AFI KLM E&M is an impressive entity: 200 customers, nearly 2000 aircraft handled each year, four billion Euro annual turnover, 14 000 employees etc. And yet the Air France-KLM group's maintenance division has been able to maintain its agility and its capacity for innovation. For 24 years it has been encouraging its employees to implement their ideas to improve their working conditions and the MRO processes, but it will also be searching for innovation from outside, in particular from start-ups. "It is a strategy at the highest group level", explains Rodolphe Parisot, VP Digital and Innovation at AFI.
And while this strategy covers all domains, AFI KLM E&M has been able to channel and keep control of it: "We have reached maturity in innovation: we know what we're looking for, we know where to look for it and we know how to make selections", says Patrick Peureux, Innovation and integrated management system director.
The opening of the first FabLab in November, a new milestone in a tried and tested participatory innovation programme
On 15th and 16th October, AFI then KLM E&M both awarded their Innovation Trophies, a ceremony held in Paris and Amsterdam each year to reward the best ideas from operators in different domains (working environment, flight safety, economy, digital transformation, etc.). The goal is to encourage employees to "dare to jump in" without fear of failure. And it works: 4200 ideas were shared at AFI this year. KLM E&M has also been promoting "teaming", manager-less working sessions to encourage emulation.
AFI KLM E&M is also joining forces with start-ups, universities and factories to keep developing new solutions adapted to aviation maintenance. The entity is also increasingly adopting agile production, which is enabling it to move much more quickly and count feature development times in weeks rather than months. "Half of our IT subjects are produced in agile today. And we are also experimenting with design thinking. "
All innovations are grouped together under "the MRO Lab" brand. There is one in Paris and one in Amsterdam. To free up employees even more and remove the technical barriers which might hinder their initiative, AFI KLM E&M will be opening an MRO Lab Factory. "Each employee can come and prototype their idea, design or tooling at the Fab Lab, without conditions, whether it is a personal or professional idea. The aim is to lower technological barriers", explains Patrick Peureux. "A Fab Lab manager is there to manage, supervise and explain how the machines work". The first Fab Lab should be opening in Paris in November.
Major emphasis on digitalisation
The key tool to bear "The MRO Lab" stamp is Prognos, the predictive maintenance application developed by KLM E&M in 2016. The tool was initially operational on A380 fuel pumps, but has been enhanced and extended to other systems on the aircraft and other plane-type systems. It has just been launched on the A320 landing gear (start of October).
One other well-known innovation is the partnership with Donecle for dimensional checks by drones. The Toulouse company's solution has been industrialised on all Air France A320s since the end of September.
Several other tools are currently being developed, such as a 3D immersive training tool. This tool was presented two years ago for the Run-Up 787 training sessions, tested for eight months and approved by the OSAC. It has been in production for the last year at AFI KLM E&M - and enables plane and simulator access problems to be avoided and replaces a much more expensive tool. The solution should also be operational on the A320 by the end of the year (all engines, ceo and neo).
At the same time, KLM E&M has been developing a 787 platform which works as a forum where Dreamliner operators who are customer of AFI KLM E&M can highlight their problems and ask for advice to resolve them. It should be extended to the A350 later.
AFI KLM E&M is also working with Stahlwille on connected tools. Several Daptiq equipments are in proof of concept (POC) to determine the appetite for the technology and demonstrate the solution's advantages. The torque wrenches and screwdrivers which are being tested guide identification of the bolts to be tightened and the force to be applied. They also record the operations carried out, which enables reports to be published more quickly.
Cobotics is also an area of interest to AFI KLM E&M, which is producing a benchmark with Naval Group on this subject.