Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.

QE Profile

  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

QE Profile

  1. 1. BALLOT 2015 GENERAL EDITION Vol 87 No 2: March 2015 $7.85 inc. gst ®engineers australia NUCLEAR SA leads the way 3D SOFTWARE First object in space WATER Deposit for the future BALLOT 2015 Voting closes 23 March ROADS Transport reform needed the flying kangaroo’s engineers bounce back 01 g - Cover.indd 101 g - Cover.indd 1 5/03/15 3:06 PM5/03/15 3:06 PM
  2. 2. 34 ENGINEERS AUSTRALIA MARCH 2015  35 ENGINEERS AUSTRALIA MARCH 2015 ROADS FEATURE THE FLYING KANGAROO’S ENGINEERS BOUNCE BACK Qantas Engineering has undergone a major overhaul of its people power in recent years — but the results of the transformation have been positive. COVER STORY QANTAS ENGINEERING by Patrick Durrant The CFM56-7 engine on a Qantas Boeing 737-838. Image: Jeremy William (
  3. 3. 36 ENGINEERS AUSTRALIA MARCH 2015  37 ENGINEERS AUSTRALIA MARCH 2015 COVER STORY QANTAS ENGINEERING “It’s one of our challenges – an area of improvement that we are focused on,” he says. Qantas has always been a leader in aviation engineering. It was at the forefront in development of such technologies as the flight data recorder, the Future Air Navigation System and real-time monitoring of its engines using satellite communications, to name but a few. Verkerk explains that Qantas’ performance engineering team are doing some very advanced research, collaborating with Boeing and Airbus on fuel prediction methodologies and developing advanced algorithms. They have also been working closely with the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney – all this in the name of achieving more accurate predictions on the optimum flight path for their aircraft. Such work has enabled the airline to claim the world’s longest route – the 13,800 km, 15 hour-long non-stop flight from Sydney to Dallas-Fort Worth. “We’ve built a tool for doing that which we think is world leading edge,” Verkerk says. “Both Airbus and Boeing are actually asking us to help them.” Another achievement by the Fleet Engines and Aircraft Performance Team is a world record of 50,000 hours of ‘on-wing’ performance for an engine in commercial service. As the third oldest airline in the world, Qantas was established 94 years ago with a staff of three, including one engineer, W. Arthur Baird. Since then it has maintained its position as a respected airline with a safety record second to none – recently rated the airline as the safest of the 449 airlines it monitors. But commercial pressures were beginning to have an impact on Qantas’ ability to compete. Verkerk remembers only too well having to stand before his staff in 2011 to outline the strategic vision for the Engineering Services department. The airline, Verkerk told his staff, like many others, was facing some stark choices and needed to adapt in order to survive. “I likened it to the dinosaurs facing the coming Ice Age,” Verkerk says. “To survive we were going to have to learn to live like mammals.” Despite some great advances, much of the culture and the processes within the airline’s engineering section had become antiquated and inefficient. The system wasn’t being challenged enough – engineers weren’t asking ‘why do we do it this way?’ Often the philosophy, decision or rule set that had put a process in place one or two generations ago was no longer valid, according to Verkerk. “I’ve often said that our history has been our greatest strength but it’s also our greatest weakness.” In the last decade, engineers were getting bogged down in the bureaucratic process, and many of them were no longer using their technical expertise to good measure, he says. “If you wound back the clock about 10 years and surveyed the professional engineers within our business, there would have been a fairly high level of frustration around having spent four or five years at university only to find themselves working as a glorified clerk – moving bits of paper around; a slave to an old IT system,” Verkerk says. There was no mobility within the department, he added, with engineers spending decades within one sub- I’VE OFTEN SAID THAT OUR HISTORY HAS BEEN OUR GREATEST STRENGTH BUT IT’S ALSO OUR GREATEST WEAKNESS. I t’s no secret that of late the global airline industry has been up against some tough challenges. Increased competition in both domestic and international markets and ageing gas- guzzling fleets coupled with, until recently, high fuel prices are just some of the difficulties airlines like Qantas face. Its engineers – indeed Qantas staff in general – have not been immune to this as the business pressures resulting from the changing landscape of the industry force the airline to transform itself into a leaner, more competitive carrier while retaining the technical edge and proud safety tradition it has upheld for many years. Engineers Australia magazine talked to engineers at the Qantas Mascot Jet Base in Sydney about the role that leadership has played in this transformation. Despite recent challenges, they were proud to share with us their continuing ability to deliver world leading engineering achievements and also spoke of the contribution engineers can make toward innovation and commercial viability in the airline industry. New approaches to personnel management within Engineering Services such as talent management, improved mobility and frequent performance feedback