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Maintenance

Open for business 2019

On 4 April, the first GEnx-2B engine was inducted into the new XEOS overhaul facility in Poland. Ian Harbison reports on the background to this joint venture
 

XEOS is a 51/49 joint venture between Lufthansa Technik and GE Aviation, based in the Legnica Special Economic Zone in Środa Śląska, near Wrocław in Poland. It will handle the GEnx-2B engine for the Boeing 747-8 and the GE9X engine for the Boeing 777X. The partners are investing about $267 million in the new 32,500m² facility.

 

Christian Seitler, Senior Director, New Overhaul Product Line & EIS Management Engine Services for Lufthansa Technik (and Senior Director at XEOS), says site selection drew on previous experience with N3, the joint venture with Rolls-Royce, based in Erfurt, Germany. This included financial assistance from national and local government, a highly skilled workforce from the automotive industry who could be retrained, and good road links to the airports where engines are likely to be delivered, especially as they are oversize loads.

 

Experience also showed that training is a serious bottleneck in trying to ramp up quickly, taking up to 15 months to qualify specialist technicians. In response, XEOS is working with the Wrocław Institute of Technology and local technical schools, the facility has its own learning centre and employees have been sent to Hamburg for on-the-job training. There are 10 Lufthansa Technik workscope specialists who will relocate and these have been under training for the last 18 months.

 

The shop layout at N3 has evolved over the years as engine models have changed and there has been growth. This will be reflected in the layout at XEOS, which will be optimised and fully Lean from the start.

 

The need for XEOS, he explains, is simply that GE Aviation capacity is stretched. Production rates are high and the MRO market for GEnx-1B, used on the Boeing 787, is also growing. By specialising in the -2B, which has a smaller pool of just over 150 aircraft ordered (of which Lufthansa operates 19, and most of which are freighters), customers should have availability when required. The facility will have full capability for the GEnx turbofan engine, including scheduled shop visits, power improvement programmes, performance restoration shop visits and the full overhaul work scope.

 

For the 777X (with 326 orders to date), the planned entry into service was supposed to be by the end of 2019, but the aircraft is yet to fly, and perhaps this is now in doubt given the other pressures on Boeing at the moment. This means there is a breathing space until the first engines show up for overhaul, although XEOS will be in a position to support GE9X engine operation from day one.

 

Lufthansa Technik started working on the GEnx-2B in 2012, when the parent airline received its first 747-8, and since then has built up a limited capability in Hamburg. Since 2015, it has been involved in the engine’s Quick Turn programme and will have dealt with 90 engines by the end of the year, achieving turnaround times of 50-55 days compared to the expected 85 days. Hamburg will still be involved in the programme, providing line maintenance and on-wing services.

 

It will also bring that experience to assisting potential customers during contract negotiations and it is here that an unusual aspect of the partnership shows up. Both will supply engines to XEOS under their own contract terms and conditions, as an MRO and an OEM respectively. These are two distinct business models, some might say contradictory, but the shop floor will be a neutral space. XEOS personnel will simply carry out the work on the job cards, with no regard to the contracting party. He says the difference is best shown by GE Aviation having one on-site representative while Lufthansa Technik will have the 10 workscope specialists mentioned above.

 

The facilities include a fully automatic cleaning line and a non-destructive testing area, where all removed parts will be measured and inspected in accordance with the OEM manual procedures. This will include measurement on a 3D computer-aided measurement machine (CMM), a fluorescent penetrant inspection (FPI) line and magnetic particle inspection (MPI).

 

As a joint venture of Lufthansa Technik and GE Aviation, XEOS is directly connected to GE's worldwide repair network and has direct access to the repair capabilities of Lufthansa. Using OEM approved tooling and equipment technology, the engine reassembly, with local, expertly trained and qualified assembly mechanics, will guarantee that the engines are rebuilt to the highest quality standards and in accordance with the OEM procedures. 

 

XEOS will also ramp up in-house repair capabilities from the outset to increase flexibility, reduce logistics costs and support the connected networks. CNC machines for milling, turning and grinding will be available at XEOS for dimensional repairs and to produce exact clearances between matching components in the assembly process. More complex repairs requiring source approval by the OEM will be added to the portfolio. XEOS will be equipped with plasma spray and HVOF equipment, for example, in order to carry out these repairs.

 

A test cell is planned but will not be ready from the start. Instead, initial operations will see engines being trucked to a GE Aviation test cell outside Poland.

 

As the engines age, Lufthansa Technik is more likely to develop repair schemes and introduce used serviceable material to bring down cost of ownership for its customers and so Hamburg will also become the materials source for the MRO’s engines in work at XEOS, managing the supply chain.

 

The different approach may also produce different turnaround times between the two sides, but this is of no concern as it is customer satisfaction that is the driver for everyone.

 

Thomas Richter, Director, Aerospace Industry Projects, adds that the MRO does have a greater focus on managing lifetime costs and ensuring a high time on wing, as well as managing end of lease conditions for customers. While there is plenty of collaboration on such things as joint repair schemes and best practices, the MRO’s EASA Part 21 Design Organisation Approval gives it a degree of freedom to go its own way.

 

At the same time, the partners have stressed that both will contribute their know-how and experience to the setting up of the new facility and will use the latest methods. Every employee will bear individual responsibility for his or her work within flat hierarchical structures under the leadership of a small management team.

 

The capacity offered by XEOS will be increased gradually over the coming years to up to 220 shop visits annually – this corresponds to a total working time of around 800,000 hours each year – handled by 600 employees.


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