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Spares one click away

Posted 16 April 2020 · Add Comment

The way spares and replacements are located and procured has been transformed by digital technology, with online marketplaces making life easier for buyers and suppliers, writes Chuck Grieve.

The love-hate relationship between maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and digitalisation – huge opportunities vs disruptive changes – is slowly shifting in favour of embracing the new, thanks in large part to the work of innovators tackling the challenges of parts procurement.
Digital platforms provide an inclusive shop window on parts and spares in a bid to be a universal one-stop search and procurement solution. Industry commentators suggest they are fast closing in on the target.
The venerable search tool PartsBase, in business for more than 20 years, lays claim to the title of the world’s leading internet-based parts locator. In May, it released a platform upgrade that adds supply and demand graphs, plus buttons to facilitate e-commerce.
“We don’t deal with actual transactions,” the company’s business development manager, Tyler Wilson, said. Instead application programming interfaces (APIs) take the buyer to the vendor’s website to complete the transaction.
PartsBase has more than 115 million line items cross-referenced with US and NATO master cross-reference library (MCRL) and part repairs, coatings and manufacturer approval (PMA) replacement parts availability. Every search of its database brings up a picture of the parts, traceability documents, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and part serial number.
Newcomer Skeyos has also upgraded its online marketplace for aircraft components, which the company says is “transforming the procurement process across the MRO industry” with its one-stop platform.
“We aim to make the life of purchasers and suppliers of aircraft components easier by simplifying the traditional request for quotation (RFQ) process through our next-level MRO procurement solution,” said Skeyos chief executive, Hans Bernd Schmidt.
The MRO community, he added, is “a great example of an industry acknowledging the advantages afforded by digitalisation, whether it be to improve efficiency or transparency in their operations.”
Since it went live in January, the Lufthansa Technik subsidiary has extended its network around the world. The platform covers the functionalities for searching, price comparison, ordering, payment, transaction analysis and instant messaging between suppliers and purchasers.
It reports sales of €2 million ($2.19m) through the platform since its launch.
Hundreds of new users have registered for the Skeyos digital marketplace in recent months; the number of transactions conducted on the platform last quarter is in the hundreds and rising.
Users can compare pricing from different suppliers, place orders directly online and manage payment through the platform.
Skeyos offers customers four pricing models designed to suit different needs. Most recently, the platform added the ability to connect to standard management systems such as AMOS.
Last June, Skeyos launched the first ‘buy-or-repair’ parts comparison, a module that it says revolutionises the way such decisions are made. A single click allows customers to view and compare new and used parts, as well as associated repair services, on more than 140,000 products.
Another option for MROs is Marc (which stands for major asset real-time components) and claims to be the world’s largest stock of serviceable airframe components, including parts for the Airbus A350, A320neo, Boeing 787 and 747-8 aircraft.
Part of the open digital aviation platform Aviator, Marc helps users find currently available components for loan, sale and exchange. It currently covers inlet cowls, thrust reversers, radomes, flight controls, fan cowls, flaps, slats, rudders, doors and other major structural components.
Marc claims to offer more serviceable components than any OEM. In response to an item search, it shows only components currently available with their exact location, plus any potentially interchangeable components.
Greater market transparency is the goal of SmartHub, a new online tool launched in September by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as the industry’s first single point of reference for the value of surplus parts.
IATA said SmartHub provides a real-time calculation of the fair market value (FMV) of items listed by subscribing airlines and MROs by crunching customer-provided information, external market data and historic transactions.
This data, it said, will reduce over-payments, allow better-informed procurement decisions and enhance trust in buyer/vendor relationships.
“The market really needs this,” said Fabricio La-Banca, head of group purchasing surplus for Lufthansa Technik, one of the launch customers. “It will rebalance the aviation value chain and help airlines save money.”

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