Rolls-Royce unveiled its new civil engine services aircraft availability center in Derby, England, on June 5, where it will upgrade its engine operations and maintenance management capabilities by utilizing a broader set of data analytics.
Described as “the next step” in Rolls-Royce’s engine monitoring service by Tom Palmer, the OEM’s senior vice president of services for civil aerospace, the center represents a step forward in both the scope and scale of the data being used for the existing engine-health monitoring services the company provides for airline customers.
“The big change is moving from a service primarily set up around predicting when an engine will require removal for major overhaul, scheduling that removal at a convenient time, repairing the engine and providing a spare in its place, to services much more focused on the outcomes airline customers want to help competitiveness,” Palmer says.
After going live in a facility previously used for data operations management, the aircraft availability center is monitoring 4,500 in-service engines on a 24/7 basis, the majority of which are Trent large turbofan engines.
According to Palmer, the expanded services will seek to develop a more proactive type of customer engagement with airlines by focusing on aircraft availability, efficiency and the value of engine assets during the transition phase. This scenario, Palmer says, is partly enabled by the modern aviation environment of improved methods of data-sharing between airlines, airframe manufacturers and engine makers such as Rolls-Royce.
“We’ve been predicting when engines require overhauls for a long time, but there is a need to go further than that and factor in whether the aircraft takes off on time, burns fuel as efficiently as possible and to ensure that a required part is waiting for the aircraft when it reaches its location,” he says.
After going live in early June, the Rolls-Royce availability center in Derby commenced tracking 4,500 in-service large commercial aircraft engines. Credit: Rolls-Royce
Offering this enhanced service requires using a much broader set of data, Palmer says, with data scales on sensor-heavy engine types such as the Trent XWB increasing from kilobytes of data transmitted per flight to terabytes. Rolls-Royce estimates that in the future, it will be dealing with as much as 20 billion data points daily.
Along with the data surge, the expanded capabilities also pose a much bigger operational challenge for Rolls-Royce, Palmer notes. He said this process takes into account considerations such as “integrating what the engine does with the aircraft maintenance schedule, while also understanding factors such as weather patterns and the airline’s overall operational performance.”
The delivery center will also host a new wave of both physical and digital technologies. These include a visualization tool, which allows engineers based in Derby to see what mechanics out in the field at any location worldwide can view in real time, to enable faster decision-making and responsiveness.
“If a technician out in the field has an inspection question that needs a second opinion, they can instantly call in to the development center at Derby, where the team can then help them make a decision very quickly,” explains James Kell, a Rolls-Royce technology expert specializing in on-wing situations.
Another innovation taking place at Derby is the deployment of remote surgery techniques to allow experts at the center to carry out line maintenance tasks via remote control on a Rolls-Royce engine in any part of the world.
The delivery center complements the company’s existing physical and digital infrastructure, which comprise five regional customer service centers, located in Derby, Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Singapore and Washington. These operate alongside a revised service network that has undergone organizational changes in the past two years, and the Derby headquarters, which has oversight of all global activities.
While stating that the expanded service offering is intended to stimulate growth of aftermarket revenue, which accounted for nearly half the civil aerospace division’s £13.8 billion ($17.5 billion) revenues for last year, Rolls-Royce says revenue targets have not yet been set.