27 March 2020

Aerospace supply chain confidence

By Greig Duncan

The aerospace supply chain is undoubtedly one of the most intricate and multi-layered, in terms of tiers and number of parts. With this complexity comes a mutual duty of care between customers and suppliers to ensure that products and services are “right first time” and certified as fit for use.

Recent events within the industry, such as the Boeing 737 MAX and COVID-19 have well and truly shone the spotlight on taking a risk-based approach to aerospace manufacturing. This ripple effect has pushed the focus onto suppliers, MROs, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in order to ensure the strong reputations of Primes and Tier 1 companies are upheld.

High-performing supply chains can be boosted and enhanced with the use of technology. Whilst everyone likes to speak about “the future”, “Industry 4.0”, and how robotics and artificial intelligence will make everyone’s jobs easier, the truth is that for the most part, the majority of companies are nowhere near this sort of technological breakthrough. Many are still relying on databases, spreadsheets, pen and paper. This is a quick win for a lot of companies and typically a phased approach into automation.

Transparency is of utmost importance in the aerospace supply chain, and various processes and standards exist in order to boost this two-way dialogue and compliance between customers and suppliers. Standards such as AS9145, A9102, and APQP are providing a robust backbone to ensuring that standards do not slip from tier to tier or supplier to supplier. The process of reporting non-conformances and workflows from customer to supplier is also continuing to gain momentum. These points were emphasised during Ideagen’s recent attendance at the IAQG summit event – read more in the blog.

Technology is a part of everyday life for most of us, whether we like it or not – this trend also extends into the workplace. This could be anything from aerospace manufacturers on the shop floor moving towards automated processes to create First Article Inspection Reports (FAIRs) or senior managers reviewing Business Intelligence dashboards to improve aerospace supply chain management. Overall, there are major cost savings to be had at all levels by software automation.

There is an opportunity for aerospace and defence companies to actively review and calculate the COPQ (Cost of Poor Quality) arising from internal processes, material losses, and supply chain unreliability. These external failure costs are sometimes reliant on supplied goods being sub-par or damaged in transit. This is a relative “blind spot” for aerospace companies and profit and re-work is sometimes weighted above efficiency gains and savings.

Every layer in the aerospace supply chain has a responsibility to play its part in creating a reliable and robust industry from top to bottom. Learn more on how Ideagen’s software can streamline your internal processes, quality management and external audits.

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