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Paris Air Show Adds New Impetus for Supply Chain Execution Across Aerospace Supply Chains

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Commercial aircraft industry eyeballs were focused on this week’s Paris Air Show, a biannual event with enormous significance to major aircraft manufacturers and their respective supply chain partners.  Each event is a competition as to which manufacturer walks away with bragging rights to the most landed Airbus A320neocustomer orders or most buzz regarding a new aircraft model. Beyond the headline buzz as to whether Airbus or Boeing landed the most orders, the global supply chain takeaway is an additional $100 billion plus in customer orders and another obvious extension of multi-year backlogs. The overall pressures on aerospace focused supply chain have clearly and unquestionably turned toward fulfillment execution.

Reports indicate that Airbus booked $57 billion for 421 new aircraft orders at list prices while Boeing landed $50 billion worth of orders representing 331 new aircraft.  Combined, it represents nearly another 6 to 9 months of customer order backlog at current monthly production volumes.

Aircraft engine providers also shared in the order bonanza with consortium based CFM International reporting a combined $19 billion in orders related to its LEAP family of engines, and other models, while General Electric Aerospace reported orders valued at $5.4 billion for its new GE9X engine. Interesting enough, as a literal follow-up to our previous Supply Chain Matters commentary related to CFM International, the CEO of that engine supplier publically warned the two major OEM’s not to request additional production volume beyond aircraft currently scheduled for delivery through 2020, and that the consortium is currently stretched to capacity in fulfilling what has already been booked in orders. Likewise, the President of Rolls Royce’s aircraft engine business indicated that supplier was booked out to 2021 and the current industry message is about production and supply chain ramp-up.

On the topic of engines, Airbus had previously planned to feature its new A320neo aircraft at this week’s show but a component problem within the new model Pratt and Whitney engine grounded the aircraft.

A further industry implication is that more and more of added industry orders are originating from new and up and coming discount based carriers. Indonesia based Garuda was reported to be one of the most active buyers this week, placing orders for both Airbus and Boeing aircraft. Many are opting for termed “power by the hour” or included service management contracts where manufacturers guarantee a specified level of operational up-time and assume annualized aircraft maintenance costs. The longer the industry backlog continues, the less likely that OEM’s and engine suppliers can take advantage and leverage these incremental recurring revenue streams.

On the product design front, the reported buzz centered on a potential new Boeing model termed “Mom”, billed as a likely replacement of current discontinued Boeing 757 fleets. The aircraft does not exist and is more in the pitching stage, but talk of the new model was enough to reportedly generate a lot of interest and a lot of differing views. Postings by Business Insider and Bloomberg provided added color to Boeing’s potential new model.  Industry participants are quoted as indicating that Boeing has no choice but to pitch such an aircraft because of current functional advantages offered by arch rival Airbus with its new A320neo aircraft. According to these postings, Boeing is indicating a “clean sheet” design. However, the current realities of the current highly capacity constrained industry are already adding to the discussion as to the time-to-market timetable for such a new model. Once more, the current operational 757 fleet is noted as more than two decades old and will need replacement rather soon. This author alone is rather frustrated in having to fly coast-to-coast across the United States in aging and dull United Airlines 757’s. It is akin to driving a station wagon with 200,000 miles on the odometer with seats and upholstery worn out. The notion of “Mom” will undoubtedly place enormous pressure on Boeing’s design engineering and program management teams at a crucial time when other new aircraft need to meet delivery and volume milestones.

Obviously, the industry question centers on whether both Airbus and Boeing have learned from past supply chain snafu’s with prior models and can effectively instill added agility, cadence and responsiveness to global-based supply chains. Supplier resiliency and contingency planning will be crucial as will supply chain risk mitigation.  Advanced technology is already playing a crucial role in areas of additive manufacturing, RFID, IoT and more extensive end-to-end supply chain visibility. Both OEM’s, along with key suppliers, would be wise to increase their investments in more predictive planning and supply chain wide business and operational intelligence.

As Supply Chain Matters has noted often, an industry with engineering based culture having upwards of a current ten year order fulfillment backlog while enviable, has unprecedented challenges and requires more innovative approaches by all its players. The focus is now flawless and synchronized execution.

Bob Ferrari


Report of a Building Glut of Scrap and Recycled Materials in the United States

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Of late, Supply Chain Matters has highlighted new industry supply chain challenges related the current high value of the U.S. dollar in relation to other foreign currencies. That challenge now extends to the flow of recycled materials emanating from the United States to other geographic regions.

