Having certificated a new or derivative design almost every year since 1991, Bombardier called time out on its rapid pace of product development in 2002 to focus resources on supporting and improving its business and regional aircraft.

“After 10 years designing aircraft, we had to get the team focused on aircraft reliability,” says Bombardier president Pierre Beaudoin. While its engineers got to work solving reliability issues, the company began revamping its parts distribution. “It takes some time to do it properly, to build the right system,” he says. “We are seeing the work pay off.”

On the business jet side, where Bombardier’s customer support has lagged that provided by the industry’s leaders, product improvement has replaced product development as the priority. “We have reorganised into business units focused on the customers, with general managers for Global, Challenger and Learjet, and their number one item is reliability,” Beaudoin says. “I feel we have developed a very strong product line,” he says. “We do not need to do another all-new aircraft to stay in front.”

Since forming a dedicated parts logistics business unit in January last year to address product support shortcomings, Bombardier has improved its parts availability and delivery. One measure of the improvement is that inventory accuracy, 80% in January 2004, is now 99.3%. Another is that the average time to deliver parts to an aircraft-on-ground is now just 10h.

Bombardier has improved its ability to fulfil customer spares orders off the shelf from 63% to 88% for regional airliners and from 81% to 95% for business aircraft. “Our target is to get to a 95% off-the-shelf fill rate – that is much higher than any other aircraft manufacturer as it covers all the parts a customer wants to order or could order,” says Des Bell, vice-president parts logistics. As with the reliability drive, the focus has been on items that fail most often. Fill rate for the Top 10 “most wanted” Global parts, in the mid-60% six months ago, is now 100% on nine out of the ten items, Beaudoin says.

The company is now working with distribution specialist Caterpillar to develop demand forecasting tools to enable it to further improve performance by predicting which parts will be needed and where so that it can locate spares close to customers.

The major step came earlier this year with the opening of two “super warehouses” in Chicago and Frankfurt. A new parts depot opened in Dubai last month, to be followed by Sao Paulo, Brazil within the next few months and the Asia-Pacific region next year.

“We started to analyse where our customers operate, how that is likely to change over time, where parts are stocked and where they need to be,” says Bell. “We looked at demand with Caterpillar and decided to master all parts in Chicago, where we stock 120,000 part numbers.”

Chicago handles North America, and also resupplies Frankfurt and the other depots. “Looking at European, African and Middle Eastern demand we saw the same level of service needed 40,000 part numbers in Frankfurt – a subset of Chicago,” Bell says. “It’s an 8h flight from Chicago, so in effect all the parts are available in Frankfurt.”

Teamed with express forwarders Expeditors International, Bombardier has reduced the time required to get a part to a grounded aircraft to 10h within North America, down from the industry-standard 24h. “We will soon achieve that in Europe, Africa and the Middle East with the Frankfurt facility,” says Bell. “By the end of next year we will offer 95% availability in 12h or less on a worldwide basis.”

Bombardier is also increasing the number of field service representatives supporting operators, and now has 80 worldwide. And, after focusing on building up its own service centres, which now operate 24h a day, the company is expanding its network of authorised service representatives.

“When we started focusing on customer support three years ago, we did not go for the quick fix. We have been building the right foundation,” Beaudoin says. “Now we have opened Chicago and Frankfurt, we have the backbone in place, and we lead the industry in parts distribution.” While the momentum is building, Beaudoin says: “I’m not quite happy with the consistency, There are days when we still fall apart. But every day is getting better.”


Source: Flight International