Rolls-Royce Doing Well in Brandenburg

Last year the much-anticipated Rolls-Royce Power Gearbox was given its first test-run just outside Berlin. Markets Germany finds out how the British jet engine giant is committed to its eastern German plant in Dahlewitz for the long haul.

July, 2017

In December, the prestigious engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce celebrated the delivery of the 7,000th engine mounted at its Dahlewitz plant. The engine, a BR710, is destined to power a Gulfstream G550 owned by the Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation and is just one example of the dynamic output from this suburban village just a stone’s throw from Berlin’s Schönefeld airport.

Last October, the Dahlewitz facility hosted a milestone aerospace test when Rolls-Royce’s Power Gearbox (PGB) was given a proper turn for the first time. The test was one of a series which will culminate in 100,000 horsepower of load – the equivalent of more than a hundred Formula One race cars – being put on a single gearbox. When it is finished, it will be the most powerful aeronautical transmission component in the world.

Rolls-Royce’s Dahlewitz plant has an impressive heritage of aerodynamic innovation. In addition to the BR700 family – a standard-setter in long-distance jet engines – the Tay, Spey and Dart engine series were developed and manufactured here. Last year the facility celebrated the delivery of its 7,000th engine.

© picture alliance/ZB

The entire project forms a part of Rolls-Royce’s next-generation engines strategy, which was announced in 2014. Each gearbox is an integral part of the long-awaited UltraFan engine (expected to achieve a 25 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency when it enters the market in 2025), which is currently being developed by Rolls-Royce Germany. The capacity to manufacture the core components at Dahlewitz was created through a joint venture between Rolls-Royce Germany and Lieb­herr Aerospace in 2015, and represents an investment of more than €80m.

Long-term commitment

“This joint venture was established to develop manufacturing capability and capacity for the power gearbox. It provides outstanding production engineering for the power gear drive train components,” explains the managing director of the Dahlewitz site, Paul O’Neil.

The latest developments at Dahlewitz form part of a long-term strategic commitment to manufacturing in Germany. It ­began in 1990 when the Rolls-Royce Group founded a German company to develop civil jet engines in partnership with BMW. Rolls-Royce Germany, a 100 per cent subsidiary, is Germany’s only fully certified engine manufacturer with complete systems capability for the design, production and after-sales support of civil and military turbine engines. In all, more than €3.2bn has been invested in the production facilities and engine programs at Dahlewitz and the company’s other site near Frankfurt. Across the two sites there are more than 3,600 employees.

As far back as 2008, Dahlewitz was developed as a test center for the entire Rolls-Royce Group with an investment of €65m, primarily for the mechanical and structural behavior of gas turbine components. Up to 40 different types of tests have since been carried out, including acceleration, operating stability and vibration tests.

“Over more than two decades Dahlewitz has established itself within the company as being highly innovative, reliable and focused to deliver products meeting the highest standards,” says O’Neil proudly. And there’s more excitement in store: “Later this year, we will also start assembling Trent XWB engines.”

The financial results for the Rolls-Royce Group in 2016 showed the R&D expenditure was £97m (€91m) up on 2015, with civil aerospace accounting for £53m (€61m) of that increase. The costs of developing a new engine are staggering because of the sheer complexity of the tasks required, but long-term goals remain a priority for the group, as emphasized by CEO Warren East in the financial report. This year net R&D expenditure is expected to be in the region of £950m (€1.1bn)