Actalent Lifts Aerospace Manufacturer Over Regulatory Hurdle

Client avoids a REACH ban because we found safe and effective chemical alternatives to use in their parts.

By Michael McGuire | June 2023
Concentrated female engineer developing software for drone control in the research center laboratory

Actalent's ability to offer a unique mix of hard-to-find engineering and sciences capabilities proved invaluable in helping the client avoid a REACH ban on their products in Europe.

Client Profile

Our client develops high-performing, energy efficient turbines used for power generation in the aerospace and defense industry.

The Client Challenge

A number of industrial paints our client was using to coat turbine parts contained a harmful carcinogenic chemical that didn't comply with the European Union's REACH regulations.

Use of this chemical, however, wasn't unique to our client. Its exceptional durability made it the long-time industry standard for corrosion protection in aerospace.

But that was the past. Urgently, the client needed to replace the paints or the parts with safe alternatives, otherwise the health of their workers and the safety of their products would be at risk. They also wouldn't be allowed to manufacture any affected parts in the EU, which would lead to a host of potential supply chain problems, including immediate build stops, financial penalties for late delivery, and substantial revenue loss.

Yet, as REACH's deadline to comply got closer, our client was still struggling to identify viable alternatives. Overcoming the technical challenge of finding substitute paints -- with the unique electrochemical properties to be both high-performing and safe -- had proven more difficult than they expected. Their lack of domain experience with REACH and other emerging regulations was another factor.

With so much at stake, the client needed a partner that could provide multiple engineering and sciences services all at once.

Enter Actalent...

The Actalent Approach

We were already helping the client implement a larger environmental compliance program when they approached us about solving their REACH problems.

First, we assembled a team of three engineers, each with expertise in multiple disciplines:

  • a chemical and materials engineer
  • a regulatory specialist and data scientist
  • a project manager.

Next, Actalent's engineers worked directly with the client's design, materials, supply chain, and management stakeholders. Our main goal was to identify safe, viable paint substitutes (the last thing we wanted to do was replace one dangerous paint with another that was only marginally less dangerous). Another goal was to reduce costs where possible, given the razor-thin margins in the aerospace industry.

The plan was to take a low-cost, low-risk approach.

Early on, however, we identified some fundamental gaps in the client's processes. Among the biggest: they didn't have protocols for identifying potential solutions, they only had protocols for evaluating solutions after they'd been identified. They also hadn't been taking a data focused approach or looking for inspiration in existing part designs to solve this problem.

Filling those gaps was the next step. That meant gathering all the available data for thousands of parts. Then, to house all that data, our regulatory specialist/data scientist built a custom database (if "data is the new oil," we essentially built the client a refinery that would allow them to use it).

After that, our chemical and materials engineer analyzed the data, part by part, to identify any similar parts that were already using compliant paints.

Lastly, we worked with the client's designers to evaluate individual solutions for each affected part. Line by line, we found a replacement part or a compliant paint already in use that could be a safe substitute. We documented the status of all affected parts and their proposed solutions in a spreadsheet, the client's preferred format.

The Results

We proposed safe paint replacements before the REACH deadline, helping the client avoid serious health and safety risks, as well as significant financial loss.

Our proposal also reduced the need for personal protective equipment during the manufacturing and maintenance process, as well as lessened their overall exposures to future liability.

And because our low-risk, low-cost approach used existing paints and parts that had already been validated as safe, less testing was required -- another cost savings.

Furthermore, our client was impressed with our ability to get buy-in and collaboration from multiple departments and stakeholders, which is often a challenge when it comes to compliance initiatives.

Ultimately, Actalent achieved these results by using a unique combination of regulatory, chemical, materials, software, and database engineering expertise. And, because of our versatility, we only needed a team of three, whereas other service providers would have required a substantially larger team. For the client, working with us reinforced the value of partnering with a company that can immediately provide and manage a wide range of technical capabilities.

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