Working with your engineering supplier

In the world of aircraft modification, you will sometimes need an engineering supplier to do the bulk of the heavy design work. Whether you are a small operator with no engineering team, or a large airline operator that cannot spare your engineering staff to do one-off modifications, you will find the need to contract out some engineering work from time to time. Regardless if you’ve never done this before or you’ve done this a few dozen times, here are some tips that may help you when working with that engineering supplier.

1.       Know the contract. This gives you an idea of what you can and can’t ask you supplier to do. It also keeps you out of trouble with Change Requests and additional charges. Knowing the contract really helps establishing the correct tone and a good relationship with your supplier.

2.       Determine the protocol and who are the main decision makers. Agree on the hierarchy of who is responsible for contacting the key people within the different companies and the certification authorities. (ODA, DOA, FAA, EASA)

3.       Get clear definition on the design path and how to handle changes as they come. In large projects, changes always happen. Getting a clear definition on how to handle the design gives you an avenue to handle design changes later on. You know what the starting point was and where to take it if issues come up that require design changes.

4.       Most of the time, you will need to have some existing engineering data to start from. Make sure the responsibilities of getting existing design data is well defined. If it isn’t, get it defined and get it written down and agreed on. This one will require some thought as some data can be proprietary and cannot be released without NDA’s in place. Knowing who had the primary responsibility will help cut down on schedule delays as the design is progressing.

5.       Get clear definition on timelines and due dates and get it written and agreed on. These will also change from time to time on larger projects. This is why a procedure to agree on timelines and due dates is important. It establishes a way of agreeing to changes when it does happen.

6.       Communicate. Well. Not doing this well is the root of all problems. This is especially critical during the early phases of design. The early phase of design is usually when people let their guard down. Sometimes people will think there is time to correct issues or press on with the designing even though you haven’t completely thought through all the risks. If you communicate well, you can proceed as long as everyone knows where the risks are and how to react to them.

These are just somethings to consider when working with your engineering vendor. As with our previous article, this is meant to stimulate your mind and give food for thought for issues that might come up. Hopefully this ultimately helps you in avoiding schedule delays and unnecessary costs. Leave us a comment below on what you think. We also encourage you to let us know of any topics you would like us to address.