Rolls-Royce did not choose to call its largest facility in North America "Crosspointe" - the name was already in place when it bought 400 sprawling hectares in rural Virginia. But deputy executive vice-president Thomas Loehr takes the name as a fortuitous sign connoting a coming together of vital paths where critical decisions are made.

At Crosspointe, those paths include component manufacturing, key partnerships with two universities to speed the application of research into new jet engine technologies and convincing suppliers to settle in the 3.9km2 (1.5 mile2) complex, which is 184km (114 miles) from its North American headquarters in Chantilly, Virginia, near Washington DC.


Loehr, who has responsibility for the Crosspointe operations, acknowledges now is not an ideal time for such an ambitious undertaking, as most companies are squarely focused on conserving cash. "Rolls-Royce doesn't have immunity to that," he explains, but says that as the company looks forward at its orderbook commitments "it is imperative we invest".

Rolls-Royce Trent 900
 © Rolls-Royce
Trent 900 discs will eventually come out of Crosspointe

Construction for the first phase of the project is under way. Rolls-Royce during the next 18 months plans to open a 13,000m² (140,000ft²) disc manufacturing site for the Trent 900 powering the Airbus A380, the Trent 1000 featured on the 787 and the Trent XWB for the A350.

The company is largely dependent on the US government continuing to supply funding for development of the F136 engine for a second, 12,100m² facility. Rolls-Royce plans to produce blisks for the engine it is partnering with GE to develop for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at that particular site. Construction of the blisk facility is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of next year.

Research currently done in partnership with Rolls-Royce and the University of Virginia and Virginia Polytechnic institute is being funnelled to the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM), which will be housed on 8Ha at Crosspointe. The two universities combined are studying advances in coatings, corrosion, flow controls and power electronics in conjunction with Roll-Royce, and the goal of CCAM is to accelerate that basic research into advanced manufacturing systems such as computational analysis to minimise costs.


The two universities are managing the CCAM and intend to build a membership structure around the centre. Recruitment is underway for an initial four to six member companies. Roughly half the fee paid by those firms will support research directed by the CCAM. The schools have applied for $15 million US federal stimulus funding to support the $20 million first phase cost. Senior associate dean of the University of Virginia school of engineering Barry Johnson envisages CCAM evolving to include two to three facilities to support workforce and training activities.

Rolls-Royce also has a keen interest in luring its suppliers to co-locate at Crosspointe. Loehr explains smaller suppliers could locate within the new facilities under construction at the site, and the company could parcel out 4-8Ha lots for its larger suppliers either through an outright donation or a land lease.


Loehr says that as Rolls-Royce looks over its orderbook, the company needs to ensure the sustainability of commodities at risk of shortages during the next few years. It is also targeting those key suppliers to establish a presence at Crosspointe to incentivise a capacity increase by those firms. Loehr stresses those specific suppliers would not necessarily support Rolls-Royce's direct activities at Crosspointe, but rather the company's global operations.

The sheer size of Crosspointe underlies Rolls-Royce's commitment to the site. Johnson of the University of Virginia says he is been told the $500 million Rolls-Royce estimates investing in Crosspointe is conservative.

Loehr believes that in the long term Rolls-Royce will establish engine manufacturing and a test facility at Crosspointe.

Characterising Crosspointe as a flagship operation, Rolls-Royce believes it is using its hefty investment in the site to springboard its competitiveness on a global scale, says North America chief executive James Guyette.

Source: Flight International