European maintenance service providers have to deal with an enormous financial pressure. Competitive carriers focus intensively on low costs of repair services and materials while retaining consistent parts and service quality. The maintenance of complex components such as engines (responsible for more than 43 % of all MRO component costs) still takes place at nearly a 100% in Europe. On the one hand, one needs highly qualified staff, experience and expert knowledge, on the other hand, the ratio of labour costs towards material costs is smaller on complex parts. But for European MRO providers the danger of further displacement still endures.
To face this danger one has to keep and expand the advance through mastery of knowledge and technological lead. Based on the effort of the producers to reduce quantity and variety of components, multiple functions will inevitably be merged in complex components, whose maintenance could be taken over by technological leading MRO providers. For cost optimised work, one has to decide specifically if each component has to be replaced or could be reworked or recreated. Crucial in this choice is a high practical knowledge about components, material and manufacturing processes. If the costs for the production and the overhaul of complex components were considerably reduced, the decision would automatically be postponed from “buy” to “make”.
A particular prospective benefit is promised by the innovative Additive Manufacturing (AM) technology. Towards the conventional production of components with a high amount of cutting processes, AM processes (aka. 3D-printing or Direct Manufacturing) construct the components layerwise, even in repair operations. It follows a considerably lower buy to fly ratio of material costs, an omission of harmful chemicals (e.g. cutting oil) and constant manufacturing efforts at an increasing complexity (single piece assembly). Further improvements of the technology concerning the processing time, accuracy and costs are foreseeable. However, a holistic integration in the MRO processes is not yet researched.
RepAIR envisages to use the flexible availableness (even at the gate) allowing on-time maintenance. Through a higher level of automation and fewer stages of production, less personal costs are necessary reducing MRO costs. These operations require a higher qualification and promote the preservation and expansion of highly qualified workplaces in Europe. Moreover, the storage costs will be significantly reduced. As only raw material needs to be stored less capital is locked up. Additionally, hardly any energy-intensively produced raw material will be wasted, but used optimally. When looking ahead, the aid of AM allows shortening the entire spare parts supply chain to sending an e-mail. The benefit for all those involved, including the environment, is obvious. New business models will become sustainable. At the very end, the aim of the project is the shift from the “make” or “buy” decision towards the “make” by cost reduction in the remake and rework of spare parts.
Description of work
At first, the conventional MRO process for spare parts will be analysed in detail to get special insights in requirements on an enhanced MRO using AM. Then several activities lead to the enhanced MRO process (topmost layer). To get the highest benefit out of the process, two different levels of automation in every step of the MRO production are considered. Option A represents the introduction phase of the concept whilst Option B leads to the fully established process. As the quality requirements play a crucial role in every task and all tasks produce relevant documentation for the further certification, these issues will be treated in parallel to the production layer. The lowermost layer represents the cross cutting issues of costs, supply chain and the new workflows with special attention to IT support: An exact pre-calculation is crucial for a correct “make” or “buy” decision; therefore, a decision support tool and a production planning and control system will support the cost calculation for both alternatives, the provision of correct advice and management of the enhanced MRO production process.
RepAIR will reduce MRO costs of complex spare parts by 30% and the turnaround time by 20% through the use of a combination of innovative technologies. For that reason it is essential to increase the technology readiness level (TRL) of innovative repair processes for ATT to level 4 focusing on the AM. Due to an integrated quality control and process data monitoring the holistic approach aims at designing new processes to decrease certification effort for additively manufactured AAT spare parts in terms of cost and time. The integration of the production and supply chain will help to increase the automation level for spare parts production by 20%. RepAIR will take “greening” aspects into account: The project envisages to reduce scrap and toxic chemicals in the repair process by 80% and part weight by min 20%. This is also supported by integrating continuous health management and usage based prognostics to reduce inspection time by 30%.
All of these results will strengthen the business model of European MRO service provider in the world by integrating a complete production and supply chain for complex spare parts. The holistic and sustainable approach of the RepAIR project implies to research on the prediction of costs and future possibilities of AM technologies for MRO in 2020.