MRO services in high demand as travel and air freight activities soar

 

Robots will help industry meet growing challenges but humans will remain in the lead

Air travel in emerging countries  is growing, thus, increasing demand for aircraft MRO services. Not surprisingly, many new MRO service centers have opened up in different countries.

MRO services are also in high demand among cargo airlines as more of their planes are used to transport goods in many parts ofthe world, requiring timely checks and repairs to ensure efficient performance and safe airtravel.

The market is driven by various factors such as increased focus of OEMs on aircraft MRO service and rapid aircraft fleet expansion as well as increased need for proper maintenance of engines & components.

By 2023, the global aircraft MRO market is expected to surpass $95 billion, growing at a CAGR of more than 5% during the forecast period.

 

The strongest growth drivers are the engine and market components. Reduced labor intensity of air frame heavy checks as the fleet renews and  increase intervals offset in emerging market byincreasing labor rates.

Aircraft upgrades e.g. interiors drive highest modification growth.

Aviation Guide talked about issues on the industry to MRO experts Sam Jacob, VP & SBU Head – Aviation Solution, Ramco Systems, JuozasLapeika, Deputy CEO for production management at FL Technics and with numerous MRO experts at Magnetic MRO, Mark Thorne (Line maintenance manager) , HaldiVanatoa (training manager), MaksimKolesnik (facility and tooling manager), David Bradley (sales director of engine management department) and Risto Mäeots the new CEO of Magnetic MRO.

Market trends

The global narrow-body Aircraft MRO market is expected to grow at CAGR of 4.5% during 2016 – 2021. Key factors driving the growth are increasing demand  for narrow body from  2016

–2021, emerging markets, outsourcing

of MRO activities and the usage of additive manufacturing in aircraft components, according to MRO market research report.

The Asia Pacific MRO market is expected to double to approximately $32.2b by 2025 at 6% per annum.

The combination of strong air travel demand and the need to replace ageing aircraft will drive fleet growth at 3.4% annually, according to ICF international forecast.

General maintenance

The maintenance of aircraft is highly regulated and ensures that it is fit for the intended flight in conformity with approved standards.

Sam Jacob, VP & SBU Head-Aviation Solution, Ramco Systems, says, “Ramco Aviation Solution is an end-to-end modular enterprise-wide software, built specifically to address the business and regulatory requirements of the aviation industry. We help in monitoring aircraft usage on a continual basis and record

“Robots will not take over the labor extensive MRO work in the next decade. We will see a lot of new tools and gadgets coming around to support improving efficiency.

Eventually, it will still come down to the experience and attitude of an engineer – a tool will not complete the task without its operator. Once you have the basics right and right people on-board, then it will depend on the infrastructure and innovations around the individuals.” - CEO Risto Mäeots of Magnetic MRO

events in-flight, to provide accurate & pertinent information for planning on- wing and off- wing maintenance activities due.”

Keeping up with technology

Magnetic MRO i s an innovative organization, with 3D printing, RFID and 3D visioning being everyday part of its operations, and then it is part of a DNAto push the boundaries and avoid any kind of mediocrity. Keeping track of new things comes naturally forthe company.

Jacob notes, “Ramco does not repair the aircraft and provide hard ware technology. We are a technology solution provider who helps operators track and maintain compliance history of tasks, life of aircraft & components based on the usage parameters specified, etc. Similarly we help the IFE providers to track and maintain their IFE system related maintenance activities.”

Reinventing business models

For an MRO industry, it is paramount to have a strong and integrated M&E/MRO system to operate competitively and to increase operational asset availability. With focus on providing next- generation capabilities like mobility, hubs, dashboards, email based transactions,  workflows  &  alerts,

optimizations & seamless integration, across multiple functions, Ramco solution is designed to be responsive towards dynamically changing business scenarios and can significantly enhance the business decision-making process across various functions like Part M, Part 145, logistics, etc.

Risto Mäeots, CEO, Magnetic MRO, said, “We challenge ourselves to not frame ourselves with paradigm 'that is how it has always been done' – no matter whether it is how we t reat our customers, what new developments we bring into the conservative maintenance activities, what business units we run. For example, we noticed an empty spot in the market; think about it, you as an airline or asset owner need urgently an engine stand to ship aircraft engine. Ordering a new  stand comes  with several months of lead-time. Could you rent it? Not really unless you call thru all possible stand owners. We took it, reinvented all the existing solutions and launched Enginestands24. A proper customer focused, geographically unlimited service.”

One-stop solution

Ramco Aviation Solution for Aerospace & Defense is comprehensive enterprise-wide M&E/MRO software addressing the needs of small to large airlines, heli-operators, MROs, and business aviation segments.

