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Handle with care

Products designed by Semmco usually feature elegant engineering, making them efficient and easy to use

At the time of MRO Management’s visit to the Semmco facility near Woking, the assembly area was dominated by a large inspection stand destined for a Rolls-Royce facility in Germany. It had been constructed in several sections, which could be manoeuvred around a Trent engine to provide a safe and stable platform for technicians to carry out their work. In addition, the platform was powered so it could be raised or lowered to the optimum height for the area of the engine under inspection. 


This smart design and adaptive approach has aided the company’s growth over the last 20 years, becoming a business known for its stands and access platforms for aircraft, helicopters, rail and motor vehicles, aircraft ground support equipment (GSE), and emergency breathing apparatus. The aviation sector, in its various forms, accounts for most of the turnover, while exports represent 27% of sales across the entire range, says Stuart McOnie, Managing Director. 


Many of the designs use similar materials. The mobile frames and platforms are constructed from aluminium, making them light enough to be easily manoeuvred to suit varied maintenance requirements. Every level surface has a mix of untextured and anti-skid aluminium surfaces, allowing for careful positioning by personnel according to the work to be carried out. Every staircase has yellow markings across the top and bottom steps to show the length of the stair, and all safety barriers and gates are painted red. Sliding panels with padded edges are positioned so that they do not touch the aircraft or leave enough room for someone to fall through the gap. 


As a result, the company has been able to produce items to suit a wide range of aircraft types, but McOnie has decided that there needs to be some rationalisation in the product line, and the focus will now be on the Airbus A320 Family, A330 and A350 and the Boeing 777 and 787. Although he has sold equipment for the 737, he points out that the aircraft is lower to the ground and requires less specialised GSE. 


Similarly, large tail dock projects such as the one at built at Heathrow in 2008 for bmi (now used by British Airways) have also been put on the backburner although adjustable wing docking for the new core types are of interest. 


Another push is for turnkey projects. Last year, easyJet opened a line maintenance hangar at Gatwick, which features a wide range of Semmco equipment, from stands and access platforms to oxygen, nitrogen carts and a mobile nose dock for access to the cockpit windows. Similar projects have included a new A330/787 line maintenance station for Virgin Atlantic Airways at Birmingham, UK, which required nitrogen and oxygen trolleys, various steps, wheel and brake servicing trailer. WOW air, the Icelandic low cost carrier, is in the process of taking delivery of a similar package. In a variation, the company supplied Thomson with a range of equipment for its Luton hangar on a five-year lease deal, including maintenance, which is another business model he is keen to pursue.


Additional access platforms have been supplied to another Rolls-Royce engine facility, the London Heathrow Service Centre.


British Airways has been a long-standing customer and the two companies work together on occasion to develop products. When the 787 was introduced, it was found that the main wheels on the aircraft were larger than other types and also heavy at 200kg with brakes installed. The increase in size meant that two wheel movers could no longer fit inside the wheel and brake changer trailer that was being used. A joint effort produced a revised design that featured careful sculpting of the side supports of the wheel mover
to reduce the size to fit. 


Returning to clever design, the latest products are SMARTcharge and SMARTcheck, which uses commercially available items modified for aviation needs. SMARTcharge is a tyre inflater for use with the Nitrogen SMART Trolley. It features a digital display that can show psi or bar and is backlit for use at night or under an aircraft. It also has a safety release valve in case the technician accidentally tries to use 3,500psi to inflate the tyre instead of 280psi. SMARTcheck has the same backlit display but freezes the pressure reading for 30 seconds, allowing the technician to step away to read it with ease. 


The company has expanded its international presence with the establishment of a maintenance and assembly facility in Dubai. Products manufactured in the UK are shipped to Dubai, flat-packed, before being assembled,quality checked and delivered to the customer. In addition, sales and maintenance engineers from the UK will be based at the Dubai facility. Local customers include Emirates, Etihad and flydubai. 


It also has signed a cooperation agreement with FL Technics. The Lithuanian MRO will exclusively supply Semmco’s products in Asia (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal and the Philippines) and Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia) as well as acting as the company’s agent and reseller in Russia and the CIS region.

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