Around the world with a fan disk
Safran deploys a high-performance logistics organization, designed to meet demanding requirements in terms of delivery deadlines, cost and safety. Through this organization, Safran maintains complete control over workflows, not only between its different manufacturing and assembly plants, but also with suppliers and customers.
Once upon a time
The brand-new Boeing 737, flying the colors of a major Asian airline, leaves the Boeing factory located near Seattle, Washington. As the pilot applies the throttle, the fan disk on one of the aircraft's two CFM56-7B turbofan engines remembers the trip it has taken to get to this point. Just a few months ago, this critical engine part, which holds the blades in the fan at the front of the engine, was just a raw blank, ready to take shape at one of Safran Aircraft Engines' plants.
As the airplane reaches its cruise altitude over the United States, our fan disk, nicknamed "Fan" of course, recalls his origins, when he was just an unformed titanium billet. Born in North Carolina, Fan remembers having been placed in a shipping container, then taking a truck trip, followed by a long ocean voyage, before finally arriving at Safran Aircraft Engines' plant in Gennevilliers, in the greater Paris area. Safran is one of the few aeroengine makers in the world to also master the forge and foundry techniques needed to control the metallurgical quality of critical engine parts.
It was my first meeting with the logistics crew, recalls Fan. They had everything organized, including shipping modes, freight forwarders and of course all those pesky customs forms!
A considerate logistics staff
The logistics teams at Safran have to meet a number of key objectives, including getting stuff shipped faster, further and cheaper, not to mention ensuring its safety and minimizing environmental impact.
Arriving at the docks of the Gennevilliers plant, located along the banks of the Seine river, Fan remembers above all that there were a lot of papers, all with his name…
They knew everything about me, down to the slightest detail. They checked my identity and all my characteristics, including weight and size. There was also talk of compliance and acceptance… Once I was inside the plant, I thought I was safe and sound, but that's when it all began! First I went under the forge to take on the general shape. Then I underwent a heat treatment and a non-destructive metallurgical inspection. There was also a huge drop-hammer, rolling mills, a 4,000-ton hydraulic press and more. It was exhausting!
To begin to refine Fan's shape (an operation known as "pre-machining"), they trucked him to one of their subcontractors, not far from the plant. It was again the logistics crew that organized this side trip.
They put me into a box so I wouldn't be damaged during the transfers.
Once back at the main plant, Fan was told to be ready to be wrapped up for a longer trip.
Now that you're forged, pre-machined and checked to make sure you meet specifications, you're going to be sent to a plant on the other side of the Atlantic, to finish machining.
En route to the New World
Logistics staff have to be fully conversant with customs procedures. That's what ensures quick, easy approvals from the authorities to send items to another country. As Fan recalls,
While some guys were wrapping me very carefully to ensure a safe plane trip, others took care of the export procedures in terms of trade compliance and export controls.
Fan had never had so many people taking care of him as on this trip to Safran Aircraft Engines Services Mexico, in Querétaro.
That's where I received a surface treatment. Then I was assembled with other parts to make the fan module, one of the engine's major subassemblies, and wrapped up again for another trip.
Engine assembly and delivery
More administrative procedures were needed for the next step, sending the complete fan module to a GE* facility across the border in the United States.
I was eagerly awaiting my trip to Durham, North Carolina, for final assembly of the engine. To stay on schedule, the logistics crew once more sent me by air freight.
As soon as Fan arrived, engine assembly got under way.
All that was left was to ship the complete engine to Boeing so it could be installed under the wing of the 737. A truck carried the engine 3,000 miles from Durham to Seattle.
I was proud to be part of this engine, now wrapped up in its own container for the trip, says Fan. We were well protected against any contingencies, and I made my final ground trip across the USA without incident. After five months of traveling under someone else's power, I would soon start a career as my own powerplant!
* American engine manufacturer and Safran Aircraft Engines' partner in the 50/50 joint company CFM International, which makes both the CFM56 and LEAP engines.