The MRO sector has been slow to embrace digital transformation due to various factors — including people, culture, and regulation. But the pandemic spurred MROs to accelerate their flight to digital. Speeding Up MROs need to speed up their transformation to be able to meet new-normal demands, including remote inspection, collaboration, and aircraft delivery. Aside from this, MROs need to prime their ground stations for connected aircraft. According to Fortune Business Insights, the Connected Aircraft Market will grow from USD 2.51 billion in 2020 to USD 10.49 billion in 2027, at a CAGR of almost 30.0% during the forecast period. This explains why, despite the economic impact of the pandemic on the entire aviation industry, the digital MRO market outlook remains positive. According to the Digital MRO Market report, even though the pandemic dragged the digital MRO industry down, it will fully recover by 2023 and reach more than USD 1.80 billion by 2030 (at a CAGR of 11.6% from 2020). According to the report, the key factors that contribute to the market’s growth include: Commercial airlines and MROs’ increasing digitalization of MRO operations. The rising demand for enhancing the repair and maintenance operations of existing aircraft fleets. The increasing demand for condition-based, prescriptive, and predictive maintenance through the use of data from connected aircraft. Many digital transformation challenges, however, are holding MROs back. Costs According to the Digital MRO Market report, the high cost of acquisition of integrated MRO software suites is a restraint because “MROs have limited budgets for implementing technologies.” The longer the implementation takes, the higher the cost is. Feasibility research alone, for example, can take several months. Data problems At the 2020 Singapore Air Show, conference panels spotlighted the data issues and problems that impede MROs’ digital transformation — including cybersecurity, sharing, accessibility, and storage. They encouraged industry players to remove these roadblocks to fast-track the integration and implementation of new-age capabilities, including AI and predictive analytics. Talent gaps Talent/digital skill gaps make it harder for MROs to kick-start and ensure the success of their digital transformation journey. They can either “build or buy,” but each has its disadvantages and risks. For one, training an in-house team can be extremely expensive and time-consuming. Outsourcing, on the other hand, can be cost-efficient, but finding a partner that offers both deep industry and technical expertise can be difficult. If these hurdles are not removed, it will be difficult for MROs to advance in their digital transformation journey and fully realize the competitive advantages of digital transformation. How MROs Can Advance In Their Digital Transformation Journey The only path to new-normal success is through digitalization. But for MROs to advance in their digital transformation journey, they should remove the roadblocks that stand in their way. Here are some practical steps that MROs can take to accelerate and streamline their digital transformation. Use modular digital solutions. This can be significantly less expensive than using a “rip-and-replace” digital transformation strategy. By using modular solutions, MROs can gradually digitalize their MRO infrastructure, keep costs to a minimum or within their budget, and accelerate time-to-value. Leverage data-centric digital solutions. Basically, digital transformation is about improving data efficiency or how you handle and process data to improve productivity, efficiency, and collaboration across the entire value chain. It’s about moving from siloed, paper-based, and manual systems to automated, more streamlined, and more intelligent data management and analysis. So whether you are completely overhauling or making small “IT repairs” to your infrastructure, do so with data in mind. Invest in MRO software that is engineered for optimizing data efficiency. Lastly, look to a vendor that offers both technical and industry expertise. The MRO sector has unique digitalization requirements that non-industry experts may not be fully aware of. To ensure faster time-to-value and return on investment, partner with a third party with deep industry and technical expertise. EmpowerMX, for one, offers technical and non-technical competencies that stem from its origins as an aircraft maintenance industry-inspired software development startup owned and operated by aircraft maintenance industry experts. It has helped many MRO organizations to transform digitally in weeks, not months; achieve MRO efficiencies through M&E software implementation, and enable paperless implementation. Conclusion Accelerated MRO digitalization is here to stay, so MROs should leverage these new practices. The small incremental advances your organization makes can lead the entire industry toward fully digital MRO — which is more intelligent, sustainable, cost-efficient, productive, and streamlined. If you need help in advancing your digital transformation, contact a digital MRO expert now.