MADRID — The head of maintenance, repair and overhaul provider Magnetic MRO is confident that small, independent facilities will continue to have a place in the industry amid giants that include original equipment manufacturers and large, airline-affiliated operations.

“If you listen to the consultants, independent MROs don’t have a right to exist,” Magnetic CEO Jonas Butautis said Tuesday during MRO Europe’s opening day. “There is the opportunity for future success in this industry for companies like us.”

Formerly known as Air Maintenance Estonia, the 250-employee company recently rebranded itself as Magnetic. It has a five-bay hangar and just launched an engine-management unit.

Butautis suggested that for a company like his to differentiate itself, it needs to go beyond maximizing efficiency. 

“You can’t [use it to] differentiate yourself since everyone bases their processes on lean principles these days. The actual difference between a good and an average MRO company, in man-hours for a particular process, is actually very small.”

Instead, he said, independent MROs needs to focus on adapting themselves to the changing nature of the global aircraft fleet.

“I’m not sure whether many of us currently have the know-how to cope with the future developments, but then I’m not sure the rest of the industry is ready either,” he explained. 

Butautis highlighted the IT requirements MRO companies will need to cope with the massive amounts of data due to flood the segment as increasing numbers of E-enabled aircraft come online and pump out continuous real-time or near real-time performance data.

“We have fantastic engineers, but the question is whether we have the IT capability to capture the exponential growth of data that comes with an E-enabled fleet? I don’t think we’re ready, but we really need to focus on that very soon.”

Butautis also said that one area that kept him “awake at night” was how much capital the MRO segment would need to keep pace with global fleet’s growth. 

“If we talk about new-generation aircraft, each one requires capital-intensive investment behind it, in terms of engine work, components, and materials,” he said.

“These fleet developments will generate financial and IT knowledge requirements that are completely foreign to what we’ve focused on up to know,” he added. “The engineering part of MRO will become only a small part of our work.”