Ramping Up

As seen in Airside International, February-March 2015

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IMPROVING EXISTING PARTS TO MEET DEMANDING GSE REQUIREMENTS IS SOMETHING OF AN ART, AS SAGE PARTS’ MICHAEL BLOOMFIELD EXPLAINS.

Anyone who has worked on the ramp or has just observed the hustle and bustle of a busy ramp knows that it can be a most unforgiving environment. Certainly it’s no place for inferior parts used in ground support equipment; parts failures can cause expensive delays and downtime.

At Sage Parts, GSE experts analyze virtually every aspect of ramp operations throughout the world, and continually uncover the shortcomings of off-the-shelf parts that were originally intended for vehicles in other industries such as automotive, over-the-road transportation, material handling and many other industry applications besides. Sage engineers focus on the inferior reliability of those parts that were created for other industries specified into GSE design, determining exactly why the high failure rates are occurring and then through perceptive engineering, vastly improve the design of the parts. These parts are not only re-engineered, but go through extensive testing to ensure they perform better and last longer in GSE applications.

BUILDING BETTER MOUSETRAPS

There are many examples of the ways in which Sage Parts has re-engineered and improved parts utilized in other industries and made them ramp-ready and more reliable in GSE operations. Examples include a heavy duty shifter, brake booster, a high efficiency copper/ brass radiator, an ignition switch and the Ford 300 engine, governor and carburetor. Let’s take a closer look at each of these examples.RamptechShifter1

For the re-engineered heavy duty shifter, Sage engineers have created a design featuring low friction that minimizes the abrasion and wear caused by metal parts sliding and repeatedly rubbing together. A synthetic rubber, spring-like bushing has also been engineered into the shifter’s design to withstand the most extreme environmental conditions while providing optimal UV protection, which is a major cause for the original shifter’s failure.

BrakeBoosterThe Sage brake booster redesign resulted from research showing that while the original brake boosters were fine for lighter weight automotive vehicles, they were no match for GSE. To meet GSE vehicle demands, the brake booster’s pedal rod and power piston components were both redesigned to perform under higher degrees of stress. The improved power piston material and design also accommodates higher stopping loads inherent in ramp operations.

Re-engineering of the Sage high efficiency copper/brass radiator brought about several key enhancements, including a 25% increase in tank wall thickness, brazing reinforcements both internally and externally on the filler neck, the addition of two anchor points welded to both sides of the tank for more durable inlet/outlet tubes, and a re-designed mounting system, all of which contribute to a much improved, stronger and longer lasting radiator.

The creation of the improved ignition switch began with the realization that many off-the-shelf switches use steel contacts, which create an electrical current arc when subjected to a high moisture environment such as that of airport ramps. The electric arc can cause steel contacts to carbonize and create resistance, which in turn reduces current flow to the starter motor. What’s more, the steel contacts tend to “weld” together. The Sage ignition switch has been re-engineered with silver contacts that will not carbonize or weld together and contains other stainless steel internal parts to resist high moisture intrusion and failure. RAMPTECH-Ford-300-Engine-41

Many readers will know that the Ford 300 is among the most popular engines for use in small tractors and beltloaders. However, as with nearly all engines originally designed for over-the-road use, the Ford 300’s performance and reliability is challenged by the harsh conditions of the ramp that include long idle times, high torque requirements at low rpm and high operating temperatures. Sage engineers have specified many improvements to the engine’s remanufacturing process, enhancing its capabilities for GSE operations. Those improvements include the use of all industrial engine blocks instead of standard automotive blocks, along with strict remanufacturing machining specifications and the use of new parts incorporated with the improved design. New parts include 100% new hypereutectic pistons with an 8:1 ratio, new chrome moly rings, steel industrial timing gears and aluminum silicon alloy main and rod bearings.

The new Ford 300 governor has received several enhancements to achieve engine equilibrium in demanding ramp applications. Additionally, the new Ford 300 carburetor was re-engineered with throttle shaft bushings for a longer life as well as an improved float design, needle and seat and accelerator pump diaphragm.

In addition to the engineering enhancements mentioned above, Sage has made ramp dependable improvements to other GSE parts too numerous to list including a heavy duty E-brake lever, lavatory rinse/fill couplings, potable water fill couplings, drain couplings, C6 transmissions and pre-conditioned air ducting, couplings and adaptors.

RETURN ON INVESTMENT

In short, each of the above improvements to GSE parts can be summed up by three letters: ROI. Parts that are specifically engineered and performance tested for airport ramps are certain to be in service longer and more reliably than those designed for other applications; this has the effect of dramatically lowering labor expenses associated with frequent GSE repairs and substantially reducing the costly prospect of ground support equipment sitting idle on the ramp because a part has failed.

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Ramping Up

WHO CARES ABOUT GSE SPARES?

As seen in Airside International, December 2014

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in an age when outsourcing is all the rage, most airlines and many airports have sub-contracted many or all of their gse-related operations – and if they haven’t, they are probably actively considering it. yet the provision of spare parts for gse is a niche within a niche – and a vital one to the global aviation industry, writes Chris Lewis

PartsCollage-lorezThere is one particular international company that specialises in the provision of GSE spares – Sage Parts. It is, as far as executive vice-president Michael Bloomfield knows, the only company in this market sub-sector that operates all over the world, employing around 400 people in its various offices.

He explains: “GSE spares is a very difficult, small niche segment of the aviation industry, with very low volumes. It’s not organised, like the market for spares for automobiles, or even aircraft. This is an industry in which 100 units would be considered a big run.”

Sage can trace its origins back to 1969, when it started out as a GSE maintenance and specialist products company that then found itself in the parts business. But on buying the company in 1998, Bloomfield and partner Mark Pollack – president and CEO – set about turning it into a global supplier of GSE parts. “Back then, there really wasn’t an aftermarket for GSE parts,” Bloomfield says. “There was for almost anything else – even things like mobile phones or computers – but there wasn’t for GSE.”

Sage provides not just parts, but complete solutions, he remarks. “We can be a single source, owning all the inventory and providing personnel to manage them. It’s very common for us to go into the major airlines, in the US, Canada, Europe or Asia, and provide a complete GSE spare parts department.”

Not only does this take away all of the administrative burden for the customer, Bloomfield insists, including the headache of maintaining parts inventory and managing logistics, but as a GSE parts specialist, “we also have a very aggressive cost reduction programme.” Because providing GSE parts is such a niche area, a company that can aggregate supplies in what is generally a very low-volume business can offer considerable cost savings over an airline or handler trying to source parts itself, he points out.

The vast majority of the company’s work is in the commercial civil aviation field. It does a small amount of business in the corporate jet area, but so far has not considered moving into other market segments such as military aviation – although maybe that could happen one day, Bloomfield remarks.

Sage’s service does not end with simply sourcing parts – in some cases, it re-engineers components where those supplied have been found lacking in some way.
Many of the parts used were actually originally designed for other applications like mining, construction or materials-handling equipment. “The components chosen are not necessarily best for the airport ramp, so we go through a re-design process, for example for axles, gear
shifters, steering mechanisms or radiators. We’ve probably re-designed 2-3,000 different items now.”

Moving equipment about an airport might not seem to be as arduous as say, a mine or a construction site, but it does place particular demands on critical components. For example, a lot of GSE components are not designed to be left outside in all weathers. Rain, humidity, ultraviolet light, dust and exposure to chemicals such as deicing spray can all take their toll.

Significant quantities of GSE are also in continuous operation for long periods; nor is an axle designed for, say, a forklift truck, necessarily up to the task of towing a train of heavy baggage carts. Moreover, airside operatives’ main priority is to get aircraft quickly on their way, not giving their GSE much tender loving care. “There are no Sunday drivers on an airport,” as Bloomfield puts it. Suffi ce to say that many of Sage Parts’ re-designs are
now sought by GSE manufacturers as components for new equipment, he adds.

