No two engines are alike. They all differ with respect to their type, age and the conditions under which they have operated. Accordingly, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to maintenance. The extent of disassembly and repair is always different—as are customer requirements. And all the while, maintenance operations demand rapid turnaround times and punctual delivery.
“What this means is that our production system must be both flexible and stable,” says Oliver Weller. Weller is an industrial engineer with a specialty in production management and is a trainee in production planning and management at MTU Maintenance. During his studies, Weller analyzed production systems in the automotive industry. “The processes involved in engine maintenance are more complex,” he says, “the reason being that the workscope agreed with the customer is different for each engine.”
Is it a complete engine, modules or individual components to be repaired? Is the engine coming in for a regular shop check-up or was it damaged in an unforeseen incident? Before disassembly has even begun, the engine is examined for hidden damage using borescoping. “If our specialists discover anything out of the ordinary, our customer managers can quickly get in touch with the customer and adapt the workscope as necessary,” says Weller. “That allows us to better plan and manage the shop visit.”
Then there’s the question of capacity: How many employees with what qualifications are needed for this engine type? What tools are needed? What materials and replacement parts? Do individual components need to be sent to external suppliers for repair? “Our biggest challenge is keeping capacity in the shop consistently high so as to guarantee a stable process,” says Weller.
All operations and processes are clearly defined. The MTU locations in Hannover and Ludwigsfelde have introduced a production and management system that combines the specific requirements of each individual engine with coordinated, assembly line workflows in the shop and in the supply chain. “It’s what customers expect. Ultimately the goal is to get the engine back on wing as quickly as possible so that the aircraft can return to operation.”
Nevertheless, there are situations that call for flexibility. Weller recalls an example: “The workscope in this assignment was to partially disassemble the high-pressure compressor. However, during the inspection our experts uncovered further damage to the component. The workscope was extended in consultation with the customer and we had to react to that in production management.”
The process is managed and monitored using integrated IT management systems that coordinate all measures and monitor progress. All deadlines and milestones are planned out from the moment the engine arrives at the shop. Another key to success is the ongoing consultation among all the departments involved. “Right at the start of my traineeship I got an insight into just how complex the processes are when there are more than 30 interfaces, all of which I had to get to know,” recalls Weller.
Every detail counts. “To be able to plan and manage in the most effective way possible, we need to know the manufacturing processes as well,” explains Weller. “That way it’s easier to spot where in the process things could get tight.” He also gained insights and mastered new tasks in disassembly and work planning. “That really honed my sense for what events incur what costs—for instance defective goods in production or when a component is processed for a second time.”
In each assignment, Weller worked independently on his own project. At MTU Maintenance Zhuhai in China, he was tasked with optimizing a process to ensure that parts sent to external suppliers for processing return on time for assembly. “The emphasis was on internal production processes,” he says. Together with a team of ten others, he found the solution: Critical components were identified so that they could be positioned earlier in the report and processed as a priority. “I was impressed with how results-driven the team was and by how receptive everyone was to the new project,” he says looking back.
Weller is now back in Hanover. His traineeship comes to an end in late summer 2016, when he will begin work in production planning and management. “Besides my fascination with the high-tech product that is an engine, that was one of the key reasons for starting as an MTU trainee. I knew where I was going to end up.”
Inside MTU JET—MTU’s trainee program
JET is a junior position and trainee program that MTU offers at all its locations in Germany. It is aimed at graduates and young professionals with an outstanding track record. Trainee positions are advertised for specific areas, meaning that applicants know from the very beginning where they will be placed after they complete the 18-month program. Trainees benefit from an individual training program that includes placements at the interfaces where they will work in the future, and receive expert, methodical and personal training. Accompanying JET qualification sessions offer trainees the chance to build their network and share experience.