Supply chain woes leave Boeing, Airbus struggling to deliver
- Boeing, the top airplane manufacturer, and Airbus, a close No. 2, plan to deliver a combined 1,600 airliners this year, more than double the number completed in 2000, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- Delays and shortfalls, however, have plagued airplane manufacturers. Airbus has missed airliner delivery deadlines, leading airlines to cancel flights and use older, less fuel-efficient aircraft as replacements.
- Meanwhile, Boeing faces supplier shortfalls. While Boeing has not yet missed deliveries, the company has dealt with delays of its Max 737 planes due to engines and wing and fuselage components.
While aircraft manufacturers have encountered delays before, those were usually about integrating new designs and assembly methods rather than the scale of production.
However, booming demand has challenged jet makers' supply chains to keep up, leading to shortages of crucial components such as engines and wing assemblies.
In 2020, Airbus and Boeing are scheduled to deliver 1,830 passenger planes, a 45% increase from 2013, the Financial Times reported. Boeing expects to deliver a record 800 planes this year on the way to producing more than 900 units annually by 2020.
As a result, airplane manufacturers are managing farther down the supply chain to ensure smaller suppliers have the resources and technology to support surging demand so far.
Boeing has invested in helping suppliers beef up production including technology to monitor performance, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg told reporters at the Farnborough Air Show, according to the Journal.
The Journal also reports Airbus considered slowing production of single-aisle design to allow engine makers, like supplier Pratt & Whitney, to catch up but didn't want to slow down suppliers in other segments. In addition, Airbus asked Spirit Aerosystems to build up inventory for A350 and A320 parts, and audited vendors to ensure they have the staff and resources to keep up.
Demand for new passenger jets is expected to remain strong, as the International Air Transport Association forecasts airlines will carry 4.4 billion passengers in 2018, compared with 2.7 billion in 2010.