have started to reap rewards. In 2012, CEO Alan Joyce announced “we are undertaking a wholesale transformation of Qantas to make it better and stronger, the premium Australian airline for our times”. The winds of change were upon Qantas and no part of the business would be spared. By March 2014, the airline had closed the Boeing 747 heavy maintenance facility at Avalon in Melbourne, a move that resulted in significant engineering job losses. Qantas had begun retiring its fleet of ageing Boeing 747s and 767s – the primary long and medium haul stablemates for many years – and was replacing them with more modern, fuel efficient types such as the Airbus A330, A380 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. At the time, Qantas Domestic CEO Lyell Strambi said the retirement of the 747s meant “there’s just not enough work to keep the base at Avalon viable and productive”. The airline shifted the majority of its heavy maintenance to Brisbane, and now work for the A380s and the remaining 747s is done at specialist facilities in Hong Kong and Manila. The times have been tough for the airline’s engineers as they have farewelled a number of their colleagues but the consensus of those engineers with whom we spoke was that they had definitely turned a corner – and were continuing to achieve groundbreaking innovation. Head of Engineering Services Adrian Verkerk and HR manager Daniel Flannery are quick to talk about some of these wins – something that Qantas engineers haven’t always celebrated, Flannery admits. (Above) Qantas aircraft undergoing maintenance at Brisbane Airport. Image: Qantas (Opposite) The next generation LEAP engines will be used on the new Airbus A320neo aircraft, due to enter service with Jetstar group airlines in 2016. Image: CFM international and Popdotmedia
  4. 4. 38 ENGINEERS AUSTRALIA MARCH 2015  39 ENGINEERS AUSTRALIA MARCH 2015 sought were actually further down the leadership hierarchy than they should have been, so we started to bring them forward.” The two settled for a structure that had five or six managers reporting to Verkerk, with the next most suitable 25 reporting to them. These two tiers of leaders are all usually degree qualified engineers who ideally also have an MBA. They might not be the oldest or the most technically proficient but they are in positions where they can use their leadership skills to performance manage their teams, ensuring they are properly trained and the business is appropriately financed. “They have an eye to the broader strategy and are able to communicate this effectively to their teams,” Flannery says. Qantas was also able to retain enough engineering expertise in the business by recognising those who were technically very proficient but not necessarily the best in terms of management skills. “We call them chief engineers, and their people-oriented roles are mentoring and setting standards,” Flannery explains. Verkerk adds that the whole process is geared towards trying to identify when there is a mismatch between a role and a person. “If this is the case, we then try to get them into a role where they can shine,” he says. The practice of engineers spending their entire careers with Qantas working in just one corner of the business is now a thing of the past, according to Verkerk. “Unless they are one of those unique individuals who is going to become a chief engineer and the technical mentor in that particular field, they must move every few years – mobility is important so that people get a broader experience base,” he explains. Advances in everyday technology have certainly helped – Luke Edwards, head of design, remembers spending half a day sifting through microfiche files and illustrated parts catalogues searching for information about a component. Now he can take a photo, embed it in a document and send it via email. “That just wasn’t something I could do when I first joined Qantas 15 years ago. Flexibility has been enhanced and this also means as engineers we can support maintenance remotely – there is no longer a requirement to be physically there,” Edwards says. Ranath Fernando, manager fleet support feels that he and his peers now feel more valued by their superiors as they are now involved in making more decisions. “They’ve recognised that we have a lot of intellectual property capability and they’ve shifted us into the decision-making cycle and empowered us,” he says. “Now we have everything at our disposal in order to make a decision and make it quicker.” Fernando goes on to say that these decisions result in better utilisation of assets. He sees it as part of his and others’ responsibility to drive the value-add to the business and make it as competitive as it can possibly be. Verkerk sums up with a very simple but succinct philosophy that partly explains the reason Engineering Services needed to take the path it embarked upon three years ago. “People need to know when they go home at the end of the day that they’ve made a genuine difference, that they aren’t just digging holes and filling them in. Their work must be purposeful so that they can feel proud of what they have done on any given day,” Verkerk says. Coupled with this, he explains, is management’s improving ability to provide engineers with that line of sight between what they do and what the Qantas customer experiences. “There might be 16 different processes, people and departments between [engineer and customer],” Verkerk says. “But