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Making MROs More Sustainable

June 13, 2024

This article was originally published by James Careless for Aviation Maintenance Magazine. See the below key excerpts that reference comments made by Aerotrax CEO David Bettenhausen.

The full article can be found at: https://www.avm-mag.com/making-mros-more-sustainable

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What does it mean to be sustainable? Well, according to the United Nations Brundtland Commission, sustainability is defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Hence, when it comes to MROs and their suppliers, being sustainable means serving their customers today while reducing their impact on the environment over time.

So, how does this form of sustainability translate into action? To find out, Aviation Maintenance consulted MROs and their suppliers who are taking steps to be sustainable. Their actions provide a roadmap for others in the industry to become sustainable themselves.

What Suppliers Are Doing To Help

Aerogility and Aerotrax Technologies are two aviation suppliers who are supporting sustainability in their own right.

Aerotrax Technologies is a Dallas, Texas-based enterprise software company focused on data sharing and visibility in the aviation/aerospace supply chain. “We are a cloud-based software vendor, so the delivery of our products has negligible impact on the environment,” said David Bettenhausen, the company’s founder and CEO. “By focusing on small improvements on a daily basis, we drive positive, incremental change across the supply chain organization — which, as a business function, is the beating heart that drives all aftermarket success.”

In addition to helping its clients become more sustainable, Aerotrax is applying sustainability to itself. “We run a lean operation, continuously looking for ways to be more efficient,” Bettenhausen said. “When sustainability is embedded in your culture, it’s the little things that you commend. Whether it’s rearchitecting the system design from a blockchain-based, energy intensive platform to a serverless, pure cloud implementation, or if it’s prioritizing flight choices based on total carbon emissions rather than only convenience or only price as the sole decision-making driver — we are constantly holding ourselves accountable to our own internal bar. In both these decisions, our software and our people are able to perform better.”

“The picture I’m trying to paint is that sustainability is multi-faceted,” he added. “No single pledge, policy, product, or person automatically makes an organization sustainable. It’s the little things that are done on a daily basis. I also personally do not believe it is wise to look at sustainability in a vacuum of environmental sustainability, which is oftentimes the case. The most thoughtful decisions in this context artfully balance environmental and economic alignment in both the short term and long term.”

Airlines Want Sustainable MRO Solutions

There is no doubt that becoming more sustainable is a responsible social policy for MROs. But it is also good business. This is because airlines and other aircraft operators want to be more sustainable to satisfy environmentally conscious customers who pay their bills, and the governments that regulate their industry.

“Passengers are the lifeblood of our industry, and if operators do not listen to the needs of their customers, they may opt for a greener airline,” said AJW’s Mallette. “Our customers, being operators and those supplying operators, are looking for MRO operations that feed into their sustainability goals.”

“We are seeing a growing demand for more sustainable MRO solutions from our clients,” agreed LHT’s Klinge. “Airlines and aircraft operators are increasingly focused on reducing their environmental impact and operating more sustainably. This has led to a greater interest in MRO solutions that can help them achieve their sustainability goals.”

There are other ways that MROs can become more sustainable, at least from a regulatory standpoint. For instance, airlines have been strong buyers in the Carbon Credit markets to offset their CO2 emissions. “I have some friends over at Green Trade Solutions in the U.K., who have been supporting big, new carbon capture projects and helping airlines find projects they can get excited about that are in line with regulatory requirements,” Bettenhausen said. “While the MRO industry certainly recognizes the importance of sustainability, I haven’t seen as much activity or appetite for these carbon offset initiatives in the same way that I see airlines pursuing.”

A Necessary Commitment

“According to NOAA’s 2023 Annual Climate Report the combined land and ocean temperature has increased at an average rate of 0.11° Fahrenheit (0.06° Celsius) per decade since 1850, or about 2° F in total,” said the U.S. government website climate.gov (full link at end of article). “The rate of warming since 1982 is more than three times as fast: 0.36° F (0.20° C) per decade.”

With facts like these, there is no doubt that industry needs to take climate change seriously and address it through sustainability initiatives. “In 2022 aviation accounted for 2% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, having grown faster in recent decades than rail, road or shipping,” said the intergovernmental International Energy Agency at www.iea.org (full link at end of article). “Many technical measures related to low-emission fuels, improvements in airframes and engines, operational optimization and demand restraint solutions are needed to curb growth in emissions and ultimately reduce them this decade in order to get on track with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 (NZE) Scenario.”

The good news? In a very fundamental sense, “MRO and sustainability are actually quite harmonious concepts,” said Bettenhausen. “By choosing to maintain, repair or overhaul a part, purchasing managers are actually choosing the more sustainable solution than buying new. (In the Defense world, MRO is literally called Sustainment.) If we continue to find novel ways to extend the life of parts and aircraft — from more accurate aftermarket measurement and reporting, to feedback loops and data sharing with OEMs, to new breakthroughs in material and systems design — we can move the needle on ambitious sustainability goals. I believe these innovations are imperative to ensure the long-term economic health of the industry.”

The full article can be found at: https://www.avm-mag.com/making-mros-more-sustainable

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