It is a big operation to support complex power generation components, says Fokker Services’ director operations EMEA Dirk Hanenberg, who shares here the key ingredient that has allowed the company’s maintenance shop to evolve into one of the biggest in Europe in this area
[This article first appeared in the December 2021 issue of MRO Management]
Our power generation MRO journey started 25 years ago. It was 1996, the year Fokker Aircraft closed its doors and Fokker Services was established. With this change, we transitioned from aircraft manufacturer to a total services company. It was a new era, but of course our OEM knowledge and various pieces of technology remained.
One particular piece of equipment was a test stand that was originally used to run power switch simulations and tests for Fokker 100 prototypes. A couple of years later, our teams saw this test stand with a fresh perspective: how can we repurpose this technology? How can we innovate? This wave of inspiration was the first step in developing in-house maintenance capabilities for power generation components at our facility in Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in the Netherlands.
The team started small. Two colleagues took on cross-functional roles as technicians, testers, researchers and capability developers to explore the possibilities. We started off by providing support for Fokker aircraft as part of our ‘ABACUS’ exchange programme. In 2000, a new test stand arrived at our shop, and from there our in-house capabilities continued to grow and evolve. We branched out in 2008 with the first non-Fokker capability with Airbus A320 classic integrated drive generators (IDGs). Next up were IDGs for the Boeing 737NG. Our big break came in 2014, when we started to provide IDG MRO support for a particularly large commercial operator. This was the catalyst for more investment, more technology and more space for our technicians.
Fast-forward to today and our dedicated power generation facility is one of the largest independent shops in Europe. Our capabilities cover a range of major commercial and defence platforms, such as Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed Martin and, of course, Fokker. With in-house capabilities for IDGs, constant speed drives (CSDs), starters and generators, and more, our technicians now provide component maintenance support to more than 200 operators.
To provide highly reliable solutions, leveraging the latest technology is crucial. That’s why we brought equipment in-house and invested in two generator test stands, which offer uninterrupted testing and quality that goes beyond CMM requirements, as well as a fully automated electric test stand, which reduces the touch time so we can quickly share the best repair recommendation.
Improving availability and turnaround times is our on-site OEM consignment stock, large inventory of pool parts and forward exchanges. Needless to say, it’s our highly skilled technicians who deliver the best repairs to our customers, and specialise in each individual MRO service.
As we look to the future and how we will approach power generation repairs, we first need to examine how Covid-19 impacted our industry. When aircraft were parked during the height of the pandemic, many airlines interchanged components across their fleet. This meant using their grounded fleet as a source for ‘back up’ units, installing components that were in the best condition onto the limited aircraft still in operation. However, borders are now reopening and there is an increase in air traffic. We all see progress and signs of recovery, and components in parked aircraft will need MRO support again. We are preparing for this increased demand for serviceable units by stocking up on additional pool parts, such as rotors, and optimising processes to improve turnaround times. Our aim is to preserve our on-time, high-quality deliveries.
In addition, we know that IDGs have always been a major cost driver. These are complex products that require special repairs. Covid-19 hasn’t changed this fact, but now more than ever our focus is on ensuring our pricing is right for customers while maintaining top reliability. Our in-house capabilities, used serviceable parts and fully approved minor repairs all help to provide options at different costs, but we need to continue to listen to our customers so we can provide tailor-made solutions that perfectly fit their needs. Each operator has different concerns and goals, so keeping transparent lines of communication open is crucial.
It’s been an incredible journey so far with our power generation repairs. As we move forward, we will always search for new ways to go the extra mile, from improving our capabilities and investing in new technology to ultimately increasing the quality of our services. For example, we are currently in the process of adding new technology that will improve line replaceable unit (LRU) reliability and reduce the potential for human error.
However, it’s the way that we achieve our goals that defines us. It’s the key ingredient to our success that will never change: our curiosity. If we see an opportunity, we take it. If a customer approaches us with a specific challenge, we investigate the root cause. If a unique solution is needed, we explore the possibilities. We know how to nurture great ideas, it’s part of our DNA and it’s how we have built our well-established power generation shop over the past 25 years. Let’s see what the next 25 years bring but, whatever we are faced with, we are ready to adapt, innovate and embrace change