THE SOURCING CHALLENGE
Given that GSE is such a diverse area and that there are so many manufacturers involved, often with very small production runs, it might be thought that actually sourcing
parts could be a challenge. However, this isn’t usually the case – in part because the GSE industry has borrowed so heavily from other industries, most items can
usually be fairly easily obtained.

Parts often tend to be locally sourced, which also helps, and age isn’t necessarily a barrier to keeping GSE working. Although major airports frequently do have strict age limits for their equipment inventories, most GSE is fairly rugged and it is not uncommon to find 1970s built
tugs or tractors still operating. Bloomfield recently came across a tractor dating from the 1940s in Australia.

Sage now maintains 36 stocking locations around the world, allowing a full range of required parts to be kept at the point of use at major airports. These locations – which are increasing in number all the time – are backed up by four distribution centres for the US, Europe
and Asia. Asia represents a particularly strong growth area for the company at the moment, where current operations are based in Hong Kong and Singapore. Sage also has a growing presence in the Middle East and in Latin America, where it has a footprint in Santiago, Chile, and is actively considering expansion into other markets such as Brazil, Ecuador or Peru.

In fact, Sage is finding that the expansion of its network is often running ahead of that of the original equipment manufacturers’ own servicing networks. Where the fi rm does not have a stocking location, it can ship items quickly by common carriers such as UPS or FedEx. Parts can be shipped to airline maintenance bases or, in many cases, direct to a technician’s workbench. Orders can be placed by phone, email or through e-commerce media. As well as parts, the company can also supply other consumables such as soaps, gloves, tools or batteries.

“Sage provides not just parts, but complete solutions”
Michael Bloomfield, executive vice-president, Sage Parts

Because the GSE market is so under-developed, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have taken some time to get used to the idea of a third party selling their spares, Bloomfield admits. The OEMs are currently the main competitor to Sage, he says, and the company can find itself acting as both customer and competitor for many OEMs.

Many of these manufacturers have positively welcomed Sage’s participation in the business, while others have been perhaps less enthusiastic, but no OEM has refused to supply Sage. And sometimes the roles are reversed, with the company on occasion supplying parts to
the OEMs. The fact that it supplies parts for so many manufacturers’ equipment – and many manufacturers use the same components – gives Sage a lot of buying power, in many cases better than the OEMs themselves.

Sage uses computer algorithms to predict demand for parts in what can be an uncertain business. “Sometimes we fantasise about being in the automotive parts business, because it is by comparison so predictable and the volumes are comparatively large,” Bloomfield jokes. And, over the years, Sage has learned the main triggers for GSE parts demand – principally the de-icing season, the Christmas rush (which puts a big strain on parcels and cargo operators) and the summer holiday rush. However, it is not as simple as predicting when, for instance, the first frosts will bite – airlines and handlers will start preparing
their de-icing equipment long before then, perhaps as early as midsummer.

There is also a category of parts that Sage exempts from its normal demand algorithms – critical part requirements. These are typically parts with long lead times or ones that are in some way critical to customers’ operations and are always kept in stock. However, keeping GSE parts in stock, but without carrying ruinously expensive inventory costs, is a bit of an art, Bloomfield comments. “In any one year, we stock around 25,000 unique items and we will probably deal with 95,000 unique non-stock items. And one interesting statistic is that 25% of all our transactions are for parts consumed less than three times a year. At the same time, only 9% of items purchased are used more than 25 times a year.” (The latter is
high-volume in GSE part terms but would still be in the once-in-a-blue moon category in the automotive industry.)

Experience counts for a lot in this segment; Sage has employees who have worked with GSE for up to 45 years. In fact, it is this sheer complexity that has ensured that Sage remains a unique sort of company, Bloomfield considers. “Today we have a database of over 6 million items, and we have all the information on cross-referencing and compatibility. Any competitor would have to somehow acquire that and it’s not something you can buy. In fact, there are times when the GSE manufacturers will call us asking for information about their own products.”

FACILITY MANAGEMENT
Sage Parts fulfils its customers’ needs in many different ways. In some cases, it has taken over its customers’ own spare parts departments. But it can also offer retail facilities, and in other places operates unmanned sites. At London’s Heathrow International Airport, it runs the spares operation for handling equipment leasing company Rushlift, but this also doubles as a retail facility for Sage’s many other customers in and around the airport, holding stocks of spares for dozens of different types of GSE. Rushlift staff have access to the facility to collect parts at times when the ‘public’ facility is closed, and it also acts as a good ‘shop window’ for Rushlift’s equipment maintenance services.

The building is a former American Airlines (AA) facility and located upstairs are the carrier’s former stock of GSE spares. Sage has taken ownership of these spares and they are gradually being used up. When exhausted, AA will purchase parts from Sage’s regular stocks.

As far as Sage’s own stock is concerned, it falls into three main categories, says sales representative Simon Chilcott-Coombes. “We have regular servicing kit – things like filters or bulbs; parts that frequently get knocked off like mirrors; and critical parts that are not necessarily asked for often, but for which there are long lead times and which, if not available, could put equipment out of action for weeks or even months.”

Sage works with its customers to establish which parts are in fact mission critical, he continues, adding: “With GSE, especially in the UK, not many handlers now have spare machines.” So the company’s operation really is on the front line of keeping aircraft in the air, not only at Heathrow, but at airports up and down the UK.

The company’s central database, and maintaining a good rapport with customers, are two factors essential to success. “It really is a two-way street – partnership is really critical,” Chilcott-Coombes explains. This can be a mine of information, not only for Sage itself, but for its customers too.

There are Sage operations at the bigger airports, like Gatwick or Manchester; for others, parts can be delivered from the company’s main distribution centre at Preston in north-west England. Sage took over a smaller GSE parts company called T123 a few years ago and this has become the kernel of its UK operation.

While GSE companies at Heathrow tend to keep equipment for only 10-15 years, it doesn’t necessarily then get retired – a lot ends up at smaller airports in the UK, or even overseas. So Sage is kept busy finding parts for machines that are 20 or even 30+ years old.

There isn’t much that stumps Chilcott-Coombes and his colleagues. There is a reasonable degree of commonality between GSE equipment of similar types and capacities and, if need be, items can be shipped in from company headquarters in New York. “You can never stock everything, but we do have a dedicated sourcing team,” he says.

The main challenge today concerns parts being superseded by newer versions; the new ones may in turn need different mounting brackets, which can tax maintenance engineers’ ingenuity, but in almost all cases a solution can be found. If a part is truly unavailable, Sage can also manufacture new ones, though that is obviously an expensive option, especially given the stringent tests that will be required.

AIRSIDE GSE
Sage may be the giant of the GSE spares industry, but there are still plenty of smaller local suppliers that can offer a highly bespoke service. Supplying GSE parts is very much about what you know, remarks Mike Cardy, managing director of Farnborough-based Airside GSE (no connection with Airside International magazine). People who have had problems fi nding specific parts elsewhere often turn to Airside GSE, and it can be “for anything and everything”, he says, although aircraft towbar parts are a particular favourite. Customers can be found right around the world.

Another part of the company’s business is GSE repair and refurbishment, and the supply of spares is a natural extension of this. Parts can be from OEMs, from other suppliers or, if necessary, Airside GSE can have its own parts made to specification by a network of UK-based engineering companies, all within a 40-50 mile radius of Farnborough.

There is a brisk market in second-hand GSE and it’s often the older equipment that has customers on the phone to Cardy looking for hard-to-find spares. He wouldn’t necessarily claim to be the cheapest supplier, but he can find many items that other companies cannot. It’s rare for him not to be able to source any desired GSE component – other than when someone wants an OEM part but without going through the OEM or its agent; some OEMs like to control parts supply themselves and may be
unwilling to release information.

Cardy spends many hours on the phone advising potential customers, giving them the benefi t of his 50 years in the industry, including many years as a draughtsman. Often, the biggest difficulty is in identifying what the part is in the first place, which is where his years of experience in the industry can prove invaluable. “Yes, there are people who have a volume buying price advantage over me – but you can pick up the phone and talk to me direct,” he says.

