4 Critical Industry Challenges Affecting Aviation Engineering and MRO

4 Critical Industry Challenges Affecting Aviation Engineering and MRO

The aviation industry is doing more than just bouncing back. It’s expected to soar even higher than before – and, with it, increase pressure for engineering and MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul) teams.

The industry is poised for full recovery in 2024. In fact, international air travel is expected to surpass pre-COVID-19 levels this year, bolstered by a resurgence in Asia Pacific. The anticipated increase in total passenger numbers in 2024 is 10.4% year-on-year.

This remarkable rebound, followed by surging growth, brings a much-needed respite for airlines. However, it also carries increasing pressure on engineering and MRO teams, many of which are still navigating sweeping industry changes and the still-prevalent effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s critical for airlines to understand the current landscape of the aviation industry and the many complexities affecting engineering and MRO, all of which directly impact safety, profit, and efficiency.

Here are the four critical challenges facing engineering and MRO in aviation.

1. Air travel and the aviation industry are growing exponentially

IATA forecasts that global passenger numbers will almost double by 2037, reaching 8.2 billion annually.

More planes are needed to support this increase, and the industry is responding. IATA reported that 5,000 aircraft were added in 2023, bringing the backlog to an all-time high of 17,000 aircraft. In 2024, the industry is looking at the highest number of scheduled aircraft deliveries since 2018, with an increase of 17% YoY.

According to an Oliver Wyman forecast, the worldwide commercial fleet will expand 33% to over 36,000 aircraft by 2033. At the same time, aviation’s global aftermarket, which encompasses MRO services, is also expected to hit US$125 billion by 2033.

Challenges aviation engineers and MRO teams face
This means that engineers and MRO teams are facing rising travel demands, increased fleet sizes, and growingly complex fleets of old and new aircraft—all of which make performing engineering and maintaining operations more difficult and complex. Adding to these challenges:

2. Digital transformation for engineering is not keeping pace

Airline engineering has lagged behind other areas of the airline industry when it comes to digital transformation. Many airlines continue to rely on legacy engineering processes and technology, which slow them down when they need to speed up more than ever.

Airlines’ investment in digital transformation for engineering and maintenance should focus on technical data. For years, OEMs have been distributing technical data in the form of manuals. As processes get digitized, these technical data need to be accessible through a multitude of devices and made available offline and on the field.

Moving beyond that, airlines must adopt systems that understand the underlying technical data and optimize that for human consumption and technical integration. It’s also crucial that these data are optimized for context.

3. The aviation engineering workforce is facing a talent shortfall and cultural shifts

Talent shortfall in aviation engineering is looming in the industry. According to a survey by JMC Recruitment Solutions, 38% of aviation engineers have moved on to an industry outside of aviation. Additionally, since the COVID-19 pandemic, 4% of engineers have chosen to retire early, taking out mentors to the next generation in the process.

The number of trained engineers is expected to dwindle even further. AeroProfessional’s whitepaper found that 27% of the aircraft engineering workforce is set to retire in the next decade, while almost half is considering moving to an alternative industry. The growing demand for engineers and the rapidly aging workforce are among the main factors driving the shortage.

While the industry contends with competition from other industries (56% of aviation engineers feel like they don’t get paid enough for the job expectations), training bottlenecks, and socio-political challenges, airlines will expect existing engineers to do more with less.

At the same time, preparing for a younger workforce entails a shift in mindset and culture. New engineers naturally expect a digital-first capability. Technical data systems need to be as intuitive and straightforward as conducting a Google search. This can prove difficult when many airlines’ technical data are spread over different systems and formats.

4. Dated documentation management and processes issues are affecting safety and efficiency

Engineering documentation is not often considered a liability in engineering and safety. Still, when compounded by the above challenges, it has quickly become one of the primary challenges that engineering and MRO teams face.

Technical data systems need to be a intuitive and straightforward as conducting a Google search.
According to an analysis of over 1,000 maintenance incidents reported to the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System, the most common problem was the “omission of a required service procedure,” followed by “various documentation irregularities.” In fact, 45% of incident reports are due to inferior document management, while 15 to 23% of aviation maintenance-related accident initiators include out-of-date documentation as a contributing factor.

Poor document management can also heavily impact productivity and efficiency. Aviation maintenance staff spend 25 to 40% of their time searching maintenance documentation to resolve issues. With the increasing number of flights and fleet complexity, it’s doubly crucial for airlines to ensure that their engineering documentation is well managed to ensure the safety of their passengers and the efficiency of their operations.

Overcoming industry challenges and complexities with digital-first documentation management

(Read also: Closing the Engineering and MRO Technology Gap in Aviation)

DocuNet for Engineering offers MRO and engineering departments a single-source and central point of control for the end-to-end management of technical documentation and operational knowledge management. Besides simplifying and digitizing all engineering data types, it provides a powerful platform for maintenance and engineers to interact with critical information quickly.

DocuNet for Engineering addresses aviation engineering’s critical challenges through:

  • OEM Agnostic
    DocuNet for Engineering has the ability to support multiple OEM content together with non-OEM content, therefore reducing the complexity of managing mixed fleets and aircraft types.
  • Single Cloud-Based Platform
    DocuNet for Engineering functions on a single, cloud-based platform, serving as a single source of truth and enabling seamless engineering operations.
  • Omnichannel Visualization
    All documentation and content are visible online and offline across desktop and mobile devices.
  • Engaging Multimedia Content
    View content the way engineers need it, whether images, videos, or 3D models.
  • Sophisticated Filtering
    Ensure the right content is delivered to engineers in the right context at the right time.

You can learn more about DocuNet for Engineering/Tech Ops here.

At Comply365, our DocuNet for Engineering / Tech Ops was designed specifically to address these challenges and drive unparalleled efficiencies for airlines. To learn more about DocuNet for Engineering, do not hesitate to contact us.