Industry voices: The best of times, the worst of times

industry voices

Even in the strangest of circumstances, there remain reasons for hope and opportunities for positive action and collaboration, according to Davies Turner Air Cargo director and Aviation Logistics Network co-founder Ralph Perkins (pictured below). 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

A lot has changed since 1859 when Dickens penned the above words, and yet 162 years on, his statement could have been written to describe the situation the aviation community finds itself in now in a world dominated by Covid-19, political unrest and financial instability.

But out of something bad ultimately something good has to emerge. Part of that process is the renewed realisation that worldwide trade, movement of goods and people has to continue and the global aviation community plays a critical role in the fabric of keeping nations interconnected and supplied with critical and life-saving products and services. We need aircraft to do that and they need to be safe. And to keep them safe we need the MRO sector more than ever; that can and never will change.  

I could defer to reams of facts and figures from varying industry sources. It is not my intention to inflict that on you. Simply put, everyone involved in the MRO and engineering sector is well aware of how challenging life has become and the pain associated with job losses is acute for many. There are some encouraging signs that, whilst things are still “difficult”, through a compelling mixture of innovation and determined focus on cost optimisation, planning and increased understanding between MROs and those involved within the supply chain, many organisations continue to offer services, and will in the longer term emerge leaner, fitter and better able to compete. 

The provision of the supply and transportation of AOG and critical parts in support of MRO has been a challenge which has been to a large extent met by the global supply chains of the MRO organisations supported by logistics organisations such as my own. Can it be flown? Can we re-route it or tranship it? Can we truck it? Can we do an onboard courier? Can we charter? How about custom clearance post-Brexit (for the UK)? 

These and many other such logistical questions are typical of the challenges faced for AOG/critical service providers on an almost daily basis which are heightened by a background of flight restructuring and reduced capacity. An inevitable result of such “trial by fire” is that the inherent value in close working relationships between the MRO community and the logistics supply chain on which it depends has become even more crucial and importantly valued. This can only lead to a genuine awareness and reawakening of the trust between all participants in the supply chain and the benefits of collaborative working.

We have all seen how Microsoft Teams, Zoom and other internet-based technologies have become part of the daily routine of communication. In a post-Covid world, no doubt the natural human need for personal contact will mean that those who have got to know each other well through tough times will have added confidence and trust in each other when we all get back to “normal”.

Meanwhile, many companies such as my own have taken the opportunity to look at what the future demand cycle from the MRO sector might be for transportation networks. The conclusion in my case has been to look at continuing to improve infrastructure and the introduction of new services. 

As an example, our service partner in Ireland has recently opened a new state-of-the-art storage and transit station for the movement of aircraft engines in addition to our facilities worldwide in over 380 locations. We are also looking at drone technology geared to heavier weight shipments, and our green credentials, which this year saw our UK facility approved to ISO 14001.

The process of continuing to improve what we do and how we do it never stops. Delivering that message in a way that adds value to our clients, suppliers and partners will continue to be at the cornerstone of everything we do. Stay safe and here is to better times ahead.

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