It can be annoying if the prospective customer then decides to source parts elsewhere, but that is an occupational hazard in the spares business. Airside’s only stipulation is a £100 (S$163) minimum order, recently introduced. Cardy adds: “We tend to get all the difficult enquiries. That can be for equipment made 30 years ago and the original manufacturer has disappeared – but things can usually be re-engineered, or changed, if need be – for example, putting someone else’s towhead on a towbar.”

Cardy has no particular aversion to non-OEM parts where appropriate. Sometimes, customers will specify OEM parts, particularly for anything like a towbar hook that touches an aircraft – fear of being presented with a million dollar repair bill tends to make people very cautious – but for other components, fi lters for instance, there’s no reason not to specify cheaper generic parts. Again, he can advise as necessary – it’s all part of the service.

BEST IN CLASS
But GSE manufacturers themselves do still have a big part to play in parts supply. At JBT AeroTech, global aftermarket manager Josh Parkin believes that his company has “a best-in-class global sales and service network” which offers customers easy access to JBT technical support personnel and parts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

He informs: “We are fortunate to have a very loyal customer base. Those who purchase parts from JBT understand our strict quality standards and value when deciding where to purchase replacement parts for their JBT equipment. We, together with our global distributors and partners, carry large, prepositioned inventories based upon anticipated customer requirements to ensure high spare parts availability. Our service and parts personnel have many years of experience helping our customers get the right part for the job the first time around.”

JBT customers are employing a variety of sourcing techniques, ranging from the local direct purchase of parts, to centralised purchasing departments, to fully outsourced parts management. However: “As an OEM, we are happy to support our customers’ access to JBT’s high-quality parts through any of these models. Having fast access to high-quality components that are specially designed for use in our equipment helps drive higher equipment performance, up-time and safety.”

Parkin says that JBT is known in the industry for offering low total cost of ownership (TCO) – meaning that taking into account equipment purchase, operating costs, repairs costs and residual values, “our products cost less to own over their useful life. We also have successfully helped many of our customers reduce costs by offering special parts packages and kits. These kits can help to streamline preventative maintenance, can be used to enhance machine performance or upgrade unit configuration.”

He also has this warning: “We fi rmly believe that the most cost-effective replacement part both from a purchase price and a reliability perspective is to purchase genuine JBT parts that were specifi cally designed to work in our equipment. Non-genuine parts put the equipment at greater risk of degraded performance, system damage and breakdown.”

“Our service and parts personnel have many years of experience helping
our customers get the right part for the job the first time around”
Josh Parkin,global aftermarket manager, JBT AeroTech

Parkin points out that JBT’s customers stake their reputation on providing consistent, high performance service and GSE up-time is directly related to turning around aircraft safely and on time. “Each piece of GSE, from a tow tractor and cargo loader to passenger stairs and pre-conditioned air units, plays a critical role in airport operations. It needs to work each time, every time, regardless of the location.”

LOGISTICS SUPPORT
In the past few years, the logistics industry has evolved to provide specialist services to the spare parts and servicing sector. While none of the big logistics specialists has yet, to our knowledge, identified GSE parts as a discrete market segment, there are companies that specialise in the aerospace sector and make regular deliveries in and around airports. One of these is Unipart Logistics, which has a major relationship with Rolls Royce Aerospace, explains global industrial logistics director Bernard Molloy.

Unipart can offer locally and centrally-held stocks of parts, fast and dependable customs clearance where goods have to be moved across international frontiers and not only a highly sophisticated track and trace system, but sophisticated value stream mapping to actually forecast demand for spares based on past history or similar equipment – all designed to take the guesswork out of spare parts stock holding.

The company can map its customers’ global stocks and, where a component cannot be sourced locally, identify the location of the nearest one. Its IT systems have been designed to cope with the complexities of maintaining the parts supply chain for a 20,000-component aero engine, so should be able to cope with the demands of virtually any other industry, Molloy argues.

Unipart has its roots in the British motor industry and today works in a number of sectors, including materials handling, the rail industry and even for satellite TV companies. And with its engineering background, it can reproduce components, even where engineering drawings are not available.

Parts and components don’t necessarily have to be of high value to benefit from the sorts of services that Unipart can provide, Molloy points out. “We work in any area where there are mission-critical parts – in any industry where customers cannot afford downtime. The product value is incidental.”

WHO CARES ABOUT GSE SPARES?

THE NEED FOR SPEED: KEEPING GSE RUNNING

As seen in Airside International, December 2013

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There are two main customer groups that require the provision of spare parts for GSE: the owners of the equipment (including handling agents, airlines and lessors) and maintenance providers. But while the equipment mix and market conditions may vary, the principal demands of customers are pretty much the same across the board, as Megan Ramsay finds out.
Bloomfield,Michael-Headshot
“The focus on price all depends on circumstances; a lot of repairs are unexpected and urgent so there is no time for price comparison”
– Michael Bloomfield, executive vice president at Sage Parts
Photo by Lisa Harden-Stone

As an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), Chicago, Illinois headquartered aviation equipment provider JBT sells parts, convenience kits and product upgrade kits to those who own, operate and repair JBT equipment worldwide, says Josh Parkin, global aftermarket manager.

“Aviation is a very schedule-based market and JBT is determined to drive customer success through fast response times,” he affirms. “Based on our industry experience and customer feedback, we find the following most important to our customers: part availability (the time it takes from an order being placed to the part arriving at a customer’s location); part quality (when parts arrive they need to be the right parts and be dependable for the strenuous demands of ramp support); and knowledgeable sales/support staff (sales and service staff need to understand the equipment and parts to be able to provide quick and accurate advice in order to restore a piece of equipment to service on time and cost effectively).”

Parkin believes that OEMs have “a special responsibility” to their customers, their relationship extending well beyond the initial equipment sale to include a lifetime of support, from part support to service repairs to equipment refurbishment. By offering global support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, JBT aims to go beyond just selling a part to make sure that customers have the tools at hand to ensure they get what they really need. He feels that this is “a unique service that only the OEM can provide. The value that this offers helps reduce our customer’s total cost of ownership (TCO) and helps keep our customers’ fl eets performing effectively for many years to come.”

GHH Fahrzeuge’s biggest customer, TCR, is a lessor and maintenance provider that leases the German GSE manufacturer’s aircraft movers to airline operators like KLM, as well as provides maintenance services. However, GHH general manager Mortimer Glinz informs: “We also have customers like airberlin who own our machines and operate them directly. I believe that GHH customers are long-term users of their equipment. They prefer the low operating cost and the long lifetime over the low-budget equipment with high operating cost of other manufacturers.

“Customers want fast delivery, sometimes installation and training, and budget solutions. As an OEM we are able to offer service and operator training, customised on-site service solutions, rebuilds and custom modifications. These services enable our customers to further optimise the cost and performance of the equipment. For instance, we have upgraded our machines for new aircraft types or retrofitted existing units with energy saving kits,” he observes.

Some OEMs are venturing into the provision of spare parts for equipment manufactured by other companies. Brad Streeter, responsible for administration, sales and marketing at Boise, Idaho-based GSE provider AERO Specialties, comments: “We do not (currently) do a lot with parts outside supporting our own, AERO Specialties-manufactured GSE. This is a growing aspect of our business that we are just now gearing up to pursue, though. Most of our customers are owners predominantly, as we specialise in the corporate, FBO (fixed base operator) and general aviation market. We have some maintenance provider customers, but with the kinds of equipment we provide the majority of our customer base tends to fall into the owner category. Leasing options have become more attractive with the tightening economy and some newer tax incentives and these categories are on the rise.

“Customers demand a quick turnaround on quotes and order shipments. The accuracy of shipments and meeting delivery deadlines when equipment is down and out of service is always very important as well,” he adds.

