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

Lion Air plans to open 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 (Aviation Daily, Nov. 27, 2013).

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

Singapore-based Tigerair recently sent a few Airbus A320s to SAE for airframe C checks and component work, which proved to be a good test case because in December the low-cost carrier awarded 35 more C checks to the MRO provider. The first will arrive in April 2014. Tigerair operates 50 A320s, with an average age of less than three years.

In November, SAE broke ground on a new hangar it expects to open by the end of this year. 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 ATR42/72 aircraft from this region in 2014 and hope for a 10% 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. The Zurich-based MRO, a unit of Mubadala Aerospace, determined that it needed such a facility in the region to support its Integrated Component Services (ICS) customers. SR Technics considered Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia as locations during 2012, and by January 2013 it had started negotiating for facility space near Kuala Lumpur, according to Heinz Freimann, general manager of SR Technics Malaysia.

In addition to this facility, which was completed in December and will officially open in March, in December SR Technics also formed a partnership 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. SR Technics will work with GMF to develop its existing in-house repair capabilities, which in turn gives 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’Aviation Solutions near Kuala Lumpur during June-August 2013, and then went to Zurich for additional on-the-job process and parts training.

Upon completion of this training, the first group of technicians 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 between September and November. Eight of this group of 45 also will fly to Zurich for 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 Malayisa.

SR Technics expects to receive Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation/EASA audit approval any day, with the first components to undergo repair being hydraulic pumps, ballscrew actuators, power drive units and audio control panels. By the end of this year, SR Technics Malaysia expects to have 1,200 product capabilities. The MRO’s 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 is important that SR Technics Malaysia “brings Swiss quality and the same standards here from the beginning, including workmanship. Customers shouldn’t see a difference” between components repaired in Zurich or Kuala Lumpur, says Freimann.

“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.”

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