It had been a long morning already. No amount of coffee was going to change that. The recent cold snap that had dug in around Calgary was exiting its second week, and the toll it was taking on the aircraft deicing equipment was beginning to rise to epic proportions. And of course, it was that precise moment when the giant overhead door rumbled up unexpectedly as another unit was being brought in. Despite the regular weekly maintenance these units underwent in the winter, they were part of an aging fleet that wasn’t handling the extended cold snap, meaning frequent breakdowns.
The Result: the mechanics in the shop did an admirable job of patching these units up and getting them back into service. My team and I made sure they had the right parts right away. We’d worked closely with our customer, done our diligence before the start of winter to ensure that we had a ready supply of the more common parts, but we’d managed to exhaust some of those early on, and replacements weren’t readily available anywhere in my company’s supply chain. Which meant the hunt was on to find what was needed as fast as humanly possible.
If there’s one constant in the Airline industry, it is schedule. Delays cost thousands of dollars, no matter what time of year, and delays in winter are no exception. So when an aircraft is unexpectedly sitting on the ground, fully loaded, pushed back from the terminal and waiting 40 minutes to be deiced before takeoff, that can mean tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars in potentially lost profit.
And upset passengers.
And frustrated ramp workers.
And an Equipment Manager (my direct customer) who was already getting heat from his superiors in Toronto about the number of delays their group was being charged with.
Knowing that these deicing units were the highest priority (winter in Canada, go figure), everything else was put aside until this issue was resolved.
Fortunately, in the build up to the winter season I’d begun building relationships with key suppliers who would be instrumental in ensuring success down the road. Now that we’d exhausted inventory, and had an immediate need, those relationships were going to pay dividends.
In the fall, I’d started researching these key suppliers from our own internal databases. We had preferred suppliers listed and for the majority of parts for these units, it was the OEM manufacturer. Internal consultations were done with our Purchasing and Sourcing departments, and I had a pretty good feel for what I was getting myself into. I’d reached out to the OEM parts department via email and phone calls to get a feel for who they were and to make sure we could work together (email and phone being the best methods of contact, given that we were in Calgary, and the OEM was based in Kansas). Their timely replies and ease of access assured me that they would be there when we needed them. If I or any of the mechanics had any questions about diagnosing issues or determining correct part numbers, we knew they would be the best collaborators.
They also understood the pressure we were under in the middle of winter to get these units supplied and back out the door. EVERY time we needed them, the OEM was there. I sang their praises to anyone who’d listen in the company, and the managers and purchasers at the other stations in Canada took note. In the 2.5 years I did that job, it was one of the best customer experiences I had.
Now, let’s fast forward to the start of this week as I was looking at various B2B marketing papers. This one from IBM on Millennials in the B2B marketing world really stood out. I was able to identify with pretty much everything that they found. Hence why I’m writing this, and you’re reading it.
What was of primary interest to me was this Figure right here: