AJW Technique

Sept. 16, 2013
Fast track to certification at the new Montreal MRO

Early last April, British-based AJW Group invited Aircraft Maintenance Technology to a two-day media event celebrating the opening of its new component repair and overhaul facility - AJW Technique - in Montreal, Canada. 

We were given the opportunity to tour the facilities, look behind the curtains, peek in the closets, meet and interview employees, and take some photographs. This was as we Americans would say was a really “big deal.” It was a big deal for the AJW Group of companies because they can up the level of completion and service to their regional customers. Getting a new international company and creating jobs was very important to the Canadian and Montreal economies. This was demonstrated by presentations from several French Canadian Ministers, Christopher Whiteside, president of AJW Group, AJW Technique’s general manager Gavin Simmonds, and other senior managers. With the conclusion of formalities, media members representing maintenance were able to conduct interviews with President Whiteside, Gavin Simmonds, and other AJW Technique senior management and tour the new facilities. After visiting with AJW staff we were able to sort out some of the corporate hierarchy. 

AJW Group

The AJW Group is comprised of four companies: AJW Aviation, AJW Technique, AJW Capital Partners, and AJW Leasing. AJW Aviation was started by Anthony James Walter in 1932 when he began importing the Piper Cub to the United Kingdom. Eighty years later it is the world’s largest privately owned supplier of modern aviation spare components with 800 airline customers in 115 countries and about 400 aircraft under contract. It stocks a core inventory of spares with a value of about $500 million for the modern Boeing and Airbus fleets.

AJW Technique, the newest member of the family, acquired a Montreal facility in August of 2012 with the goal that within six months, it would become the headquarters of the global component repair and overhaul service and an MRO for AJW Aviation’s 800 airline customers. Having been through certifying audits with the FAA, EASA, and Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) , I know they can be challenging and time consuming. So to certify work processes, associated documentation, IT systems, technician training, and a facility in six months was an extraordinary accomplishment. To understand how AJW Technique was able to fast track its certifications, I needed to interview Allan Pennycuick, AJW Technique’s engineering and quality manager who walked me through the facility and explained.

According to Pennycuick, they began by first considering their component business model and customers, and then developing a building plan, a capacity plan, and project plan for certification. In October of 2012 they began implementing their plans and six months later were certified by three regulatory agencies, hosting a new business launch event and touring media types through their facilities. Per Pennycuick, “Certification was a team effort, start to finish.”  

The fast track process for certification

  • Use a reduced scope process rather than trying to certify all components and the entire facility; determine what ATA Chapters and components to work and define their work processes.
  • Next determine what methods and systems to use to calibrate tooling and test equipment (some decisions took two months to finalize). “We selected the Component Control Quantum System to manage work orders and production control, and the Q Pulse System for documentation control, quality management, corrective action reporting, and tooling and test equipment calibration control systems. Both were proven, robust, paperless computer systems.”
  • Next write the Maintenance Policy Manual (MPM). This was a “clean sheet” initiative, again using a team approach with various employees and technicians participating in the flow charting processes. After the work flow diagrams and definitions were complete, Pennycuick locked himself away for a month to write the first MPM draft. He used a top down practical approach, developing the high level process and then 10 working procedures for training and tooling and test equipment, etc.  AJW Technique worked closely with TCCA and designed its documentation to meet TCCA's requirements which would also meet EASA and FAA requirements. 

  • Pennycuick says, “We held frequent meetings to brief TCCA on design concepts, what would and would not be in the MPM and level of detail included.” AJW Technique also developed their own approach to quality performance, named 6S. After reading it, it was easy to see how the Brits built an empire - it was practical, actionable, and measurable.

The primary MPM was submitted for approval in late November 2012 followed shortly by the working procedures, forms, data collection procedures for tooling and test equipment certification, and system backup detail and documentation. AJW Technique’s technicians' qualifications, prior experience, and training certainly helped expedite the process. The TCCA reviewed the MPM, details were explained and clarified, and certification was awarded in January 2013.

  • Next certify the facilities beginning with a restricted scope. Pennycuick adds, “We chose the galley equipment cell and the coffeemakers as the test component. This approach let them present their business systems, technician certifications, work process, tooling and test equipment calibrations for a defined production unit.” An example of the 6S quality process was in evidence where each work station included a complete set of hand tools that were outlined so it was easy to see where each belonged and when one was missing. Allan explains, this ensured that all tools were standardized, calibrated and certified, and technicians would not use their own tools or need space for personal tool boxes.
  • TCCA conducted the audit and granted certification for the coffee makers at the end of January. Because of the bilateral agreements between TCCA and the United States, it also received FAA repair certification for U.S. and Canadian-registered aircraft components. Early in 2012 Europe and Canada signed a similar bilateral agreement so AJW Technique added some additional content and a supplement to its MPM to recognize and meet EASA’s small differences and received EASA certification by the end of March. Pennycuick states that, “AJW’s policy is always to work to the highest standard.” 

During the initial audits other AJW Technique employees were preparing additional component units for certification. The tooling and test equipment was getting whatever calibration maintenance or replacements were necessary to bring them to certification and production. The avionics suite of components was certified next and the electrical components were put in the queue. AJW Technique is also pursuing AS9110 certification at this time. 

AJW Technique employees were gracious hosts and it was easy to see why they have grown into one of our industry’s largest companies. AJW’s senior managers acknowledged that Allan Pennycuick was the man of the hour and a capable and frugal Scotsman who did not waste time or resources. After our tour of the facility and their certification process discussion, it was easy to agree with that statement. We left the next morning but I remained curious as to how the new AJW family member was doing and if the next phases of the certification process had gone as well as the first. I saw the following update on http://www.aviationpros.com:

Paris 17th June 2013: AJW Technique

Just seven months after acquisition AJW Technique has achieved full TCCA/FAA and EASA certification and awarded the TCCA Design Approval Organization (DAO) status. Allan Pennycuick states: “We have worked very hard to ensure that the strictest standards of excellence have been adhered to throughout every stage of this facility start-up. Quality takes absolute priority here at AJW Technique and due to focused management and team commitment we have not missed a single deadline. AJW Technique is looking to strengthen its position as a global MRO and gain regional certification for Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand, and China.” The British may have an empire of another kind in the making.