Summing up, Michael Bloomfield, executive vice president at Melville, New York-headquartered aviation GSE parts supplier Sage Parts, remarks: “The main demand from our customers is ‘right now’. If equipment is down, then availability is the priority. In general, this is followed by a demand for quality, with price being less important. After all, the price of having idle equipment sitting around is significant as the customer might need to rent a replacement.

“Our prime strategy is to provide parts as close to the point of use as possible. Value-add is a huge purchasing motivator – things like being able to offer high quality, a lower

price, faster delivery or good customer service. We often help with evaluating inventories or technical issues. We also analyse why some items are frequently used and can redesign them to reduce the need to replace them so often.”

Sage supplies all parts for all brands, with demand depending on the operator. For example, smaller airlines like the low-cost carriers predominantly carry out narrow- body operations, so the mix of equipment they use is very different to transcontinental or freighter operations. Climate also plays a part – de-icers, for instance, are not always necessary.

GEOGRAPHICAL VARIATIONS

Bloomfield goes on: “Each geographical area is dominated by a certain type of customer. For example, in North America, almost exclusively airlines do their own ground handling and maintain their own equipment; the second biggest customer base in that area is ground handlers maintaining their equipment, and separate maintenance companies come in third. In the UK, the vast majority of our customers are maintenance and/or leasing companies, followed by ground handling agents and then airlines (very few of whom handle themselves or do their own maintenance in the UK).

“In Europe, it depends on the country. For instance, in France we deal direct with Air France, and then also with ground handlers, while in Germany it’s almost always handlers. Asia is the same as Germany but in some countries airlines self-handle – as they tend to do in Latin America.

“As for Africa, it’s a mix of handlers and airlines. Sometimes this is due to how airports are structured, perhaps. It’s a cross between evolution and economics; also, labour requirements come into it – for example, in North America there are quotas for airline employees to do a certain amount of this sort of work.”

And there are challenges that arise from such geographical differences. Thus, there are varying brands of equipment requiring different parts that may be more or less commonly used in some countries but must all be sourced as rapidly and cost-effectively as possible. Language barriers can also create challenges.

But JBT’s Parkin feels that “customers’ spare parts requirements and purchasing methods are not country specific, but differ from customer to customer. One advantage of having a global spare parts warehouse network is that our sales and support staff get to know customers in their region better so that JBT can stock the right parts and are knowledgeable about local Customs regulations and shipping requirements.”

REGULAR MAINTENANCE VERSUS URGENT REPAIRS

There are two distinct models when it comes to ordering and supplying GSE parts. First, spares are required on an ongoing basis for regular, planned maintenance work. Second, a part may be needed urgently for an unscheduled repair to a piece of equipment. The mix differs across suppliers; for example, at AERO Specialties approximately 80 percent of orders are for regular, non-urgent maintenance and repair work, with the remainder being for immediate requirements, while at GHH Fahrzeuge about 25 percent of business relates to unscheduled repairs.

At JBT, Parkin considers: “While it is diffi cult to ascertain an exact percentage, I would say that we have seen an increasing trend of customers reducing their on-site spares inventory and looking to their parts suppliers to provide just-in-time parts support. As a result, JBT has had to expand our inventory and fill more orders with shorter lead times. We have adapted to this challenge by studying parts purchasing trends and pre-positioning parts globally to be closer to customer equipment. JBT also benefits from a strong global distributor network to further support our customers and further reduce lead times.”

Bloomfield believes that Sage was at the root of the trend towards just-in-time parts provision for GSE. “We created an option for customers to get a full array of parts from one supplier as opposed to going to OEMs. This has forced lots of OEMs to rise to the occasion. Parts at the point of use never really existed before us and this has been a positive change – there is now a focus on high value-add and getting our customers to appreciate that.”

Of course, the associated costs may be higher, but Bloomfield points out: “The focus on price all depends on circumstances; a lot of repairs are unexpected and urgent so there is no time for price comparison, but in the case of planned repairs or maintenance, of course price can be considered much more carefully. Repairs are completely unplanned, whereas maintenance is more preventative, planned and therefore more price-sensitive. Some providers change their pricing according to the urgency of the demand but we have a very structured price policy that does not take advantage of those customers needing parts urgently,” he stresses.

A significant part of Sage’s business is contract-based, with around two-thirds of turnover relating to the company taking responsibility for inventory control on behalf of its customers. In many cases, Sage owns the inventory until the customer asks for it – truly a just-in-time service. “Managing stock level requirements is one of our specialties,” Bloomfield says.

OVERCOMING HURDLES

The provision of spare parts that meet customer demands is not always easy and there are several difficulties that must be overcome. One particular hurdle is the sheer range of items that are needed to support the many different types, models, manufacturers and ages of equipment currently in service with the world’s GSE users. Streeter feels this challenge is similar in some other industries but he pointed out that aviation does have “a very large range of fairly specific equipment used to service both the aircraft and passenger services”.

Another problem occurs when a customer has changed a part number and can therefore not provide the manufacturer’s part number when ordering a replacement. This can be resolved, for example, if the customer submits photographs of the damaged part for identification by the manufacturer – but this, of course, takes time, and if the repair is urgent then it can potentially cost the customer a lot of money in idle equipment and hiring fees to keep operations running.

Glinz notes that this sort of issue can happen in any industry. More specific to aviation, perhaps, is the problem of obsolescence, where a specific part may not be available anymore and an alternative has to be sourced. This can be more common in the aviation industry because some parts and pieces of equipment are very specialised.

Bloomfield agrees, elaborating: “GSE lasts a very long time but parts and suppliers come and go. For instance, if an item was originally intended for other industries like automotives, which change more rapidly, then the obsolescence rate is greater. But we can recreate obsolete items for our customers. Also, some items may not hold up well in GSE, even though they are fine in their originally intended use; we can modify them as necessary. GSE is made in low volumes in comparison to other industries like trucking, so for a manufacturer to create parts specifically for GSE is not always economically feasible. But we can do it because we are so big in the market, and we work on aggregate,” he adds.

Manufacturers of GSE and parts are also concerned about “the prolifi c use of substandard parts in our equipment”, Parkin notes. “We frequently receive calls from customers concerned about the degraded performance of their GSE after replacing genuine JBT parts with substandard substitutes. Researching and discovering the cause of the issue may take a while, which increases the time the unit is out of service, not to mention the cost to repair damage potentially caused by the use of these substandard parts.”

He stresses that while many parts suppliers claim to supply OEM parts, the only way a customer can know for sure they are getting what they ordered is to buy direct from the GSE manufacturer or one of their authorised distributors.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS

The continuing shift towards electrically powered GSE is an issue that is regularly discussed at industry forums, and one that providers of spare parts cannot afford to ignore. With government bodies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introducing ever tighter regulations relating to emissions levels, the gradually increasing use of ‘clean’ electric vehicles at airports is inevitable – although Streeter points out: “It has not spilled over to the older items out on the ramp so much as of yet, but as the newer equipment sees more service it will trickle down.”

Picking up on the EPA’s regulations, Bloomfield says: “In terms of ecology, not much comes into play although we do get involved. For example, in the US there are still lots of petrol engines but there are changes relating to emissions so we have worked with the EPA to develop retrofit parts that comply with new legislation.”

He believes that the shift to electric equipment will change the spare parts industry because this sort of GSE does not use as many parts as petrolpowered GSE. However, he is confi dent that while the mix of work his company undertakes may change, the volume will remain steady. “It’s about product management,” he states, explaining: “We will evolve our expertise, provide training programmes and watch trends. Since two-thirds of our business is contract, as our customers change, we change with them.”

This sense of optimism is by no means universal, though. Glinz is of the opinion that while environmental concerns are very important, and his company is able to offer “new solutions with a substantially improved environmental footprint”, the truth is that it is “very time-consuming and exhausting to get everybody involved around the table. And in the end nobody in the industry really wants to pay for it,” he considers.

