An "AAR"guably Great Experience - Will Wales Internship with AAR Corp

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

This summer I completed a ten-week internship at AAR Corp. AAR Corp. is an independent provider of aviation services to commercial and government customers in more than 100 countries. These services include maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO), parts supply, integrated solutions, and manufacturing of composite materials and mobility systems. AAR Corp. was founded in 1955. Today they receive approximately $2 billion in annual revenue. AAR Corp. now has over 6,000 employees in twenty different countries. They made Forbes’ “Best Midsize Employer” list in 2018 and 2019. AAR Corp. prides themselves on their aftermarket expertise and award-winning market solutions which allows them to help customers increase efficiency and reduce cost all while maintaining high levels of quality, safety, and service. They are trusted partners to militaries, airlines, and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) with the goal of delivering increased competitiveness so that their partners can focus on delivering passengers, cargo, and parts around the world. Their company motto is “Doing It Right!”.

I chose to pursue an internship at AAR Corp. after I attended the WMU-AAR Eagle Career Pathway Program presentation. It was at this presentation where I met a couple of AAR’s employees. I expressed my interest in both the aviation industry and supply chain management and started to learn about their organization. This internship was a great experience and confirmed my interests in aviation and supply chain management. The internship took place close to the Chicago O’Hare International Airport, at their world headquarters located in Wood Dale, IL.

My position this summer was the Integrated Solutions – Government Programs Intern. I worked closely with an experienced colleague to establish Long Term Agreements in support of AAR Corp.’s fifteen-year contract with the United States Airforce (USAF). This contract falls within AAR Corp.’s Landing Gear Performance Based Logistics Program (LGPBL) and assigns AAR the responsibility of handling the repair work and parts supply for the landing gear assemblies on the USAF’s fleet of the C-130, E-3 Sentry, and KC-135 aircrafts. I learned a little bit about each of these aircraft to give me a broad understanding of what we are supplying parts for. The C-130 Hercules is an American, military four-engine turboprop aircraft designed for troop, medivac, and cargo transport. The Boeing E-3 Sentry is an American Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft used to provide all-weather surveillance, command, control, and communications. It is distinguished by a rotating radar dome located above the fuselage. The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker is a military aerial refueling aircraft capable of refueling aircraft mid-flight. This knowledge of the aircraft was useful in that it gave me a little extra meaning to the role I was assigned this summer.

My purpose was to establish four-year, long term agreements with OEMs and parts vendors. I had a list of parts that AAR was on contract to provide for the USAF. We released sections of this list to OEMs based on part commonality in the form of Request for Proposals (RFPs). The first RFP I assisted in releasing consisted of uncontrolled parts, meaning that we could procure these parts from whatever OEM that could competitively supply them to us. These uncontrolled parts were less complex and consisted of parts like washers, nuts, bearings, etc.

The second RFP I assisted in releasing consisted of controlled parts. These parts were more complex and consisted of parts like tubehead & bulhead assemblies, pistons, cylinders, etc. Since they were controlled it meant that the USAF required AAR to procure these parts from Source Approved Suppliers. This basically meant that the USAF had done background checks on these approved suppliers and were approved to manufacture these parts. After we had released these RFPs to the OEMs market, we had to wait approximately six weeks to give the manufacturers time to examine the engineering drawings and material lists. The manufacturers would determine, based on this information, whether or not they could competitively bid on the RFP.

Most OEMs have specific capabilities and specialize in the manufacturing of different kinds of parts. It’s much easier for OEMs to specialize in the manufacturing of specific types of parts rather than trying to manufacture too many types of parts and spreading themselves too thin. With the RFP in hand, the OEMs could decide to bid on one part in the list or many parts in the list. After the OEMs had decided to bid or no bid on the RFP, we began our source selection process.

We awarded long term agreements to OEMs not only based on competitive price but also on competitive Lead Time (LT). The LT was the amount of time it took an OEM to receive a demand for a part and then supply that part to AAR at their warehouses. These Long-Term Agreements are very important to the operation of the LGPBL program because they increase AAR’s efficiency and saves them money when the USAF calls on them to supply parts. The Long-Term Agreements give AAR’s parts buyers a specific OEM to contact for each part instead of having to find an OEM on their own.

During my internship, I had the chance to work on a few side projects. As a group, the other interns and I came up with solutions for AAR to improve connectivity across their various divisions of the company. AAR has grown tremendously through acquiring other companies which has caused the divisions to be self-reliant, resulting in a lack of communication across divisions of the company. I also conducted a contact audit on all of the OEMs and suppliers in support of our LGPBL program. Lastly, I spent a week condensing and combining two different excel spreadsheets containing similar information.

The group intern project that focused on increased connectivity was a fun project to work on. I had the chance to meet with many people from the organization to get their thoughts on what AAR is doing right regarding communication and what they could do better. I met with AAR’s Chief Digital Officer, Chief Information Officer, and the Vice President of Corporate Marketing to name a few. As an intern, I was not expecting to have access to these higher-ups in the company. They were very open to sharing their thoughts and helping us on the project.  On the last day of our internship we presented our solutions to solving connectivity issues in front of an audience of approximately twenty people. The project gave me and the other interns the chance to learn about project management and gave us experience presenting ideas to piers.

My boss also had me conduct an audit on the contact information for each of the suppliers in support of our LGPBL program. We found that a lot of our contact information was outdated due to turnover in these companies or reorganization of personnel. I contacted about 150 different OEMs and suppliers to get current contact information for their various departments. I then organized all this information into one document, which was handed over to AAR’s parts buyers.

Finally, my boss also had me combine information from two spreadsheets, the Procurement Data Masterfile (PDM) and the Bill of Materials (BOM). Both of these spreadsheets contained similar information including parts, part numbers, and technical data but were slightly different. The problem was that some people were using the BOM and some people were using the PDM. My boss tasked me with combining both of these spreadsheets so that everyone was using the same spreadsheet. Both of these projects were sort of tedious, but it was cool to see the direct impact these projects made once I was done.

I really enjoyed my internship at AAR Corp., and I will definitely recommend the company to other students interested in aviation, logistics, or both. I had never worked in a corporate environment before, but the transition was easy because of AAR’s fun culture. Everyone working there was open to talking and sharing ideas. This internship opened my eyes to the aftermarket and logistics behind the aviation industry. Commercial airlines and government customers alike need help maintaining their aircraft fleets. Each aircraft has thousands of parts and companies like AAR Corp. help to supply these parts to customers when and wherever they need them. As I am finishing my studies at WMU and looking for employment I will definitely pursue opportunities at AAR Corp.