Collins Aerospace has created a Singapore Innovation Hub, a new technology-accelerator facility that will develop new robotics, automation engineering, data science, and software projects to the proof-of-concept stage. Collins’s aim is to mature many of the hub’s technological innovations so it can adopt them subsequently throughout the 77 facilities in its global MRO and customer-service network. A formal comissioning event was due to take place Wednesday evening, but was cancelled when Collins pulled out of Singapore Airshow.
Most of the hub’s projects are intended to improve Collins’s customer-service capabilities by making its processes more efficient, faster, easier, and more productive both for its myriad customers and for the company itself. Today Collins (Chalet V01) handles the repairs and overhauls of approximately 1 million aircraft components annually. In adopting innovations developed by the hub, the company expects to realize significant savings in staff time by automating much of its parts-sourcing, inventory-management, and repair-inspection work—allowing its employees to devote much more of their time to higher-value customer-service activities and direct customer interactions, according to Bob Butz, v-p and general manager global repair services for Collins.
The company also expects to standardize hub-developed technologies throughout its entire network of approximately 300 facilities of all types worldwide, according to Butz. He told AIN that the 10,000-sq-ft hub, located within the company’s existing campus of facilities near Changi International Airport, will create at least 40 new jobs and that its launch announcement lays the foundation for Collins’s “MRO shop of the future.”
Collins has already selected nine or ten projects that are “ready to go at various levels” for development to proof-of-concept within the hub’s first year of operation and to date has developed a list of about 30 different concepts to be tackled in its first few years, Butz said. Collins expects its Singapore Innovation Hub to bring more than 40 projects to the proof-of-concept stage within five years.
Focused on Customer Service
The four broad technological categories on which the hub will concentrate will focus on three major areas of customer-service improvement, according to Butz. First is to improve the speed of parts information flow between Collins and its customers and make it easier for them to know exactly where in the process a repair or order transaction is at any time. Hub projects will also seek to help customers help themselves by accessing Collins’s online customer portal to find what they need to do to speed up transactions. Other innovations will ensure full documentation and tracking of customer parts; provide deeper insight on repair work performed; and allow an advanced, integrated prognostics and health-management approach to component MRO.
Second is to integrate operations to improve the speed and efficiency of repair and inventory-management processes. Here, projects will leverage technologies such as optical character recognition to register and store much more quickly information provided on customer forms; develop guided robotic vehicles to find and deliver warehoused parts rapidly rather than having employees seek each part individually; and use RFID technologies to simulate fully every zone in a workshop and thus provide real-time information on every component’s repair or test status. These developments will reduce inventory-management and supply-chain costs, said Butz.
Third is to develop digital tools to ensure Collins provides accurate, high-quality, actionable data to its customers to help them develop new insights and make decisions regarding component-inventory levels and whether it would be better to repair a given part or buy a replacement. New hub-developed digital tools will also help Collins connect its 77 customer-service and MRO facilities more seamlessly and improve enterprise resource management across the entire Collins organization, said Butz.
The Singapore Innovation Hub will also develop additive-manufacturing capabilities and techniques and will become one of Collins’ three centers of excellence for additive technologies. Additionally, Collins will use the new digital, additive-manufacturing and automation technologies developed by the hub to create original-equipment production capabilities to help serve customer needs.