Singapore Air Show

Rolls-Royce Ramping up Production at Singapore Seletar Facility

 - February 12, 2016, 11:00 AM

Rolls-Royce (Chalet N23) is ramping up production at its engine manufacturing facility at Seletar Airport in Singapore, and expects to reach full capacity there in 2018.

Tin Ho, Rolls-Royce’s operations director, Seletar, Assembly and Test Unit (SATU), said production rates were currently around one engine every other day, with the plant operating at around 60 percent capacity, and equipment and skill-set addition growing.

“Really it’s about ramping up production. [The goal is to produce] five engines a week by 2018-19. Today it’s about three. We are right where we should be on ramp-up. In 2017, we’ll be producing at 80 percent of capacity. 2018 will see full capacity, or roughly one engine a day,” he said.

Since launching operations in 2012, the $700 million Seletar facility has delivered 170 engines. In 2016 it expects to dispatch 150 more and will reach full capacity of 250 per year by late 2017. Today, two engine types are manufactured, the Trent 900 (for the Airbus A380) and Trent 1000 (for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner).

“Our current load is mostly Trent 1000. Trent 900 is much lower volume. The A380 hasn’t gotten too much sales [activity] lately,” said Ho. “Airbus is talking about maybe re-engining the A380.”

Company-wide, including the original engine facility in Derby, Rolls-Royce claims to have captured more than 50 percent of global orders for widebody engines. With its market share in the installed base lagging the order backlog, confidence in long-term cash flow is underpinned, the company said in an earnings statement for the first half of 2015.

“Eventually [by around 2020], we will power more than 50 percent of widebody aircraft that are in service,” a Seletar-based Rolls-Royce spokeswoman told AIN.

Today, Rolls-Royce claims Singapore Airlines powers almost four-fifths of its fleet using its engines. “We had a really good piece of news when Emirates ordered 50 more A380s [in 2013] and converted the fleet from GE-powered to Rolls-Royce-powered. All those 50 aircraft will take Trent 900 engines, mostly assembled in Derby,” Ho said.

“We don’t have the capacity here to do both the 1000 and the 900 concurrently. This shop is very full right now. We are in a very fast ramp-up pace to three engines by first quarter next year,” he said.

The next engine coming to Rolls-Royce Seletar is the Trent 7000, which will power the A330neo, he said, replacing the Trent 700 currently on the classic A330. The new engine is still in pre-production, with manufacturing expected to start in 2017. “We will [then] see a combination of Trent 1000 and Trent 7000, as well as Trent 900 [in production].”

At the moment, there are no plans to manufacture other engines at Seletar, but Ho didn’t rule this out in future. 

Wide Chord Fan Blades

Adjacent to SATU is Rolls-Royce’s Wide Chord Fan Blade manufacturing facility (FBSG). By 2018, the facility will reach full capacity, to manufacture 7,600 fan blades a year.

Lee Brough, manufacturing executive Fan Blade Facility, said the plant was operating at an average of 65 percent of capacity in 2015. “We are doing around 90 blades a week at the moment [enough for three engines]. There are 22 in a set. There are some spares as well for the 900 and 1000. We will get to 120 blades by about April-May.”     

FBSG had delivered more than 2,900 blades by last November, and was estimating 3,100 expected by the end of last year.. It expects to be delivering over 7,500 a year by 2018. FBSG manufactures blades for the Trent 900, Trent 1000/7000 and XWB.

Ho said the same method for building engines was used as in Derby, but the new facility is more efficient, with its single-floor line located in one building. “In terms of layout, it is not a carbon copy. Derby is 109 years old, with a number of different buildings. We set up this facility on a clean sheet of paper.”

“An equal production standard between our UK and Singapore facilities is an important part of Civil Aviation Authority approval. Both sites utilize the same uniform processes to produce large commercial Trent aero engines to the same high standards of excellence demanded by our customers,” the company said.

Ho said eight modules were required to manufacture a Trent engine, with four completed in-house and four stocked by external suppliers. The final module area is the Customer Delivery Centre (CDC), designed to ensure that the engine is fully ready to go to the customer. At the time of AIN’s visit last November, engines for Scoot, ANA, LAN Chile, British Airways and Thai Airways were in production.

New engines assembled at SATU are tested to meet design requirements before being dispatched to Airbus or Boeing. Rolls-Royce does not perform overhaul or repair at Seletar.

“The production test-bed can accommodate an engine with a fan size of up to 140 inches and 150,000 pounds of thrust, providing greater flexibility for the future,” it said.

Engine testing on every unit is a crucial part of the manufacturing process. “Absolutely. It’s a must. Not just from a safety standpoint, but also cost. If I sell an engine to Boeing, it costs $100,000 to deliver. There’s an insurance issue,” Ho said.

He said engines were tested for performance, especially fuel efficiency. “Fuel cost is about 30 percent of what an airline [spends]. There is not much variation in performance,” he said.

Airlines also want to ensure engine performance does not interfere with aircraft performance. “An engine creates a lot of vibration. How do we know your engine is not causing structural issues on the aircraft? Airlines want actual data. There are a lot of specifications on these kinds of data that are required by the aircraft manufacturers,” he said.

“Typically, as a whole, an engine will stay on-wing for five years. Periodically, it requires attention: some checks and inspections. Hot parts in particular need periodic inspections.”

Ho said Richard de Crespigny, the pilot of QF32, the Qantas A380 that suffered an uncontained engine failure on November 4, 2010, over Batam Island, near Singapore, visited the Seletar facility following the incident. “He really had a lot of good words to say about Rolls-Royce, despite the problem, given how severe that incident was.”

“Any incident is a disappointment for a manufacturer. [The Qantas aircraft] was in a lot of danger. The pilots were very professional. How you manage the problem, that’s where the pilot comes in.”

Ho concludes by emphasizing Rolls-Royce’s focus on the customer. “It’s really not about just selling airplanes or engines. It’s about the whole package, being able to be so close to your customer that you think he’s sitting next to you; [responding to] any issues, any questions that are there. They’ve [need only] worry about flying the passengers.”