The Wall Street Journal reports that for sellers of scrap metal, used paperboard and other recycled waste, headwinds are more described as a hurricane resulting in a current glut of scrap materials. (paid subscription required). The WSJ cites data from a unit of McGraw Financial indicating that prices of shredded scrap steel have plunged 18 percent thus far this year, and our down an overall 41 percent since 2012. Likewise, the price of used corrugated cardboard has fallen 27 percent this year. Noted is that Turkey, whose steel mills had been a able buyer of U.S. based scrap, have been buying more from Russia and other sources. China’s demand is also reported as having slowed dramatically. One beneficiary of the current slump is reported to be U.S. based Nucor, which makes most of its steel from melted scrap.  Tht could provide Nucor the opportunity to move up the supply chain into scrap processing.

Recycled materials shipped from the U.S. to other regions were able to take advantage of available surplus capacity on container ships. With the current economics fueled by the higher value of the dollar, scrap materials inventories are building across U.S. distributors. Further, the cost of municipal waste collection contracts are often offset by the value of the scrap and recycled materials that are sold.  The economics of that waste stream are now subject to disruption and potentially added costs for U.S. cities and towns.


A Significant New Milestone Involving the Quality Perception Crisis Among Automotive Supply Chains

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Throughout 2014, Supply Chain Matters called attention to the automotive sector and the unprecedented levels of product recalls that continued to stress auto aftermarket service supply chains and supplier relationships to their limits. From a tactical lens, we observed that the colliding forces of regulatory, political, supplier management and capacity-restrained automotive replacement spare parts networks may well continue for many more months, and that appears to be exactly what continues to unfold. Once more, Supply Chain Matters predicted that when the dust settles, the automotive industry and its supply chain ecosystem partners need to take a hard look at lessons learned.

While automotive OEM’s and their associated brands have taken the bulk of the consumer and regulatory heat around product recalls, quality defects have more often resided within either OEM product designs or parts suppliers and their associated product design or manufacturing processes.

The most significant culprits for the continuous litany of product recalls has been the ignition switch defects involving multiple General Motors vehicles and the alleged defective airbag inflators produced by Japan based supplier Takata Corp for multiple OEM producers. After undergoing continuous ongoing scrutiny from U.S. regulators these past months, Takata refused to broaden the scope of the defective inflators recall beyond a select number of U.S. States with high humidity concerns because the supplier supposedly could not determine the exact cause of defects. That is up to now.

This week provides yet another, but far-reaching significant milestone, namely what is being described as the largest automotive recall in U.S. history, and involving the same potentially defective air bag inflators originating from Takata. Bowing to intense pressure and scrutiny from regulators, Takata has now, for the first time acknowledged that there are defects in its air bag inflators, yet root causes remain unanswered. This week’s announced product recall will be conducted by 11 different automakers and now doubles the number of vehicles subject to recall. Business media now reports the overall vehicle recall as involving nearly 34 million existing automobiles in the United States. Six deaths and upwards of 100 injuries have been linked to the defective airbag inflator problem thus far.

In announcing the current expanded recall, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx indicated: “It’s fair to say that this is probably the most complex consumer safety recall in U.S. history.” Depending on which math is being referenced, the scope of the overall recall amounts to roughly 14 percent of the total vehicles now operating on U.S. roads. Add to that the scope of the 2 million plus vehicles included in the GM product recalls, along with other product related recalls and the picture of a large number of existing vehicles awaiting repair attention becomes a dominant picture. Needless to state, the implications of the continued litany of product recalls involving the industry are far reaching, for both OEM’s, their suppliers, and their service networks.

Logistically, as we and others have noted in our prior commentaries, it will take months and perhaps years for dealer and service parts networks to complete repairs on all recalled vehicles. That will cause additional safety concerns and added frustration among consumers. There are concerns that previous air bag deflator repairs to vehicles may have been completed with defective parts requiring the need for yet another repair.  As noted, the root-causes of the air bag deflator’s defects have yet to be determined by either Takata or a consortium of 10 automotive OEM’s. The shear volumes of cumulative open recalls are testing existing processes and supporting systems, perhaps to their breaking point. As we have pointed out, alternative suppliers have been recruited to augment supplies for both existing new production as well as repair parts needs.

From a political perspective, legislators and regulatory agencies continue to react to the concerns and frustrations of automotive consumers who wonder aloud if automakers really care about the quality of the vehicles they are producing as well as their attentiveness and timely response to vehicle safety. That leads to a continued sensitized regulatory and judicial perspective.

