By Addi Faiz Adnan, Head of Business Development Strand Aerospace Malaysia Sdn Bhd
The inaugural National Aerospace Industry Blueprint was launched in 1997 at LIMA by the then- Prime Minister of Malaysia as Chairman of the Malaysian Aerospace Council
The current Scenario The inaugural National Aerospace Industry Blueprint was launched in 1997 at LIMA by the then- Prime Minister of Malaysia as Chairman of the Malaysian Aerospace Council, the national level steering body that charts the direction for the development of the aerospace industry. This year marks the culmination of the objectives set out in the National Aerospace Blueprint (v1.0) for Malaysia to be a global player in the aerospace industry in the following verticals:
- Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO)
- Systems Integration
- Training Education
Today, Malaysia is a key element in the global aerospace supply chain. CTRM is the fifth largest supplier of composite structures globally for Airbus and manufactures wing components for flagship aircraft development programs like the A380 and the new A350XWB. Spirit Aerosystems Malaysia is a key component supplier and assembler for Airbus and is also among the largest aircraft component manufacturers in the world. Strand Aerospace Malaysia (Strand) provides pure-play engineering services to the aerospace industry (and beyond). Strand’s work is focused on design and structural analysis and is the only company of its kind in Malaysia providing pure-play engineering services to global Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).
Malaysia is also fast becoming an aerospace hub for OEMs for the region, with the nexus being the new Asia Aerospace City development in Subang. In 2013, it was announced that Airbus would further develop its presence in Malaysia by expanding its joint-venture maintenance unit, Sepang Aircraft Engineering (SAE), and setting up its new wholly-owned Airbus Customer Services Centre adjacent to the SAE facility at KLIA. Messier-Bugatti-Dowty (Safran) the world’s leading supplier of carbon brakes for commercial airplanes, opened their new carbon disc brake factory in Sendayan, Negeri Sembilan this year. The factory aims to produce carbon disc brakes for 20% of the global market, covering single aisle aircraft (Boeing 737 and Airbus A320).
“Malaysia is also fast becoming an aerospace hub for OEMs for the region, with the nexus being the new Asia Aerospace city development in Subang.”
The next national Aerospace Blueprint : Adding the Fifth vertical
As we embark on the next phase of the National Aerospace Blueprint (2015-2030), the focus will now be to capitalise on the emerging technologies in materials, processes and methods so as to remain competitive and, more importantly, relevant when the next generation aircraft is launched in the next decade. Key to this will not only be a strong and technologically driven manufacturing and MRO industry (downstream activities) as well as highly-skilled human capital, but also increasingly being at the fore-front of the product development and design itself from the onset.
“Engineering Services, or sometimes referred to as PurePlay Engineering, comprises a myriad of consulting, engineering and analytical services to support and solve complex issues and problems that arise in today’s global supply chain environment.”
Commercial aircraft development programs can take up to ten years before metal is cut, i.e. before component production begins. It is during this stage that tacit knowledge of the product is developed, covering not only its inherent design, strength justifiation and certifiation, but also methods and processes for the component’s manufacture and assembly, including even the maintenance and repair manuals that are used by the airlines and operators. Therefore for Malaysia to be an integral cornerstone of the next generation aircraft supply chain (as per the new National Aerospace Blueprint (v2.0)), it is paramount that Malaysian industry is prevalent across the complete engineering design lifecycle of the aircraft. As such, a fith vertical has been added to the National Aerospace Industry Blueprint 2030 – Engineering Services.
Design and Engineering Services
By 2020, the global engineering services industry is forecasted to grow up to RM3 trillion. In Malaysia, pure-play engineering companies could be generating up to RM3.5 billion at the same time. Up to 11,500 jobs are projected to be created by 2020 in pure-play engineering, mostly in high income and in high-value engineering sectors like aerospace, where Strand Aerospace Malaysia is spear-heading this growth via Entry Point Project 5 (EPP5) as part of the national Economic Transformation Program (ETP) under the Business Services National Key Economic Areas (NKEA).