In general, Glinz finds the inflexibility of the GSE industry disappointing. This is mainly with regard to the regulations that apply to the sector, but also the parties involved, whether aircraft manufacturers, airlines, airports, pilots, users or authorities. He concludes: “As all parties always have to be involved, the ground support processes are very much like they were 50 years ago. For an innovative German supplier that is a very unsatisfying situation.”

THE NEED FOR SPEED: KEEPING GSE RUNNING

PART OF THE MATTER

REN-Logo

As seen in Ramp Equipment News, May-June 2013

Like your automobile, sooner or later your GSE will require a replacement part. What are the options today?

In the last issue of Ramp Equipment News, we highlighted the fact that JBT’s de-icer was enjoying its fiftieth anniversary.  The eagle-eyed amongst you who read that feature might have noticed that the ungainly Maintenance Master is not only still active in certain parts of the world, but it is also still being supported by the Orlando-based manufacturer with spare parts.

Those spares are key, in fact, to the well-being and longevity of anything that works on the ramp, and the above example merely bears testimony to this.  Today’s GSE fleet manager is aware of this and, like as not, he’s also aware of the trend that has seen many equipment manufacturers become vehicle assemblers rather than actual fabricators.  That’s called progress – but it still raises the question of sourcing spare parts.

Clearly, where we have an environment in which a number of GSE manufacturers supply the industry, it behoves them all to keep spares in stock.  That much is pretty fundamental and it does, of course, presuppose a weighty investment in that self-same facility.  However, with more and more constituent parts being bought in by the manufacturer in the first place, that inventory is arguably perhaps not as large as it once was.

When a spare is called for, the handler typically has a choice:  he can buy from the original equipment manufacturer or he can look around for a comparable part from a third party.  The choice is that simple but this is where problems can arise.  Whilst purchasing from the original supplier presents no risk at all, and in fact should come with a guarantee, shopping elsewhere may not yield the same result.

There’s a certain irony in all this, too:  that third party replacement part might have been exactly the same as the one fitted to your GSE by the manufacturer in the first place.  But you’ll buy it in different packaging and the chances are that it will be cheaper than the part from the OEM.

This will come as no surprise to most readers involved with GSE, one suspects, but where the water starts to become muddy is when a non-OEM part is not up to the job of the original or, worse still, when it is wrapped up in what purports to be the OEM’s packaging.  This happens, like it or not, and the consequences can be very serious indeed, especially where critical parts are involved.

This article is not setting out to endorse purchases from the OEM nor is it looking to cast aspersion on those companies who make substitute or replacement parts; rather, it is hoping to highlight the fact that a few dollars saved here could lead to greater expense elsewhere.

Caveat emptor

So why should the topic of spare parts be a problem at all?  That’s easily answered.  Elsewhere in this issue you’ll read about the realities and practicalities of standardization of GSE.  Why do fleet managers buy from different sources and mix and match their GSE?  There’s a variety of reasons for this but one of the most obvious is that of cost.  The accountant is generally happier signing a cheque with one less nought on it, after all.  And with every aviation company today focused on the bottom line, it’s no surprise that economizing has become second nature.

And the situation is no different with spare parts.  Shopping around isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though:  it all depends upon what is being replaced.  Any unit of GSE, like an automobile, will require consumables, which might entail windshield wipers, tires and the like.  These are not really considered critical elements and so non-OEM parts could well fit the bill.

However, certain parts fitted to ramp equipment are far more important and their replacement needs careful consideration.  Under this category are specific parts that have been engineered by the manufacturers, possibly to certain tolerances; or there could be parts unique to the GSE in question; or there could be a bought-in part that undergoes extra (and perhaps not always obvious) modification.  Furthermore, what about PLC installations?  Even these can be bought off the shelf today but here it’s very much a case of buyer beware, since they may not contain the correct software – or indeed, any software at all.  And given that more and more of the complex machinery on the ramp today is governed by the PLC, then it quickly becomes apparent that this needs to be totally correct if the GSE in question is to give of its best.

Aside from all this is the legal aspect.  Cases are not unknown in which an aftermarket spare part, non-OEM, has failed – to the detriment of the GSE and perhaps the operation at that particular moment.  This kind of episode can have much wider ramifications should personnel be involved in some way.  Investigation will hinge on the suitability of the part in question, with the aim of discovering whether the said part was fit for purpose; and those few dollars saved on the purchase price won’t necessarily go very far towards settling any litigation bill.  Indeed, it could be said of keeping GSE in tip-top shape that there is no quick fix.

OEM or OCM?

Sage Parts requires no introduction here:  the biggest specialist in parts and spares and with a global operation, it was the subject of a factory visit from this magazine in 2012.

Mike Bloomfield is the company’s Executive Vice President, and he reiterates the earlier assertion that within the GSE industry, there are very few parts that originate from the equipment manufacturers.

“There seems to be a misguided belief that GSE spare parts originate from original equipment manufacturers.  The fact is, the complete opposite is true.  In fact, many parts used in the manufacturing by ground support equipment makers are specified from non-GSE entities such as the automotive, hydraulic and electronic industry, and many other sectors.  Thus, the term OEM parts has essentially become a misnomer within the GSE marketplace.  Most, if not all parts and components originate from the OCM, or an original component manufacturer, a more accurate term when speaking of the origin of the part.  Furthermore, many people make the mistaken assumption that if a GSE part does come from an original equipment manufacturers, it must be higher in quality than a so-called non-original aftermarket part.  This, too, is simply not true.  In fact, the opposite just might be the case.  Perhaps this is the time to take a closer look at the above misconceptions by focusing on the prevailing factors affecting aftermarket parts in today’s GSE industry.

“A company that, for instance, produces tractors, loaders or de-icers, is not likely to also produce components for those tractors, loaders and de-icers.  There are several reasons for this.  First of all, the typical GSE production plant today is set up primarily for assembly, rather than actual manufacturing.  What’s more devoting separate business units to the engineering, tooling and testing of parts is expensive and the return on investment for an original equipment manufacturer to also be an OCM may not be an attractive business proposition.  And, as you would imagine, there is a unique expertise that goes with manufacturing parts – and that expertise is decidedly different from the expertise required to design and build ground support equipment.  For economies of manufacturing, this all makes good sense.  However, from a quality and lifetime performance standpoint, it might not make sense at all.

“Adding to the above is the harsh environment of a ramp.  Parts and components selected from use in other industries are not always the best choice for ground support equipment that will be called on to perform highly difficult tasks on a seven days a week, 52 weeks a year basis, often under extreme weather conditions.

“If you’re working with a top aftermarket supplier of GSE parts, chances are the parts you’re buying are actually higher in quality than the parts that were built into the original equipment.

“How is this possible?  That’s because nowadays a globally-leading GSE parts provider is much more than a picker and a packer.  A world-class parts supplier employs engineers specifically for the purpose of parts improvement, stringently testing and analyzing all kinds of GSE parts on high usage equipment to determine where performance and durability enhancements can be made.  Then, those parts are re-engineered to even higher specifications, and are made ramp-ready for the most demanding ground support applications.

“A perfect example involves components such as brake parts, de-icer pumps, electrical parts, radiators, axle and drivetrain components, and many other notorious low lifecycle components.

“The bottom line is, all GSE parts need to perform day in and day out, year after year.  Choosing the right parts supplier can provide peace of mind that aftermarket parts are equal to, if not better than, the original parts in question.

“Almost all parts or components are specified from other (non-GSE) uses.  It is that fact that places companies like Sage in a unique position to provide improvement to parts – ramp ready, if you will.  There are many end users that think that parts from the GSE manufacturers are better but as mentioned, this is not always the case.  Sage, for example, employs engineers specifically for the purpose of parts improvement.  There is no evidence to suggest that the OEMs do the same.