to really know what they are doing is making a difference to the customer experience; why that person is choosing to fly with Qantas and not someone else – that’s important.” l division. Promotion was very much based on seniority, so that when the manager of one team retired, the successor would usually be the oldest and longest serving member remaining. “In every case that sets you up for sub-optimal performance, if not failure. You’d have to be extremely lucky that the second oldest person in the department happens to have strong people skills and commercial skills to go along with their technical skills,” Verkerk says. Qantas’ Engineering Services had always been purely technically focused but as part of the restructure they would now need to take on a commercial responsibility as well. For the past three years Verkerk, Flannery and the Engineering Services leadership team have sought to turn these older work practices and traditions around to improve service delivery and add more value to the business – with a reduced number of engineers. “We had to find a way of making the most of our talented people, to get them to focus more on the innovation rather than the bureaucracy,” Verkerk explains. Since 2011 when the transformation began, there has been no real change in volume of output, according to Verkerk, in fact he says there has actually been an improvement in the quality of output, despite the department taking on the extra responsibilities. “That’s occurred partly by leveraging on new IT systems and technology but also by getting the guys to focus on what is really important – not just moving pieces of paper from basket A to basket B,” Verkerk says. An added effect of releasing the team from the weight of bureaucracy has been to encourage more innovation, which in turn has had a positive impact on costs for the business. For example, Flannery says that improvements in the way the airline manages assets and burns its fuel has achieved cost savings of more than $200 million – a conservative estimate – in just 12 months. Newer, reliable and less maintenance intensive engines such as the GEnx and the soon to be in service LEAP-1A (p. 37) have and will continue to contribute to these savings. Further, he notes that each section has achieved productivity improvements ranging from 20% to over 80% in the past 2-3 years. Verkerk explains that as a cost centre, the predominant reason for engineering services within the airline is of course mandatory compliance with air safety regulations. But he adds that the costs of compliance have been paid for almost twice over because of the value-add of the innovation projects his department is now engaged in. Verkerk likens it to a doctor managing patients while at the same time doing research that is radically negating the effects of the disease affecting them. “If we’re doing that and finding innovations and savings, it is a win-win,” he says. Flannery and Verkerk had to be careful not to lose the intellectual capital and experience within the department, particularly in an industry that is so highly safety focused. “We studied it really carefully and took a lot of time to consider who the best people were,” Flannery explains. “Some of the people with the mindset we Internal view of a General Electric GEnx engine on a Jetstar Boeing 787-800 Dreamliner. Image: Jeremy William ( COVER STORY QANTAS ENGINEERING Gas guzzlers flying into history Lean next-gen liners of the future A380 B747 (reconfig) B747 (non-reconfig) A333 A333 A332 A332 B767 B737-400 B737-800 B737-800 A330 A320 A320 B787 B787 FY141 – 11 FLEET TYPES FY162 – 7 FLEET TYPES A380 B747 (reconfig) – Young average fleet age of ~8 – B747: 7 non-reconfigured air – B767: all 15 retired by 3Q FY1 – B734: all retired by February 1 As at 31 December 2013. 2 By end of financial year 2015–2016. B747 A380 B747 (reconfig) B747 (non-reconfig) A333 A333 A332 A332 B767 B737-400 B737-800 B737-800 A330 A320 A320 B787 B787 FY141 – 11 FLEET TYPES FY162 – 7 FLEET TYPES A380 B747 (reconfig) – Young average fleet age of ~8 year – B747: 7 non-reconfigured aircraft r – B767: all 15 retired by 3Q FY15 – B734: all retired by February 2014 1 As at 31 December 2013. 2 By end of financial year 2015–2016. B767 A380 B747 (reconfig) B747 (non-reconfig) A333 A333 A332 A332 B767 B737-400 B737-800 B737-800 A330 A320 A320 B787 B787 FY141 – 11 FLEET TYPES FY162 – 7 FLEET TYPES A380 B747 (reconfig) – Young average fleet age of ~8 years in F – B747: 7 non-reconfigured aircraft retire – B767: all 15 retired by 3Q FY15 – B734: all retired by February 2014 1 As at 31 December 2013. 2 By end of financial year 2015–2016. B737-400 A380 B747 (reconfig) B747 (non-reconfig) A333 A332 B767 B737-400 B737-800 A330 A320 B787 FY141 – 11 FLEET TYPES – – – – 1 2 A380 A380 B747 (reconfig) B747 (non-reconfig) A333 A A332 A B767 B737-400 B737-800 B A330 A320 A B787 B FY141 – 11 FLEET TYPES F A B ( – – – – 1 A 2 B A380 B747 (reconfig) B747 (non-reconfig) A333 A332 B767 B737-400 B737-800 A330 A320 B787 FY141 – 11 FLEET TYPES – – – – 1 2 B737-800 A380 B747 (reconfig) B747 (non-reconfig) A333 A332 B767 B737-400 B737-800 A330 A320 B787 FY141 – 11 FLEET TYPES – – – – 1 2 A330 A380 B747 (reconfig) B747 (non-reconfig) A333 A332 B767 B737-400 B737-800 A330 A320 B787 FY141 – 11 FLEET TYPES – – – – 1 2 A320neo B787

    Be the first to comment

    Login to see the comments


Total views


On Slideshare


From embeds


Number of embeds