21 Apr 2017
How Air Canada partnered with AJW Technique to revolutionise slide maintenance
by Josh Goring | Director of Sales - AJW Technique
AJW Technique in Montreal has been performing slide maintenance for Air Canada ever since winning the initial contract in 2013. To understand how we have reached the strong, mutually beneficial partnership that we enjoy today we must look to the beginnings of the opportunity and how it arose.
Back in 2013 Claudio Venditelli, Repair Quote Manager was working for the Reliability Group at Air Canada and having daily interaction with the Vendor Management Team about quality and service issues being exhibited across the slide maintenance cycle. After the demise of a previous repair contract various new vendors, including OEMs, were trialed to take up the slack. Sending sporadic volume to these organisations without set agreements meant that Air Canada was not treated like a primary customer already entrenched in the particular MRO’s production schedule, and they often found themselves the back of very long line of units. This was usually made worse when any replacement parts within the repair order were contested. Vendors did not understand the specific needs of the airline, the history of the units or the nuances behind the fact that one size does not fit all when it comes to maintenance programs. Cost over-runs were significant and highly variable because there was no repair alternative to costly sub-assembly replacement, or any fixed terms in place.
There had to be a better way
Through the Air Canada i2i employee suggestion program Claudio and the team were able to propose a solution to the Air Canada management that “fixed” all of the frustrations being endured. The idea was to look either internally or locally to find support that would be managed under one roof with a service level type agreement underpinning the maintenance structure. However, an airline’s core function has always been to fly passengers on time and safely from point A to B, therefore getting into self-regulated MRO was deemed to be outside of their remit. So an RFP was launched and AJW Technique was selected to bid along with other suppliers. At this time the AJW Technique facility in Montreal was in its infancy and had no slide shop to speak of, however with a direct customer request and the investment strategy fully understood, AJW had the business case needed to purpose-build an inflation bay on site.
AJW Technique won that RFP process in 2013, signing an initial term contract for three years. The program was AJW Technique’s first offer of a true ‘Fulfilment Model’ whereby production and thus supply was completely tailored to Air Canada’s operational demand. However it didn’t start this way.
A new process
Only after an initial few months, where both sides could see that traditional methods were not going work, did AJW propose and discuss the true benefits of a fulfilled supply chain with Tim Ross, Customer Support Manager, and his team. The contract would be monitored based on ensuring inventory bin stock levels were kept at their optimum value, not simply hiding behind more archaic fixed TATs that don’t help any airline when demand is not linear. An Electronic Data Interface (EDI) link between AJW and Air Canada meant that we could assist them on all planning aspects of scheduled slide removals and work them through the shop as required. If multiple units were needed with a very short turn around AJW Technique knew about it in advance and could respond accordingly, ensuring the units were back on the line within a matter of days. Equally if units were not required due to an apparent surplus, we would hold and not invoice, or eat through time-since-overhaul.
We asked the team what, if any, immediate effects were noticed after contract implementation and the response was overwhelmingly positive. For Grace Regillo, Manager Strategic Sourcing, it is clear. TAT has dropped from 60-100 days in some cases right down to an average of fourteen. There were also tangible cost savings right from the start both in logistics (we send a dedicated AJW Technique truck every day), to as Claudio put it “A complete cost stabilization with much more quote consistency at a per event level”. Both organizations saw it as more of a partnership than a traditional, transactional customer/supplier interaction. Air Canada knew the technicians we were hiring had over fifteen years of experience on the product type and understood North American quality standards. This meant the transition and ramp up for a near 200ac fleet was totally seamless.
Tim made it clear that, to Operations, AJW Technique has provided a vast reduction in out-of-service slides or AOG scenarios since contract implementation. In statistical terms this equates to one issue in three years over 1,300 units. A service failure rate of 0.08%. Lastly we were told that it is communication that has been one of the overriding success factors for the past three years. The production floor at AJW Technique are able to call and discuss directly with Air Canada Maintenance the varying benefits of repair, salvage and scrapping of items, and be met with real time answers. This open line means that airline engineers can come to the shop and determine best practices for component install as well as build up a very close relationship with those performing the overhauls at our end. True connectivity also helps to harmonize removal schedules ensuring units can be added to AJW Technique’s production plan ahead of time. The plan is formulated in such a way that it has the ability to “flex” with the non-linear demand that is typical to the aviation industry.
As a testament to the service level performance being achieved, AJW Technique signed a renewed contract for all inflatable maintenance for Air Canada over the next ten years, at the recent 2016 MRO Americas trade show. In addition to the existing contract renewal Air Canada added the Boeing 777 platform inflatables. This has secured fourteen permanent positions at AJW Technique for the duration. When we asked why Air Canada chose to recommit to AJW Technique the answer was simple, “Quality and price should be a given between most MROs, so really the deciding factor stems around customer service and a proactive approach to problem solving.”
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