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StandardAero has provided more details on restructuring plans that will see the closure of a former Vector Aerospace maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility that employs 245 people in Richmond, B.C.
StandardAero acquired Vector from Airbus Helicopters in late 2017. In May, StandardAero announced that it would be restructuring its Canadian MRO facilities to create three different “centers of excellence”: one for helicopter airframe/component MRO services in Langley, B.C.; another for helicopter engine MRO services in Winnipeg, Man.; and a third for turboprop engine MRO services in Summerside, P.E.I.
As part of the restructuring, StandardAero announced that it intends to “wind down” operations at the legacy Vector facility on Agar Way in Richmond by June 2019. Helicopter engine MRO services currently performed at that facility will be moved to StandardAero’s Winnipeg campus, while helicopter dynamic components work will be relocated to Langley.
The decision has caused some consternation not only among employees at the Agar Way facility, but also among many of the facility’s customers in Western Canada.
In an interview, Manny Atwal, StandardAero’s VP of sales, marketing and business development for commercial helicopter services, explained that the decision to consolidate helicopter engine MRO services in Winnipeg is part of a company-wide effort to improve efficiency by eliminating duplicate operations.
Several factors made Winnipeg the best choice for a helicopter engine centre of excellence, he said, among them the flexibility afforded by a larger campus that employs nearly 1,300 people and has multiple engine MRO groups.
“When we see peaks and valleys in the marketplace, we have the ability to move people around to different engine lines . . . to best match capacity and demand,” Atwal said. “And that has really helped us provide some of the best turn times in the industry.”
The fact that StandardAero’s engineering and engine part repair groups are also based in Winnipeg is another reason why the location made sense as a centre of excellence for helicopter engine MRO services, he noted.
“When it comes to repairs, that’s something that Winnipeg has a very strong competency in, is piece part and component repair for engines. If you can repair a part rather than replace it, you can save the customer money. We call it our ‘repair versus replace’ strategy, and that’s something that’s good for everybody.”
Although the Agar Way facility will be closing, Atwal pointed out that StandardAero will be maintaining its legacy Rolls-Royce M250 engine shop on Russ Baker Way in Richmond. Additionally, the company will move some employees to that facility in order to continue providing field service repairs for Safran Arriel 1 and 2, and Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T Twin-Pac engines out of Richmond.
While a certain number of employees from the Agar Way facility will move to the Langley facility — about a 45-kilometre drive east — others have been offered positions in Winnipeg and “competitive” relocation assistance, Atwal said. He was unable to provide a precise number of how many employees will be required to relocate or lose their jobs, explaining, “We’re in the process of going through that assessment right now.”
StandardAero’s senior VP of marketing and communications, Kyle Hultquist, noted that the company announced the restructuring with a more than 12-month lead time with the goal of “helping every employee impacted one way or another either [find] another job within a StandardAero facility or outside of the company over a long transition period. . . . That’s what our end goal is, to help find work for everybody during the process.”
The restructuring will bring some new product lines to the Winnipeg campus, including the Arriel 1 and 2 and PT6T Twin-Pac engines. Atwal said that StandardAero is taking “a couple of different approaches” to ensuring that the transition goes smoothly, with a principal focus on relocating specialists for those engines.
“The more people we can relocate and bring to Winnipeg that work on those engines, the better for us, and that’s obviously the single biggest goal for us, to relocate as many as we can,” he said.
However, the company is also providing training on these models to current gas turbine technicians in Winnipeg, both by bringing technicians to Richmond for training, and by bringing subject matter experts from Richmond to Winnipeg. StandardAero is also leveraging its relationship with a community college in Winnipeg to train technicians from the ground up.
“Obviously it’s a big challenge, we realize that. There’s going to be hiccups, we also realize that,” Atwal said. He added, however, that this is not the first time that StandardAero has moved or added new engine lines: “We’ve done that in Winnipeg a number of times, so we do have a fair bit of lessons learned.”
According to Atwal, StandardAero has also been receiving good support from engine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) as the company prepares for the transition.
“It’s in their best interest to make sure operators are taken care of as well, so we’ll work with the OEMs to get whatever assistance they can provide to make this as easy as possible,” he said.
Atwal said that StandardAero has received a “mixed reaction” from customers to its restructuring plan, with some welcoming the change, but others less enthusiastic about it.
“Some of them are a little bit skeptical because they’ve dealt with legacy Vector site for so many years and they’ve developed relationships and they’ve got good service out of there. If they’ve not dealt with StandardAero in the past, for them it’s new and it’s a big change, but we’re trying to work with them and trying to assure them that we’re going to make sure that their objectives are being met,” he said.
“Quality, turn time, delivery, those are things that our customers are looking for. That’s what our focus is when we’re talking about ‘centre of excellence,’ and that’s what we’ll try to produce here out of Winnipeg as we bring the products over,” he concluded.