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2018 Outlook: Meeting increasing challenges

By John Pilla, SVP, Chief Technology & Quality Officer, Spirit AeroSystems

To meet the increased aviation demand from the commercial and defense sectors, industry stakeholders must work together to incorporate advanced technologies into the production process. Doing so will increase efficiencies and decrease timelines without putting quality and safety at risk.

As one of the world’s largest tier one aircraft component suppliers, Spirit AeroSystems leverages its nine decades of experience to continue driving milestones, innovation and new frontiers throughout the aviation and aerospace industries. By focusing on research and development, manufacturability and industry partnerships, Spirit is strengthening its position on the leading edge of the industry and helping customers achieve success both now and into the future.

R&D and SCM lead to better ROI

Spirit’s expertise is due largely to the company’s unwavering commitment to research and development. Furthermore, Spirit is continually developing innovative ways to source materials more effectively and finding new and better materials, providing the company and its customers with flexibility, which result in superior products that weigh less, can withstand greater temperatures and provide a cost advantage – a winning formula for all. Spirit’s work with a variety of composites and metals enables the company to leverage its engineering expertise to develop the most efficient and cost-effective design-build approaches, thereby supporting missions – and delivering cost savings to customers.

Insight Spirit AeroSystems

Spirit continues to invest in and drive composite innovation, as demonstrated last year by its installation of one of the world’s largest autoclaves. And although autoclaves are helpful for some manufacturing operations, they can cause bottlenecks for high-volume manufacturers, so Spirit is also investing in and developing solutions that don’t rely on autoclaves. This expertise in both autoclave and out-of-autoclave composite solutions enables engineering design that can address varying customer requirements.

Spirit is also adding new robotics applications to its manufacturing processes, making some of the more repetitive tasks more efficient and enabling skilled team members to work on more detailed and challenging stages of the production process.

Manufacturability supports readiness

Spirit carefully evaluates its capital, human labor, workspace, tools and materials, as well as how its suppliers manage these components, so it can make adjustments anytime to improve manufacturing processes and schedules. Whether it is redesigning floor space layout in a facility or adding new parts and equipment, Spirit can adjust capacity when appropriate and therefore significantly manage marginal costs.

Partnerships equal power

Strengthening relationships with commercial OEMs is a key aspect of Spirit’s development of its strategic road map for the future. Whether Spirit is developing novel technologies for existing customers or pursuing new business opportunities to make cost improvements, the company will continue to support the growth of its business, customers and the entire aerospace community into 2018.

Insight Spirit AeroSystem

Spirit is also looking to bolster relationships by acting as a third-party fabricator for companies outside its traditional aircraft manufacturer customer base. Spirit can use its existing facilities, machinery and tooling to make parts for other aircraft suppliers or manufacturers across both the commercial and defense markets.

The defense community is another area in which Spirit is looking to apply its expertise. Spirit is a trusted partner to prime contractors in the defense industry because of its design and build capabilities. Engineers partner with these prime contractors to offer solutions that provide capability to warfighters at the best value to taxpayers.

Spirit is prepared for 2018 and beyond

As the new year approaches, the aviation industry will tackle many of the same challenges as in years past. These challenges will continue to drive demand for new products, solutions and innovations. Because it is well positioned and has a team of engineering experts and industry professionals with in-depth knowledge of the commercial and defense sectors, Spirit will maintain its competitive advantage in R&D, manufacturability and strategic partnerships, laying the foundation for a smooth transition into 2018.