WITH HIGHER FUEL PRICES and the prospect of an economic slowdown, it is no surprise that many airlines are looking for ways to cut costs and increase profitability. One area garnering a lot of attention is the opportunity for increased fuel efficiency, motivating many organizations to add winglets to their legacy fleets. While this modification offers the rewards of improved performance and better fuel economy, it also can be taxing to the internal workforce and require additional resources dedicated to labor-driven, repetitive tasks, limiting the ability for businesses to retain focus on their core competitive advantages.

In addition to the challenges of effectively allocating resources to short-term redesign projects without compromising other initiatives, many organizations are faced with a graying workforce and the impending exodus of skill, experience and intellectual capital, particularly in aerospace engineering. To better support workforce needs, improve efficiencies and gain access to more specialized expertise, many organizations are opting to transform their processes through outsourcing.

MRO outsourcing is a viable alternative for many airlines. Partnering with an outsourced engineering support provider delivers access to specialized skills in design, research and development, saves costs and helps organizations optimize their competitive strengths by offloading noncore activities.

One of the key advantages of outsourcing is access to additional engineering resources. Recognizing that engineering excellence is at the core of most companies' success, finding the best talent should be a key priority. However, with fewer aerospace engineering graduates coming out of school and industry sources estimating 26% of the workforce is slated to retire over the next five years, many organizations are feeling the effects of a talent crunch.

An outsourcing provider not only delivers a specialized skill set and technical proficiency, but for short-term projects like winglet additions or internal aircraft redesign such as class reconfiguration, outsourcing offers significant advantages over bringing additional talent in-house. To manage the project internally, organizations need to ramp up to meet project requirements, dedicating resources to sourcing, identifying, recruiting and training talent--elongating the time between conception and production.

While a company may be limited to local resources, an outsource provider has access to the global talent pool and can cast a wider net in finding the right talent with the necessary skill set. Through outsourcing, the organization gains real-time access to a substantial number of readily available workers to meet business requirements.

Not only does outsourcing mitigate upfront recruiting and training costs, it also alleviates the liability of associated termination costs. Rather than investing time and dollars in permanent employees, outsourcing provides a more cost-effective solution to meeting short-term labor demands while delivering necessary strategic skills.

Once the decision has been made to outsource and the length of the project is determined, be sure to analyze internal capabilities and clearly define the project scope for an efficient transition. Whether the work is performed locally or offshore, be sure to choose a partner that demonstrates a rich history of experience in the industry and retains certifications such as AS9100, which indicates high quality standards and best business practices.

Looking beyond organizational boundaries can enable businesses to focus more effectively on driving their critical business objectives, reducing costs and improving efficiencies. Whether it's meeting the needs of a peak load requirement or preparing for a change in workforce demographics, outsourcing is a viable alternative to deliver a new source of labor and bridge the talent gap.

Jim Beckley is senior vice president of Butler International