Skill Development in the Aerospace Sector in India
Boeing has been active in India for 75 years with its commercial airplanes providing the mainstay of India’s civil aviation sector. More recently, its military aircraft and services business have played an important role in the modernization and mission-readiness of India’s defense forces. Boeing is focused on delivering value to Indian customers with advanced technologies underscored by lifecycle support services. In addition, Boeing is rapidly increasing its footprint in India and supporting the growth of the Indian aerospace sector by developing world-class suppliers for its global supply chain, increasing sourcing from India, scaling up Boeing’s engineering center in Bengaluru, and advancing innovation in research & technology partnerships with India’s top engineering and scientific institutes.
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The Indian aerospace and aviation industry, while nascent, is evolving at a fast pace and is forecast to grow significantly. Investments are expected to be made by Indian industry in anticipation of the opportunities in the sector in the coming years and one critical area that needs attention is the availability of skilled manpower.
The shortage of trained frontline factory workers or certified Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (AME) poses a major challenge to fully realize India’s aerospace aspirations. India’s traditional vocational education and training institutions are facing challenges in skilling aerospace workers in adequate numbers for the skills that the industry demands.
Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the aerospace sector in India, in particular, are severely constrained to provide world-class manufacturing skills in-house. The shortage of skilled frontline factor workers and AMEs impacts the competitiveness of the overall industry due to escalating cost of re-work, low quality standards and non-adherence to schedule.
Boeing’s Skilling Advantage
With the realization that the competitiveness of Indian aerospace industry is directly related to the availability of skilled frontline factory workers, Boeing has partnered with key companies and institutions such as Dynamatic Technologies, Tata Advanced Materials, TAL Manufacturing Solutions, and Rossell Techsys to offer training and technical assistance programs.
Training programs by Boeing have been customized based on the manufacturing work being done by the suppliers and the skill gaps observed. Training programs have covered structural assembly (drawing interpretation, process & planning requirements, drilling, riveting, assembly fit-up, fastener installation, sealant application, electrical bonding); composites (layup, laser projection, composite drilling and trimming); wire harness assembly; defect root cause identification, corrective action & prevention; and proposal preparation. In addition, Boeing has provided on-site technical assistance in program management, engineering, supplier management, manufacturing planning, tooling engineering, composites engineering & fabrication, quality assurance & control, and various process qualifications.
In 2014, Boeing executed a program to enhance manufacturing skills in aerospace wire harnesses for the world’s most advanced aircraft. Under this project, 30 students received classroom and hands-on training over a 12-month period to achieve certifications from the Aerospace & Aviation Sector Skills Council (AASSC). The skills delivery partner for this project was the Nettur Technical Training Foundation (NTTF). Rossell Techsys, a Micro/Small/Medium Enterprise (MSME), provided its facility to the students and NTTF for the practical hands-on training (see Figures 1 and 2). The students were eventually absorbed by Rossell Techsys. The second batch of this project, started in 2015 was extended to Tata Advanced Materials (TAML) where 36 students from across India underwent training on composites manufacturing. The third batch, launched in 2016 was with another MSME Jaivel, and focuses on Aerospace Tooling.
A Scalable Model Skilling in India
So far, Boeing has skilled hundreds of Indian engineers across technical and functional areas and program management. The plan is to continue to expand these programs as Boeing grows in India as we move towards a step-change that is required to dramatically impact the competitiveness of the Indian aerospace industry. Towards that objective, Boeing is working with the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE), Ministry of Defence (MoD), AASSC and NSDC to launch large scale programs that will involve the skilling of thousands of students.
India is expected to become the third largest aviation market in the next 20 years. Boeing projects that India to add over 1,850 new aircraft to meet the expected 8.6% per year air traffic growth. The airline fleet is going to multiply. Progressive changes in the regulatory and tax regime of Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul (MRO) are going to increase the number and scope of MRO work undertaken in India. A substantial increase in the number of skilled aircraft maintenance engineers is critical to achieving this growth.
Boeing’s training programs in India have had a strong influence in making India an attractive sourcing destination for Boeing to drive its affordability and productivity objectives. These training programs are also in small ways building the blocks of the country’s aerospace manufacturing ecosystem, propelling it to be a world-class player. The combination of these advantages to both Boeing and India make these skilling initiatives a true win-win for all stakeholders.
The strong growth in aerospace and aviation is secular and imminent. One of the key risks in fully realizing this growth is not having a strong and skilled workforce. The nature of this growth implies that the skilling has to be on a large scale. Boeing is committed to play its role as a leading industry player in shaping and accelerating skills development, and can being its vast knowledge and expertise to India. This will go a long way in benefitting both India and Boeing.