“Regarding the OEM’s outsourcing of parts, I feel that it is a necessary and natural progression.  Like all other industries (other than GSE), they enjoy a healthy aftermarket support network.  This keeps both the end user and equipment suppliers stable and happy, with both enjoying a good selection of high quality, readily available parts and components.”

Choosing carefully

The comment about the modern manufacturing facility being little more than an assembly point is not lost on Eagle Tugs’ Justin Akinleye.  “Yes, this is the reality.  The majority of our parts are bought in and we source primarily from the US, although engines and gearboxes may come from further afield.  At Eagle Tug we look to buy from the automotive sector wherever possible because this way there is more chance of these parts being available in the longer term.

“When we sell a tug overseas, we will always suggest that the customer takes the option of a 2,000 hour kit, which contains items like belts, bulbs and filters.  This is common sense:  there will be room in the shipping container for the items and it’s more cost-effective that way than buying the parts piecemeal at a later date, from various manufacturers.  In addition, having the parts from the start means that they can be better integrated with the purchaser’s warehousing systems.”

He expresses concern over grey aftermarket parts.  “This is a worry.  Degradation with substandard parts can be much quicker, which may not always be obvious.  You really do get what you pay for when it comes to buying spares.”

JBT AeroTech’s Lee Coon freely admits that he cannot speak for other GSE manufacturers but his company’s philosophy is quite clear cut.

“Our manufacturing model is to design, assemble, test and perform quality control inspections.  We assemble our products with fabricated and OEM parts sourced from around the world.  Many components are specially made to meet our unique application in purpose built vehicles.

“Customers purchase parts from a variety of different sources – especially common automotive parts found on diesel engines.  This includes filters, belts and common relays.  As such, it would be hard to speculate on the percentage of parts purchased elsewhere.

“As mentioned earlier, many components are specially made to meet our unique application in purpose-built vehicles.  We also have suppliers who modify their commercial components exclusively for JBT.  These are commonly found in hydraulic and electrical components and may not appear to be different from off-the-shelf parts.  We encourage our customers to insist on genuine JBT parts to ensure they are getting the right component for the optimal performance and reliability of their equipment.  The choice of non-OEM critical parts can also lead to a possible safety risk.

“The ease of ordering the right part is another advantage.  Whether utilizing our interactive e-commerce system, JBTdirect, or our part sales representatives, you can be assured that the part you order will be the correct part.”

How big a problem is the sub-standard aftermarket part?

“Use of sub-standard parts in our equipment is a genuine concern to JBT as an OEM.  We frequently receive calls from customers concerned about the degraded performance of their GSE after replacing genuine OEM parts with substandard substitutes.  Researching the issue may take a while to discover the cause of the breakdown which increases the time the unit is out of service.”

Some consumables are less important than others (wiper blades, lights and so on).  Do the alternative parts supplier always win where this type of part is concerned?

“This can be the case with some customers ordering standard automotive parts.  Many times, our customers stock common consumables that they purchase in bulk.  Often, however, customers find it convenient to order all of their parts for JBT equipment directly from the OEM.  In addition, we offer different levels of routine maintenance kits, which include all the necessary hydraulic and oil filters, gaskets and seals required to meet the vehicle’s system service interval requirements.”

To what extent are his customers aware that certain parts of the company’s GSE are critical and that their replacement with non-proprietary parts is not a wise move?

“We are fortunate to have a very loyal customer base.  Those who purchase parts from JBT understand our strict quality standards and value when deciding where to purchase parts.  We also distribute technical bulletins to alert customers about the dangers of ordering parts which are not suitable as replacements.  Unfortunately, a poor experience ordering non-genuine parts is sometimes the best education in these situations.”

Is anything being done about the supply of substandard parts in the marketplace?

“In JBT’s opinion, the best thing that can be done is ongoing awareness campaigns in the industry.  We clearly mark our packaging with a combination of our logo and our part number to make it easily identified.  We also have a global customer service team available around the clock and encourage our customers to use our technical resources if they have questions or are in need of guidance with a repair.

“Finally, a word on warranties. JBT’s Warranty program does not tie customers to using JBT parts as it relates to common automotive and consumable components.  However, for proprietary and specialized system components, using aftermarket parts is not advisable.  JBT maintains a generous warranty program for our customers and we stand by our equipment for the life of the product, long after the warranty has expired.  Certain critical component failures can clearly be traced back to substandard aftermarket components.  Not only do they make it more difficult to troubleshoot the equipment irregularities, they can often cause very expensive repairs that cannot be covered under our product warranty.”

Pictured above are the internal components of a typical vacuum assist break booster used on a baggage tractor.  The components on the left are from the OEM (or OCM) booster.  While the specifications are adequate for its original use, automotive applications, the specification is inadequate for use in GSE.  The components on the right are designed for specific use in GSE which is more heavier and intended for the rigors of ramp equipment

Cure for the common leaky radiator.  Tanks that are twice as thick and ports are supported on both ends.  The cutaway on the right is a typical OEM radiator.  Notice the ports are only brazed on one side of the tank.  This leads to leakage and a short life.  The “aftermarket” version on the left sports a double thick tank and the ports are supported on both ends, thus eliminating the most common cause for leaks.

PART OF THE MATTER

IF THE PART FITS

Nobody really knows the size of the global GSE parts provisioning market, but as Keith Mwanalushi discovered in an exclusive interview with Sage Parts, there are very good reasons for that, and as the New York-based company expands its geographical reach,  it’s also taking its proven formula with it.

Pre-Internet, the only way to buy parts for ground support equipment (GSE) was to be either keen enough to know how to source an item that was listed in the manual from the equipment manufacturer or to go directly to the manufacturer, and usually the buyer would be relegated to what the manufacturer had in stock. The buyer would then look at what the pick, pack and post promptness was, and if fortunate, the buyer would get a decent price and a decent delivery in exchange.

In 1998 Michael Bloomfield, the current executive vice president and his business partner Mark Pollack bought a small company in New York called Sage. “It was a very small company at the time and we had the idea that we could recreate the business and recreate the method in which parts are traded or supplied for GSE’s worldwide,” says Bloomfield.

Back in 1998, Sage only had about four employees with a turnover at the time of about $2 million and today the company is approaching 400 employees located in 34 stocking stations at global sites. “We have massive amounts of GSE specific inventories,” he declares. “We also have several different models in which we trade with the end-user all of which carry with it very high value-add that comes along with the transaction.”

He explains that the value comes in various different circumstances whether it’s instantaneous inventory, or at the point of use or whether it’s a product improvement and several other different combinations. “We knew going into it that there were no other companies providing this, and I think we had a pretty good indication, that it would be a very successful formula for us because as good as the manufactures of the equipment could ever be, there are always limited by the fact that they only supply parts for the equipment that they manufacture. All we had to do is execute the vision that Mark and I shared, which in itself is no easy task

Secondly, he says the manufacturers are limited to buying in volumes that are commensurate with the amount of equipment they manufacture, “which in the GSE industry is never large numbers therefore their economies of scale are always very limited. Also, they are limited geographically because most of the manufacturers are a single location or a single country manufacturer.” he says

With respect to the anticipation of need, meeting demands and reducing cost Sage then began to focus on putting parts at the point of use whether it would be by opening warehouses’ in and around airports or having contracts with customers where the company would open parts depots within their maintenance shops.

A classic example is a contract signed with Delta Air Lines in July last year. Sage Parts entered into a new contract with Delta whereby Sage dispenses replacement parts for GSE at major Delta airport hubs in Minneapolis, Memphis and Detroit. Those three locations join Sage’s presence at Delta’s Atlanta hub where Sage has been providing parts for use in Delta GSE since 2002.

“Many years prior to last year’s contract we had a contract with Delta where we were in their location in Atlanta dispensing parts to the workshop directly; actually, we were delivering parts right to the work bays. So the contract we signed last year with Delta moved that formula out to an additional three locations and the planning involved for that is something that we are very good at.”

