Seeking To Boost Aftermarket, Bell Consolidates Service Brands

 - January 27, 2011, 11:15 AM

Bell is looking to capture more of the aftermarket for its helicopters. The company announced in January that it has integrated six support and service subsidiaries and rebranded them under the Bell Helicopter nameplate in an attempt to eliminate confusion and simplify customer buying choices. Customer service and support currently accounts for one-third of Bell’s revenue. Bell CEO John Garrison said the move would make it easier for the company to offer customers integrated solutions throughout a helicopter’s lifecycle.

The subsidiaries affected are Edwards & Associates and Aeronautical Accessories (Piney Flats, Tenn.); Rotor Blades (Broussard, La.); Acadian Composites (Lafayette, La.); Bell Aerospace Services (Bedford, Texas); and US Helicopter (Ozark, Ala.). Bell will continue to offer parts and accessories under the Aeronautical Accessories brand, and affiliates McTurbine (Corpus Christi, Texas); SkyBooks (Jacksonville, Fla.); and Edwards Rotorcraft Solutions (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), while not part of the rebranding activity, will be integrated as a service offering to Bell customers.

The move is part of a wider reorganization linking common processes and practices, according to Danny Maldonado, vice president of Bell customer support. The first involves consolidating the facilities. Initially, the most visible change customers notice will be their ability to call one number and/or access all Bell services through one location on the main company Web site, rather than going through one or several affiliate companies. Maldonado said Bell is testing the call center and its computer system will contain broader customer data. Eventually, this will include data automatically downloaded for individual aircraft’s health usage and monitoring systems (Hums). “We won’t have to get that information [separately] from the customer,” Maldonado said.

Tying the disparate service/support entities together will also allow Bell to offer more inclusive service packages, including an expanded “power by the hour” program beyond the company’s current offering, which is limited to airframe parts. Maldonado said an expanded program likely would cover engine and rotor blade repair at some point, adding that the new computer system allows Bell to track these components “all together.”

“We are going to offer some type of simplified bundled solution,” Maldonado said.

Bell plans to roll out an enhanced system “over the next several years” in North America, before expanding it to Europe and other locations. “The system will go global,” he predicted.

It is likely to include authorized service centers as well as facilities and capabilities Bell shares with its sister aircraft company at Textron, Cessna. Maldonado noted that Cessna and Bell acquired an FBO in the Czech Republic that has been fitted with a co-joined service center, and he did not rule out future acquisitions as part of the campaign to expand the company’s service and support network. “We want to expand services and provide better services,” he said.