March 25, 2013
Credit: Chris Zimmer
What happens when an airline is gearing up for its peak travel season, and the company that provides 75% of its maintenance, repair and overhaul services abruptly closes? That is what Air Canada experienced last year.
On March 18, 2012, Aveos Fleet Performance was open, but the following day, it ceased operating in Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver—without notifying its employees or customers. When that occurred, 26 of Air Canada's engines, four of its aircraft, 2,500 components, technical data and records as well as millions of dollars of inventory were trapped.
“It was even more significant than just 75% of our workload, because it represented 75% of our workload and 75% of our processes,” says Alan Butterfield, Air Canada's vice president of maintenance and engineering. Aveos controlled those processes, so “Air Canada had no ability to receive and create work orders to ship unserviceable components out to vendors,” he notes.
Butterfield overcame incredible obstacles not only to help keep the airline's full schedule—and increase it 4%—but also make major changes to the airline's IT system, improve configuration management, enhance performance data and set up the operation for the future. These achievements won Butterfield the 2013 Laureate Award for MRO.
How did Butterfield do it? First of all, he found a place to work—an International Association of Machinists strike had locked access to his buildings for 10 days. (The parties later signed a collective-bargaining agreement, but the entities are still working through its changes.) He also set operational priorities and established an organizational structure to run the airline, developed both immediate and long-term supplier agreements, and retrieved the airline's assets at Aveos through the Canadian bankruptcy court.
A “contingency” group comprised of internal staff, consultants and Oliver Wyman achieved the following:
•Secured AAR Corp. and Arinmar Ltd. within three days, to manage component work-order streams.
•Secured leased assets within two weeks to keep the airline operating.