How Operational intelligence has driven a threefold reduction in logistics turnaround times for an Aerospace plant
For the Aftermarket Logistics and Planning Manager at a French plant, implementing Pelico has not only driven a threefold reduction in logistics turnaround time. By freeing logistics teams from the drudgery of data administration and manual calculations, the Operational Intelligence solution has also empowered them to take a step back and refocus on actual value drivers — for example optimizing the overall planning process in order to trigger further efficiencies down the road.
The background: MRO Manager seeks the next-best thing to a crystal-ball
We’ve talked with a Logistics and Planning Manager working at a plant that produces, maintains and repairs critical equipment for air, ground & sea vehicles and military systems. Back when the teams had to plan their Maintenance, Repair, Overhauls (MRO) operations using homegrown data tools and spreadsheets, they had their work cut out for them. The need to data-process a constant inflow of repair orders involving impossible-to-anticipate spare parts and operations used to eat up most of the time and energy of planning teams, preventing them from focusing on priority areas and on value drivers.
Until the adoption of Operational Intelligence solution Pelico.
Challenges and requirements
1. Predicting the unpredictable
While their counterparts in Original Equipment Manufacturing typically enjoy months of visibility into client orders and requirements, MRO Logistics Managers face unpredictable demands. Upon reception of a piece of equipment to be maintained, repaired or overhauled, there is no way to know with certainty which failing part and which specific sub-component will need to be replaced. And yet delivering on time to meet the expectations of demanding clients hinges on the ability to have the right parts, the right components and the right resources at hand when needed.
When your role is all about ensuring availability of the specific screw that operators will need before they even know they’re going to need it, when your mission is to allow for problems (missing parts, expired materials, late supplier delivery, resource unavailability, machine downtime, etc.) before they happen, the key is airtight planning and forecasting based on quality information. But accessing, processing and maintaining information about stock levels, shelf life of spares, supplier deliveries and so forth used to be a struggle. Keeping track of the constant movement of incoming and outgoing materials and supplies was particularly challenging.
2. Energy wasted on “work about work”
The information about client orders, available parts and supply orders that MRO teams needed to plan activity used to be centralized in a “Delivery Clinic” — a massive Excel file shared across some 50 contributors. It should come as no surprise that information consolidation, collaboration and communication were a real grind. Hard-to-follow threads of comments, duplicates, missing or outdated data all created confusion, misunderstandings, and constant frustration across the board. And that’s without even mentioning the software bugs and the resulting data loss. It was extremely challenging to get a consolidated view of work orders, spare stocks, and inbound supplier delivery in order to answer the simple question: Will we have the supplies and resources we need to do that repair in due time?
"We had to dedicate considerable energy trying to make sense out of that high-maintenance Excel file. Meanwhile, we couldn’t focus on what really matters: actually making sure that operators get the resources they need to complete the work within the allotted time", says the Logistics and Planning Manager.
3. Prioritization problem makes tight deadlines tighter
The plant’s MRO cell typically juggles some 2,200 repair orders at a time, each involving specific soldering and assembly operations, specific machines and skills, as well as specific spare parts and materials. Given the volume of activity, MRO Managers used to spend a solid 3 days a week sifting through that “Work in Progress”. For lack of better option, they would review work orders one by one, in a First In, First Out approach, making manual calculations to figure out whether the required spares and resources were available and to track any anomalies (for example missing parts or impossible-to-meet client deadlines) that’d require escalation to the Supply Chain or Customer Office departments.
Because of that manual, sequential way to process orders, logistics teams could spend hours reviewing straightforward work orders involving no specific difficulties, and stumble upon the problematic ones at the end of the day — when it was already too late to take action (to source the missing parts, for example).
4. Weekly planning, hourly fluctuations
And the order review process was actually taking so long that the plant couldn’t afford to wait for completion. As a result the teams frequently worked based on the data from the previous week, for lack of fresher figures. But a lot happens in a week: the inventory of spares and materials actually fluctuates by the hour; the parts to be replaced are not the same from one airplane wing to the next. Accordingly, mission-critical planning was based on missing, inaccurate or out-of-date information about stock levels, supplier delivery and repair orders.
The benefits of Pelico
1. From FIFO to priority-based work
The situation took a whole new turn when the plant implemented Operational Intelligence solution Pelico in the summer of 2020.
As soon as the equipment arrives on site — or even before — the system automatically starts assessing the requirements in terms of spares, materials and operations. Pelico's intelligent assistant scans the whole order pipeline and workflow to detect anomalies or tasks to process and sends automatic alerts.
This way, busy MRO Managers instantly know which of the multiple competing repair orders need their attention first, which take priority, and which should be allocated the very last washers that they have in stock at the moment. They automatically get an at-a-glance view of the priority areas that require their intervention, without having to go over hundreds of healthy orders. That makes it possible for them to focus on the right things.
2. Productivity fuels performance
The migration of all MRO-related data and processes to a Pelico-powered “Escalation Room” within the plant intranet has enabled teams to take their focus away from administering the datasheets and concentrate their attention on the information itself. Free from concerns about data accuracy and reliability, they were suddenly able to devote their time to proactive planning and problem-solving.
The automation of calculations in Pelico has also saved considerable time. The intelligent tools automatically extracts information about the required parts and matches it with available stocks, generating alerts in case of gaps. Overall, the system has saved the plant 2.5 days a week on order analysis (Yes, that’s half a working week!). The productivity gains have directly translated in higher responsiveness and performance, with the overall MRO logistics turnaround time divided by three.
3. A stepping stone to long-term process optimization
This impressive improvement isn’t only due to the functionality of the tool, but also to what it is making possible for the teams. As they are now freed from manual calculations, transactional operations and data checks, MRO Managers can invest their energy in bringing value-added improvements to the workflow and process. For instance, they designed and implemented a new planning process that doubled Master Production Schedule adherence in under three months.
As MRO teams are learning how to use Pelico and are growing aware of what it can do for them, they are increasingly empowered to leverage the tool’s capabilities to engage in problem-solving, decision-making, and more strategic thinking.
Next, the plant intends to expand the use of Pelico to mid-term tactical planning, and to roll out similar systems and tools to optimize management of its spare parts warehouse.