Fast 5: How MasAir Is Growing Its Cargo Fleet, Supply Chain
Eduardo Cedillo, supply chain chief at Mexican cargo airline MasAir, spoke with Lindsay Bjerregaard on Feb. 9 on the sidelines of Aviation Week’s MRO Latin America event about the airline’s growing fleet of converted freighters and how it is adjusting supply chain strategies in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
MasAir is in the process of growing its fleet with new converted freighters. What has that growth entailed?
MasAir has a fleet of three lightweight Boeing 767s. We are planning to get two more. We added our first Airbus A330 two weeks ago and are planning to receive another four the first half of this year. We will be closing the year with nine Airbus aircraft.
So, what does this entail? We have to contract the right people who will help us to control this exponential growth, because we're growing the fleet two times in six months. We have to ensure that the people we bring onto the team are the ones who are prepared, have the knowledge and have the empowerment to set up this new adventure in aviation.
I think it’s also important to rely on the suppliers and maintenance providers. They are the ones that help us all around the world. Suppliers help us through rough times when operations need their response in less than an hour or two. We believe that will be the challenge not only for us, but also for all of our commercial allies.
How have MasAir’s maintenance needs changed with all of this fleet growth?
They will change, most likely not with the aircraft, but with the operation. We'll be operating the A330s to Asia and China, and will need to adapt to the needs of our customers, because that's where the operation goes. If the customer needs us to go to Hong Kong, we will go and take their aircraft there. So that will be the biggest challenge—to be really flexible, resilient and to not expect that our operation will be always the same. The teams will always be changing.
What have been MasAir’s biggest challenges with the supply chain in the past year?
I believe we have the same challenges as any other airlines: the people shortage, dealing with COVID-19, and asking our employees to still be on the ground and not in the home office, because this industry doesn't allow that much within maintenance.
Nevertheless, two years ago when we started the supply chain, the real challenge was to approach the suppliers and let them know that we were growing up—that we were like the new kids in town—and to rely on us and our financial trust. We were recruiting employees. So, knocking on doors to see which suppliers would trust us was the most challenging part. Developing the network and the supply chain from zero was the challenge for 2020 until today.
How is MasAir adjusting its supply chain strategies to cope with these challenges and to handle the fleet growth?
We try not to have a 'one size supply chain fits all' approach. We developed three supply chain levels. The fast supply chain, where 80% of the components go; the slow supply chain, where 15% of the components go; and for the other 5% of components, we have developed a customized supply chain in which we rely more on our suppliers. We let them know our very, very characteristic needs of the operation and let them know that we can work on those new models. Maybe it's only a fit for us, but an airline will prefer to have these customized or personalized services rather than always having the same fast or slow supply chain. That’s the main strategy and we'll keep growing in that direction.
Since MasAir’s supply chain operations are based in Mexico, how does it approach operations in other regions?
With the 'push and pull system,' most companies have a push system in which they get a big inventory and they push it to the different parts where it will be needed. With the operation that we have, we need to decentralize the inventory. MAS Air does not have a big inventory in Mexico. What we do is rely on the different warehouses of our suppliers. So, if we need a part in Germany, I'm going to ask my supplier in Frankfurt to deliver the document, the filter and maybe components. We will be saving time on transit systems and even on the wait time of that part. So, we will be using a pull system from our suppliers.