From a financial perspective, the bulk of the costs related to a litany of past product recalls have been on the shoulders of the OEM’s.  However, some automakers such as GM, have managed to shield themselves from expensive lawsuits from prior legislative actions dating back to a previous bankruptcy filing. That will change with the current scope and visibility brought to bear of the latest Takata related recalls. In its reporting, The Wall Street Journal cites one estimate indicating that Takata alone could face recall-related charges in the range of $4-$5 billion, far outpacing an original estimate of $1.6 billion. Yesterday, Takata’s stock fell 10 percent on the Tokyo Exchange as its investors adsorbed the implications. On a broader perspective, the issue of which party bears the bulk of the financial liability for component quality will again be up for discussion.

To be candid and blunt, product quality perceptions have become an overall mess, and it could not come at a worse time.  There was a feeling that automakers had come a long way in overall vehicle reliability but that perception belies the current picture of numerous vehicles now with open recalls.  Once more, consumers clamor for the latest technology advances in vehicle safety, comfort and convenience including all notions of the connected car. Many of these innovations stem from component and sub-system suppliers within an industry that has a track record of mostly marginal supplier relationship building. In its recent annual supplier poll conducted by Planning Perspectives, for the 14th straight year, suppliers continued to rank Toyota and Honda as best customers. Noted is the diametrically opposite goals of an adversarial relationship where OEM’s often seek a supplier’s best technology at the lowest possible price. Compounding the problem are activist investors and private equity firms investing in various tiers of automotive supply chains clamoring for more short-term returns for shareholders.

From our lens, the global automotive industry, and in-particular U.S. based OEM’s need to have rock solid quality focused product design and more responsive early warning quality mechanisms as a top industry priority. Industry executives need to seriously look beyond any perceptions of the panacea of a current super sensitive regulatory environment that will run its course. The notions of an industry solely being driven by lower product margin goals and placing the bulk of that burden on suppliers has to change.  Component, systems and overall vehicle reliability is not the purview of a marketing campaign but rather a systemic process that spans end-to-end product and aftermarket service centered supply chains. Component and systems quality must be a living fabric of supplier relationship management and suppliers need to be fairly compensated for assuring high standards in product design and process innovation, especially considering current product strategies leveraging common brand and/or vehicle model platforms. The stakes are even higher when considering that the electronic and software content of vehicles continues to rise implying more sophisticated reliability and systems focused hardware and software related engineering. In the analogy of carrot and stick agreements, the carrot is longer-term, more collaborative based product design and supply chain focused relationships and the stick is the shared responsibility and liability for warranty and/or product recall costs attributed to vehicle sub-systems such as vehicle safety.

Finally, you may have noticed that lately, not a day goes by without a barrage of targeted online or traditional media ads urging we as consumers to buy or lease that new car with latest technological features.  From our lens, the industry will be better served by re-allocating existing marketing and sales budgets towards investments in more robust early-warning mechanisms related to component quality and to current overburdened and perhaps collapsing aftermarket service networks that are the first line of intelligence for quality and vehicle safety.

Bob Ferrari

© 2015 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved.


First 3D Printed Commercial Jet Engine Part Certified for Operational Use

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This week featured a significant announcement from General Electric, namely that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified a 3D-printed manufactured part to operate within certain GE commercial jet engines.

A blog commentary featured on the GE Reports site indicates that a fist-sized piece of silver metal that houses the compressor inlet temperature sensor inside a jet engine, known as T25, is becoming a symbol of one of the biggest changes sweeping jet engine design. GE Aviation is currently working with Boeing to retrofit more than 400 GE90-94B jet engines with the 3D printed part. This family of engines power Boeing’s 777 commercial aircraft. High resolution photos of these parts are featured in the commentary.

The report further indicates that GE Aircraft has already initiated flight tests for the next-generation LEAP jet engine, produced in a 50-50 consortium with CFM   GE-CFM CFM56 LEAP engineInternational, which will include 19 3D-printed fuel nozzles. The LEAP engine will power Airbus’s newly designed A320neo and Boeing’s 737MAX aircraft models.

The planned GE9X engine will further be developed with 3D-printed fuel nozzles and other parts.

GE was one of the early adopter manufacturer’s that has embraced additive manufacturing methods for nearly a decade. According to GE, additive manufacturing allows design engineers to replace complex assemblies with single parts that are lighter. The use of 3D-printing methods accelerates design development and new product introduction times. Once more, GE is printing parts from materials such a cobalt-chrome alloy. In the case of the GE90 printed nozzle housing, the process from final design to FAA certification and service introduction spans what is described as six months.

