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Maintenance

Power train

EPCOR is the APU specialist within the AFI KLM E&M group of companies. Ian Harbison reports from Amsterdam
 

Established in 2000 as a joint venture between KLM E&M and Hamilton Standard, EPCOR dealt with the maintenance of pneumatic components. Five years later, it became a wholly owned subsidiary of KLM, before entering the APU business in 2006. EPCOR Managing Director, Romain Helmer, says the facility has just added its seventh APU type: the Hamilton Sundstrand APS5000 for the Boeing 787. This joins the Hamilton Sundstrand APS2300 (Embraer E-Jet family) and APS3200 (Airbus A320 Family), as well as the Honeywell GTCP 131-9A (Airbus A320 Family), GTCP 131-9B (Boeing 737NG), GTCP 331-350 (Airbus A330/340) and GTCP 331-500 (Boeing 777).

 

One of the company’s strengths, he says, is that it is an OEM-approved warranty repair station for each model. Another is that it has the support of not just the nearby KLM E&M engine shop (especially for repair development), but also the Group sales force. As a result, 65% of the workload is for third-party customers, with the remainder being Air France, KLM, KLM Cityhopper and Transavia. He adds that the third-party workload is also increasing by a few percentage points each year. In total, annual throughput is over 100 units.

 

The APS5000 is already providing work for EPCOR as it is helping Hamilton Sundstrand with an upgrade programme to overcome some early operational issues, as well as carrying out warranty repair work. In addition, it has support contracts with LOT, Royal Brunei and Virgin Atlantic. Importantly, these contracts have been won as part of much wider component support services agreements and he hopes that more of these will come along in the future. As this APU is larger and more powerful than the others, a second test cell, supplied by CEL Aerospace, will come on line at the end of the year.

 

As APUs are removed on condition, it can be difficult to maintain a steady shop loading. The company is now looking at trend monitoring, with a pilot project running with Air France, KLM Cityhopper and Transavia. This uses the APU’s Data Memory Module and includes exhaust gas temperature, running time and oil temperature. By monitoring fluctuations it is hoped that an early warning system can be developed for various faults, so that on-wing maintenance recommendations can be made to improve in-field reliability and predict the expected lifetime of an APU in relation to its operating environment.

 

EPCOR has always been very strong on Lean Six Sigma and the addition of the APS5000 has provided the opportunity to redesign the shop layout to have six cells. These are not allocated by APU type and are used for disassembly, maintenance and reassembly. Anything on the shop floor that is not necessary to the current work is relocated outside the cells. If removed components are serviceable, they are stored until needed again, while unserviceable items go to the workshops. While the new layout can produce improvements to turnaround times, Helmer says there needs to be a balance by spreading the workload to compensate for vacant slots. A turnaround time that meets or exceeds customer expectations is always necessary but, if that can be kept stable, it produces better quality results.

 

Lean training for new employees includes a visit to a Scania truck facility (deliberately chosen as non-aviation), plus a two-day course within six months of joining. Some of the 120 employees have become real specialists through taking part in the Moonshine project. This involves six or seven people who meet every Thursday (a big investment, says Helmer) to examine ways of improving processes and equipment anywhere in the facility, operating outside any departmental boundaries. If something is found, and there have been several good ideas, then fast and inexpensive prototyping is used to develop and prove the concept, prior to full implementation. The company’s Lean experience has also been examined by a non-aviation-related concern when medical personnel looked at the use of checklists to carry out procedures.

 

The original components business has not been forgotten and EPCOR retains a specialisation in air cycle machines for the Boeing 737NG, 747-400, 777 and Embraer E-Jets; leading edge flap drive units; high flow and low flow pneumatic valves for the 737, 747, 777 and McDonnell Douglas MD-11; and air turbine starters for the 737 and 747. A whole range of test equipment comes with this, some of it specific to certain components, such as the 777 air cycle machine, the 747 leading edge flap drive unit, and the high flow valves.

 

Even more so than with APUs, much of the work comes from wider service agreements negotiated at Group level.


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