Dassault M&O focuses on product-support services

 - September 14, 2006, 9:16 AM

Dassault Aviation highlighted its renewed emphasis on product support at this year’s Falcon Jet Maintenance and Operations meeting. “This seminar is a great opportunity to listen and join with you,” said John Rosanvallon, president and CEO of Dassault Falcon Jet, during the opening session, and more than 1,400 people filled the Boca Resort & Club in Boca Raton, Fla., to give their input, share information, learn about Falcon product-support efforts and visit vendors’ booths.

M&O meetings are all about helping manufacturers communicate with operators of their products and keeping buyers in the family or coming back for new models such as the upcoming Falcon 7X. “A customer complaint is a gift,” said Jacques Chauvet, vice president of customer service for Dassault Aviation, during the opening session.

Dozens of Falcon and engine and avionics product-support experts were on hand to discuss specific problems and fixes on everything from the Falcon 10 to modern Falcon 900EXs and 2000EXs, receive “gifts” from customers and share solutions. “I promise, when you speak, we will be listening,” said Charles Edelstenne, chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.

Rosanvallon briefed attendees on Falcon developments, especially recent growth in areas of the world that haven’t traditionally been friendly to business aviation. “We’ve grown at a record pace,” he said. “Asia-Pacific for many years was a small part of business aviation.”

Now fleets of Falcon 900s and 2000s are spreading in Asia and in India. Dassault is in the midst of finalizing certification of all Falcon models in China, and senior vice president for customer service Gerald Goguen is currently setting up a new customer-service infrastructure in China.

“The former USSR and Eastern Europe are taking off,” Rosanvallon added. “We’ve sold 10 Falcons in Russia and the Ukraine.” The fly-by-wire Falcon 7X is showing great promise, with sales in 25 countries and firm orders for more than 80 as of early this year. Delivery lead time for the 7X is now four years, with first delivery scheduled for next April.

Parts Pricing Relief

Dassault Falcon Jet is busy preparing for 7X service entry and has ordered $100 million worth of parts, which should be in warehouses by the time the first 7X
is delivered, according to Edelstenne. The plan is to be able to achieve a 98-percent spares service level, the same level that Falcon has achieved with spares for its other models, concurrent with first delivery of the 7X.

Edelstenne summarized Dassault’s efforts to rein in Falcon parts prices, which, he added, “is always a highly sensitive issue.”

“We’re very concerned about this perception [of high parts prices],” said Goguen, “and we want to improve.”

Dassault Falcon conducted a statistical survey to see how its parts prices compare to those of other OEMs. Falcon has reduced prices on thousands of parts, and the survey showed that current prices are in line with other OEMs’, said the company. Falcon also announced in May the added value and pricing guarantee, which ensures that parts prices are aligned with the actual value of the part. Under the program, Falcon will adjust the price of a part if a customer can show that an equivalent part “with the same added value as a genuine Dassault Falcon replacement part” is available at a lower cost.

If the customer has already purchased the Falcon part, he can return it for full credit and no restocking fee. In addition, the new price will apply for subsequent purchasers of that part from Falcon. “Bring to us a price that’s too high,” Goguen said, “and we’ll look at it immediately. If the value is not the same, we’ll correct it. Clearly,” he told the operators, “you value value.”

To provide additional relief, Dassault Falcon announced at the M&O meeting that it has doubled the warranty period for new Falcon parts, to 24 months from installation and 30 months from time of purchase. The program covers all new warranty claims on parts bought since June 1, 2004. According to Dassault Falcon, “If the part was purchased from Dassault and during the warranty period the part fails for causes unrelated to normal wear or abuse it will be replaced by Dassault Falcon at no cost.”

Falcon 900 and 2000 operators were told that they can take advantage of new maintenance intervals to improve availability. Dassault increased the A check interval to eight months from six months and the B check to 1,600 hours from 1,500.

At the end of 2004, Dassault Falcon moved its document-creation team into new offices near engineers and the Falcon production line, according to Chauvet, “to improve quality and responsiveness.” The move drove improvements such as the updating of 50 percent of the maintenance procedures for the Falcon 2000.

Operators will be able to download revisions directly via the Internet and share information about documentation discrepancies on the Web. Chauvet said, “We encourage communications by customers and each other. Our objective is to share technical feedback from the fleet.”

In an effort to improve response to operators, Falcon field technical representatives and help-desk personnel were merged under the customer-support organization. These personnel will be trained together to help improve support to operators.

High-Tech Maintenance Review

During the M&O opening session, Dassault Falcon showed a live demonstration of a new way of looking at maintenance information. Dubbed PLM (for product lifecycle management), the new system “may in the future change the way you work and train,” said Olivier Villa, senior vice president of civil aircraft. PLM stems from Dassault’s digital Catia engineering and design platform. When the company has all of an airplane’s features in digital form–as it does with the 7X–it wasn’t a difficult next step to use that data as a platform for maintenance information.

PLM starts with a 3-D view of the 7X displayed on a computer screen. The user can click on any part of the airplane and zoom in to the component level. The program also allows the user to strip off portions of assemblies to see what is inside and where parts are located. The more the user zooms in, the more detail is presented. A useful feature allows the user to “hide” parts that he doesn’t want to see, making the subject area stand out better and keeping peripheral components out of view. A button labeled “mx” lets the user view any maintenance activities associated with a particular item.

Villa demonstrated how PLM could show mechanics the sequence of steps needed to remove a component, such as a fuel pump. PLM will likely not be ready for the 7X entry into service. “This is a concept and a prototype,” Villa explained. “In the years to come, this will make your life easier.”

Dassault Falcon tested a new feature on the last day of the M&O meeting, an open forum in one large ballroom with tables for various Falcon programs. Attendees could visit each table, meet with Falcon experts and engage in conversations with operators who have similar problems. There were stations for specific Falcon models, documentation, the FalconCare guaranteed maintenance cost program, the OCIP continuous maintenance program and CATS, Dassault’s computer-assisted troubleshooting system.