Leveraging the suite's vast array of applications, one can automate operations, end- to- end, reduce overhead costs, manage inventory more effectively, increase aircraft availability, reduce AOG (aircraft on ground), and control operations on a business-for- profit basis.

Aircraft painting (including VIP), cabin (including VIP), design, production, maintenance, engineering, engine stands, aircraft leasing, asset trading, teardowns,  production  of  tooling, technical training,component maintenance, engineering – would say 'next level of total technical care,' according to Magnetic MRO.

Basic routine checks

Besides everyday 24/7 line maintenance checks and A-checks, Magnetic MRO performs C checks and D-checks in its

Base maintenance hangars, if any item is found unserviceable it is immediately reported to the customer, at the same time the item is assessed as repairable or if it needs replacement.

If repairable, the item is routed to the applicable shop for repair and return to service. If the item needs replacement, their material planners source a serviceable replacement and ensure its timely receipt within the planned downtime to provide an on-time and safe aircraft redelivery.

In certain cases, Magnetic MRO may contact the manufacturer of the particular item and advise the nature of the  defect  or failure  of an  item,  to i ncrease awareness and safety throughout the industry.

Sales director of Engine management department, David Bradley, Magnetic MRO,said:“ MMRO provides a comprehensive range of services to our customers, from the maintenance planning and performance of the routine check, we also provide forecasting of non- routine defects based on statistics that we have gathered over many years, we can redeliver the aircraft on time thanks to our in house capabilities and workshops including but not limited to sheet metal repairs and engineering support; composite repairs; NDT inspections; dedicated avionics team; painting services (including full repaint at our facility) and major component assemblies replacement such as engines and landing gears.”

Line maintenance

Line maintenance is considered to be a critical part ofanyairline operations.

Mark Thorne, Magnetic MRO's line maintenance manager said, “In line maintenance, an airline seeks a partner for longer term, while in heavy maintenance you see airlines still 'shopping around'. This trend in base maintenance in slowly replacing towards long-term agreements. For us, line maintenance is not about selling man-hours on apron, it is 'living and breathing with your customer'. Line enables cross selling of other services, propose improvements, become real long term partners.”

Engine MRO

In aerospace, engine MRO is carried out at regular intervals after an aircraft reaches certain flight cycle.

Engine MRO includes performing routine checks or major overhauls to maintain the condition of an aircraft engine as per operator's requirement. Engine MRO overhaul work usually involves off- wing disassembly, inspection, repair and replacement of parts and re-assembly.

David Bradley of Magnetic MRO said: “At MMRO we offer multiple engine solutions to our customers and partners. Recently we have extended and grown our engine-leasing portfolio, including CFM56-3 and V2500,with the expansion into CFM56-7 product to follow.”

MMRO on-wing repair capabilities include boroblending, borescope inspections, NDT services and from October 2017 top case repairs.

“We also manage the complete repair process from initial shop tender, through to final invoice issued by the engine shop. We provide added service through our 100+ collective years of experience in this field,” said Bradley.

MRO efficiency tools

Magnetic MRO uses CribMaster (full automated RFID tool inventory system for issuing and returning the tools back to storage).

Magnetic MRO's facility and tooling manager MaksimKolesnik responds, “We use eye retina scanners and fingerprint readers to clock employee`s work timing, 3D printing of plastic interior parts to overcome long lead time parts supply, developing augmented reality tool to visualize customer look of an aircraft's external livery before the 

paint is applied.”

Non-Destructive Testing is a group of techniques to evaluate properties of a material or component without causing damage to it. Most frequently used NDT methods are Eddy Current, Ultrasonic, Radiography, Thermography, Fluorescent Penetrant, Magnetic Particle and also Visual inspections which are used depending of the inspection specimen material, area of the inspection orthe defects sought.

NDT can confirm a defect-free state of the inspected specimen and allow it to be utilized again.

“Within the Aviation/MRO software world, we are leading the pack as well, when it comes to innovation. We already have the first mover advantage of setting up the state-of-the-art MRO Lab in Singapore in partnership with Air France Industries KLM. We have already developed and deployed fully functional Mobility solution for mechanics, warehouse, part routing, approval, and more, which is currently running live at customer places . Also we are experimenting with wearables, BOTs, in- memory optimization engine, HoloLens, drones, and other cutting edge technology to bring innovation into the aviation MRO industry,” notes Jacob.

Frequent refurbished parts

Apart from everyday items like wheels and brakes, interior items, typically include the passenger seats and covers, seatbelts, carpets and interior lighting. It is the interior of the aircraft that passengers see and the condition of the passenger cabin has a direct reflection on the airline, and the maintenance provider, according to Magnetic MRO.

Deliverymodification phases

Every modification starts with planning, making sure the modification is applicable to the aircraft, what spares or materials are required to perform the modification and the amount of man hours and downtime required to perform the modification.

