Aftermarket OEM Support: A Market Overview

Looking for insights into the current and future challenges faced by the leading business jet OEM aftermarket support networks? AvBuyer’s Matt Harris asked Bombardier’s Chris Debergh for his perspectives on the sector.

Matt Harris  |  14th February 2022
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    Matt Harris
    Matt Harris

    Matt Harris is Commissioning Editor for AvBuyer. He is an experienced General and Business Aviation...

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    Bombardier private jet mechanic working on a Global jet

    There’s a lot more to business jet manufacturers than simply building and selling airplanes. A big part of their activities involves taking care of the ongoing needs of owners and operators long after the aircraft have flown away from the factory with their new owners.

    That support ensures the aircraft remain in optimal condition, providing the functionality they were built to deliver; are modified to remain airworthy where necessary; can be upgraded when improved solutions become available to enhance the flying experience; and are expertly maintained long after the factory warranty expired.

    All of this ensures operators of newer, and out-of production pre-owned jets, alike, can enjoy flying those aircraft with peace of mind.

    For this reason, the leading aircraft manufacturers have extensive support networks, usually spread strategically around the planet, ensuring the necessary assistance reaches operators where it’s needed, when it’s needed.

    Worldwide Support

    Bombardier is no exception with nine strategically located service centers around the world, 11 Line Maintenance Stations (LMS), and a highly efficient and flexible Mobile Response Team (MRT). With 30 mobile trucks and aircraft at-the-ready, Bombardier says it can respond to any customer need in any part oglobalf the world quickly and efficiently, and supplements this capability with 16 Authorized Service Facilities (ASF).

    Its worldwide aftermarket network is connected by its 24/7 Customer Response Centre in Montreal, the ‘nerve center’ that orchestrates prompt responses to all customer needs.

    In 2020, Bombardier serviced more than 1,800 aircraft at its service facilities, Line Maintenance Stations, and deck through its Mobile Response Teams.

    “We are in the midst of growing our aftermarket division significantly around the world, adding new service facilities and greatly enhancing existing service centers,” Chris Debergh, Bombardier’s Vice President and General Manager, OEM Parts and Services (left) told AvBuyer. “It’s about flexibility and expediency – providing prompt, efficient, attentive service throughout our extensive aftermarket network.

    “This year, we will celebrate new service center projects in Miami and Melbourne, Australia, and add comprehensive enhancements to our Biggin Hill and Singapore service facilities.”

    Chris joined Bombardier in 2017 as Vice President of Delivery, bringing with him a solid background that included several senior leadership roles in business strategy and development

    Today, he leads the teams managing Bombardier’s aftermarket parts and MRO business around the world. “It’s a dynamic, intense role – one I thoroughly enjoy,” he says. “I am given the opportunity to implement operating models to influence and maximize the delivery of Bombardier’s service experience on every level.

    “The overriding goal here at Bombardier is to ensure we provide customers with the best service experience possible…” he adds. “It’s a challenging job, but we have a very dynamic, dedicated team of more than 2,500 people around the world to ensure it happens on a consistent basis.”

    Despite the busy nature of his work, Chris found time to sit down with AvBuyer recently and share both his and Bombardier’s insights on the aftermarket services sector in Business Aviation today…

    AvBuyer:  Covid-19 has driven a lot of first-time users into the Business Aviation market, which generated a lot of demand for new and pre-owned jets over the past 18 months. Can you tell us about the impact you’re seeing on the maintenance services sector right now? Is it substantial, as many are saying?

    CD:  As more customers are seeing the value in private aviation, we have seen increased levels of flying, driving OEM maintenance services throughout 2021 and continuing into this year.

    A large majority of these are pre-buy inspections specifically combined with major inspections and aircraft upgrades. As a result, our maintenance facilities are in high demand for all services – mechanical, interior and paint – which is driving an aggressive recruiting and training focus for all our service centers worldwide.

    Throughout the pandemic, we have maintained a steady stream of traffic across our service center network. The aircraft modification market has been a strong growth opportunity, and a stabilizing force throughout all economic cycles.

    Many of our customers have taken advantage during this period to advance their scheduled maintenance, or upgrade their business jets to increase their aircraft’s resale value, or to simply catch up on installing products that would increase the owners’ business productivity and comfort (i.e, high-speed internet, and ensuring the aircraft meets all the airworthiness mandates).

    Some examples of upgrades that have taken the spotlight among our customers are the Bombardier Challenger 604 Fusion upgrade, and our Smart Link Plus connected aircraft service offering. Ka-band and DU-875 installs also remain the most popular upgrades for Bombardier customers.

