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Talking to Caroline Vandedrinck, SVP Business Dev. at SR Technics about Engines and a Diverse Workforce

Caroline Vandedrinck, SVP Business Development at SR Technics
Caroline Vandedrinck, SVP Business Development at SR Technics

At this year’s MRO Americas in Chicago, AviTrader had the opportunity to talk to Caroline Vandedrinck, SVP Business Dev. at SR Technics, about Engines and a Diverse Workforce :

SR Technics recently inducted its 5,500th engine into the engine shop in Zurich. You also started to build an additional test cell. Is Engine maintenance the most important element of your anticipated business growth?

Well, thank you for the question. The last two years have been a transformation of our company. As you know, COVID happened, and we really had to take a step back and look at what the future of this company was and how can we survive. And the result is the focus on engine maintenance. As you may have read over the last couple of years, we exited the component business and now engine maintenance is 85 – 90 percent of our business. Not just the mainline business is very exciting, which is our bread and butter, but also getting into the GTF and the LEAP. So back in April 2022, we signed an agreement to be part of the network of Pratt & Whitney IAE on the GTF PW1100. And then we also have contracts with another OEM for the LEAP 1A and LEAP 1B. So exciting, especially for our employees. They can see the main line. We have natural growth because the CFM engine shop visits are increasing. But they also see a future of new products that they can be part of as that grows. 5,500, yes, between being part of an airline many, many years ago and being independent for the last 19 years. It’s exciting to have 5,500 engine shop visits under our belt. We are going to double the business in the next five years. So we’ll talk again in five years and see how many engines we have done by then.

What engine types do you currently have in your portfolio?

We have the CFM56-7B and CFM56-5B as well as the PW4000, both the 94 inch and the 100 inch. So that´s the main line. Plus the GTF PW1100 and the LEAP 1A and 1B. With regards to the test cell, we had one test cell for our main line, and in order to be effective for the additional business, we are restoring a test cell and construction will be finished by the end of the summer, and then the calibration and testing goes through to the end of the year, so we’ll be able to do the CFM, GTF, and LEAP in the new test cell.

With the LEAP and PW1100G, you have the latest-generation types in your portfolio. How important are the mature engine types like the CFMs and PW4000 engines to your company?

What we call the main line, the CFM business as well as the PW4000, they’re very important. And when we constructed the buildings for the new engines, the GTF and the LEAP, we put them in different buildings with different teams, different management, so that we don’t impact the main line. Because if you look at the CFM forecast, there will be many, many more CFM shop visits. They haven’t reached their peak yet. We will be part of the CFM overhaul business for many years, probably even decades to come, even with the PW4000. We have long-term customers. We plan to be in the PW4000 business for many years to come as well. So, yes, we are focused on both, on two different teams, two different buildings, two different test sets.

SR Technics just launched “WOW”, which is “Women on Wings.” Can you explain a little bit further what that initiative is all about?

We’ve always been focused on diversity and promoting women, interviewing our technicians. There was an interview several months ago with a lady that was an apprentice who went on to become a mechanic. We always had that mindset, but it was never a formal program. So, in December last year, I was standing in our lobby giving out the traditional Swiss bakery “Grittibänz” And I’m standing there with an HR lady and our deputy CFO Jessy who’s also a lady and you get all these men coming for their gift and then all of a sudden it was like three, four women in the technical department floated by. I was so excited to see these technicians who were ladies and because I’m in meetings and meetings with customers I don’t necessarily spend a lot of time on the shop floor so I don’t see the ratio of ladies to gentlemen on the shop floor. I was happy to see them. I was talking to them and how we can connect so that’s when “WOW” came into my mind and then I talked to a few of my female colleagues. I’m like, okay, what can we do? And why do we want to do this? Not just because I want to talk to ladies on the shop floor, I can just walk down. So, we formed a little steering committee and said, okay, what do we want to get out of it, and what do we want to give as a formal program?

On International Women’s Day on March 8th, we launched “WOW”. It’s to connect, inspire and lead. It’s really to give a platform for ladies to have a voice, to say this is what I want in a company, these are my expectations. We can retain them, but also for the future attract them. Word of mouth, going to their girlfriends or their daughters or sisters to say, hey, aviation is wonderful, SR Technics is an employer of choice. And it’s an environment where they listen to me. It’s where my voice is being heard, no matter what level in the company you are at.

Initiatives like this in big companies exist already. We’re a relatively small company. We want to make sure that those ladies have a voice. Mentorships, it will be bench-marking with all the companies, it will be guest speakers. Our first official launch with all the ladies in the company present will be April 29th in Zurich. And there is an agenda for the meeting of course, but for future meetings I don’t have an agenda yet because I want to hear from them what their expectations are. How can we fullfill their requirements?

I think it’s great that you’re providing a platform to give the women, the ladies a voice. Now in addition to that, are you having problems filling vacant positions? Is that part of the reason why you came up with WOW?

It was not the reason we came up with WOW, but it will be a benefit because we want to be an employer of choice. We want to attract ladies because the business case for a diverse workers’ composition is there. I mean, it’s not just women. It’s all races, all genders. A diverse workforce brings more value. Everybody has different ideas, comes from different perspectives, and adds value and colour to a discussion. If we all think alike and look alike, then you only have one solution.

Right now, I believe, correct me if I’m wrong, there’s about 20% of senior management positions filled by women. Overall in the total company, what percentage would women be?

It’s a little lower. It’s about 18% if you take the whole company.

Do you have a vision about the future workforce at SR Technics?

My vision for the workforce at SR Technics is to be diverse. As I said, there’s a business case for having a diverse workforce. Also, in the past, we would look at Switzerland as our mainstay for finding employees., we used to look at Germany and France and Italy because they’re close by. Now we go much further. The growth that we’re seeing where we need to hire 400 people for the new engine line and we need to look at a hundred-ish new employees for the main line, we need to have a bigger area to cover.

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