Supply Chain Troubleshooting | Aviation professionals

Every day, Raja Keluskar logs into his work computer, opens a data analysis dashboard and searches for the color green.

For Keluskar, supplier performance manager at Collins Aerospace, a Raytheon Technologies company, green means good. That means one of the approximately 30 vendors he oversees on Long Island, New York, delivers on time. This means that the parts they ship arrive in good condition. And that means there’s more in stock, just in case there’s a sudden spike in demand.

He’s also looking for yellow, which means everything is fine, but not quite as ideal. As for the red – well, it’s better to let that explain itself.

“If we’re in the red zone,” Keluskar said, “that’s when we drop everything and step in immediately.”

Keluskar is one of hundreds of logistics experts and problem solvers in the company who monitor supplier performance and, if necessary, help them unblock their operations through ongoing communication and on-site visits. In some cases, they even fit into vendor facilities for days or weeks at a time.

The work of this team has taken on particular significance as Raytheon Technologies and other aerospace and defense companies grapple with supply chain disruption and strive to meet their commitments to customers in military and commercial aviation. It also reflects a key element of Raytheon Technologies’ supply chain strategy: to treat underperforming suppliers as partners and help them improve, rather than simply cutting ties and looking elsewhere.

“It always seems like it’s easy – you have a problematic supplier, you just walk away. In reality, leaving a supplier can be more expensive,” Keluskar said. “It can be extremely difficult and it can lead to a production stoppage. We have found that investing in our supply base, diagnosing the problem and helping them fix it is what really pays off.

Case study: Precipart

These days, Farmingdale, New York-based precision gear manufacturer Precipart is on the right side of Keluskar’s spreadsheet. But there was a time, not so long ago, that this was not the case.

It all started in 2019, a year of significant growth in commercial aerospace. This growth has been accompanied by an increase in demand for Precipart’s gears, which are used in many parts of passenger aircraft, including the nose wheel, turbines and landing lights.

Keluskar’s data analysis system wasn’t up and running yet, but his phone was—and it rang repeatedly. The program managers were calling to say that their equipment was arriving late. And then came the call from Precipart itself.

“They reached out and said, ‘We have problems here,'” Keluskar said.

The key problem: Precipart, like many manufacturers, had used market forecasts to plan its operations – which machines would run when, what processes they would run, how many staff to plan for. But the increase in demand has rendered these forecasts obsolete.

“It caused a diversion of personnel, a diversion of priorities and of the capacity itself,” said Andrew Pandis, vice president of business development at Precipart. “Machine priorities were skewed. You were running part A, and all of a sudden you needed part B. So both parts suddenly became late.

To untangle this problem, we started by working with Keluskar and his colleagues at Raytheon Technologies to determine which commands were the most critical. This, in turn, allowed them to allocate resources more efficiently – for example, using machines to perform certain processes in parallel, rather than in a linear sequence.

“Basically, the inventory would stop at their factory, wait for the previous process to complete, and then they could start,” Keluskar said. “By doing a capacity analysis, we developed some pretty creative solutions where we were able to put products on different machines and reduce that lead time.”

Of course, all of this is easier said than done. Smoothing out operations took time and a lot of communication. In addition to the work of a contractor who had already been onsite daily with Precipart, Keluskar and his team spent approximately three weeks at the facility, working in a converted conference room, making frequent shop visits and ” just asking a lot of questions,” he said.

It also required cooperation from Precipart itself, and Pandis said the company was happy to oblige.

“It was a well-balanced effort,” he said. “The supplier development team didn’t see us as Precipart, a supplier. They saw it as, ‘let’s help our own cause by understanding the problem and helping them solve it.’

Company-wide benefits

Many of Raytheon Technologies’ 14,000 suppliers supply parts to more than one company within the company. And those are the cases where on-site support pays off especially, said Sarfraz Nawaz, the company’s vice president of supply chain.

“We try to take advantage of contacts and relationships within the organization. When we have common suppliers, someone from Collins who is there every day can also look into a challenge they encounter at Pratt & Whitney or Raytheon Missiles & Defense, or vice versa.

An example: an electronics supplier in Asia had fallen behind in deliveries to Raytheon Missiles & Defense and was not responding to inquiries. Collins Aerospace, which has a significant local presence – including the exact city where the plant was located – quickly dispatched a team.

“They were able to get in there and build relationships with local leaders,” Nawaz said.

The company’s cross-business cooperation has become particularly important as it strives to improve its “multi-level visibility”, a term for knowing not only what is happening at direct suppliers, but also at larger companies. downstream who supply the parts and materials that these direct suppliers use.

Nawaz cited a recent example that helped alleviate a shortage of microprocessors. Either the supplier was running out of wafers, a key component in microprocessors, or Raytheon Technologies arranged for a wafer manufacturer to supply these parts and assign them specifically to the Raytheon Technologies order.

Support in progress

Shortly after the Keluskar team and Precipart resolved the issues caused by the peak in demand for aircraft parts in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic added even more complications. As commercial aerospace business plummeted, demand for gears for military systems held steady – and medical orders for Precipart surged, with gears needed for equipment such as ventilators.

Helping Precipart meet its obligations in the face of these fluctuations demonstrated the value of having Keluskar as a local point of contact. This made it much easier to maintain communication – and keep Precipart’s production lines running on high-priority items – as the gear company weathered another unexpected disruption.

In the long term, local support also helps suppliers stay in the yellow and green on Keluskar’s spreadsheet.

“I am a Long Islander. I have lived here all my life. They are my neighbors, some of them. Their kids go to the same school district as mine,” Keluskar said. “We have our people spread all over the place. It gave us the flexibility to be where we need to be, faster, and resolve issues immediately.

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