Turbomeca to address customer support woes

 - June 4, 2007, 6:54 AM

Turbomeca is endeavoring to improve product support after customers voiced dissatisfaction, notably about parts availability. The French-based turboshaft engine manufacturer ranked last among engine manufacturers in AIN’s 2006 product support survey, with an average 5.17 for parts availability.

“Last year was not a good year. We did not have enough hardware to support the fleet,” CEO Emeric d’Arcimoles told AIN recently. However, he maintains that his company–which manufactures only turboshaft engines–was disadvantaged in the survey, which combines turboprop and turboshaft makers.

According to d’Arcimoles, demand for new engines impeded the company’s ability to support its existing engines. He conceded that in accommodating helicopter makers’ fast-growing demand for production engines, the company allotted too many resources to production and not enough to after-sales support.

Demand for spares has been increasing by 6 or 7 percent per year. Moreover, Turbomeca mechanics performed 2,290 overhauls in 2006, an 18-percent hike from the previous year. Franck Magné, the firm’s engine marketing director, conceded that for some time the company was experiencing some difficulty delivering parts on time. D’Arcimoles agreed, noting, “Turnaround times have been too long.” This was due to strong demand for new engines last year. “Now we are on our way to recovery,” d’Arcimoles promised. The target turnaround time for an overhaul is less than 60 days. The yearly budget that Turbomeca is allotting to spare parts in the field is increasing from E80 to E115 million ($109 to $156 million) this year.

Similarly, last year, the spare engine pool “was not at the appropriate level,” d’Arcimoles added. The total spare engine and module pool used to be equivalent to 700 engines. “This year we are adding 100,” he told AIN. The company has expanded its logistics hub in Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and hopes that customers will notice the improvement soon.

Revamping Support
The company has also renewed its emphasis on communication between support facilities and customers. For example, at the Heli-Expo show in March, Turbomeca gathered its first “round-table discussion” with customers. Represented were Maverick Helicopters of Las Vegas, Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock and the Austrian Motor Touring Club.

“Our customers acknowledged we had a frank attitude and were impressed by our efforts,” Magné stated. For example, in March Eurocopter’s CEO publicly praised Turbomeca for these efforts. According to Magné, Turbomeca started brainstorming ways to improve customer interaction with the company in 2005-2006, when it became aware of customers’ dissatisfaction with this aspect of the business.

Paradoxically, Turbomeca already had an initiative–dubbed More–devoted to product support. However, that program was “not directly aimed at timely parts deliveries; it was more about the network of field reps and support centers,” Magné explained. The company has doubled the number of field reps–to 40–since it launched the More initiative in 2002. The “rapid response” team is staffed with 50 field technicians. In addition, there are 25 TurboSupport centers, either factory-owned or authorized. Finally, there are now 26 repair centers.

Services account for 60 percent of Turbomeca’s revenues.