Most industry experts we spoke with a this year's MRO Europe concur that Artificial Intelligence is the most promising prospect for the aviation supply chain heading into 2024.
The cross-section of industry experts who took the time to speak to the Satair Knowledge Hub at this year’s MRO Europe were in general agreement about one conclusion: 2024 looks set to deliver another exciting chapter charting the use of AI in the aviation supply chain.
Our interviewees were a selected handful of the estimated 6,000 attendees spanning key areas in the industry who gathered last week in Amsterdam for the 25th-anniversary edition of the conference.
Looking ahead to next year, two main issues were identified as the industry’s most pressing: the functionality of the supply chain and the emergence of new technology.
Digital compatibility crucial to chain
Tommy Hughes, President and CEO at VAS Aero Services, more than any other delegate, addressed both topics equally. Digitality, he argued, was more important than ever for informing the supply chain about the availability of spare parts:
“How do we get to more of an advanced efficiency associated with a digital imprint? Satair has been working on a marketplace that can ultimately perfect and kind of get there eventually. But how do we get the rest of the industry to work towards that digital landscape?”
Hughes is not convinced the aviation supply chain is digitally compatible with the possibility of using Gen-AI at present.
“You hear about AI and so on, but we have to get to the next step before we get to AI. The fact and reality of our industry is it is still very manual. If you look at the USM side of the business today, there's material that is positioned and bought and sold – all still from a manual element.”
The importance of partnerships
Given Hughes’ reference to Satair Marketplace, it’s no surprise to note that Paul Lochab, the company’s CCO, also identified the industry landscape as a critical area of focus in 2024.
“Partnerships are critical: both those with the operators and the OEMs. It can't be a one-way street. It's going to take both and all of us to work together to drive this momentum in a positive direction."
Both David Stewart, Partner at Oliver Wyman, and Ivan Gonzalez Vallejo, Director Strategy and Supply Chain, Iberia, concur that disruption to the supply chain is the biggest problem heading into 2024 – and that it is having a knock-on effect on aviation in general.
The worst case scenario, according to Vallejo, could result in grounded aircraft when they are needed most:
“We’re not able to manufacture all the parts as we need. Those living and breathing day-to-day in the supply chain are struggling and need some relief. I really hope that for next year’s summer season we’ll have all aircraft in good shape and flying.”
Worrying tendency to not share data
Lochab highlighted the tendency of certain operators to not share data, urging better communication across the chain:
“The information flow is critical: so we can help each other, and we can plan. It keeps the focus on driving this together, rather than ‘Here's my demand’. So when I talk about partnerships, it's also about having transparent communication and sharing data.”
Stewart recommends an innovative approach to solving the supply chain disruption:
“Whether that means better machine learning on-demand, parts forecasting, better supply chain management, and using technology to address those turn-times."
Using tech should be the gold standard
Beyond AI, a number of other types of technology were identified by delegates, including innovations linked to sustainability, such as green aviation fuel, hydrogen and electric powered planes, and better practice within the industry itself.
But overall, it isn’t so much the type of technology that’s important, contends Dimitry Los, Co-founder & CEO at Fourel Aviation Solutions, but the attitude towards it. Opinion leaders on new tech, he laments, are regarded like whistleblowers:
“Using modern tech should be the basic gold standard; those who do not use it should start thinking that they are behind the train.”
Instead of hearing about how companies intend to use the technology, Los would like to hear how they’re benefitting:
“I hope 2024 is the year when we come to events like these and hear how companies adopted the technology and started to decrease their mistakes and save money.”
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