The business case for MRO transformation

worker performing airplane maintenance

Without sophisticated maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) systems, airlines couldn’t operate as the global enterprises they are today. Yet recent studies of aircraft IT MRO systems have revealed a long list of shortcomings.

For example, older systems lack the ability to minimize the impact of scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. They maintain a dependence on manual workflows and paper-based systems. But the effects from a forward-looking perspective are even more important. Older systems lack the ability to optimize business processes or drive operational improvements from a growing body of data generated by next-generation aircraft now entering service.

Despite the growing list of limitations, existing MRO systems have continued to hang on because they are highly customized and tightly woven into many other operational areas. Replacement isn’t a point-and-click upgrade. And because migration to a new MRO solution can be a multiyear process, many airlines still choose to bear the growing expense of maintaining existing systems.

That no longer needs to be the case. Airlines can break from the cycle of escalating costs and diminishing returns by adopting a new vision for what an MRO system can be and the value it can deliver.

Digitizing and transforming maintenance operations

Central to this shift is the transition to a connected transportation platform. Airlines want to analyze data to better predict maintenance events, minimize unplanned maintenance, react more swiftly to scheduling changes, increase resource efficiency, and ultimately become more agile. A platform for MRO services enables airlines to accelerate their business transformation.

Airlines that digitize and transform maintenance operations will be positioned for growth. They can gain visibility into the scheduling needs and compliance of maintenance requirements, maximize aircraft maintenance yields, improve agility to adapt to operational business process changes, increase the productivity and job satisfaction of their workforces, and offer a superior experience for passengers by reducing aircraft delays. A next-generation, connected MRO solution can help airlines achieve this by:

  • Improving connectivity across systems, enabling airlines to make agile decisions based on accurate data
  • Shifting equipment maintenance from scheduled or condition-based maintenance to analytics-based predictive maintenance
  • Delivering productivity gains through automation and digitization of manual maintenance processes
  • Optimizing maintenance execution by enabling just-in-time delivery of materials
  • Improving the ability to gain insight into historical maintenance
  • Offering increased flexibility to swiftly adapt to operational and regulatory compliance process changes
  • Empowering technicians and simplifying their work via mobile applications and virtual assistants
  • Reducing the potential for expensive delays through improved visibility of maintenance variables when making scheduling changes

At the scale airlines operate at today, small changes add up to big savings. For example, shaving a half-percent off the number of daily flight delays due to maintenance results in annual cost savings of $4 million to $18 million for 1,000 to 4,000 flights per day. Or, consider this: a 10 percent staff productivity gain could result in annual savings of $15 million to $70 million.

A connected transportation platform is the key element that airlines require to develop a deeper understanding of their maintenance needs, while providing the foundation for delivering innovative services. A connected transportation platform enables a forward-looking operation to enhance quality and achieve the level of agility, flexibility, and speed needed to transform capabilities such as long-term planning, staff scheduling and task execution.

As airlines look for ways to grow and deliver new value to customers, success hinges on embracing solutions that lead to their desired business outcomes: maximizing the availability and reliability of aircraft while minimizing maintenance costs.

Adam Roark was formerly Offering General Manager for Freight Logistics and Rail in WW Travel & Transportation. He left the company in the summer of 2019.


  1. airlines should all have trend monitoring to tell them when a system is not performing adequately, It does work with most mechanical systems but not always so well with Avionics systems as they fail when they Fail and usually give little or no warning,


  1. […] considered an investment for asset reliability. For example, a properly implemented MRO system could save an airline company $4 million to $18 million by minimising delays to flights due to unscheduled […]

  2. […] If it could lower the number of flight delays by just 0.5%, the airline would enjoy total annual cost savings of $4 million to $18 million, depending on the number of daily […]

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