Rick Uber
General Manager Base Maintenance
View from the Top

Airplane 'Hospital' Anchors Focus on Safety and Quality

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 14:53

Q: How do TechOps’ facilities in Queretaro compare to those in the US and what are the branch’s greatest advantages?

A: Our facilities can compete with all others thanks to our great employees, most of whom possess a four-year degree and are fully qualified to work in the aerospace industry. Queretaro has greatly benefited from its young and intelligent workforce and TechOps has enjoyed the advantage of having committed employees who are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve themselves and their work.

Our employees usually have five years of experience and being young means they are adaptable to the newest technologies. Some of our employees are trained at UNAQ, with which we have a partnership to develop human capital. This university has state of the art facilities and technologies to train professionals in the aviation and aerospace industry. To date, of our approximately 1,600 employees, about 400 are from Guadalajara and many more from Mexico City, San Antonio, Texas, and El Salvador. We are steadily increasing our human capital. In 2015 we added 130 employees and we plan to contract 130 more this year.

Q: What partnerships has TechOps developed to complement its services?

A: One of my first actions directing TechOps was to create a series of local partnerships. At that time, we had to send a large number of products back and forth to the US for different processes and treatments. This is not convenient for many internal reasons and is not beneficial for the local economy either. For that reason, we developed partnerships for heat treatments and plating, among many other processes.

TechOps also is investing in technology. For instance, we have joined forces with EmpowerMX, which manufactures software that provides instant access to comprehensive information of all current processes. It also permits us to track airplanes and the labor hours invested in each unit. Before implementing the software, our Queretaro facility was using an accounting program that was not designed for aircraft management and therefore was significantly harder to use. While other airlines and MROs use this software, including Delta Airlines, we are the largest MRO using it and Queretaro is the first TechOps facility to implement it. This system has improved our processes and will put us in an excellent standing to reach the top market position, as it provides much more information than the competition can.

Q: What are TechOps expansion plans for the short term?

A: This year we have scheduled a 10 to 12 percent increase in processes. We have had six lines with Delta Airlines for a  couple of months but next year we will operate with them for almost the whole year. We plan to continue growing 10 percent per year having acquired the AS 9100 certification. So far, it is not within our goals to open new hangars. We are making the most of our existing infrastructure by taking advantage of the quality and safety policies we implemented in 2015. This will allow us to store a larger number of our airplanes in the existing hangars. At the beginning of 2016, we only had three planes and we now have six in the same space. Storing aircraft takes a considerable amount of space and organization thus we are redesigning our practices to increase capacity. We service 50 to 60 airplanes a year.

We work with Delta Airlines and Aeroméxico but we are obtaining certifications for others such GOL Airlines from Brazil, which operates several Boeing 737. We also are evaluating other regional airlines, such as TAR Aerolíneas. Approval processes are time consuming because facilities have to be inspected so we are starting with small local airlines before incorporating larger ones. We are capable of servicing any airline in America but our Queretaro hangar specializes in the Boeing 737 and  717, Embraer ERJ-145, E-170 and E-190 and the McDonell Douglas MD-80 and MD-90. We plan to expand our aptitudes to Boeing 757 and CRJ-700 and 900, for which we need to incorporate tooling and training. We are not operating with Airbus because our workforce is much more specialized in Boeing and Embraer. As our employees are experts in Boeing products, it is easier and faster to adapt to other Boeing aircraft than to switch to a different brand. It is more important to stabilize our operations and grow with our existing skills. The market for the Boeing 737 and the McDonell Douglas MD-80 and MD-90 is also strong but if these aircraft are replaced in the next five to 10 years by Airbus, we will follow the market.

Q: Which would you identify as the greatest hurdles to doing business in Mexico?

A: I cannot praise our local employees enough, who are of diverse ages and are 18 percent female, while in the US the female staff only represents about 5 percent. Employing diverse work groups is beneficial for us as it generates a broader range of ideas and faster, better solutions to any problem. Our greatest advantage is our people and we have a great relationship with the labor union because we work together toward the same goals.

On the other hand, we face difficulties involving the textile law, which complicates fabric imports and exports. If we replace the carpet for an airplane we have to send the

discarded carpet out of the country. While laws like that are needed to protect local industry, it is also necessary to develop alternatives to facilitate operations for companies in the state. Customs also can pose a problem because the regulations change frequently. Due to the international nature of the aviation industry, customs must be as supportive and clear as possible. The local government has been especially helpful but we need to continue working to improve processes.

Q: What does Mexico need to do to become an international player in the industry?

A: Mexico needs to promote its industry more because the world is still unaware of what the country has to offer. The public perspective of the country’s skillset and available resources leaves our clients astounded when they visit for the first time. Mexico’s specialties have been overshadowed by an image of insecurity.

TechOps came to Queretaro in part thanks to the effort of the local government to attract new companies. The state provides numerous advantages and allowed us to implement new initiatives. For instance, our plant is powered 30 percent by solar energy, which has allowed us to keep this cost constant while our growth has doubled. We also capture and recycle rainwater to wash our airplanes and we reuse it seven times before discarding it. TechOps works hard to ensure we do not contribute to the deterioration of the local environment.