Air Works India Engineering Private Limited (Air Works) is one of the leading independent providers of Aviation Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) services in India, and Aircraft Paint and Refinishing in the UK. Founded in 1951 by the Menon family. It has successfully transformed itself from a family run business focused on providing maintenance services to business aircraft into a professionally managed organization providing a full suite of services to customers across Aircraft Management, Business and General Aviation MRO, Aircraft Paint and Refinishing, Commercial Aviation MRO and Avionics distribution.Among other factors, this successful transformation can be attributed to the move towards digital technologies, not only as an enabler but also as a revenue generator. Digital enabled Air Works to overcome its legacy infrastructure bottlenecks and pave the way forward for a data driven rather than an individual driven organization.
To stay competitive, Air Works identified that it required making its operations more transparent, while selling to newer markets and building new capabilities. This required building of new digital capabilities and structural mechanisms that supported those capabilities. The journey, that started in 2012, has led to a whopping 27 times growth for the company.
In short, Air Works created a new business model of an integrated value across aviation MRO activities and designed a new operating model fueled by data and enabled by integration of people, processes, tools and knowledge.
Air Works scored high on all the five aspects of Enterprise Digital Score – leadership, strategy, boundary, culture and infrastructure.
The Air Works case study is exemplary for business leaders who wish to undertake a digital led transformation towards unlocking their hidden potential. It may serve as a template of undertaking digital transformation.
Answering two essential questions may help.
1. How can one change one’s position in the value chain or devise newer dimensions of the value chain?
Essentially a business model issue, it’s about how one can tap existing revenue streams in newer ways or even open up new revenue streams. By extending itself into broader aspects of the value chain through acquisitions, Air Works tapped revenue streams it was not addressing earlier and by venturing into industry software for others, it opened completely new revenue streams for itself. The decisions to take this step in an organic or an inorganic way may vary, but it has to be different from ‘business as usual’ thinking.
2. How can digital create capabilities to support the aspired business model?
Extending oneself into under-explored dimensions of the existing value chain or creating new dimensions requires new capabilities. Air Works undertook an internal transformation drive to create a digital fabric by connecting people, processes, tools and knowledge across both existing and acquired businesses. The move helped build data based decision making culture as compared to person specific decision making, thus creating agility, effectiveness, efficiency and transparency. Inter-businesses integration created capabilities to map skills with demand, manage customers across domains and provide a holistic bouquet of services as against standalone pieces. It required a completely new approach to managing processes, new people skills and new structures to support the growth business model.
Business enterprises can internally debate on these two essential questions as made explicit by Air Works transformation success. It’s a simple yet may prove to be a powerful template. It only requires a sincere and committed approach on the part of the management.