High-performance spare parts service for NH90 helicopters
Patria develops NH90 spare parts service in close cooperation with customers.
Patria has solid expertise in the final assembly and maintenance of NH90 helicopters, and now it is also a major actor in the provision of spare parts service solutions. Patria has provided maintenance services for the Finnish fleet of NH90 helicopters at the facility located in Utti, Finland since 2010. In Sweden, the maintenance teams of Patria supply maintenance services for the Swedish fleet of NH90 helicopters at the customer’s own sites located in Linköping, Ronneby and Luleå. The spare parts services are centralised in the Nordic NH90 Service Centre in Arlanda, one of its kind in the Nordic countries. As an authorised partner of NHIndustries (NHI), the Service Centre is in a unique position to provide comprehensive spare parts service solutions to the Nordic NH90 customers.
Partnership between Patria and NHIndustries commenced in 2003 when Patria started the final assembly of NH90 helicopters at the production facility in Halli as a subcontractor of Eurocopter. Patria manufactured 19 of the 20 NH90 helicopters of the Finnish Defence Forces and 10 of the 18 NH90 helicopters of the Swedish Defence Forces. The helicopters were produced for NHI under a subcontract with Eurocopter. Eurocopter itself manufactured one Finnish helicopter and eight Swedish helicopters in Marignane, France. NHI delivered the helicopters to the customers. As a subcontractor of Airbus Helicopters (former Eurocopter), Patria launched in 2015 at the Halli production facility so-called retrofit programme on the upgrade of the helicopters, which runs until 2018 with respect to the fleet of NH90 helicopters of the Finnish Defence Forces and until 2020 with respect with the Swedish fleet.
Patria and the Finnish Defence Forces have cooperated closely for five years in Utti to develop further the maintenance and spare parts supply operations of the NH90 fleet. The combined efforts have produced some important results. “The throughput times of basic maintenance operations are now shorter. This is significant for us. Our objective is to keep maintenance periods of rotocraft to a minimum so that they are in mission readiness for most of the time,” says Lieutenant Colonel (eng) Pasi Kaikonen, Commander of Aviation Engineering in Utti Jaeger Regiment. Maintenance rotation gains speed when necessary spare parts and components are readily available either from the on-site stock of the Nordic Service Centre in Utti or at a short notice from the central stock facility at Arlanda. At the same time the division of the tasks between the Joint Logistics Centre of the Finnish Defence Forces and Patria can be streamlined in order to eliminate overlapping logistics functions and to use the resources of spare parts services more effectively. In the future, this could mean that the responsibility for sourcing the NH90 spare parts and components would be transferred to Patria from the Joint Logistics Centre of the Finnish Defence Forces. “If we wish to increase the availability of rotocraft by means of enhancing maintenance activities, assessing and streamlining material logistics and sourcing in the same connection would also be highly recommendable. If Patria is capable of providing us with new service solutions which are competitive and effective, we are of course interested in such solutions,” Kaikonen says.
From the perspective of the Finnish Defence Forces, the further development of maintenance operations and spare parts services has three distinct targets. Monetary savings are common to them all. “Our main concern is the cost per flying hour which we are intent on reducing,” Kaikonen says. Maintenance operations reflect on this cost in two ways. First , there are the maintenance costs in themselves, and, second, there is the duration of operative unavailability of rotocraft. The longer the maintenance operations take, the greater the costs usually are, and, most importantly, the less flying hours there will be. Hence, the operative availability of the NH90 fleet has a direct bearing on the cost per flying hour. “We are monitoring on a continuous basis the operative availability of rotocraft, i.e. the number of helicopters in mission readiness every morning in relation to the total number of helicopters. The indicator used for this purpose is the so-called availability rate,” Kaikonen says. Currently the availability rate of the NH90 fleet is approximately 50%, while the target level is set at an availability rate of 75%. Our target is that, at a maximum, five of the 20 NH90 helicopters of the Finnish Defence Forces are under maintenance actions at the same time. “This is a challenging target, but not at all impossible to achieve,” Kaikonen says. Improved efficiency of material logistics is the third factor which will produce clear savings for the Finnish Defence Forces. “When the material logistics activities of the Finnish Defence Forces are cut down across the entire logistics and supply chain, while simultaneously leaving out unnecessary intermediaries, the overall workload and our costs will be reduced,” Kaikonen says. “Our cooperation is based on the idea to eliminate overlapping functions, to increase efficiency of operations, and to improve service levels and the operative availability of the NH90 fleet,” tells Business Development Executive Leo Vanhatalo from Patria Aviation business unit. Kaikonen describes in concrete terms what this means in the day-to-day maintenance operations and material logistics in Utti. “Today here in Utti, more than one half of the NH90 spare parts and components now procured by the Finnish Defence Forces ends up in the Patria maintenance workshop. In the future, the Finnish Defence Forces can allocate these resources more usefully, when most of the supplies used by Patria will be delivered from the central stock facility at Arlanda directly to the Patria maintenance workshop,” Kaikonen says.
In October 2015, Nordic NH90 Service Centre concluded with the Swedish Defence Forces an agreement on the supply of spare parts for the Swedish NH90 fleet. The value of the agreement was EUR 9.1 million. The agreement also supports the strategy of Patria as a logistic platform provider capable of delivering maintenance and spare parts service solutions to various types of helicopters on the basis of the life cycle support concept. “Previously we placed orders for spare parts in accordance with the periodic maintenance schedules specified in the manufacturer’s maintenance program. Today we are offering our customers life cycle support solutions which are estimating more accurately future needs of maintenance services and spare parts,” says Kai Hinrichs, Head of Spare Parts Sales at Nordic Service Centre. The central storage at Arlanda holds a standing stock of approximately different 500 spare part items of the more than 11,000 spare parts in all of the NH90 helicopter. In spare parts management Patria focuses on the parts subject to be replaced in the scheduled maintenance. In addition, the customers hold their own stocks of the parts that are the most critical to mission readiness and security provisions of supply chain, such as avionics systems, which are also in most cases the most expensive ones.
Despite the NH90 is a rather recent helicopter model, Partia has already accumulated significant experience in the NH90 maintenance services, e.g. in the course of over 8,000 flying hours in Finland alone. Patria has in-depth practical knowledge required consumables of the NH90 helicopter and which spare parts will be needed in addition to the manufacturer’s maintenance program. “Our knowledge of how our customers operate the NH90 helps us estimate the future needs of maintenance services and spare parts. Together with our customers we have succeeded in creating long-term maintenance forecasts that enable us to optimise our spare parts stock more effectively,” says Hinrichs. Estimation of needs is vital in order to minimise the maintenance periods and delivery times. “Our objective is to improve significantly the operative availability of our customers’ helicopter fleets. We have developed this capability in a close cooperation with both our customers and NHI,” says Vanhatalo.