KLM: Keeping the Flying Dutchman flying

The Space

With a well-established global aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul market worth $90.7bn (2020) technical aircraft services are big business. As the world’s oldest airline still operating under its original name, KLM was founded over one hundred years ago in 1919, the business has established a well-deserved reputation for engine maintenance. The maintenance business was operating in the $43.5bn (2020) market and overhauling engine for KLM and other airlines from its base in Schiphol.

The Brief

One key step in the process is to remove oxidation from the metal engine parts which forms at high altitude. Traditionally, this required placing the stripped-down parts in a series of acid baths. However, this is an imprecise, toxic and dangerous process and not without environmental cost. The world’s oldest airline was looking for a new way to clean engines.

What We Did
  • We climbed We conducted a rapid, global search of existing and novel cleaning technologies which ranged far beyond the aviation sector. We spoke to universities, start-up hubs, automation and roboticists and cleaning companies from other challenging sectors such as the marine sector, silicon wafer industry and the oil and gas industry.
  • We refined As we engaged with the market and shared initial findings with the team, high level solutions were ruled in and out. Both the Venturebright team and the KLM team were learning fast and this learning was applied to the ongoing search activities. With a target of 10 new companies and technologies, we were pushing beyond 20 after only three weeks.
  • We came in to land Once the search was complete, we assessed each solution and the willingness of each party to provides services and/or technologies to KLM. Helping KLM understand the portfolio and the status of each solution enabled them to prioritise the most promising partners and technologies.

What Happened Next

The KLM engineering team were astonished at the breadth of new, relevant technologies which could be brought to bear on the challenge of effectively cleaning oxidation from engine parts. Of the final 16 solutions, the most promising five were selected to receive engine parts for cleaning – the next stage in the selection process.