Once the above has been satisfied, and the required spares and downtime are available, the modification can be incorporated. Access is made (if any required) the changes or installation of the modification is then performed. This is then followed by any testing that maybe required and access closing (if any required). After successful testing and the aircraft returned  to normal configuration, the modification is certified and the aircraft records updated that the modification has been incorporated.

Training provided

Training has always been a very important part of Magnetic MRO's efficiency in the hangars and workplace. Good training always helps raise competent personnel faster and helps to avoid mistakes.

Magnetic MRO's training manager HaldiVanatoa said: “As EASA Part-145 approved organization, we need to do mandatory Human Factors, Fuel Tank Safety and Electrical Wiring Interconnection Systems, which we do ourselves in-house as classroom or online training. Of course, other aviation organizations and individuals also often demand these training. Recently we have opened our online Aircraft Type Continuation Training capability to other organization as well, which is a very cost-efficient way of solving continuation training in smaller MROs and other maintenance organizations.

“With Estonian Aviation Academy, we are starting apprenticeship program in 2 0 1 8 where apprentices get maintenance engineer's Basic Training in Academy while having their practical experience at Magnetic MRO. That helps them to learn faster by using theoretical knowledge in real maintenance environment.”

Apart from these, the company also organizes Aircraft Type Training on A320, B 737 CL/ NG and Bombardier CRJ 700/900/1000. As an EASA Part-147 approved training organization capable to t rain i ts and other company engineers.

Smart metering, Big Data and Internet of Things are the key to efficient resource distribution, more accurate TAT planning and thus, shorter customer's aircraft downtime.

“We organize training in Tallinn, Estonia and anywhere else in the world. Engineers who are not employed in line and base maintenance have specialized training. Our company capabilities have grown very fast and so has the training scope. Nowwe offer different workshop training such as escape slides, batteries, nose and main wheels and brakes training. We have an excellent instructor for practical and theoretical Sheet Metal training, which is available for different experience levels.

“As our engines team has grown, so has the ability and need to do training about engines. Engines are essential part of aircraft hence knowledge about how to monitor and maintain  them is very beneficial to cut cost for operators and necessary to ensure safe flight after maintenance visit. We have open courses and possibility to request a course in different location for GenFam and BSI on engine types CFM56 (all), V2500 and PW100.”

Will technology take over MRO services in the future?

Without doubt, the MRO market will keep growing, as the global fleet keeps expanding. However, with each year airlines are becoming more demanding towards their MRO providers – many carriers wish to decrease the number of vendors and prefer to cooperate with those which offer one-stop-shop type ofsupport.

Such support provides airlines and MROs more flexibility while negotiating financial and otherterms of cooperation. It also allows airlines to save human and other resource on handling multiple vendors.

Meantime, OEMs keep increasing their presence not only in the engine MRO, but airframe maintenance segments as well. This leads a tighter competition between MROs as well as with OEMs. At the same time, it means that many MROs will be seeking more joint programs with OEMs in order to get access to aftermarket support of next generation airplanes.

Juozas Lapeika, Deputy CEO for production management at FL Technics, denotes, “New generation aircraft will certainly impact the MRO segment, since new airplanes and engines will have longer maintenance intervals and thus have lowerdemand for shopvisits.

“At the same time, new generation aircraft as well as  their operators become smarter, more advanced with regards to IT solutions – all of which drives MRO providers to invest additional funds into upgrading their IT infrastructure and the qualification ofthe work force; with regard to using all the benefits ofnew ITsolutions (new gadget, Bid Data, new materials, etc.) and exploring more efficient business processes (e.g. LEAN).”

Smart metering, Big Data and Internet of Things are the key to efficient resource distribution, more accurate TATplanning and thus, shorter customer's aircraft downtime.

And though these technologies are still in progress of winning the industry's recognition, we  see that  in one or individual market players are making another way a certain progress, according to FLTechnics.

Lapeika continued, “However, MRO as an industry can achieve much more noticeable result and higher efficacy if all market players – from OEMs and suppliers to airlines – would engage in automated data  exchange  and synchronization,document digitalization and other related processes. In order for the MRO industry to benefit from Big Data/Internet of Things technologies, all stakeholders must have a more pro-activ e engagement. The industry also needs more exemplarycase studies.”

“Robots will not take over the labor extensive MRO work in the next decade. We will see a lot of new tools and gadgets coming around to  support improving efficiency. Eventually, it will still come down to the experience and attitude of an engineer – a tool will not complete the task without its operator. Once you have the basics right and right people on-board, then it will depend on the infrastructure and innovations around the individuals,” concludes CEO Risto Mäeots of Magnetic MRO.