Jobs of the future: non-destructive testing:
Non-destructive testing (NDT) techniques are increasingly used at Safran to evaluate the properties of components without causing damage. The Group is investing in training to meet its growing needs in this area.
Applied as part of quality-control in both production and maintenance programs, NDT techniques allow us to inspect a component without affecting its material integrity. NDT uses a range of techniques, including dye penetrant inspection, radiography, ultrasonics, magnetic particle inspection (MPI), X-ray computer tomography, and eddy current testing. “There are two main job categories involved: design engineers, who develop the processes, and NDT technicians, who apply them in the factories,” explains Michel Allouard, head of the NDT industrial skills center at Safran Aircraft Engines.
Evolving skills requirements
So, what does it take to be an NDT technician? Meticulous attention to detail, an inquisitive mind as well as a keen sense of observation, risk analysis and responsibilities are all essential skills, coupled with a thorough understanding of material structures, plus of course advanced training in NDT techniques. Safran currently employs approximately 400 NDT technicians. Recruiting is expected to step up in the future due to an increase in the volumes of parts being produced and maintained, as well as retirements and, above all, the changing nature of these jobs. “NDT is going digital and this applies to both signal acquisition and processing,” says Michel Allouard. “What's more, processes are evolving to meet specific needs. X-ray computer tomography, for example, was developed to inspect the composite fan blades on the LEAP engine. Additive manufacturing is spurring the development of new NDT techniques, while in maintenance we're working on portable NDT equipment to avoid having to remove engines.”
All these changes call for new resources, but we’re already facing a skills shortage in this field. “There are very few formal qualifications available, which makes recruiting difficult,” says Christophe Parsis, head of Safran's NDT training center, the Group's in-house "school". Around 600 trainees attend the school each year, nearly 40% of whom are Safran employees and more than 60% work for subcontractors. “Training these two different categories of employees under the same roof helps build a community where everyone applies the same practices and high standards, ensuring good quality,” emphasizes Christophe Parsis. Zuzana Majerova, NDT engineer at Safran Aircraft Engines, has completed this top-flight training. “I was always interested in NDT but when I was a student there were no formal qualifications on offer,” says Zuzana. “After working for several years as a technical validator for rotating parts, I decided to take the leap and enroll in a two-year course in dye penetrant and magnetic particle inspection. I reached a Level 3 in both techniques. It was a huge personal commitment, but I find NDT really fascinating!”
A world of opportunities
Other ways Safran is working to expand its talent pool include strategic workforce planning (SWP), setting up career committees to tap into synergies between the Group's companies, developing expertise career paths, and forging partnerships with schools to develop basic training in NDT techniques. “NDT jobs have got a lot to offer for young people,” says Michel Allouard. “They play an essential role in production, interacting with a variety of different departments, and they allow employees to take on responsibility. And, with significant technological shifts underway, there's growing demand for these jobs. Safran is currently recruiting internally and externally.”