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Logistics in the aerospace industry

Don’t let poor logistics stop you flying

Cost and reliability have always been the main issues in the aerospace logistics supply chain. With so many different parts sourced from all over the globe, it is a major task to ensure full, on time delivery. Aircraft on ground (AOG), critical, routine – all terms that suggest speed and reliability are essential.

When you work with time critical components in the aerospace industry you need to be able to trust your logistics partner.

No matter what your products are used for, the bottom line is that your choice of logistics provider can mean the difference between on-time delivery and failure to complete a contract. When you’ve worked hard and fought off the competition to become a supplier, you need to put your final delivery in the hands of an experienced and comprehensive logistics provider.

The industry

The aerospace industry can be considered as having similar logistics needs to the automotive industry. Yet there are striking differences, even if the choice of a logistics partner is about careful choice. The industry encompasses airlines, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), military and defence, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and engine manufacturers. With such varied sectors of the industry, there is a real need for knowledge and experience in the logistics process.

Being able to track and trace your consignments is vital for ensuring your product reaches the customer. One of the main causes for concern should be the real-time visibility to you and your logistics provider of the current status of your consignments.

Your choice of routes and transportation will also have a dramatic effect on your schedules for both production and delivery. If you are manufacturing and supplying to order then this is the area that demands total reliability.

The real difference is the size of the components, spare parts and other aerospace products. These can range from a whole wing to a part of a fuselage. The size and weight of your parts and products will be a major consideration when it comes to logistical choices. Your choice of transportation should also be something discussed with your customers as this will provide a stronger basis for planning and budgeting.

Tailored solutions

In aerospace, the ability to have a tailored solution is even more important than in other manufacturing and procurement industries. The use of comprehensive online information systems is a necessity if you are looking to achieve deadlines and delivery schedules. Having a warehouse management system (WMS) for global inventory visibility is another string to the logistics bow and certainly a further step to logistics management.

Your location and those of your customers are also vital to the planning of your supply chain; manufacturing is often dictated by the availability of raw materials and a skilled workforce, but the location of your customers is also subject to the same demands. What is more flexible is your supply chain – not only in terms of distance but also location.

Manufacturing on an industrial scale will require your products to be delivered and ready for use in a much shorter time scale. It is here that the solution to many of the above issues can be described as making your logistics provider an integral part of your business.

Partnership

By treating your logistics provider as a partner, you can rely on it to support your drive for efficiency and monitoring. Track and trace is not new, but recent developments in IT have allowed even greater transparency with real-time monitoring and stock co-ordination. The integration of your own IT systems with those of your selected logistics provider can also deliver inventory planning and load listing at the warehouse locations and manufacturing plants. One of the other benefits of this integration is the ability to measure performance against a set of KPIs.

Most global aerospace manufacturers – with manufacturing plants scattered across the globe – now import spare parts and manufacture orders globally. Logistics companies can help you fill this gap and prevent errors by monitoring product manufacturing, safety protocols and efficiency.

The methods selected for transportation will be greatly enhanced by the knowledge and experience of your logistics partner. Air freight is the fastest method and yet often speed is not as important as the monitoring of stock and inventory which can result in switching to other methods of transportation.

Inventory management

It will not surprise many people to hear that inventory management is the pain point of the industry. Manufacturers and aerospace suppliers work closely to ensure timely and scheduled delivery. Yet, reliable forecasting of the demand for spare parts is difficult. There are enormous challenges in planning, purchasing, ordering and logistics. This is another area where your logistics provider can support you – by handling this directly with the customer and providing reporting and ordering functions through your own IT systems.

Today, sea transportation costs are very competitive. With improvements in quality and safety, suppliers need to understand that manufacturing overseas is what will achieve the lowest costs.

Gone are the days when suppliers rely on just-in-time production methods, due to the volatility and variability of global supply chains. You need to explore the benefits that can accrue from partnering with a logistics provider which understands your production and delivery ethos. Expert knowledge can not only reduce your supply chain times but also reduce your frustrations over manufacturing and sourcing. Information technology has also played a role in the rise of third party logistics service providers, and the use of sophisticated databases can track inventory levels and shipments on a global basis via the internet.

These can create further efficiencies in transport and logistics enabling just-intime delivery and helping to optimise the production process along the supply chain. It has also made build-to-order (BTO) possible.

In simple terms, it is getting parts and materials to the correct places – where there is demand - in a timely manner to optimise production resources and minimise cost. The aerospace sector is always looking for speed of service and reliability. It is an industry with a strong interaction between humans and the machinery they work with. If spare parts fail to arrive then production stops, flights fail to materialise and the world economy suffers. Ask your logistics provider if they appreciate this and what they are offering to solve your issues.

Solutions

The aerospace industry needs reliability from its partners - manufacturers, suppliers and logistics firms. Today, the success of the industry depends on a partnership between all three sectors. Logistics providers should be an integral part of all aerospace businesses. They are more than just a delivery service; they are the first step in understanding how to deliver material goods on time and on schedule.

Your logistics partner should have time-definite multimodal services for critical and routine shipments. It is this tailored solution to your logistical requirements that will ensure you achieve maximum return on your relationship. Supply chain management solutions should be customised to fit your requirements – not those of your logistics partner. Logistics firms provide services integrating information, transportation, inventory, warehousing, material handling and packaging. They have transformed the business world and given immense power to organisations which understand the importance of logistics and utilise it for continued success. This is one of the benefits of selecting a logistics partner who has a thorough understanding of your business.

What to expect from your logistics partner

  • A personal supply chain service tailored to your needs – no matter how small you are
  • An order execution system that allows late cut-off times and guarantees next-day for AOG shipments
  • Delivery performance targets that are regularly met and have very low rates of damage. This requires skilled, experienced industry knowledge customer-service teams at office and in the warehouse alike
  • A partner that can take on every part of the supply chain as their responsibility and match it to your manufacturing, sourcing, supply and specifications.
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