and technologies, meant to improve efficiency, are slowing down processes – or worse, left sitting on the shop floor. Proudfoot will engage your people on the ground floor to understand all the processes and interfaces that affect operations, and to bridge any divides between management, supervisors, and front-line staff.
With a 4-week rapid analytics assessment or lean jumpstart, most organizations will discover significant opportunities for improved productivity, as well as some quick and easy wins that provide immediate benefits. While we recommend that firms engage strategies to improve labor flows over the next several years, over the near-term, airlines and MROs would be best served to also look internally at ways in which they can do more with the labor they already have. If you want to engage, enable, and energize your existing workforce to improve output and productivity, we can help.