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Marga Blivier

Für die erste Ausgabe des VOLVO AERO Magazins fotografierte Karsten Thormaehlen die sympathische Unternehmerin Marga Blivier für eine Cover Story mit dem Titel: “Keeping Customers airborne”.








Always on standby

Marga Blivier’s MSI ready to help customers day and night

By: Mark Pilling / Photo: Karsten Thormaehlen and ATR (aus "VOLVO AERO MAGAZINE", 1/09)

It was not in Marga Blivier’s grand life plan to establish an aerospace business, but, now that she has, this German entrepreneur is steadily building an intensively customer-focused repair and overhaul operation at MSI Aircraft Maintenance Services International.

Marga Blivier describes her transition from company woman to company owner as a “fantastic accident”. However, it is hardly an accident that, over the past nearly 20 years, MSI has carved out a niche in the maintenance, repair and overhaul markets of Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia for a variety of engines, auxiliary power units (APU), avionics and other equipment.

The “win-win” relationship

Göran Nordén, Vice President Marketing & Sales Engine Services, Volvo Aero

“For Volvo Aero, its relationship with MSI Aircraft Maintenance Services International is all about reaching places and providing services we cannot provide so easily ourselves,” explains Göran Nordén, Vice President Marketing & Sales Engine Services, Volvo Aero.

“MSI is an important customer and partner, covering regions where we think they are more available to customers than we are,” says Nordén. For instance, MSI has an extensive network of customers and contacts across Africa. “We simply don’t have the coverage MSI has in that part of the world.”

Although the business relationship between Volvo Aero and MSI began on the TFE731 engine, the main focus today is the PW100. “This is where we have the most potential together,” says Nordén. Volvo Aero repairs a significant number of PW100s from this part of the world that it receives from the MSI arrangement.

Complement to Volvo Aero

MSI acts as an essential complement to Volvo Aero’s repair and overhaul management representative in Africa and other selected markets like the Middle East. “MSI helps to give an on-site service to customers, such as boroscope inspections of engines or troubleshooting,” says Nordén.

MSI and Volvo Aero work closely to assess the work scope of any engine. “We have a very good dialogue with MSI and our customers on what should be done on the engine,” he says. This is especially important for smaller operators that may not have the in-house technical expertise.

Improving business in Africa

If the inspections show the engine requires more extensive work that cannot be performed on site, MSI sends it to Volvo Aero in Sweden. “We are partners, giving customers a total service package. Together, we can offer more,” explains Nordén.

“MSI has a strong position in Africa and we get a large number of engines that would not easily come our way,” he says.

It may be a cliché to say that a business relationship is a “win-win” situation, but, in the case of MSI and Volvo Aero, it appears as close as you can get.

Blivier’s philosophy is simple, “We are just here for the customer, day and night”.

Individual service

MSI was founded on this principle and the company is still small enough – it currently employs 43 people at its headquarters near Frankfurt and its satellite operation in Dubai – to remain intimate and approachable. “This is our strength,” she explains. “Large companies are sometimes not that flexible – we can give customers more individual service.”

MSI’s roots as an aerospace business date back to 1991 when Blivier teamed up with a one-man company that was marketing industrial lasers. This product line was immediately dropped and MSI began concentrating on aviation work. “All my life, I have worked in the aviation industry, mainly for Garrett and then Honeywell in Germany,” she says.

Armed with an MBA, Blivier’s early career saw her working on the repair and overhaul of Garrett engines, the production of APU components and the contract negotiations in new APU projects for Airbus jetliners and Eurofighter at Honeywell.

Over time, however, the changing strategy of the aerospace giant made her realise there could be market gaps a smaller operation could exploit. “I thought there was perhaps an opportunity to support small and medium-sized operators if I had my own company.”

Branching out into business on her own was a risk, but the move out of Honeywell was amicable. “In the beginning, we had a lot of good co-operation with Honeywell and we still work together today,” she says.

The main focus of the MSI-Volvo Aero collaboration today is on the PW100 turboprop series – the powerplant of the Fokker 50, Bombardier Dash 8 family or, as seen here, the ATR-42.

“We cannot compete with Volvo Aero, P&W or Lufthansa Aero and we don’t want to. We try to find the niche where nobody wants to or is unable to do the work.”

Marga Blivier, owner and Managing Director of msi

From the initial team of two, MSI started to grow. It hired a handful of experienced aviation engineers and technicians and began to trade, initially in the repair of APU and engine components. Blivier was shortly to become the sole owner and managing director of the company, as MSI grew.

Over the years, the company has developed the capability to support a wide range of components. Around 80% of its work is for commercial airlines, with most of the rest in business aviation and helicopters and a small amount of defence work. Presently, MSI holds EASA Part 145, FAA Part 145 and GCAA Car 145 approvals.

From APU repairs to engine service

From its beginnings in the repair and overhaul of APU and engine components, MSI moved into servicing the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW100 series of turboprop engines, which power aircraft like the ATR-42, Fokker 50 and Bombardier Dash 8 family. This work is carried out at its Rüsselsheim headquarters near Frankfurt Airport. “For several years, we worked on this engine in co-operation with Lufthansa Aero in Germany,” says Blivier.

It developed the capability for hot section inspections and repair, either in the workshop or on site at the customer and is an EASA Part 145 approved repair facility for the PW100. Three years ago, it started working with Volvo Aero on the Honeywell TFE731 turbofan, a popular business jet engine, and then moved into the PW100 turboprop. It also does minor work on the Pratt & Whitney JT8D engine that powers airliners like the MD-80.

Engine work with Volvo Aero now makes up approximately twenty per cent of its business, with the bulk of it now involving the PW100.

Blivier’s relationship with Volvo Aero dates back to her time with Garrett, when the companies worked together on servicing the TFE731 engine. It is this kind of experience that makes her keenly aware of the motivations, benefits and limitations of larger players. She is careful to work in collaboration with the large engine overhaul shops, especially in tough markets like the maintenance of PW100s.

Small and medium-sized customers

“We cannot compete with Volvo Aero, P&W or Lufthansa Aero and we don’t want to,” she says. “We try to find the niche where nobody wants to or is unable to do the work. The main thing is that we don’t want to compete with Volvo Aero – we complement each other.

“Our customers are mainly not the big ones, but in the small to medium-sized range. Historically, we have always had very good relationships with our customers. We understand very well the different cultures we work in and our customers seem to appreciate that,” she says.

Troubleshooting around the clock

MSI engineers are on standby to go anywhere in the world to work on an aircraft with a problem. “We send our people into the desert in Africa or into Asia,” she says. “Sometimes pilots call us in the middle of the night with a problem to see if we can troubleshoot it over the telephone.”

MSI has grown quickly in the past two years and Blivier wants to continue the upward path, albeit at a slower rate, as the economic crunch hits the market. She believes there will be opportunities, especially for companies that can mine good niche markets.

“I’m a very positive person and I just believe that, if we work hard and give good service, we can increase our business, even if the economy is not so good any more.”