GE lines up Montana components joint venture to boost supply chain capacity

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In a move described by GE as enhancing its supply chain to handle rising jet engine volume, the maker of GE90 and GEnx aero engines has established a 50-50 joint venture in Butte, Montana with one of its existing component parts suppliers, SeaCast.

The venture will produce tubes, ducts and small structural castings for GE jet engines. SeaCast, headquartered in Marysville, Washington, currently employs 70 people in Butte, but head count is expected to grow over the next four years.

According to GE Aviation's supply chain vice president Colleen Athans, the SeaCast tie-up brings into GE manufacturing expertise including "critical skills in welding and fabrication".

The move follows closely behind a GE agreement to buy the aviation business of Italian engine components maker Avio from its private equity owner Cinven for $4.3 billion. GE also pointed to supply chain bolstering - along with margin enhancement - as driving the that deal: "Avio will strengthen GE's global supply chain capabilities as its engine production rates continue to rise to meet growing customer demand."

Avio is a supplier to most engine makers but GE's acqusition is not expected to upset relationships, given the fact that joint ventures are in the nature of the engines business. Pratt and Whitney, however, may take a closer look at the takeover, as Avio is the supplier of the reduction gear at the heart of the PurePower geared turbofan it is developing for the Bombardier CSeries single-aisle airliner. Following news of the proposed acqusition, P&W said it was reviewing its options but declined further comment for now.