| Asia is undoubtedly the most promising region for the commercial aircraft maintenance market over the next few decades. Just a few days before MRO Europe conference and exhibition held in London, Le Journal de l'Aviation took advantage of MRO Asia-Pacific in Singapore to talk to Sabena technics, a major MRO "pure player" based in the heart of the region.
Philippe Delisle, president of Sabena technics DNR, Frédéric Dumont, president of Sabena technics Singapore and Thibaut Campion, CEO of Singapore Component Solutions (SCS), share their experience about the real trends and opportunities provided by Asia today. This meeting also enabled us to look back on three years of activity to the day for the Seletar component repair centre, which has been a joint enterprise with AFI KLM E&M since last year.
"The growth in Asia, which we saw at between 5 and 6 percent in terms of number of passengers transported, has slowed down slightly over the last few years to 4.5 percent today", observes Philippe Delisle, the president of Sabena technics DNR, stating though that Asia is still undoubtedly one of the most promising markets in the world, particularly for South East Asia, China and India. He also recognises that in the pure MRO market, all the major companies involved have now set up in South East Asia to be close to customers in a well-established market. "But there is quite stiff competition and while it is certainly not an easy market, it is a growing market with relatively recent fleets which haven't reached maturity yet", he explains to us.
Philippe Delisle also explains to us that as these aircraft start to look to MROs, problems surrounding the lack of labour will also appear, a little less in South East Asia, but a trend which is "already very clear in China". "It is a challenging region and competition is tough", he recognises. He also observes that OEMs are also particularly present in the region and they are continuing to develop their services. "We are positioning ourselves in opposition to OEMs by providing different solutions, with flexibility that they don't have, with a range of different repairs. There is major competition between OEMs and MROs and between MROs", he continues.
Philippe Delisle also explained to us that the maintenance logic in Asia is very different to what we can find in the United States for example, with mass development of PMA parts or DER repairs. "We are operating within a logic which involves offering very high level quality services, for example by building on favoured OEMs and becoming their approved maintenance station in the region. We are really working in this process, but what's more, we provide a different service, by paying close attention to what customers say about reducing TAT and controlling costs", he emphasised. And he added: "It is a highly structured market and we need to seek performance, flexibility and high added value solutions to stand out from the crown and continue our development in the region".
The Singapore joint enterprise between Sabena technics and AFI KLM E&M is continuing its development
Just three years after being certified by the EASA and starting its activities, Singapore Component Solutions (SCS) is still demonstrating very high growth. The Sabena technics and AFI KLM E&M joint venture based in Seletar has seen the surface area of its facilities more than triple, from 1200 to 4500 m2 today, with nearly 60 employees.
"We have now opened just under 85% of our forecast capabilities," states Philippe Delisle, reminding us that the component repair centre's scope extends from India to Japan, via Mongolia, China, Australia and Tahiti, ultimately the entire Asia Pacific region as a whole.
Thibaut Campion, CEO of SCS told us that the repair shop has developed its capabilities on nearly 220 product families, to which around twenty more will be added by the end of the year. "We are across all aircraft technologies for the A320/A330 and ATR families, with a few references also on the Fokker 100 and the Q400", he specifies. SCS has also just opened a new shop dedicated to heat exchangers and another one which specialises in "oxygen" equipment, for both masks and bottles. "What's very interesting in Singapore too is that we have also managed to develop capabilities that we didn't have in Europe", says Philippe Delisle.
In terms of volume, the number of repairs will reach 3500 components this year, compared to 3000 in 2018, with the objective of passing 4000 repairs from next year. "But we will only see this growth with performance and price, and that's the trademark that we want to impose in the region", warns Frédéric Dumont, the president of Sabena technics Singapore.
He also underlined that SCS now has 10 certificates which cover Europe, the United States and much of the Asia Pacific region. Philippe Delisle also remembered that the EASA golden ticket was obtained in just eight months and that SCS was the first to obtain the dual EASA/FAA certification in Singapore. But Frédéric Dumont also revealed to us that SCS is currently working to obtain Chinese approval. "This is a market that we'll be able to open very quickly", says Frédéric Dumont.
As to whether the agreements signed last June between the Singaporean authorities (CAAS) and the Chines authorities (CAAC) will have a favourable impact, he is convinced of it and says that to encourage the development of Singaporean companies numerous bilateral agreements have been signed, especially inspection sub-contracting agreements. "For example, for us, the FAA doesn't come and audit us directly, it's the CAAS which does it, which is a very recent development which enables us to save costs and increase effectiveness", he explains to us, welcoming the work by the Singapore government to facilitate the rise in the maintenance sector in the island State. "This is a real advantage", he concludes.