Engineering Services, or sometimes referred to as Pure-Play Engineering, comprises a myriad of consulting, engineering and analytical services to support and solve the complex issues and problems that arise in today’s global supply chain environment. Its activities cut across the full product lifecycle spectrum and involve multiple engineering disciplines from mechanical, electrical, civil to highly specialised areas such as aerospace engineering.
Engineering Services in the development of commercial Aircraft
Before a commercial aircraft is formally launched to the market for airlines and operators, significant amount of effort (and money) is spent by aircraft OEMs to understand the market segment that this new aircraft will serve, as this will ultimately lead to the number of aircraft that can be sold. An example is when Airbus decided to launch the A380 super-jumbo in the 1990s (initially dubbed the A3XX). The A3XX aimed to tap into the 500 and above seat market, using the latest technological advances, lower fuel-burn and emissions and more range, while at the same time improving comfort of passengers of its nearest competitor. At that time the reigning ‘queen of the skies’ was the Boeing 747 which had been dominating the large twin-aisle aircraft segment since the 1960s. Some of the early interesting concepts of the A3XX included a single deck aircraft which would have seated 12 abreast with twin vertical tail planes. Many more concept or trade studies were conducted, leading to the final configuration of the current twin-deck A380 which formally entered service in 2007; all involving engineering services to determine the optimal configuration (overall) and aircraft concept (preliminary design) covering multiple disciplines including (but not limited to) aerodynamics, requirements engineering, systems architecture and structural analysis.
At the end of the preliminary (concept, market and development) phase, the major components and interfaces (at aircraft level) such as the overall wing shape and the number of primary moveable surfaces (flaps, spoilers, ailerons) including the main materials to be used are frozen.
Next, the detailed design phase begins. The engineering teams begin to mature the concept leading up to a final design. At component or assembly level, this involved detailing the individual elements (thicknesses, lengths, heights, etc.) for each component. The design process is iterative by nature, owing to the constant changes (or loops) in order to optimised design. In the case of a wing, it not only has to be strong (to carry the loads generated during take-off, flght and landing) but also lightweight (to save fuel) while still has the flxibility to bend or twist. It is during this detailed design phase that the bulk of the engineering development work is performed, involving engineering disciplines including, but not limited to, stress analysis, fatigue and damage tolerance, fiite element analysis, computer aided design (CAD e.g. CATIA based activities), manufacturing engineering and systems engineering to name a few. Ironically, some of the design engineers in the supply chain are often working for years on end to develop a wing component that will eventually be made and fited onto the aircraft, but never actually see or handle the component itself.
Once the component design is finalised, the drawing is then released to the manufacturer. However, the manufacturing process actually begins much earlier, i.e. during the design phase when the material is chosen and its ability to be manufactured and/or assembled as the finished article is included as part of the design consideration. During the manufacturing process itself, engineering services elements are present, even in the component factory or final assembly line. For example, in CAD-CAM (Computer Aided Design – Computer Aided Manufacturing) for Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines, design and engineering of jigs and tooling, Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T) to Material Review Board (MRB) activities involving shop floor concessions. Once the aircraft undergoes final assembly, it is then fitted with interiors, systems and painted before undergoing flight tests.
“it is during this detailed design phase that the bulk of the engineering development work is performed, involving engineering disciplines including, but not limited to, stress analysis, fatigue and damage tolerance, finite element analysis, computer aided design (CAD e.g. CATIA based activities),manufacturing engineering and systems engineering to name a few. ironically, some of the design engineers in the supply chain are often working for years on end to develop a wing component that will eventually be made and fitted onto the aircraft, but never actually see or handle the component itself.”
