14 Oct 2019
Companies across the aerospace sector are developing digital capabilities in order to grow revenue by taking advantage of data analytics and the resultant customer insights.
AJW Group is no exception. At our headquarters in the leafy countryside near London Gatwick airport, our privately owned aviation spare-parts specialist is plotting what its president, Christopher Whiteside, describes as an "Amazon-ifaction" of its business.
We are in the process of developing an online customer platform that should enable us to sell not only our own, but also competitors', inventory in "exactly the same way as Amazon does", says Whiteside.
He sees the aircraft spares market as having a "rinky-dink" supplier structure – comprising manufacturers, traders, stockists (including airlines), repair shops, and logistics providers – which use "a very manual exchange of information", and believes that this constrains business.
Whiteside acknowledges that the reluctance of parts traders to publish prices for used material or requirements for supplier accreditation is an obstacle to realising his vision. But he believes that such issues will be "pretty simple to work out" for a limited yet lucrative range of rotable components, which account for a large proportion of the total value of spares deliveries.
Out of the huge number of components that make up an aircraft – engines aside, as their support represents a market in its own right – some "1,000 [line replaceable units] run the world" in the commercial aviation spares sector, says Whiteside.
Using the proposed trading tool could boost our business beyond growth projections based on equipment that is owned or at least controlled by our company.
Rather than relying on gradual growth of our existing activities, Whiteside says he is "much more interested in taking a few percent from the global commercial aviation parts market... by basically having that tool [and] selling other people's products".
Today, AJW generates a group-wide annual revenue of "broadly" $800 million, he notes.
Testing of the online platform is scheduled to begin during second quarter 2020, and the project is part of a wider effort to develop AJW's digital capabilities. In 2017, the company recruited its first chief information officer, Han-Ley Tang, who previously served as technology director at Swiss bank UBS.
Whiteside says that "AJW's move into harvesting data [is] now well under way".
Over the past two years, we have established a digital infrastructure to store and analyse data emanating from customers, partners and its own operations.
The development of predictive maintenance capabilities is a "major function" of our digital transformation.
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