The process works by what the company calls a “single source site location” where the parts provider is dispensing parts within the customer’s facility. The inventory is owned by Sage and therefore relives the airline of all the burdens associated with ownership and inventory planning and in return Sage is held to very high delivery and performance and cost saving standards.

“Having said that, the planning that goes behind all that is immense, we have some very sophisticated systems that manage the demand and track all the usage, not only by the end-user but also for our supply chain and keeps track of just what inventories are applied and kept on the shelf both at the point of use, as well as in our distribution centers at any given time.”

Sage have similar arrangements with American Airlines at eight of their hubs, Air Canada throughout Canada, KLM at Schiphol and interestingly a contract with a company called Ground Support Equipment Limited in Hong Kong – “In all those situations we have contract terms that vary in length, with slight variances to the same underlying model depending on the philosophy of the customer or necessity,” adds Bloomfield.

In order to grow its operations in the domestic market and beyond its borders, Sage has actively pursued a number of acquisitions. In the USA, the company acquired two companies that were engaged in distribution of GSE parts – “So that eliminated some competition there, but we did not acquire these companies for that reason but rather because they had a particular skill-set, knowledgebase and personnel that we desired.”

The most recent high profile acquisition is that of the UK-based T123 last year. The acquisition was instrumental in the implementation of Sage Parts’ business strategy of bringing parts and parts-related services closer to their point of use worldwide. The purchase of T123, according to Sage, combined the company’s intercontinental capabilities which include Sage airport locations in Amsterdam, Paris and Hong Kong as with T123’s long-established presence throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Bloomfield says the particular attraction to T123 was to get more entrenched in the ability to source parts for European made equipment and to have a larger footprint in the UK and Europe in addition to buying a similar company in France a few years ago also for the same reason.   Having larger volumes in any specific region as well as globally, allows us to perform better and bring more value to our customer base.

It’s been over a year since the T123 acquisition and Bloomfield highlights a number of benefits from the investment. Firstly T123 had similar contracts, dispensing parts to companies such as TCR and Servisair in the UK. “In this case we desired to gain more familiarity with the way onsite contracts function outside our current marketplace and also to push our formula deeper into the UK and Europe.

“Another benefit is that everything that we do in terms of our method of operating requires massive amounts of parts information, parts databases, cross referencing, sources of supply and anything related to the efficient acquisition of a part that we can put in the hands of an end-user – T123 had some very good data that we were anxious to get,” admits Bloomfield.

With the integration of the T123 business, this brings together 14 years of strategy at Sage to expand the geographical footprint in order to get the part as close to the operator as conveniently possible. And with that, the company has designed, according to Bloomfield, some very aggressive inventory and demand algorithms that calculate inventory needs for specific customers or inventory needs by type of equipment or specific seasonality’s, for instance de-icer parts.

“We also engage in a lot of engineering,” he says, describing that the company takes items that have very high usage, reengineer them to create very lower usage for that item. “In other words, we are focusing on total cost of ownership reduction, basically focusing on things that will allow the part to last a lot longer and we have been successful with all of that.”

When it comes to repair and maintenance of GSE parts, Sage performs these services on some select items. “We have some very good rotable programmes particularly with engines and drivetrain parts and certain other programmes where we take parts in and rotate them back out on a rotable basis. Having said that, that is an area we would like to expand on, we think it’s a very wonderful way of providing a service to the customer and it’s a wonderful way of providing cost savings and overall benefits.”

When asked about the global size of the GSE parts market, Bloomfield grins and says that’s the billion dollar question. “Nobody really knows the true figure, and there are very good reason for that. The parts that go on GSEs are extremely broad in terms of their origins. GSEs are typically made up of many parts coming from various industries, there are very few parts that go on ground equipment that’s made specifically for ground equipment but of course some parts will be specifically for GSEs.”

He points out that when considering the total number of items that go into the total world’s fleet, very few of the items originate for ground equipment in general – “So what happens is, the world competition, if you want to call it that, of parts that go on ground equipment are equally vast, parts come from heavy duty trucking, parts from the construction industry equipment and anything that is mobile, hydraulic or electronic.”

He further stresses not to underestimate the value of the design work, citing a few examples of parts that have been improved to lengthen their productive life. Since various parts come from different sources and not necessarily intended for use in GSE’s, these parts are subject to premature failure. “So these are subject to lots of improvement and we are able to recognise that and facilitate many improvements.”

He cites the difficulty in defining the total market size because at any given time an end-user somewhere in the world will order a part for their ground equipment and it could be ordered from any one to a million different places. “So it’s hard to contain and understand the size of that total market because of that,” he says.

Despite these market uncertainties, Sage sits in a pretty good position. Unsubstantiated estimates reveal that the company’s parts business is about ten times larger than similar providers with $27 million worth of inventory. “Our total turnover is about $120 million so at 25 we are turning close to five times, which is really a phenomenal turn rate for inventory of this nature given the extreme diversity and high service levels we provide,” says Bloomfield.

IF THE PART FITS

WISDOM IN THE GSE PARTS BUSINESS

AirsideLogo

As seen in Airside International Magazine, December 2012

Pre-internet, the only way to buy parts for ground support equipment (GSE) was to be either keen enough to know how to source an item that was listed in the manual from the equipment manufacturer or to go directly to the manufacturer, and usually the buyer would be relegated to what the manufacturer had in stock. The buyer would then look at what the pick, pack and post promptness was and, if fortunate, the buyer would get a decent price and a decent delivery in exchange.

In 1998 Michael Bloomfield, the current executive vice president, and his business partner, Mark Pollack, bought a small company in New York called Sage. “It was a very small company at the time and we had the idea that we could recreate the business and recreate the method in which parts are traded or supplied for GSE worldwide,” says Bloomfield.

Back in 1998, Sage only had about four employees and a turnover of about US$2 million. Today, the company is approaching 400 employees located in 34 stocking stations at sites around the world. “We have massive amounts of GSE specific inventories,” Bloomfield declares. “We also have several different models in which we trade with the end-user, all of which carry with it very high value-add that comes along with the transaction.”

He explains that the value comes in various different forms, whether it’s instantaneous inventory, at the point of use or whether it’s a product improvement. “We knew going into it that there were no other companies providing this, and I think we had a pretty good indication that it would be a very successful formula for us because as good as the manufactures of the equipment could ever be, they are always limited by the fact that they only supply parts for the equipment that they manufacture. All we had to do was execute the vision that Mark and I shared, although that was no easy task.”

Secondly, Bloomfield observes that manufacturers are limited to buying in volumes that are commensurate with the amount of equipment they manufacture, “which in the GSE industry is never large numbers – therefore, their economies of scale are always very limited”. Plus, they are limited geographically because most manufacturers occupy only a single location or a single country, he points out.

With respect to the anticipation of need, meeting demands and reducing cost, Sage then began to focus on putting parts at the point of use, whether this would be by opening warehouses in and around airports or by arranging contracts with customers according to which the company would open parts depots within their maintenance shops.

An illustrative example is a deal signed with Delta Air Lines in July last year. Sage Parts entered into a new contract with Delta whereby the former dispenses replacement parts for GSE at major Delta airport hubs in Minneapolis, Memphis and Detroit. Those three locations join Sage’s presence at Delta’s Atlanta hub, where it has been providing parts for use in Delta GSE since 2002.

“Many years prior to last year’s contract we had a contract with Delta where we were in their location in Atlanta dispensing parts to the workshop directly; actually, we were delivering parts right to the work bays. So the contract we signed last year with Delta moved that formula out to an additional three locations and the planning involved for that is something that we are very good at,” Bloomfield states.

The process works through what the company calls a ‘single source site location’, where the parts provider is dispensing parts within the customer’s facility. The inventory is owned by Sage and therefore relieves the airline of all the burdens associated with ownership and inventory planning; in return, Sage is held to very high delivery, performance and cost-saving standards.

