Singapore is synonymous with maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) in the Asia-Pacific region, but the fast-paced growth of Asia-Pacific airlines is drawing local and global companies to establish aftermarket support entities in Indonesia and Malaysia as well.

Lion Air is opening four hangars on Batam, an Indonesian island south of Singapore, in the first half of this year, to accommodate the hundreds of aircraft it has on order.

Malaysian entrepreneur Syed Budriz founded Sepang Aircraft Engineering (SAE) and started operating it in 2007 to provide a local MRO option to AirAsia. “As AirAsia got bigger, EADS came in and invested 40 percent in 2010,” says Jean-Luc Coma, acting CEO for the MRO provider that is based at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Today SAE completes about 85% of AirAsia's maintenance checks.

Singapore-based low-cost carrier Tigerair last year sent a few Airbus A320s to SAE for airframe C checks and component work, and in December awarded 35 more C checks to the MRO company. The first will arrive in April. Tigerair operates 50 A320s that average less than three years of age.

In November, SAE broke ground on a new hangar that it expects to open by year-end. It will provide SAE the extra space it needs to accommodate additional customers and facilitate its new role as the Airbus Malaysia Customer Service Center. “We anticipate more C checks for A320 and ATR 42/72 aircraft from this region in 2014 and hope for a 10 percent growth rate,” says Coma. SAE handles 5-6 A320 and ATR checks daily, with 3-4 coming from AirAsia.

On the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, SR Technics is setting up a component repair facility to support its Integrated Component Services (ICS) customers. The Zurich-based MRO provider that is part of Mubadala Aerospace considered Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia in 2012 and by January 2013 began negotiating for a space near Kuala Lumpur, according to Heinz Freimann, general manager of SR Technics Malaysia. This facility finished construction in December and will officially open in March.

SR Technics also formed a partnership in December with Garuda Maintenance Facility AeroAsia (GMF) to create a component-support workshop in Jakarta as part of an ICS agreement for Garuda Indonesia's Airbus A330 and Boeing 737NG aircraft. The two will work to develop SR Technics' in-house repair capabilities, which in turn give the MRO in-country support in Indonesia to reduce turnaround times.

Sivadass Krishnan, SR Technics Malaysia's first employee and human resources manager, wants 90% of the staff at the component-repair facility to be local. Each employee will undergo 6-9 months of training, with a special emphasis on hand skills. The first wave of hires, 21 technicians, received theoretical and practice core skills training at D'viation Solutions near Kuala Lumpur in June-August 2013 and then went to Zurich for additional on-the-job process and parts training. The technicians then returned to Malaysia to prepare test benches, organize material in the warehouse and prepare for the production line ramp up, including reassembling parts sent from Zurich.

The second wave of technicians, 45 of whom were mostly recruited from local technical schools and universities, started training last September. Eight of these also will fly to Zurich for “on-the-job training for specific part numbers,” says Freimann. They might have less experience, “but we'll show them that they can move up,” says Joel Lin, head of maintenance operations at SR Technics Malaysia.

SR Technics expects to receive Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation/European Aviation Safety Agency audit approval any day. The first components to undergo repair will be hydraulic pumps, ball-screw actuators, power drive units and audio control panels. By the end of this year, SR Technics Malaysia aims to have 1,200 product capabilities; its Swiss operation covers 3,500. “We'll concentrate here on mature products we currently do in Zurich,” as well as labor-intensive ones, says Andy Renggli, senior product manager for component maintenance at SR Technics Malaysia.

While having a local presence should speed turnaround times, it's important that SR Technics Malaysia “brings Swiss quality and the same standards here from the beginning, including workmanship,” Freimann says. “Customers shouldn't see a difference” from components repaired in Zurich or Kuala Lumpur, he notes.

“We're like a start-up within an established company,” he says. “Without the group, we wouldn't have chosen SAP, but we must comply with group standards.”

“We're like the fertilizer that can grow a bigger tree,” says Krishnan. “This could become an SR Technics hub!”