Unprecedented demand for large turbofans sparks engine manufacturer's massive expansion schedule
General Electric has revealed plans to boost overall engine production by a staggering 64% between 2007 and 2009 due to unprecedented demand for its large commercial engines, the GE90 and GEnx, as well as continued growth of CFM56 and CF34 business.
Demand is led by the GEnx, which will undergo "the biggest ramp-up ever for a new engine", says GE. Production of GEnx engines, initially for the Boeing 787 and then for the 747-8, is due to grow from 12 production-standard units in 2007 to 163 in 2009.
The GE90, led by the sales surge in the 777-200LR/300ER variants, is also earmarked for dramatic growth, with production rising to 170 in 2007 compared with 73 in 2005. Boeing sold 156 GE90-powered 777s in 2005 and has taken orders for 56 so far this year.
Orders for the GEnx, excluding engines selected for the Airbus A350, now officially stand at about 660, while around 950 GE90s have been ordered, of which almost 500 are the GE90-115B version. More than 90% of Boeing aircraft ordered this year are either GE- or CFM-powered.
Major shifts in production are being planned to manage the expansion plan, with the CF6 and CF34-8 moving from Durham, North Carolina, to free up space for GE90-115B and GEnx assembly. The CF6 relocates to Evendale, Ohio, while the CF34-8 moves to Lynn, Massachusetts for assembly, test and shipping. The CFM56 line will also go to Durham.
The company says the goal is to meet the increase with "minimal impact on headcount" so there will be no "negative employment impact when the downturn hits".
To accomplish this, GE is pushing to "lean" out manufacturing processes, both in its own organisation and in suppliers, and is introducing "level-load concepts" to better manage manpower and material resources. It also plans more advanced manufacturing technology, and dual sources to ease overcapacity in some areas.
GE90 production is set for dramatic growth thanks to the 777 sales surge
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