Dassault launches new system for Falcon product support

 - April 30, 2010, 10:06 AM

Dassault Falcon is reorganizing its service support strategy, with a particular focus on technical assistance, parts inventory and the service center structure. “Times have changed and we must change with them,” Jacques Chauvet, Dassault Falcon’s senior vice president for worldwide customer service, told AIN.

Chauvet said Dassault is refocusing on the quality and timeliness of its technical center response. “We want to give customers the best technical knowledge available to help them resolve their problem, but we are dedicated to going far beyond. The mission of the technical center is to work out the best possible solution for a specific situation. Technical center personnel will determine the fastest solution to a given problem, calling upon the service centers and satellite service stations as appropriate.”

In addition, the company has strategically located its inventory of spare parts all over the world. In fact, Dassault recently placed an inventory in Shanghai to support aircraft in China. “We are constantly looking for more efficient and faster ways to get parts to the customer to return the aircraft to service as soon as possible.”

Dassault has changed its service support model and now authorizes service centers at one of three levels of service based upon the demand for services and size of the fleet based in the region. The system also incorporates company-owned facilities and satellite service stations with GoTeams.

Previously, according to Frank Youngkin, senior vice president of customer service for the western hemisphere, authorized service centers (ASCs) were expected to be able to do all required maintenance on all Falcon models. While that philosophy works well in areas with large Falcon populations such as Europe and the U.S., it proved less practical in some of the new, emerging markets for business jets, he said.

“The economics of having a traditional service center in a place like China or Russia simply don’t make sense. At this point those locations don’t warrant a heavy service center, but there is a need for services. Compounding the issue was the requirement for a service center to be able to perform all kinds of work. There are MROs out there in remote locations that are first-class maintenance facilities but would never be able to justify the expense involved with offering a C inspection considering the level of demand for the service in their area. After a lot of consideration we’ve implemented a three-tier system.”

Chauvet explained the new system allows ASCs to specialize in one or two aircraft models if they choose or to support all Falcons through all phases of maintenance. “What our customers will see is a more specialized approach that will provide a quicker reaction to their needs,” he said.

Specialized Maintenance Categories
The new Dassault Falcon ASC structure is divided into three categories: heavy, major and line maintenance.

Heavy service centers will provide comprehensive customer support for all Falcons and hold local regulatory approvals as well as those from the FAA and EASA. Most of the ASCs in North America and many in Europe fall into this category, offering a line of services that includes all levels of maintenance and inspections, Rapid Response AOG teams, refurbishments and upgrades.

Major service centers will provide comprehensive support for Falcons of a particular model series and hold local regulatory approvals as well as those from the FAA and EASA. Services will typically include all maintenance, including AOG service and inspections through a C-check. Five centers located in Finland, Germany, Singapore, South Africa and the U.S. fall into this category.

Line service centers will provide support for specific Falcon models and hold a minimum of local regulatory approvals. Services include what is typically called line maintenance up through A and A+ checks. Thirteen centers around the globe fall into this category.

“Under this new approach, a wider group of quality service providers are candidates to be included in the Falcon ASC network,” Youngkin said. “We can now add smaller line service centers in areas that experience a high level of transient traffic but with few aircraft based in the area, such as Anchorage or Aspen, where the winter traffic is heavy.”

Currently, Dassault Falcon has five company-owned service centers and 26 ASCs located throughout the world. In addition, the company recently added five satellite service stations with GoTeams positioned on four continents. The company-owned satellite service stations are an extension of an existing company-owned service center and are staffed with technicians, AOG support tooling and a targeted inventory of spares. Satellite service stations support basic line maintenance up through A inspections. Each will be staffed with an AOG GoTeam that will provide rapid mobile response directly to an aircraft location with the parts and tools necessary to get an aircraft flying with minimal delay.

The first satellite service station in the U.S. opened recently in St. Louis. Other sites currently in operation are located in Nice, France; Rome; Moscow; and London.

As Dassault made the transition to the new ASC system some operators got the impression the company was not renewing existing facilities, but that was not the case. “We looked at our existing system, evaluated capacity and looked at what was happening in the industry,” Youngkin said. “As part of the process we talked extensively with our existing ASCs. We didn’t arbitrarily shut down anyone. We did an in-depth study of the size of the network, the volume of work the various ASCs had done over the years and other variables.”

Youngkin said initially the company decided not to renew two facilities, but its operator advisory board urged the company to specifically keep one of the ASCs in the network. BizJet decided to leave the network to focus on the airline industry, said Youngkin. “The one ASC we did not renew was Midcoast Aviation. It is located near other ASCs in Springfield, Ill., and Tulsa, Okla.; and Duncan in Nebraska, so from a business plan it didn’t make a lot of sense,” Youngkin said.

Chauvet said Dassault’s worldwide operator advisory board played a significant role in the development of the new system. “If the board didn’t agree with something we planned on doing, we paid attention,” he said.   

Dassault Renews Customer Support Effort

Implementing the recommendations from its Operator Advisory Board (OAB) will be a priority for Dassault Aviation this year and next, and in a maintenance and operations (M&O) seminar held in Geneva on April 1, the company highlighted some customer support initiatives it has adopted for its Falcons in an effort to keep up with its North American competitors in this field.

The Falcon OAB has 20 permanent members and involves “more than 100 operators” in 10 working groups. It has already issued 14 major recommendations that have been or are being implemented.

For example, one working group is dedicated to enhancing the customer’s experience with the delivery process. It is creating a Web tool to improve the relationship with the customer between order and delivery. “Customers want better guidance on what to do between order and delivery. They have a lot of choices to make. They need to understand how the cabin interior they choose, for example, will impact performance, depending on its weight,” explained Pierre Thiélin, v-p for Falcon customer service.

The company has also introduced software fixes to address teething troubles on the Falcon 7X, namely the number of false alarms in the starting phase. “In built-in tests, design engineers have set some parameters in a conservative way, hence a number of false alarms,” Thiélin explained. This has happened on the Airbus A380 as well.

Like every other business jet manufacturer, Dassault faces customer complaints about the costs of spare parts. It is thus trying to improve the parts’ value for the money. For example, customers receive the same level of service for slow-moving parts as for fast-moving ones, said v-p of worldwide Falcon spares Jean Kayanakis. In addition, Dassault revives production of more than 300 old part numbers every year for older aircraft.

Moreover, when returning a part, a customer can get free shipping if he acts quickly. Kayanakis’ team, which has been offering a high-volume discount program for a few years, is now devising “a more inclusive and complete program” that will result in discounts for “a large number” of customers.

To shorten the time it takes to solve urgent problems, Dassault is endeavoring to plan ahead. The company is thus encouraging Falcon operators to let customer support know where they are going before they leave so representatives can arrange ground support and local customs and be in a better position to cope with unforeseen needs.

According to both Dassault Falcon CEO John Rosanvallon and Thiélin, Dassault has not reduced its investment in service, despite the economy. For example, $650 million worth of spare parts are now available from 11 locations.    –T.D.