Maintenance plays a major role in the aviation industry, both for manufacturers and their subcontractors and for civil or military organizations that operate aircraft such as airlines.
However, the aircraft manufacturing sector has not always been a high-volume production sector, like the automobile industry for example, and has not reached the same level of industrial maturity or the same level of robotization and digitalization. So, if they can’t increase the number of factories, manufacturers must find a way to make them more efficient, especially in a context of increased competition.
The optimization of maintenance management is one of the tools for improving productivity thanks to technological progress and new solutions available on the market. The CMMS application Mobility Work allows manufacturers of the aeronautical industry like Safran to modernize their maintenance management to make it more efficient and less expensive, and to be able to implement Industry 4.0 methods.
The complex challenges of aeronautical construction
The impact of cycles on the aeronautics industry
The aeronautics industry is confronted with changing cycles. Before the Covid 19 crisis, the pressure on aeronautical production was increasing, boosted by a constant increase in world passenger traffic. With the crisis, air traffic has been sharply reduced, causing a severe drop in activity for both airlines and aircraft manufacturers, who have suffered a considerable reduction in orders. According to some specialists, the sector will return to higher growth in 2024 than before the pandemic.
The aeronautics industry is organized in sectors: for example, major manufacturers order screws from one subcontractor, engines from another, etc. As a result, these cycles have an impact on a large number of subcontractors, who must adapt to them. Thus, when the pressure on deliveries increases at the major manufacturers, it also increases for the entire supply chain, especially for the smaller companies.
During periods of production growth, companies develop strategies to anticipate and meet future orders. For example, they build up buffer stocks. But these methods are risky, as the Covid 19 crisis clearly showed: the slightest reversal in the situation has dramatic consequences and can put a factory out of business if the stocks are no longer sold.
To be able to adapt as well as possible to the sometimes unpredictable cycles with which it is confronted, the aeronautics industry has a strong interest in modernizing its production methods, which includes managing the maintenance of its production tools.
Maintenance management in aeronautics
The production tools used by the aeronautics industry are varied: riveting machines, assembling tools, shape, gauge or test tools, crane bridges, etc. They are often high precision equipments, which therefore require a perfectly mastered maintenance.
Moving to Industry 4.0 to anticipate the aeronautical production recovery
A period of declining activity such as the one we are currently experiencing is conducive to the implementation of new tools to increase productivity and, above all, to prepare for future pressure on the production line. Indeed, this pressure cannot be solved only by an incremental increase. The production activity must be more important and organized differently.
New tools for better organization
The introduction of new ways of organizing production resources, thanks to new digital technologies, whether hardware or software, is making it possible to create a breakthrough in productivity and move towards Industry 4.0. Connected tools and Big Data, in particular, are making it possible to make factories “smarter” and to adopt “smart manufacturing” or “intelligent production” strategies.
With the implementation of such tools, rate increases can be more easily supported by the factories while increasing the operational efficiency and flexibility of the whole production lines.
IoT at the center of the 4.0 aeronautics industry
Aircraft manufacturing companies are often organized in 3 distinct parts: the ERP, which is the administrative management system, the MES, the production organization system, and the workshop, which is the heart of the factory, where the parts are manufactured. Too often, these 3 parts are not linked together. As a result, when an incident occurs on one of these silos, it must be placed in a safe area and the entire production line is slowed down while the affected entity fixes it.
The transition to Industry 4.0 makes it possible, among other things, to connect these different groups of activities. In practice, this means installing sensors throughout the production chain and implementing the IoT (Internet of Things). Thanks to these sensors, data can be sent continuously on the status of production and therefore of machines and equipment, but also on inventory management, for example.
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Thanks to the data transmitted by the sensors, the activity of a Factory 4.0 can be analyzed in real time, allowing for immediate reaction to potential problems. This results in much less reliance on quarantine systems and unwanted production downtime, which greatly enhances productivity.
Adopt a 4.0 CMMS to transition to Industry 4.0
To be able to use the maintenance data transmitted by IoT sensors, it is essential to use an adapted CMMS, i.e. operating in SaaS mode. Thanks to the storage in the cloud and to a Big Data orientation, a next-gen CMMS like Mobility Work indeed makes it possible to analyze all these data in real time and to intervene before breakdowns or dysfunctions by spotting anomalies in the functioning of a machine. This operation is that of the predictive maintenance, the most advanced maintenance strategy to date.
Adopting Mobility Work’s mobile CMMS has advantages even for companies that do not yet use IoT sensors, as the example of the Safran site in Loches shows perfectly. By using this solution, the maintenance department of this plant can now analyze its maintenance data, manage the planning of regulatory controls, which are very important in the aeronautics industry, or set up preventive maintenance plans. It also allows to considerably improve the management of spare parts inventory, which represents, as we have seen, a major challenge for companies in the aeronautical construction sector.