Monarch's MRO arm bids to boost efficiency in Birmingham

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Monarch Aircraft Engineering (MAEL) is aiming not just to increase capacity with its newly built hangar in Birmingham, but also to make significant efficiency improvements.

The 10,200m² (110,000ft²) hangar at Birmingham airport can accommodate two Boeing 777-300ERs or up to 10 narrowbodies, and will be the UK-based MRO provider's third base maintenance facility after Luton and Manchester. It is due to open in November 2013.

Three or four maintenance lines will be established with new and existing clients in the facility from the beginning, says managing director Mick Adams.

UK regional operator Flybe - which last year contracted MAEL for line maintenance on Embraer 175s and 195 regional jets and Bombardier Q400 turboprops - will be a central customer with dedicated production lines in the new facility.

The hangar is also intended to improve workflow at MAEL's existing sites, however. The additional capacity will enable the MRO provider "to put far more intelligence behind planning [so] we can lean our production lines", says Adams.

Over recent years, MAEL has had to endure inefficiencies due to the mix of aircraft types and operators having different check requirements, he says: "That can be very problematic, particularly when you hit problems on a particular check that might impact [the schedule for] another client... With the additional capacity, we can stream lines to operators."

Instead of, for example, employing mobile work platforms for heavy checks - in hangar slots that might otherwise be used for light maintenance - MAEL wants to use permanent docking stations in dedicated bays.

Adams says that the MRO provider is installing state-of-the-art IT systems to plan and monitor the progress of maintenance projects. Meanwhile, work processes have been designed along a "no fetch" lean manufacturing philosophy whereby all tooling, material and spare parts are delivered to the aircraft so that engineers need not leave their workstations.

In its existing facilities, MAEL has started allocating different aircraft types to particular bays. It was thus able to cut the turnaround time for an Airbus A300 heavy check from 35 to 27 days.

With the additional capacity and increasing efficiency, however, the MRO provider will have to grow its business to avoid idle resources. MAEL registered revenues of around £82 million ($127 million) in 2012. This is to grow at least 50% by 2017, says Adams.