“Talent. It is number one,” says William Kircher, P&W VP for overhaul and repair in Singapore and president of UTC Aerospace Singapore. “To be honest, for me, the next few [issues] on that list [of challenges] are far behind,” he says, looking out of his office window at Seletar Aerospace Park, where he sees many new MRO facilities being built. “Singapore is fantastic at building infrastructure. They build the system to support us, but I think the demand for talent is an issue we are all addressing. It is one of the challenges for growth.
“We have to work for young people’s attention,” he says, adding that “there are a lot of job opportunities for young Singaporeans and now the unemployment rate here is about 1.8%,” which is as good as no unemployment.
Singapore has been able to develop a large cluster of MRO businesses because it was one of the first countries in the world to target MRO companies, says Kircher, adding that it started on this path more than 30 years ago.
He says, “Over time they have developed some world-class infrastructure.” He also says Singapore rates highly in terms of intellectual property rights, financial transparency and the quality of its workforce.
When it comes to helping MRO businesses to have qualified and skilled labor, “Singapore does cooperate with us at every level.” He says the Singapore Institute of Technical Education, National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University all offer courses geared to the MRO sector. He also mentions that the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has established an Asia campus in Singapore.
Singapore is moving its aerospace industry up the value chain by encouraging MRO companies to do more complex, sophisticated MRO work. Its aerospace sector is also getting more involved in design work and manufacture of aerospace parts and components.
P&W has about 100 engineers at Seletar developing new repair techniques for engines, says Kircher.
The company has also built a new component repair facility at Seletar, P&W Component Solutions, that will repair and overhaul PW4000 high-pressure compressor air seals, split cases and ducts, as well as PW4000 low-pressure compressor stators. The PW4000 family of engines power some Boeing 777s, 747s, Airbus A330s, Airbus A310s and Airbus A300s.
Kircher says this new shop will use a special coating technology to coat the LP stators, and that this will be the first P&W facility outside of the U.S. to use such coating technology.
“The government recognizes that the benefit of being world leader in the high-value spaces, is you can adjust higher the labor cost [wages], because you are able to produce in a productive manner.”
Singapore’s decision to move into aerospace manufacturing, particularly manufacturing of engine parts and components, helps reinforce its position as a MRO hub. Increasingly, MRO companies need the support of the original equipment maker in order to maintain or overhaul parts and components. Original equipment makers such as P&W are deriving more and more of their revenue not from the sale of engines but from the maintenance of those engines.