In digesting this report, Supply Chain Matters further envisioned that the introduction of such 3D-printed aircraft engine components can significantly benefit both ongoing production as well as operational service parts needs. Instead of stocking global-wide manufacturing or service parts depot inventories, replenishment orders can trigger the printing of an additional part, with considerable inventory cost savings. In some cases, we would envision the part being printed directly at a regional repair and maintenance depot.

Next-generation additive manufacturing methods are indeed beginning to make a presence and the benefits described by global manufacturers such as GE, are indeed described as breakthrough technology.

Bob Ferrari

 


IBM Makes Major Commitment to Internet of Things and Analytics Enablement

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IBM today announced that it will invest $3 billion over the next four years to establish a new Internet of Things (IoT) business unit to help customers analyze data from sensor-equipped devices. The enterprise technology provider further plans to deploy a cloud-based platform to assist customers in building IoT business applications.

Within the announcement is the creation of three service support components:

  • A cloud-based open platform for providing analytics services for vertical industry IoT applications
  • A termed platform-as-a-service Bluemix IoT Zone to assist developers to integrate sensor data into cloud-based applications, by infusing more real-time sensor data into applications.
  • An expansion of IoT focused partner ecosystem ranging from silicon and device manufacturers to industry-focused applications providers such as AT&T, ARM, Semtech and others.

In conjunction with today’s announcement, IBM further announced a new strategic partnership with The Weather Company through WSI, its global B2B and analytics arm. WSI collects data from thousands of weather sensors resulting in upwards of 2.2 billion unique forecast points. Such weather data can be correlated with business applications where weather plays an influencing factor. Think of the how the consumption of beer, certain snacks, bottled water or cosmetics are influenced by weather or climatic conditions. Think about how weather impacts business operations.

The announcement calls for The Weather Company, including WSI, to shift its massive weather data services platform to the IBM Cloud and integrate its data with IBM analytics and cloud services. The analytics aspects call for the use of Watson Analytics for Weather to leverage applications within industries such as insurance, energy and utilities, retail and logistics and other areas.

What makes these announcements ever more interesting is that weather can influence many supply chain related business and operational processes. Whether it is specific product demand patterns requiring unique customer fulfillment trends and needs, or weather impacting both product and services focused supply chains themselves, there is certainly lots of opportunities for innovation.

Today’s IBM announcement adds more stakes to the technology competitive landscape as providers such as Amazon, Cisco Systems, General Electric, Microsoft, PTC and Qualcomm continue to jockey and position their technology ecosystems in order to be a preferred provider of IoT enabled applications and supporting infrastructure in either B2C or B2B dimensions. There remain many ongoing pitfalls and challenges surrounding full-scale IoT deployment, not the least of which is information and data security. The consortiums and influence of larger vendors along with their building ecosystems are the determinants as to how quickly these challenges are overcome.

In the meantime, today’s IBM announcement provides the real opportunity for bringing together weather sensors and trending data, prescriptive and predictive analytics tools, and business process support applications for more responsive industry supply chains.

Bob Ferrari


More on FedEx Acquisition of GENCO and Bongo International

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This is additional supplement to our previous Supply Chain Matters commentary highlighting FedEx’s latest fiscal third quarter earnings.

In mid- December of 2014, Supply Chain Matters called attention to the FedEx announced acquisition of GENCO, billed as one of the largest 3PL’s in North America operating more than 130 warehouse and distribution facilities. At the time, we also called attention to FedEx’s acquisition of Bongo International, an e-commerce platform that facilitates international customers purchasing items from domestic websites

Based in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania with reported revenues of $1.6 billion, GENCO provides a rather diverse collection of forward and reverse logistics services including distribution, contract packaging, customer returns processing product refurbishment, disposition and recycling. FedEx executives positioned this acquisition as significantly expanding FedEx services to further include returns, test, repair and remarketing of products.

In late January, FedEx reported that it had closed on the acquisition and that GENCO would operate as a subsidiary led by Todd R. Peters, GENCO’s Chief Executive Officer with future revenues reported under the FedEx Ground business segment.

Today, in a short news brief, The Wall Street Journal indicated that according to its recent quarterly report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), that the price paid by FedEx for GENCO was $1.4 billion. FedEx reportedly funded the acquisition using a portion of proceeds from a January debt issuance.

This is rather interesting news since it indicates that FedEx paid less than current GENCO’s existing earnings.  It is perhaps an indication of further factors or monetary considerations or that the close relationship among the two companies was indeed close.

Additionally, FedEx disclosed it paid $42 million in cash from operations for the acquisition of Bongo International LLC.


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