“Having said that, the planning that goes behind all that is immense. We have some very sophisticated systems that manage the demand and track all the usage, not only by the end-user but also for our supply chain. They keep track of just what inventories are applied and kept on the shelf both at the point of use and in our distribution centres at any given time.”

Sage has similar arrangements with American Airlines at eight of its hubs, Air Canada throughout Canada and KLM at Schiphol, as well as a contract with a company called Ground Support Equipment Limited in Hong Kong – “In all those situations we have contract terms that vary in length, with slight variations to the same underlying model depending on the philosophy of the customer or necessity,” he adds.

In order to grow its operations in both the domestic market and beyond its borders, Sage has actively pursued a number of acquisitions. In the US, the company acquired two firms that were engaged in the distribution of GSE parts – “So that eliminated some competition there, although we did not acquire these companies for that reason but rather because they had a particular skill-set, knowledge base and personnel that we desired.”

The most recent high profile acquisition was that of the UK-based T123 last year. The acquisition was instrumental in the implementation of Sage’s business strategy of bringing parts and parts-related services closer to their point of use worldwide. The purchase of T123, according to Sage, combined the company’s intercontinental capabilities – that includes Sage airport locations in Amsterdam, Paris and Hong Kong – with T123’s long-established presence throughout the UK and Ireland.

Bloomfield says that the particular attractions of T123 were because its acquisition increased Sage’s ability to source parts for European-made equipment and gained Sage a larger footprint in the UK and Europe. It had bought a similar company in France a few years ago for the same reasons. “Having larger volumes in any specific region allows us to perform better and bring more value to our customer base,” he considers.

It’s been over a year since the T123 acquisition and Bloomfield highlights a number of other specific benefits accruing from the investment. Firstly, T123 had similar contracts, dispensing parts to companies such as TCR and Servisair in the UK. “In this case, we desired to gain more familiarity with the way onsite contracts function outside our current marketplace and also to push our formula deeper into the UK and Europe.

“Another benefit is that everything that we do in terms of our method of operating requires massive amounts of parts information, parts databases, cross referencing, sources of supply and anything related to the efficient acquisition of a part that we can put in the hands of an end-user – T123 had some very good data that we were anxious to get,” Bloomfield admits.

The integration of the T123 business was the culmination of 14 years of strategy at Sage to expand its geographical footprint in order to get the GSE part as close to the operator as conveniently possible. And to support that, the company has designed, according to Bloomfield, some very aggressive inventory and demand algorithms that calculate inventory needs for specific customers or inventory needs by type of equipment or specific seasonality – particularly important, for instance, for such items as de-icer parts.

“We also engage in a lot of engineering,” he says, describing how the company takes items that have very high usage and re-engineers them to encourage lower usages of that item. “In other words, we are focusing on total cost of ownership reduction, basically focusing on things that will allow the part to last a lot longer and we have been successful with all of that.”

When it comes to the repair and maintenance of GSE parts, Sage performs these services on some select items. In this regard: “We have some very good, notable programmes, particularly with engines and drivetrain parts, as well as certain other programmes where we take parts in and rotate them back out. Having said that, this is an area we would like to expand on; we think it’s a very wonderful way of providing a service to the customer and it’s a wonderful way of providing cost savings and overall benefits.”

Bloomfield further stresses that the value of design work should not be underestimated, citing a few examples of parts that have been improved to lengthen their productive life. Since various parts come from different sources and are not necessarily intended for use in GSE, these parts are subject to premature failure. “So these are subject to lots of improvement and we are able to recognise that and facilitate many improvements.”

When asked about the global size of the GSE parts market, he grins and says that’s the billion dollar question. “Nobody really knows the true figure, and there are very good reasons for that. The parts that go on GSE are extremely broad in terms of their origins. GSE is typically made up of many parts coming from various industries; there are very few parts that go on ground equipment that are made specifically for ground equipment, although of course some parts will be specifically for GSE.”

Furthermore, Bloomfield cites the difficulty in defining the total market size because at any given time an end-user somewhere in the world will order a part for its ground equipment and it could be ordered from any one of a million different places. “So it’s hard to contain and understand the size of the total market because of that,” he says.

Despite these market uncertainties, Sage sits in a pretty good position. Unsubstantiated estimates reveal that the company’s parts business is about ten times larger than similar providers, with $27 million worth of inventory. “Our total turnover is about $120 million so at 25 we are turning close to five times, which is really a phenomenal turn rate for inventory of this nature, given the extreme diversity and high service levels we provide,” Bloomfield concludes.

WISDOM IN THE GSE PARTS BUSINESS

Adjusting the RAMPTECH® Carburetor

RampTech_NEW_one color

Note: Before proceeding with carburetor adjustment, verify that all ignition components are working properly, including checking engine timing. Also check for adequate fuel pressure, clean air filter element, and that there are no vacuum leaks.

CarburetorPartslist

 REQUIRED ADJUSTMENTS AFTER CARBURETOR INSTALLATION

Automatic Choke Adjustment

Carburetor-auto-choke-adjustment

  1. Check that engine is starting cold. Adjustment applies for cold engine only.
  2. Loosen the Choke Cover Screws and adjust the Choke Cover to obtain the desired cold start mixture.

Note: If engine is flooding during start up, hold the choke open manually to start the engine and then adjust the choke.


Idle Speed Adjustment

Carburetor-idle-speed-adjustment

  1. Run the engine a minimum of 20 min at 1500 RPM to reach operating temperature.
  2. Verify that the choke is in the full-open position and the Fast Idle Screw is not touching the Fast Idle Cam.
  3. Turn the headlights on.
  4. Adjust the Curb Idle Screw to obtain the recommended engine idle speed of 800 RPM.

Note: Idle Speed and Idle Mixture adjustments can be done at the same time to prevent engine stall due to a too lean or too rich air/fuel mixture at idle.


 Idle Mixture Adjustment

Carburetor-idle-mixture-adjustment

  1. Verify that Idle speed is set to 800 RPM and engine is warmed up to operating temperature.
  2. Remove limiter cap and adjust the Idle Mix Screw until engine idle is smoothest (turn in for lean or out for rich ). Re-install limiter cap when done.

Alternative to Step 2: Attach a vacuum gauge to read manifold vacuum. Remove the limiter cap and adjust the Idle Mix Screw until the gauge reads a steady vacuum between 17-21 in-Hg. Re-install limiter cap when done.


Fast Idle Speed Adjustment

Carburetor-fast-idle-speed-adjustment

 

 

  1. Verify that both Idle speed and mixture have been properly adjusted and engine is warmed up to operating temperature.
  2. Place the Fast Idle Screw on the top step of the Fast Idle Cam as shown above.
  3. Adjust the Fast Idle Screw to obtain the required fast idle RPM.

 ADVANCED SETTINGS

The following steps to be performed by experienced users only. Use only if carburetor is malfunctioning.

Float Level Adjustment

Carburetor-float-level-adjustment

  1. Turn the Air Horn Assembly upside down without gasket and allow the Float Hinge to touch the Needle Pin without compressing the spring. DO NOT exert pressure.
  2. Bend the Float Hinge so the distance is equal to 0.98” as shown above.

 

 

 


Float Drop Adjustment

Carburetor-float-drop-adjustment

 

  1. Hold the Air Horn Assembly horizontally in the upright position as shown above, without gasket and allow the float to hang free.
  2. Bend the Float Tab so the distance is equal to 1.50” as shown above.

 

 

 


Metering Rod Assembly Adjustment Process

Carburetor-metering-adjustment

  1. Back out Curb Idle Screw until Throttle Plate is fully closed.
  2. Press down on the Pump Plunger all the way and hold.
  3. Turn Metering Adjustment Screw counterclockwise until the Metering Rod just bottoms the casting (don’t move anymore)
  4. Turn the Metering Adjustment Screw clockwise until it contacts Pump Lifter Link, then in 1 additional turn.

 

Download the Carburetor Adjustment Instructions pdf

 

 

Adjusting the RAMPTECH® Carburetor