Safety is Paramount
Safety within the Aerospace industry is paramount; therefore the industry is one of the most highly-regulated. Prior to the aircraft being allowed to begin test flights (or commercial flights for that matter), it has to attain its ‘type certificate’ from airworthiness regulatory bodies such as EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). As part of the process certification, documents containing, amongst others, justification that the aircraft has met all the necessary safety and strength requirements are required to be presented to the authorities. This often involves an independent check of the calculations and analysis performed during the detailed design phase. It is during this period that the engineering teams develop maintenance and repair manuals that would be used later during the aircraft’s inspection by the airlines and operators.
Ensuring the aircraft’s airworthiness, i.e. the evaluation of an aircraft’s suitability for continued safe flight, is an essential obligation for any airline or operator. Depending on the aircraft’s flight hours, it will need to undergo scheduled maintenance checks as part of the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) activity. Should an aircraft be damaged, a repair scheme will need to be proposed if the damage falls outside of the repair manual’s limits. For most airlines and operators, this type of activity is managed within their Technical Services department – another engineering services example. At the end of the aircraft’s life or lease, it will undergo a rigorous check (often stripped down to its bare structure) for safety inspections. If the aircraft is to be re-sold then its airworthiness will need to be reassured. If the aircraft is to be dismantled, there may still be serviceable parts that can be used but will need further justification.
“Asia, especially South Asia and Asia Pacific, is considered a key region to support offshoring activities because of the availability of skilled human capital at competitive wages compared to those in Europe or America.”
The commercial aircraft development phases described thus far only presents a general overview. It is by no means comprehensive as there are other facets including, but not limited to, flight planning and logistics, systems and software development, as well as modifications and activities concerning airport operations – all have an engineering services element embedded in the daily operations – that has not been touched. There is also the military aircraft development and maintainability, including Aircraft Structural Integrity (ASI), that also requires engineering support.
Human Capital Development
Engineering services within the aerospace industry do not only play a vital role in supporting OEMs but also meet the constantly challenging cost competitiveness targets through offshoring. Asia, especially South Asia and Asia Pacific, is considered a key region to support offshoring activities because of the availability of skilled human capital at competitive wages compared to those in Europe or America. As an example, up to 20% of the Airbus product development activities have been offshored to India over the last decade. In terms of future growth, aircraft purchases in Asia Pacific will represent 40% of the order books of Airbus and Boeing by 2020. Today, Airbus and Boeing are manufacturing more than 40 single aisle aircraft such as the A320 and 737 per month. They are increasing production up to 50 units per month, but are still short of the global demand for these aircrafts. This is driving the supply chain to increase capacity and the OEM’s to search for new companies including engineering services.
Increasingly, due to the consultancy nature of the job, engineers are also required to be able to deal with client facing situation. Therefore, to be a successful engineer, particularly in the aerospace industry, an individual need to have:
Sound technical knowledge and knowing how it is applied;
Good communication skills (verbal and written) in English;
An aptitude for solving problems, often employing ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions.
Malaysians have the ability and capacity to succeed as, in some regards, we are globally competitive in terms of education and command of international language (English). Malaysia is the leading producer and provider of skilled workforce in the SEA region and is on the right track to remain so for the foreseeable future. It is projected that by the year 2030, Malaysia education and training institutions will be able to produce 50,751 technicians and 15,556 graduate engineers. Thus, we should look to capitalise on this as we look to become the gateway for engineering services for the region, congruent with the ETP (Entry Point Projects) for Aerospace as underlined by the new National Aerospace Blueprint.
1. Aerospace Global Report 2011 by Clearwater and IMAP
2. Global Market Forecast Airbus 2013 – 2032
3. Current Market Outlook Boeing 2013 – 2032
4. Economic Transformation Programme, Business Services NKEA, EPP5: Nurturing Pure-Play Engineering Services, PEMANDU
5. Positioning Malaysia as Asia’s Aviation Engineering Hub, Business Circle, 19th Nov 2013
6. Safran to operate from Sendayan Techvalley to supply carbon brakes for commercial aircraft worldwide, NST, 24th Feb 2015
7. Airbus sets up regional service centre in Sepang, The Star, 3rd Oct 2013