What do you do when your production and maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) teams are faced with unscheduled demand for new equipment and overhaul/repair services from a customer supporting the United States military? Especially when you are required to cut lead times in half?
The answer: collaborate with your customer, thoroughly analyze data, sharpen lean processes, and get creative with supply chain strategy to hit the target. Then, in this case, the customer recognizes the success of your efforts.
The Aircraft Wheel & Brake Division (AWBD) of Parker Aerospace is the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of wheels and brakes for the MQ-9, Avenger, and Gray Eagle remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI). Parker has enjoyed a long relationship with GA-ASI, providing not only OEM equipment but also overhaul and maintenance services for the fielded product.
As the GA-ASI aircraft have been called to fly more missions for the United States Air Force and Army, the number of aircraft landing and braking cycles and demand for new aircraft has grown. This growth led to a surge in order requirements which required AWBD to respond quickly and decisively to deliver in an aggressive time frame.
As deployment of remotely-piloted aircraft grew, the need for new production wheels and brakes increased. Customer GA-ASI asked Parker to initially double, and ultimately triple, the number of deliveries per month to meet this requirement.
Lead times for new complex production orders, including the manufacture of forged and machined components plus assembly and testing, can take many months. Though not an uncommon reality for highly engineered products, the customer can encounter unscheduled demand due the aircraft’s success in the field. It was calculated that the greater need could only be met by cutting lead times by at least 50 percent.
With this increase in demand and the timeframe required, it became apparent that a key impediment to success was the procurement of long-lead components, especially forged parts. Traditionally, the AWBD team would order forged parts when an order requiring them was in-house; this usually added weeks to the lead time. In the case with GA-ASI, AWBD’s supply chain team was able to adjust their forecast model and commit to carrying inventory for a number of long-lead parts, saving critical time.
The Parker team has continued to refine every aspect of its support to consistently meet customer expectations. With increased sorties comes increased demand for support, which is where Parker’s culture of continuous improvement can ensure operational capability and capacity. To keep up with increased demand, AWBD developed a prioritized overhaul schedule that was cost effective and ensured that necessary repairs were done on time. Additional AWBD kaizen events have yielded improved product flow through the repair station and cut turnaround times by nearly 70 percent.
In both new production and field support, gaining a clear understanding of the hurdles to meet customer objectives was paramount to implementing change. And that took a concerted effort between the Parker and GA-ASI teams. Starting with forecasting data from the customer, the teams expanded their insight into which wheel and brake components needed to be ordered in advance and which would require repair or replacement.
“When we were faced with the need to shrink lead times and improve turnaround time for GA-ASI repairs, we naturally opened dialogue with the customer. We saw an opportunity for the Parker and customer teams to examine a broad range of data and meaningfully engage, aligning our systems while optimizing what we do and how we do it.”
– Mark Harbison, key account manager, Parker Aerospace
In recognition of their commitment and work required to support increasing demand over multiple years, GA-ASI recognized Parker AWBD for its outstanding support. The Parker Aircraft Wheel & Brake team was presented with a banner from GA-ASI that thanked them for the outstanding support. The banner proudly hangs in the AWBD facility as a reminder of a job well done and the value in providing premier customer service.
This post was contributed by Justin Hodges, business development manager, Parker Aerospace, Aircraft Wheel & Brake Division.