The cabin supply chain has still not caught up with rapidly rising production rates at Airbus and Boeing – but consolidation among the suppliers could provide an opportunity for agile new suppliers to enter the market.
That was the view of Clive Lewis, managing partner of consultancy Achieving The Difference, speaking during a FlightGlobal forecast session at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg.
"There have been some very public demonstrations that not everybody in the supply chain has been ready for rate 50 [single-aisle monthly production], let alone rate 60," says Lewis. "Particularly in seats, the global capacity of production still does not meet peak demand so there is that squeeze on that supply chain."
Hamburg Aviation managing director Dr Franz Josef Kirschfink, also on the panel, says demand on suppliers to boost production rates comes at the same time that they are being pushed by the big aircraft manufacturers to reorganise their supply chains.
"This effect which has been triggered by the big OEMs... which want to just hand over one big package to one risk-share partner," he says. "And that one partner then must organise his supply chain to provide the full cabin interior out of one hand. This idea, which has been the case in the automotive industry for years, is one that the suppliers were not prepared for."
Lewis believes that the push for consolidation is a double-edged sword.
"There are some contradictory pressures from the [airframe] OEMs that they want to see these 'super suppliers', but at the same time they’re putting a lot of price pressure down on those suppliers," he says. "So the balance of power is difficult to manage – if you've got a bigger supplier, then in theory they've got more power on price."
But Lewis believes that this is also creating the opportunity for new suppliers to move in – such as UK-based Pitch Aircraft Seating Systems, which launched its first model in September 2014.
"We are seeing new players come in with a seating offering from nowhere," Lewis says. "There can be a differentiated offering that maybe those big suppliers find more difficult to position themselves for – and a contract from one or two operators might be enough to get you started, whereas that might not be of interest to the big suppliers."