Inside Honeywell’s Mission to Revolutionize B2B Aerospace Sales
Buying and selling aircraft parts today is like being stuck in an internet time warp. Websites that offer landing gear and engines mostly look like Craigslist, only without images and even prices. Sales are made the old-fashioned way — bargaining on the telephone, or via emails and faxes. “The used aerospace parts industry is worth $4 billion a year, but the crazy thing is that less than two percent of transactions are done online,” said Lisa Butters, general manager of GoDirect Trade, powered by Honeywell Aerospace. “In fact, it takes an average of two phone calls and four emails to close a deal.”
Honeywell, a Phoenix, Arizona-based company with 20 years of aerospace experience, decided it was time to revolutionize the industry. They launched GoDirect Trade, a “garage-style start-up,” to move aerospace sales online with a consumer-grade B2B marketplace to connect parts with buyers. They envisioned a cross between Amazon and Etsy, but for autothrottle engines and altimeters. “We selected Magento because it allowed us to launch a minimum viable product (MVP) in record time — while enabling major web design customization,” said Lisa. “In addition, the community of available extensions is unprecedented. The platform is a start-up’s dream.”
Aimed at the main players in the aerospace industry, Honeywell’s B2B buyers are individual operators or airlines looking for parts, traders who buy and sell for a profit, and repair centers. To succeed, Honeywell would have to change the way a whole industry does business by providing, for the first time, such basic information as price, images, and documentation for all parts. This would involve persuading everyone from mom and pop stores to multimillion-dollar traders to take photos of their parts, scan quality documents, and totally digitize their inventory.
A brand new B2B store in weeks
“Time was our greatest challenge but also our number one motivator,” said Lisa. Together with their solution partner Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS), they planned to launch a first MVP in just 12 weeks. “From a technology or customization perspective, our first big challenge was building our site to support a true marketplace of individual storefronts for our sellers, like Etsy, for example,” she said. Magento already had a robust marketplace extension that Honeywell customized quickly to suit their needs. It saved them a fortune compared to building their own.
One of their largest storefronts, Honeywell Aerospace Trading, runs on SAP’s ERP system. They quickly built APIs that connect Magento to SAP so that orders and inventory are automatically synchronized. Additional APIs interface to their Blockchain platform, built on Hyperledger Fabric. This allows various events to be captured and written to the ledger via APIs. For example, when a storefront lists a part for sale, it adds information to a part, or if a repair center serviced or repaired a part, or if the part were sold — all of these “events” are written from Magento to Blockchain, creating a single source of truth. Thanks to Blockchain technology, potential buyers can view the entire life cycle of everything they buy, from the number of hours in service, to repairs made, and the names of operators who have used the individual part.
Honeywell leaned on a number of third-party extensions from the Magento ecosystem to fully customize their user experience. Webkul’s Marketplace includes B2B features that enable users to interact with the store as both a potential buyer and seller, just like the listing site Mercari.com. This extension enabled the customized storefront infrastructure that is essential to the marketplace. They also selected the Rokan Outstock theme to define the layout and add UI features, while Fastly CDN enables caching to improve overall site performance.
Honeywell allows customers to check out with the older, antiquated ways still preferred by the industry, like purchase orders. Naturally, they offer modern payment types too, like credit cards, but Magento gives Honeywell the ability to accept all types of payment. (Purchase orders are why the aerospace industry is one of the few not to migrate to Amazon.)
Finally, Honeywell developed a service called Trust Trace to provide part pedigree data on serialized components. It’s similar to how CarFax delivers information about a used car. Now, when a customer is searching for parts on GoDirect Trade, Trust Trace improves user confidence and increases the chance of a purchase. Users can see reviews and ratings of third-party sellers, and buyers and sellers can contact one another directly via the platform, streamlining the process to ensure both parties are satisfied with the exchange.
Previously, buyers looking for aviation parts such as avionics and auxiliary power units would need to call numerous companies and wait days or even weeks to price a part. They might risk buying from a company that did not have the inventory in stock. With every part on GoDirect Trade immediately available for sale and shipping, there’s no need to wait weeks or even days for the seller to confirm availability. And, as with similar websites in other industries, online reviews of both buyers and sellers are encouraged.
$1 million in sales — in just 10 weeks
Honeywell launched their GoDirect Trade eCommerce site on December 15, 2018, after just 12 weeks of development. It kick-started their mission to shift the aerospace industry into a new level of transparency by providing prices, product imagery, and quality documents on every listing. By leveraging Blockchain technology, they can now bring as much valuable information to the consumer as possible. Now, for the first time, aerospace customers are dropping parts into their cart and checking out online. “About three months after we went live, a customer with a Gmail account dropped a $100,000 used jet engine into their cart and checked out,” said Lisa. “If that’s not a signal that the shift to a digital experience is coming, I don’t know what is.”
“Even if I had $100 million to develop our site, I would have chosen Magento,” said Lisa. “For our garage-style start-up, Magento has provided so much functionality and customization, and it’s so economically reasonable. The flexibility to customize the look and feel while at the same time having a robust back end for easy configuration makes Magento the pick of the litter.”
With some of the biggest names in aerospace parts already onboard as GoDirect Trade sellers, Honeywell has populated the eCommerce site with over $300 million in inventory. Users can shop by product line and checkout easily online — and Honeywell is currently at work on a mobile solution too. More sellers are choosing to “go digital,” and joining the platform to sell to customers who are now starting to demand the GoDirect user experience: images, a price, and documentation. And Honeywell is flying high, with $1 million in sales after just 10 weeks.