New Mente partnership aims to turn green into gold
A new partnership aims to bring “order out of chaos” to the world of green VVIP aircraft completions.
Dallas international aviation advisory firm Mente Group and Richard Roseman Airborne Designs (RRAD), of Sante Fe, have announced that they are launching a new and advanced completions management service for VVIP and Head of State customers.
And they hope that, by applying the same approach to project management that is already successfully used in the corporate jet market, they will be able to bring a paradigm shift to the VVIP market where airliners are changed from “green” (unfurnished) aircraft to finished aircraft, which they say is more chaotic and unpredictable.
The E-First/White Glove programme is designed to provide “predictive de-risking and advanced programme oversight” for narrow and wide-body aircraft projects, by integrating design, certification, engineering and budget from the very beginning of a completions project.
Vince Restivo, Mente Group’s vice president of program management, explains why this is an important step for VVIP completions: “For years, the bizjet market has been very successful in project definition and outcome by managing the interior completion process in such a way that all required disciplines are married on the very front end of each project with strict adherence to schedule. Design, certification, engineering and budget are all integrated from the outset, thereby setting the project on a firm and predictable footing.
“It is, unfortunately, almost never done this way within large ‘green aircraft’ VVIP and Head of State projects. In the absence of such protocol, it sets up a whole host of problems from the very start because, in many cases, the designer doesn’t have enough experience in the aircraft or the required internal assets to apply certification and engineering reviews to his or her earliest concepts – ahead of presentation to the owner. This is a critical early issue that causes many problems for owners from the very first moments of entering a VIP programme.”
The E-First part of the programme brings together design and engineering from the moment the client comes up with an idea for how he or she wants the jet interior to look. Mente and RRAD will carry out preliminary engineering reviews of the early design concepts, to address potentially challenging designs before they can have a negative impact on a project’s schedule or budget.
“E-First represents a dramatic change in the industry, in that it fully embraces not only engineering but also certification and budget very early in the design phase – all the main factors of a completion project are married up from the very earliest moments of a project,” says Restivo. “Our focus is on creating stability in what is often a destabilised setting.”
That instability arises from the initial complexity of completion projects, which can create “a seemingly chaotic situation”. According to Restivo, “bringing order out of that chaos is a big part of what the Mente RRAD programme offers.
“We accomplish this by applying very granular-level processes and protocols to each simultaneously-occurring discipline. For example, diving deeper into a supplier’s performance history early on can illuminate potential issues that can be resolved before they impact schedule.”
RRAD founder Richard Roseman said the E-First initiative aimed to stop the “out-of-control” schedule and cost overruns that mar the green completions market. “We are setting out to accomplish this by carefully stewarding our customers’ resources and utilising a combination of historically proven and revolutionary new processes.
“The ultimate winner is the customer here. They have too often been short-changed in recent years, and we’re here to change that with our partner Mente.”
Anyone involved with green completions understands that, these days, most large VIP aircraft projects are delivered late and over budget, added Restivo. “While nobody likes to talk about it, it is a fact and needs to change.
“In many cases, the finger gets pointed at the completion centre unfairly but it’s a more complicated problem than that. Much of it occurs with the owner and his or her lack of education about how such projects should be contracted from the first moment. But from whatever perspective we want to slice it, the owners are the ones who lose the biggest by having their assets sit on the ground for far too long after the schedule completion date has come and gone.
“We want to fix this problem, or at the very least vastly improve it, and we feel we have identified several key solutions that simply have not been addressed in the entire time that VIP completions have been conducted. The traditionally proven processes [are] things that have proven reliable and efficient historically. The revolutionary part [is] the construction of several key new processes that are metrics based and focused on leading indicators vs. lagging indicators. This allows earlier identification of latent issues – thereby de-risking the project and providing a far higher level of schedule predictability.”
Mente and RRAD say that the White Glove aspect of the programme will redefine customer care and take it back to the kind of service that clients would have received 20 years or more ago, by combining Mente’s technical offering with responsive customer service.
Restivo said: “We feel the biggest and most important responsibility in any large VIP project is the stewardship of the customers resources – both time and money. Completions that go well beyond their contracted re-delivery date do not reflect a high sense of that responsibility and therefore the customer service received. We feel that, generally speaking, the higher level of customer care that we’re hoping to restore (and build beyond) occurred more often on projects conducted 20 years or more back – when fewer such projects existed.
“Some of that service level has gone by the wayside and our goal is to restore that on several fronts. One paramount mandate is the assignment of a detail-focused technical representative, a single point of contact that follows the customer from the very first meeting all the way to fly away, providing direct interface night or day, offering direct answers to questions, and providing honest assessments of schedule, problems and milestones as they occur – thereby ensuring the customer remains confident he is being taken care of at an extremely high level.”
CJI talked with Brian Proctor, President and CEO of Mente Group about the new product at NBAA 2017: