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MD Helicopters on the rise

Jen Boyer | November 24, 2023

Estimated reading time 8 minutes, 50 seconds.

This sponsored article was created by Insight magazine, the sponsored content division of MHM Publishing, on behalf of MD Helicopters.

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MD Helicopters has made significant strides since new ownership took control and hired Brad Pedersen as president and CEO last fall. When Pedersen took the helm, aftermarket support was exceptionally poor and the company had delivered no more than four aircraft in 2022.

Pedersen handpicked an experienced executive team and dove into bringing MD Helicopters’ aftermarket support to service levels demanded by its customers, significantly boosting annual sales.

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“When this team came together, we were all a part of a new, different company with one goal,” Pedersen said.

“We want to treat our customers better and give them the attention and service they need to be successful. It is up to us to support them. We are committed to putting in the work and hours it takes to keep their aircraft flying.”

Pedersen admitted these solutions to improve customer support are simple, yet the execution is complicated due to all the working parts.

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One particular area of focus is MD’s internal processes, which could boost efficiency and reduce costs once fully overhauled. This fall, MD Helicopters hired Harvey Ticlo as chief operating officer to apply his more than 35 years of successful aviation management experience to this effort.

“As sales ramped up, we saw shortcomings in our processes and procedures, as well as the production planning process. Harvey is helping strengthen these and the company as a whole,” Pedersen said.

Ticlo added, “I’m working to optimize our manufacturing processes, tighten up our supply chain, and continue to build our talented workforce. As I get deeper into the organization, we’ll continue to drive process improvements and implement lean manufacturing methods to be more cost competitive and meet delivery requirements.”

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Ticlo joins the team on the heels of considerable change already underway that is visibly moving the needle.

MD Helicopters is focusing on strategic sourcing methods with suppliers and expanding its vendor network to ensure a strong supply chain.

Last March, it announced an eight-figure inventory investment in spare parts with the goal of having 702 of the most requested part numbers on the shelf and ready to ship immediately. By the end of summer 2023, MD had successfully stocked a significant number of those parts and has placed purchase orders for the remaining.

MD Helicopters has since identified more parts, raising the commitment to nearly 1,000 part numbers on hand.

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“We’re about 67 percent healthy right now, meaning 67 percent of the time we have enough of the current parts to meet demand every month, which is up from 45 percent when we started,” said Ryan Weeks, MD Helicopter’s vice president of aftermarket sales and service. “The biggest factor keeping us from 100 percent right now is lead time. Some of the parts on order have three-, six-, nine- and even 15-month lead times. It will take time to reach full stock, but we are well on our way.”

MD Helicopters is also expanding its popular MD 530 E-to-F conversion program that allows MD 500E owners to upgrade their aircraft. The company is pursuing a technical bulletin that will now make this conversion possible in the field, further reducing customers’ costs by eliminating the need to ship the aircraft to MD’s Arizona facility for conversion. This technical bulletin has been approved and MD is assembling kits and work instructions that should be available to authorized service centers soon, Pedersen said.

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In one short year, Pedersen and his team have enhanced sales. MD’s strong order book includes a sold-out 2023 production and an almost full 2024 line reflecting a nearly even balance between military and civilian aircraft.

“That said, we have actually sprinkled in a few white tails throughout the year,” Pedersen said referring to unsold aircraft. “We hear from customers needing an aircraft much sooner than what is now becoming an 18-month waiting period. We want to be able to fill requests much sooner.”

MD’s ambitious production plans this year call for a significant increase in staff. The company hired over 130 additional employees by mid-year, no small feat for Phoenix’s highly competitive aerospace region. To attract quality talent and ensure a strong workforce, MD developed an apprentice program that allows MD to hire high-potential employees with basic skills and experience and train them on the job to higher standards.

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While not yet at its goals, MD is well on the way to rising above its inherited past shortcomings.

“We know MD had lost significant reputation with customers when we took over and we are working hard to repair that and rebuild trust,” Pedersen said. “We are making significant strides, and while we wish we could get there faster, it is simply going to take some time. I’m very confident and I’m seeing great results from our work. I’d only ask that our customers be patient and call us immediately with any concerns. Customers’ input has put us on this path and we truly are 100 percent committed to meeting the needs of every one of them.”

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