March 4, 2024

Circularity is new? … but aviation has been doing it for years!

Aviation might be relatively unaware about how circular we are, but I think we’re perfect to lead the charge when it comes to the implementation of the Circular Economy. Here’s why…

Welcome. What do you know about the Circular Economy? For most, it’s not much. It’s a fairly new concept developed by Ellen MacArthur and promoted through her Foundation. The beauty of it is in its simplicity.

The Circular Economy approach says we should stop our current approach of:

Take, Make, Dispose.

And replace with the Circular Approach:

Resources are finite, and it is more critical than ever that we are mindful of our impact, needing to reuse and recycle as much as possible. With everything produced eventually breaking down and feeding the next round of production – in the same way as the circle of life.  

The core principle is simple, the difficulty comes when it needs to be applied to a complex multi-layered supply chain, with interdependencies and deliverables between multi-organizational global ecosystems.

In simple terms, taking a Circular Approach means:

  • Greener products from cleaner energy sources (we’re advancing in this area every day);
  • Redesigning products for increased life and modularity;
  • Recovering resources from waste;
  • Product as a service; and
  • Collaboration to maximise available resources.

Aviation has a long way to go and a lot to do, and is working hard in that direction. In this article, I just want to think about the foundations we have as an industry. About how perfect they are to build on, and how much learning we can transfer to other industries starting out on the circular approach.

Expanding on those key features of the Circular Approach, see if any of this sounds familiar:

  • The customer buys a usage-based service, rather than a product.
  • The manufacturer delivers the service and takes responsibility for repair and replacement in a managed service. Scrap and repair at every level of complexity is defined, managed and controlled, with repair and refurbishment being used wherever possible
  • The physical product is designed so modules and sub-modules can be replaced, rather than the whole equipment being scrapped.
  • Customers must return the item to approved locations to allow repair and replacement with the right parts, with parts needing repair entering a spares pool for other equipment.
  • Packaging and transport of equipment is controlled and strictly managed to maximum efficiency.
  • The product is redesigned on a modular basis maintaining the same core but replacing modules to improve functionality and update the product. The lifecycle is extended to years rather than months (or how about decades!)
  • Specific disciplines are developed to enhance the Reliability, Maintainability and Testability of the product, in order to ensure maximum availability of product.

Clearly, the design and support of thirty-year lifecycle products, the principles we use to manage Continuing Airworthiness and flying hour based support contracts many are using across the industry are a perfect foundation for a Circular Economy!

Building on our existing deep understanding of all those established practices makes it a lot easier to understand and visualise how the Circular Economy principles can be implemented and where the value sits.

It’s no time for complacency though these are just the foundations! We can and need to go further. These are the three key principles I think we need to focus on to increase the Circularity of our industry:

1.   Further increase the adoption of managed services:

Original Equipment Manufacturers are passionate about getting greener. Let’s further encourage the use of managed services and challenge for a systems approach to sustainability built around the systems approach to availability – driving operations, reducing cost and increasing circularity. This principle applies from the whole aircraft level, right down to the provision of coolant. Incentivise the supplier to increase efficiency through the delivery of consumption-based (rather than material provision) services.

2.   Extend ‘Maintenance Policy’ to include more detailed and proactive ‘Scrap Policy’:

Increasing component and material reclaim to reduce new buy needs to be undertaken in three parts:

  • Design Authority – looking in more detail at the level of repair and recertification of parts to extend recovery and reclaim that can be done.
  • Maintenance Organisation – ensure maximum repair and recovery is undertaken in accordance with manuals and maximum recovery and refurbishment in accordance with manuals.
  • Drive component re-certification technology. I like to think of this as the equivalent to the 3D printing revolution. Automation and AI could help with increased recertification of piece parts. It would be greener, but also provide the opportunity to recover value from scrap, if this process can become quicker, cheaper and more intelligent.

3.   Extent the ‘Design for Maintainability’ culture to ‘Design for Reuse’ culture:

We recently (in the last 20 years) made a major shift from the ‘cost plus’ to ‘design for maintenance and support’ approach, mostly driven by the rise of availability contracting services and the transfer of risk to manufacturers. Building on that mentality and approach, driving also the value that can be reclaimed is the perfect basis for the next step of ‘design for reuse’ click more quickly.

Want to do more? Want to help take that next step?

  • Start by learning more about Sustainability and the Circular Economy! The Ellen Macarthur Foundation (https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/) has some great resources. Check out your company’s learning resources for sustainability courses. Also, Coursera has some great courses if you want to learn more about sustainability in your spare time.
  • Read your company’s sustainability targets! Let your Sustainability leaders know what you think about those targets, how passionate you are about the topic and of any great ideas you have to make your part of the business greener!
  • Think about how you measure impact in your business unit – do you track waste? Consumption? Reuse? Carbon impact? Can you monitor, understand and drive improvement better in your area of the business?
  • Feel free to contact me, I’ll help and support you wherever I can! hello@meldrumconsulting.ch.

