Know in advance what is going to break

Demand control cycles for global spare parts management

Supplying spare parts to internal and external customers is one of the fundamental tasks of MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) operations in the aviation industry. Parts should be available quickly and stored on inventory for only very brief time periods. Precise material planning is necessary to ensure that the parts supply process runs smoothly and at low cost. This is where demand planning plays a key role in all distribution centers that supply components and line replaceable units (LRUs) because these items need to be available on short notice, and they have a major impact on the cost and efficiency of the maintenance process. The material supply pool of Lufthansa Technik alone is comprised of about 44,000 different components.

Lufthansa Technik has already made great progress with its dLP (dynamic LRU Planning) research project focused on the development of specific algorithms and an IT application. The modern and efficient forecast processes used to determine material demands have been refined for even better results. From April 2012 to September 2014, Lufthansa Technik collaborated with the Institute for Advanced Industrial Management at Braunschweig University of Technology and the business enterprises m²hycon and VOQUZ to develop a comprehensive "demand control cycle for global component and spare part management" (Bedarfsregelkreise für ein globales Komponenten-Ersatzteilmanagement, abbreviated "BeReK" in German). The goal of this project, sponsored by the City of Hamburg, Department of Economy, Transport and Innovation, was to gain a better understanding of the complex relationships that are relevant to the lifetime of specific parts.

The main focus of BeReK was the analysis of the relationships between all key parameters, such as the number of flight cycles, flight hours and number of calendar days between two component failures. Before this project was launched, it was not possible to determine which of these parameters impacted the actual lifetime of an individual component and what this impact in fact wason the real demand for material. Within the scope of the BeReK project, these parameters were analyzed according to statistical methods and then computed so that unambiguous characteristics could be derived. Existing data sets can be enhanced with this information and used to much better effect. This comprehensive data allows for more accurate forecasts about the number of spare parts needed at storage sites around the world. The data is also relevant when calculating bids and pricing for the supply of parts and material.

The research findings serve as the basis for reliable proposals regarding optimized processes for the rule-based determination of input parameters for material demands. The new methods studied in BeReK will now be integrated in future material planning as part of the "Material eMotion" project: This will enable Lufthansa Technik specialists to know the percentage impact that flight cycles, flight hours and calendar days have on component failures. A self-learning system will be available for every component technology – the system will add statistical information to information about actual failures and component failures so that the real causes can be identified, which will allow for precise forecasts in the future. New processes and specially developed IT applications also support effective use of this complex data.

The findings of the BeReK research and development project enable Lufthansa Technik to always know which components are installed in individual customer aircraft and which demands exist at specific times and sites. This saves time, improves quality and cuts costs – for the customer as well as the service provider. Customers can assure themselves of the advantages of customized services and products, and try them out rather than simply resorting to standardized and supposedly lower-priced offerings. Knowledge of customer needs and supply costs are the basis upon which Lufthansa Technik makes extremely fast price calculations. This will continue to reduce the costs of provisioning from the pool for all parties involved.