The demarcation between manufacturing and services, particularly in the business-to-business environment, is believed to be growing increasingly blurred. This is particularly true for the aerospace industry, where the concept of through-life management, a complex combination of manufacturing and service operations, is being widely promoted. Although certain sectors of the industry - the aero-engine sector for example - are quite advanced with regard to the implementation of through-life management, there is no clear understanding of how this approach is being implemented across the whole of the aerospace industry. This paper presents the findings of an exploratory study undertaken as part of the UK Lean Aerospace Initiative (UK LAI) which investigates the drivers for through-life management in the aerospace sector, the development of strategies and services to support through-life management and the transition of aerospace companies to through-life total service providers. The paper highlights the significance of the findings of this study for the Irish aerospace sector where many companies are engaged in support and aftermarket activities. The paper concludes by highlighting the theoretical and practical implications of this research.
This research also has widespread practical implications. The adoption of through-life management and the development of advanced services needs to be matched with appropriate skills and capabilities in service design, service delivery, service quality and customer service. It also requires an acceptance of the strategic importance of customer support and aftermarket activities as an integral part of through-life offerings. Increased levels of integration and closer relationships of trust will also be vital, both between the various divisions within aerospace companies and throughout their supply chains and collaborative networks. The evolution of through-life strategies and business models may also result in structural change within the industry, with new alliances and partnerships forming to provide integrated customer solutions.