Airside asked a few GSE operators and suppliers about how maintenance and engineer recruitment and training requirements are changing as so much of the GSE on airport aprons goes electric
Patrick Lasten of Swissport’s global fleet team
Electric equipment requires less maintenance, although you need different skills from your mechanics, so you have to train them. Mechanics are difficult to find these days.
Training is very important; we are training our existing mechanics to maintain electric equipment. This will be a challenge in the coming years. We have to change, that’s just a fact, but some of the older mechanics can find it hard.
Rune Lind Pedersen, strategic marketing manager and area sales manager – Finland and Iceland at ITW GSE
We’ve been able to promote a few people from production to more of a service role. We have a pipeline of talent. Customers feel the pain more than we do but we like to educate our customers to service their equipment themselves rather than pay us to do it. We’ve seen more new people wanting to train with us, especially since Covid.
They are also unburdening machine shops a bit; a certain amount of equipment is always out for maintenance, so customers are choosing equipment that needs less servicing.
dnata’s vice president technical services UAE and global GSE strategy Robert Powell
Coming out of Covid, recruitment was a challenge – especially when it came to GSE technicians. It’s a challenge in the Western world to recruit skilled technicians; whether you’re undertaking your own maintenance or outsourcing, it’s the same problem.
The situation will get more challenging: there’s a general shortage of manpower and people with the right skill set. Plus we are seeing a technological switch from diesel to sustainable electric or hydrogen equipment that will need different maintenance skills.
Bruno Vanpoucke, strategic development and M&A director at TCR Group
We need to retrain mechanics to service electric GSE: we can’t just go out and hire them. And not all of today’s mechanics will want to retrain. At TCR we have about 2,000 technicians and we’re gradually certifying them but it takes time.
Customers underestimate the maintenance requirements of electric equipment. It’s not so straightforward – going electric can lead to savings, but it can bring extra costs, too.
If your maintenance is already outsourced, you won’t even be aware of the requirements; if not, you will face the same challenges that we and others face (finding qualified technicians etc) which means you will probably decide it’s non-core and outsource it.
If you are doing your own maintenance, you will face the same problems as any maintenance provider [in terms of sourcing parts]. But if you are managing the fleets of different players, like we do, then your scale means you have more stock.
We might not have a particular part in our warehouse in one country but we can contact another branch and ask them to send it. We guarantee a level of availability of equipment that we think is higher than if a customer were to manage its own fleet.