Air Transport World

'Passion for perfection': the motto of Lufthansa's maintenance operation explains why more than 180 customers entrust their repairs and overhauls to the German carrier. (includes article on an environmentally safe paint stripping method developed by Deutsche Lufthansa AG) (company profile)

The motto of Lufthansa's maintenance operation explains why more than 180 customers entrust their repairs and overhauls to the German carrier.

HAMBURG-A passion for perfection. This tagline on a series of Lufthansa print advertisements goes a long way toward explaining why some 180 customers worldwide entrust much of their maintenance and overhaul to the Technical Services Division of Germany's flag carrier.

It also is one of the reasons why others consider aircraft that Lufthansa retires from its own fleet such good buys. According to Juergen Weber, until recently chief executive/technical and since mid-May the airline's new chairman, Lufthansa never has failed to sell its used but rejuvenated aircraft for more than they had cost originally. Small wonder. Rolf Stuessel, senior vice president-engineering, states that Lufthansa spends about 10% of the original purchase price on maintenance of an aircraft each year. One of every four Lufthansa employees works for Technical Services.

Lufthansa claims to be the world's largest supplier of technical services to other airlines. As company spokesmen like to say of its airline customers, "from A to Z. Air Algerie to Air Zimbabwe." well as the range of customers, A to Z indicates the broad scope of work that Lufthansa performs in its shops. More than 98% of the jobs that have to be done on an airplane are done in-house; this excludes engine bearings and the jobs assigned to Lufthansa's associates in the ATLAS consortium. The payoff is a better than 98% technical dispatch reliability once the planes return to service and fewer than one flight in 1,000, of the more than 200,000 Lufthansa annual flights has to be canceled for technical reasons.

Here at Lufthansa's mammoth overhaul base at Hamburg Airport, and at Frankfurt-Main, its similarly mammoth line-maintenance base, about half of total man-hours are devoted to third-party contract work. Last year, this came to 2.5 million man-hours and produced about 1 billion deutsche marks ($600 million). As recently as the mid-1970s, third-party work consumed only about 600,000 man-hours. Top-quality work, fast turnaround times and strict adherence to deadlines obviously are key factors in this growth, since Lufthansa is not exactly a low-cost producer. Figures from the Institute of the German Economy show that hourly labor costs in the Federal Republic-$11.94 in basic wage plus $10.20 in social costs" (pension, etc.)-are just about the highest in the world. This is especially true in comparison with competitors in Asia.

Lufthansa does not depend solely on its reputation for quality to strengthen its competitive position. It invests heavily in labor and cost-cutting systems, many of them designed by its engineering section. Among these are computer-controlled grinding machines for rotors and blades, a system for repairing turbine guide vanes, a technique for repairing large composite-material structures, automated inventory management, a new environment-friendly paint-stripping system (see sidebar), and computer-controlled airframe cleaners.

Overhaul performed by Lufthansa's partners in the ATLAS work-sharing consortium-Air France, Alitalia, lberia and Sabena-account for about 20% of total production; Lufthansa is responsible for overhaul of all of ATLAS's wide-body engines and its Airbus A300 airframe. An additional 30% is devoted to other airlines including subsidiary Condor-leasing firms, private operators and warranty work on behalf of manufacturers. The remaining 50% is for Lufthansa's own fleet.

In terms of revenues, ATLAS jobs accounted for 111.6 million last year, largely offset by the work that ATLAS partners did for Lufthansa. Other airline business brought in $366 million and warranty and other income totaled 95. …

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