    AvBuyer:  In tandem with high demand, there have been concerns expressed in the MRO industry over supply chain issues, slowing the availability of, and time to obtain, spare parts, etc. How long will it take for these to be resolved, and how are both Bombardier, and the wider maintenance industry, working to manage this?

    CD:  It’s definitely true that the effects of the pandemic, and the increased flying hours, have stretched the limits of the global supply chain.

    Our focus has been to reduce the risk of exposure to these challenges by implementing a robust risk mitigation plan. Some highlights of that plan include a significant increase in headcount across all parts services teams; an increase in inventory; implementing Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology in our forecasting model; a robust supplier intervention plan; and much more.

    We also continue to focus on lean thinking by improving our efficiency and driving out waste. This is critically important to offset any rising costs from our supply chain, while minimizing the impact to our customers. We are confident that we have put the proper measures in place to navigate through these unprecedented times.

    AvBuyer:  Looking ahead over the coming year, do you see ongoing high levels of demand for maintenance services, or do you see changes ahead? What factors do you believe will contribute to that outcome?

    CD:  We predict demand for maintenance services will remain solid for this year, and for years to come. Aftermarket trends are often consistently aligned with current industry trends – which have indicated significant growth from the Mid-size and Large Jet categories, with Bombardier Learjet, Challenger and Global jets operators continuing to make plans to upgrade, even as more travel restrictions are lifted. This was also the case just before the pandemic.

    With this in mind, we have aligned the current development and growth of our aftermarket footprint around these trends, developing new products and services for our Challenger and Global aircraft operators.

    This is reflective in the development of our new and existing service centers, with improved services and facilities for Learjet, Challenger and Global customers – including increased maintenance capacity to service more aircraft.

    We are also enhancing our footprint in Wichita to create a Centre of Excellence for our Learjet, Challenger and Global customers. This includes a number of key enhancements such as new hangars, enhanced parts storage, additional engine and maintenance capabilities, increased CRO [Component Repair & Overhaul] services, and more.

    AvBuyer:  Are there any other elements that you see as being pivotal to shaping the maintenance services industry in 2022 and beyond?

    CD:  There are numerous trends we are monitoring in this regard. One of the most pressing industry-wide issues that is pivotal in shaping the future of all OEMs and their maintenance services strategy will be recruiting the next generation of qualified technicians.

    As the increased demand for business jets continues to grow, it will only put more pressure on these labor shortages. Attracting and retaining talent is front and center for these high-paying jobs.

    To attract the next generation to the aviation industry, we are investing in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and apprenticeship programs to actively engage with local colleges and organizations to create viable aerospace pipelines that will fuel the development of new, talented mechanical engineers and technicians across our networks.

    We also have a strong focus on our local communities, and are building links to our MRO network to develop new talent. With all our upcoming service center expansion projects, we are actively seeking talented individuals to ensure we continue to provide our customers with the service excellence they demand and deserve.

    Another key trend is the use of big data and new technologies to streamline and develop new maintenance capabilities. With our Smart Link Plus Connected Aircraft program, aircraft operators are provided with an integrated digital experience that enables them to access real-time data at their fingertips – the chance to make faster, data-driven troubleshooting decisions, increasing operational efficiency.

    This data also provides us with aggregated fleet-wide data to predict and fix issues before they occur, creating advance analytics to better predict maintenance needs, or enhance predictability of parts availability and rotables inventory. It’s an invaluable technology that will save time and money – for both the operator and OEM.

    AvBuyer:  Finishing on a practical note, with scheduled maintenance, operators can be proactive in planning ahead to ensure they get the service they need, when they need it. But how would you advise business aircraft owners and operators to act and help alleviate the risk of longer-than expected waits for unscheduled maintenance work?

    CD:  To ensure customers receive the best service experience possible, it’s imperative we work closely with them at all stages of the maintenance cycle. Sharing the latest information is critical – we frequently provide them with updates, advice, and best practice notifications and guidance on evolving modifications, upgrades and technical improvements.

    Working hand-in-hand with the Customer Support team and service sales team allows our customers to properly plan well into the future to map the requisite and maintenance requirements, and available enhancements, to secure the maintenance opportunities at our factory service centers.

    In the event an aircraft does require support for a technical issue, our customers can seek turn-key Aircraft on Ground (AOG) coordination and mobile support by engaging with our 24/7 Customer Support Centre.

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