Taking aerospace supply chains to new heights

The aerospace sector faces a significant set of supply chain challenges if future projections for passenger travel, aircraft demand and ground support programmes come to fruition. Bernard Molloy, global industrial director at Unipart Logistics, sets out a strategy for increasing the sector’s global performance.

Bernard Molloy, global industrial director, Unipart
Bernard Molloy, global industrial director, Unipart.

The aerospace sector operates some of the most complex supply chains in the world.

These supply chains are truly global, both in terms of the sourcing of materials and components that make up possibly the most sophisticated machines on the planet, and with regards to the maintenance, parts and support operations that keep them in the air.

In addition, they must perform under rigorous and tight tolerances regarding safety, compliance and airside security. Managing these intricate, multi-tiered, international supply chains has made great demands on manufacturers, suppliers and those supply chain professionals in charge.

But with the projected strong growth of air travel and a correspondingly high expectation for future aircraft orders, those demands are set to escalate considerably.

According to Airbus’ global market forecast, Future Journeys 2013 – 2032, air traffic is expected to double in the next 15 years, as the cost of air travel continues to fall. The number of passengers is predicted to rise from 2.9bn in 2012 to 6.7bn by 2032.

The aerospace industry is keenly focused on increasing its environmental performance and looks for continual innovation.
New technologies have driven down aircraft noise and emissions levels.

To meet this massive expansion in demand, the report suggests aircraft sizes will increase and that the passenger fleet will grow by 109% from 2012 to 2032, rising from 16,093 to 33,651 aircraft. The Freighter fleet is also expected to expand by 77% over the same period.

The aerospace industry is keenly focused on increasing its environmental performance and looks for continual innovation. New technologies have driven down aircraft noise and emissions levels – in the past 40 years, noise has been reduced by 75% and Co2 by 70%.

Such resourcefulness is required of the supply chain too. Aerospace suppliers and service organisations are being pressured into delivering increasingly higher levels of service and equipment support.

Some of the key challenges faced include:

  • Growing customer demands for innovation,
  • Long term commitments with risk transfer to supply chain,
  • Expectation for through-life efficiencies that reduce whole life costs,
  • Global reach with enhanced visibility and control of assets,
  • Responsive, flexible and reliable customer solutions particularly in the areas of production rate readiness and/or Aircraft on Ground (AOG) services.

But, how will manufacturers and suppliers to the sector meet the challenges of a significant scaling up of aircraft construction and cater for the rise in demand for supply chain innovation and reform?

With a doubling in the global fleet, how will maintenance, parts, service and support operations cope? Are the present strategies, processes and networks best suited to an industry with such high expectations?

Bernard Molloy is Global Industrial Logistics Director at Unipart Logistics and Chair of Liverpool City Region Superport Committee. He recently received one of the industry’s top accolades by being presented with the ‘Logistician of the Year’ trophy at the 2014 Automotive Supply Chain Global Awards.

Molloy has more than 40 years’ experience managing and strategically advising companies in the warehousing, logistics and materials handling industries. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, Chairman of the CILT’s Warehouse and Materials Handling Forum and is a Board Member of The British German Forum.

Over his long career in the industry he has been Joint Group Managing Director of Lansing Linde – where over a five-year period market share increased from 19.5% to 33% – he was a member of the CBI Council, and has been a strategic advisor to JCB, Psion, NYK Logistics and Red Prairie.

For example, as within many industries, inventories can become unnecessarily large when process analysis and planning are inefficient. However, applying more intelligent, lean approaches to supply chain management can deliver resounding results.

Could the world leading, best practice principles successfully employed by the automotive sector be applied to the aerospace industry – for both aircraft build programmes and global maintenance and support networks?

Utilising expert knowledge, from across complimentary industries, can provide creative solutions. As a logistics services company with more than 10 years’ experience in the aerospace sector, providing on-site logistics and continuous improvement services to a number of OEMs and Tier 1 companies, Unipart Logistics, offers a comprehensive range of services from direct line feed and vendor managed inventory to continuous improvement solutions – all using the Unipart Way, the company’s proprietary lean philosophy.

Importantly, our expertise crosses industry boundaries, which leads to innovation, cost savings and a step-change in efficiency.

As an example of Unipart’s expertise and reach, the automotive logistics division provides a range of global aftermarket supply chain services to Jaguar Land Rover – one of the world’s most successful and iconic automotive brands.

Over the past 20 years, Unipart Logistics has worked with Jaguar Land Rover to provide award winning levels of aftermarket service from 17 distribution centres across the globe to over 850 Jaguar dealers in more than 60 countries.

Unipart teams provide dedicated customer service, IT, warehousing and distribution services to ensure that the right part is in the right place at the right time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Unipart Logistics’ unique award winning Global Control Centre
Unipart Logistics’ award winning Global Control Centre.

Currently Unipart Logistics operates 33 warehouses in 13 countries, providing global, central or regional spare parts distribution centres, we pride ourselves on being a strong global partner. These sites are either Unipart owned, client owned, or a third party facility which we manage on behalf of clients.

This blended approach has allowed Unipart’s global footprint to flex and grow in line with customer requirements. Our global infrastructure provides truly global support under performance-based arrangements, including secure warehousing and security-cleared personnel.

Through a network of regional hubs, and by using Unipart Logistics’ unique award winning Global Control Centre, goods can be channelled and tracked to their destinations.

By having visibility of all activities across a client’s supply chain Unipart Logistics can monitor and control each element of the process in near real-time, checking order status and performance against set KPIs, and responding to alerts and ‘traffic-light’ signals as they arise.

Unipart Logistics Contact DetailsThrough creating a well monitored, integrated supply chain, suited to the specific needs of the aerospace sector – but drawing on cross-industry ‘best practice’ – significant advances can be made, resulting in reduced warehousing and logistics costs, greater flexibility, reduced inventories and improved service levels.

Working with a logistics and supply chain specialist with proven expertise in managing global parts and support operations will place the aerospace industry in a strong position to face the challenges of a demanding future.