In Środa Śląska, outside of Wroclaw, Poland, a massive facility encompassing over 35,000-square-meters emblazoned with a giant shimmering X has opened for business and is already making aviation industrial history.
That’s because GE Aviation and Lufthansa Technik have teamed up to form the joint venture XEOS, which this April did something never done before in GE’s network of Services shops—induct a GEnx-2B engine for overhaul in a plant designed and built new with the latest technology and efficient work practices.
“XEOS combines the operational knowledge and expertise of a world-leading airline’s service division like Lufthansa Technik, from one side, with design and manufacturing capabilities and excellence of a global OEM like GE Aviation,” said Thomas Boettger, CEO of XEOS. “It is a work scope from which the airline itself, Lufthansa, but also GE Aviation customers, can all benefit.”
XEOS has started performing maintenance on GEnx-2B engines and will welcome GE9X engines after the GE9X enters service in 2020. The opening of the $267 million (USD) facility in Poland comes nearly four years after GE Aviation and Lufthansa first announced plans for XEOS at the 2015 Paris Air Show.
“What we’re really excited about is, we started with a blank slate for the layout of the shop and we brought in some experienced folks from the GE and Lufthansa MRO organizations, and said, ‘What would we think would be the ideal lean layout that would allow us to put everything we want from a brilliant factory standpoint into this and get the most productivity out?’” said Steve Subit, Director of MRO Program Management for Aftermarket Solutions, part of GE Aviation Services.
The renewal of the commercial engine portfolio—introducing GE Aviation’s GEnx turbofan in 2011 and the next great engine, GE9X—is growing the global base of planes with GE and CFM International* engines installed. Engines are also being removed for repairs and overhauls less often. The combination of a growing installed base and longer time-on-wing has held engine shop visits steady over the last decade or so.
Now, a growing number of these commercial engines are coming due for service, leading to an expected increase in shop visits.
“Over the next 10 to 15 years, we anticipate the number of shop visits per year to be in a phase of expansion. Worldwide shop visits for GE and CFM products could double in this time frame,” said Russell Vehorn, Director of Materials and MRO Strategy for GE Aviation’s Aftermarket Solutions.
The XEOS shareholders (Lufthansa Technik and GE Aviation) act as the company’s only customers; Lufthansa Technik will bring engines from the Deutsche Lufthansa fleet, and the GE Aviation Services team will bring offload engines from its contracted customers. “We even hope to serve all operators of Boeing 747-8 aircraft,” Boettger added.
As of now, XEOS employs about 250 people and is targeted to grow personnel to 600 by 2023. This road map goes along with the workload forecasts of up to 30 engines serviced this year, growing progressively to 100 engines serviced by 2021, and up to 200 to 250 engines a year in 2023.
By spring 2021, construction on a brand-new test cell to accommodate the GEnx-2B, as well as the GE9X engine, will be completed and add a new capability on-site.
“The core of our operations lays over 19,000-square-meters, and what we’re particularly proud of is our lean U-shaped flow line,” said Stefan Schmuck, COO at XEOS, who spent 14 years at Lufthansa Technik and has worked since 2015 at GE Aviation in Germany as a Plant Leader.
From the engine’s arrival and induction to when it is disassembled, every single component and module follows the “Gated” process, which organizes MRO operations into work stations.
“This unique flow shape for a maintenance shop allows XEOS to be very flexible because we can share tools and mechanics can be exchanged easily between assembly and disassembly,” Schmuck said.
Plans for engine turnaround time are ambitious, as the XEOS team has targeted 85 days from engine arrival until delivery back to the airline or operator. But the team in Środa Śląska can also count on digitally-enabled solutions to reach these goals. The “Gated concept” is supported with a digital infrastructure that interacts with several IT tools and software, as well as equipment and hardware that have been set up with sensors on the shop floor. “All in all, short distances and lean and digitally-enabled flow,” Schmuck said.
Collaboration between Lufthansa Technik and GE Aviation locations, especially those nearby in Europe, is key for training shop operators and engineers.
“There is experience, best practices, and also many commonalities that we’re going to share across the European network,” Schmuck said, noting in particular knowledge-sharing with GE Aviation’s Caledonian overhaul site and GE’s Engineering Design Center, also in Poland.
*CFM International is a 50/50 joint company between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines.