23 Oct 2023 -
 Defence

Aviation industry grapples with supply chain hurdles

airline - aviation - aerospace

Last month, at the annual JetNet iQ Summit in New York, experts revealed that the aviation industry is still feeling the pinch from the Covid-induced supply chain disruptions, reported AINOnline. This setback, particularly from lower-tier suppliers, is impacting production despite strong order backlogs. However, for some industry insiders, this is not entirely bad news.

David Rosenberg, Senior Vice President and CFO of Textron Aviation, remarked on the supply chain challenges, suggesting that the constraint has led to an equilibrium between supply and demand. Echoing this sentiment, Michael Amalfitano, CEO of Embraer Executive Jets, noted that these supply challenges have facilitated the industry’s health by maintaining price discipline and production levels, thus ensuring the protection of residual values for buyers.

Supply chain issues have had a ripple effect, causing delays for aircraft operators waiting for essential engine or avionics components. Pete Bunce, CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, highlighted instances where suppliers couldn’t deliver due to parts shortages, compelling them to divert parts from production to the aftermarket.

The repair capacity within the industry, as highlighted by Delray Dobbins of Pratt & Whitney Canada, is not what it used to be. This lack of repair capability puts additional strain on the new parts supply, with the absence of spare parts exacerbating the situation.

But how are companies navigating these challenges? To address supply bottlenecks, Amalfitano disclosed that Embraer has stationed over 60 employees with critical suppliers globally, enhancing their production levels. The company is also exploring ways to internalise certain production processes to better manage supply lines. Dassault Falcon’s CEO, Thierry Betbeze, shared their proactive approach; they’re bolstering production lines at vital small providers and even acquiring some.

However, the issue is multifaceted. The shortage isn’t only in finished products. Raw materials, from windshields and their components to carbon fibre, aluminium, titanium, and semiconductor chips, are all posing significant challenges.

Notably, the competition for these materials isn’t limited to aviation. Juergen Wiese of the European Business Aviation Association highlighted that industries such as automotive are vying for the same resources.

Labour shortages among suppliers, resulting from the pandemic, are further exacerbating supply-chain issues. With the loss of master craftsmen, the production and supply of specialised components have been particularly impacted.

Despite these challenges, the overarching sentiment is one of resilience. While the industry may currently grapple with issues like stricter part tolerances and quality control, it remains steadfast, constantly adapting to the changing landscape. As the industry seeks to ramp up production in the face of strong aircraft demand, the lessons from these disruptions will undoubtedly shape its future trajectory.

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