Bell Aircraft Implements Kinaxis Supply Chain Rapid Response

Supply Chain Digital magazine discusses comments from Bell on its use of the Kinaxis rapid response system for aircraft design and production

To begin the Bell Keynote of the Kinaxis Big Ideas in Supply Chain Virtual Summit 2021, Michael Loeffler, Vice President of Materials Management at Bell, opens the talk with the company’s 85-year history.  He describes Bell’s long legacy of iconic products, from the Vietnam-era Huey to the revolutionary tilt-rotor V22 Osprey. Bell recently opened a new manufacturing technology centre, which will focus on bringing advanced manufacturing and supply chain technologies together to produce its latest aircraft models, the V280 Valor and 360 Invictus. 

Loeffler continues by highlighting some of the challenges that Bell faces:

  • The focus on the aftermarket, requiring a different approach to how the business operates.
  • Early design activity and the impacts of frequent product change. 
  • External forces, including the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic presented some difficult decisions for the company, and varied restrictions among countries led to widespread supply chain challenges. This has been a key driver of change in the company’s digital transformation, as Bell creates a more flexible supply chain to remain successful in such a volatile market. 

Loeffler also explains that Bell has long focused on mature programs that involved building aircraft at a high rate of production. The company’s scheduling methodology was based on known delivery schedules and a relatively stable plan. Bell’s new reality requires them to deal with much more uncertainty. The new approach involves predicting outcomes, leveraging the Kinaxis RapidResponse tool to model different scenarios, and working across the organisation to develop a plan that can stand up to the challenges and uncertainties that Bell faces. For Loeffler, it’s about a robust planning process that yields a good plan. 

“In the last decade, we’ve been on a journey to modernise our business systems and manufacturing technologies, focusing on state-of-the-art ERP, data analytics, and engineering systems that harness the power of digital product definition,” says Loeffler. He explains that the Kinaxis RapidResponse tool essentially creates a digital model of Bell’s complex supply chain. This allows the planning team to model different scenarios in real time using live data. The team can evaluate capacity impacts, model factory loads, consider inventory and other financial factors, and perform countless other assessments. Kinaxis implementation is a continuation of Bell’s modernization journey.

Kinaxis Implementation at Bell

During the session, we also hear from Bell’s Senior Manager of Material Systems, Jason Howard, as he discusses the company’s reasons for choosing Kinaxis for its supply chain planning system. “We needed a responsive planning process [...]; we chose to partner with Kinaxis’ professional services for an agile implementation of Kinaxis RapidResponse,” says Howard.

One of the reasons why Bell partnered with Kinaxis is the need to equip all employees with the information and supply chain visibility to make informed decisions. Bell’s goal was to democratise the planning process.

RapidResponse brings value by helping Bell to rapidly analyze large amounts of information, to model complex scenarios, and to improve the quality of decision-making.


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