From The Editor

Message from the Air: Be Nice, Be Flexible, Be There

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MCN Editor Dan Markham For folks in the titanium business (and any other metals connected to the aerospace market), these were three of the biggest names on the planet. A manufacturers’ Murderers’ Row, if you will. Airbus. Boeing. Rolls-Royce. 

Representatives from all three global giants spoke in succession at last month’s Titanium USA event in Aurora, Colorado, each offering a little speck of wisdom on the workings of the supply chain.

Jeff Carpenter, the senior director of contracts, sourcing and category management for Boeing Commercial Airlines, had a rather simple message for the assembled crowd: play nice. “I noticed a lot of you treating each other poorly. For those of you have been around a long time, we have long memories. And when we get treated poorly, we don’t forget. And when you get treated poorly, you don’t forget.”

Olivier Maillard, vice president of metallic and part procurement for Boeing’s rival, Airbus, said his company is actively working to diversify its supply chain, no longer content with an all-its-eggs-in-one-basket approach (Airbus is not the first manufacturer to emerge from the pandemic with that epiphany). 

The strategy has already begun working for much of its industrial metal procurement,  other than a rather unsuspecting player: steel. As it has no longstanding relations inside the carbon steel world, the airframe manufacturer is still sorting out how to source the product (or more accurately, how to help its Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers do the same). 

But the most impassioned remarks on the supply chain were delivered by James Lloyd, the defense supply chain executive for the British multinational, which I like to think of as the Rolls-Royce of aero engine builders. And in his comments, he highlighted just how important every member of the supply chain truly is to the global economy. 

“The biggest reason why our demand fluctuates within an 18-month period is when the supply chain can’t deliver,” he said flatly. 

He urged the conference goers – a collection which included titanium producers, service centers, forgers and OEMs – to fully do their part. 

“There are specific steels that have stopped every production line around the whole world. We’ve got products where we have every single part to make that engine and someone says, ‘it will take three months, seven months, a year.’ Don’t think we won’t act differently to fix that problem. We’re finding alternatives for some smaller companies, and in many cases it wasn’t a fault of theirs.”

The ramifications of the failure of anyone in the supply chain can be catastrophic. 

“If you have a problem with one supplier who doesn’t deliver, you’re talking about billions of dollars of revenue you keep everyone else in the room from,” he continued. “The responsibility of people to go and deliver is very important because the impact globally is huge.”