Do you agree? How do you think we should improve the Circularity of the Industry? Do you think Aviation could really lead the charge on a cleaner greener use and reuse approach? Is it a topic you’re passionate about? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the post comments.

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Welcome. What do you know about the Circular Economy? For most, it’s not much. It’s a fairly new concept developed by Ellen MacArthur and promoted through her Foundation. The beauty of it is in its simplicity.

The Circular Economy approach says we should stop our current approach of:

Take, Make, Dispose.

And replace with the Circular Approach:

Resources are finite, and it is more critical than ever that we are mindful of our impact, needing to reuse and recycle as much as possible. With everything produced eventually breaking down and feeding the next round of production – in the same way as the circle of life.  

The core principle is simple, the difficulty comes when it needs to be applied to a complex multi-layered supply chain, with interdependencies and deliverables between multi-organizational global ecosystems.

In simple terms, taking a Circular Approach means:

  • Greener products from cleaner energy sources (we’re advancing in this area every day);
  • Redesigning products for increased life and modularity;
  • Recovering resources from waste;
  • Product as a service; and
  • Collaboration to maximise available resources.

Aviation has a long way to go and a lot to do, and is working hard in that direction. In this article, I just want to think about the foundations we have as an industry. About how perfect they are to build on, and how much learning we can transfer to other industries starting out on the circular approach.

Expanding on those key features of the Circular Approach, see if any of this sounds familiar:

  • The customer buys a usage-based service, rather than a product.
  • The manufacturer delivers the service and takes responsibility for repair and replacement in a managed service. Scrap and repair at every level of complexity is defined, managed and controlled, with repair and refurbishment being used wherever possible
  • The physical product is designed so modules and sub-modules can be replaced, rather than the whole equipment being scrapped.
  • Customers must return the item to approved locations to allow repair and replacement with the right parts, with parts needing repair entering a spares pool for other equipment.
  • Packaging and transport of equipment is controlled and strictly managed to maximum efficiency.
  • The product is redesigned on a modular basis maintaining the same core but replacing modules to improve functionality and update the product. The lifecycle is extended to years rather than months (or how about decades!)
  • Specific disciplines are developed to enhance the Reliability, Maintainability and Testability of the product, in order to ensure maximum availability of product.

Clearly, the design and support of thirty-year lifecycle products, the principles we use to manage Continuing Airworthiness and flying hour based support contracts many are using across the industry are a perfect foundation for a Circular Economy!

Building on our existing deep understanding of all those established practices makes it a lot easier to understand and visualise how the Circular Economy principles can be implemented and where the value sits.

It’s no time for complacency though these are just the foundations! We can and need to go further. These are the three key principles I think we need to focus on to increase the Circularity of our industry:

1.   Further increase the adoption of managed services:

Original Equipment Manufacturers are passionate about getting greener. Let’s further encourage the use of managed services and challenge for a systems approach to sustainability built around the systems approach to availability – driving operations, reducing cost and increasing circularity. This principle applies from the whole aircraft level, right down to the provision of coolant. Incentivise the supplier to increase efficiency through the delivery of consumption-based (rather than material provision) services.

2.   Extend ‘Maintenance Policy’ to include more detailed and proactive ‘Scrap Policy’:

Increasing component and material reclaim to reduce new buy needs to be undertaken in three parts:

  • Design Authority – looking in more detail at the level of repair and recertification of parts to extend recovery and reclaim that can be done.
  • Maintenance Organisation – ensure maximum repair and recovery is undertaken in accordance with manuals and maximum recovery and refurbishment in accordance with manuals.
  • Drive component re-certification technology. I like to think of this as the equivalent to the 3D printing revolution. Automation and AI could help with increased recertification of piece parts. It would be greener, but also provide the opportunity to recover value from scrap, if this process can become quicker, cheaper and more intelligent.

3.   Extent the ‘Design for Maintainability’ culture to ‘Design for Reuse’ culture:

We recently (in the last 20 years) made a major shift from the ‘cost plus’ to ‘design for maintenance and support’ approach, mostly driven by the rise of availability contracting services and the transfer of risk to manufacturers. Building on that mentality and approach, driving also the value that can be reclaimed is the perfect basis for the next step of ‘design for reuse’ click more quickly.

Want to do more? Want to help take that next step?

  • Start by learning more about Sustainability and the Circular Economy! The Ellen Macarthur Foundation (https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/) has some great resources. Check out your company’s learning resources for sustainability courses. Also, Coursera has some great courses if you want to learn more about sustainability in your spare time.
  • Read your company’s sustainability targets! Let your Sustainability leaders know what you think about those targets, how passionate you are about the topic and of any great ideas you have to make your part of the business greener!
  • Think about how you measure impact in your business unit – do you track waste? Consumption? Reuse? Carbon impact? Can you monitor, understand and drive improvement better in your area of the business?
  • Feel free to contact me, I’ll help and support you wherever I can! hello@meldrumconsulting.ch.

Do you agree? How do you think we should improve the Circularity of the Industry? Do you think Aviation could really lead the charge on a cleaner greener use and reuse approach? Is it a topic you’re passionate about? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the post comments.