Booming passenger aircraft production amid a general surge in global aerospace activity makes transport and logistics partners essential to reliable supply chains.
The global aerospace sector is experiencing a revolution in activity, with over 33,000 new aircraft of 100 seats or more expected to expand current fleets within 20 years. The increased assembly, testing and delivery involved – representing the previous three decades of construction achieved in the space of several years – is driving manufacturers and their suppliers to unprecedented production levels. That in turn has made transport and logistics partners vital in insuring aerospace supply chains remain fully reliable -- even as they considerably accentuate speed.
“In earlier days you needed to respond quickly to client requests, but today you need to achieve operational excellence at all times with real time reactivity and visibility,” says Jérôme Le Grand, head of aerospace for Bolloré Logistics in Paris. “You have to be robust, agile and prepared for everything, because clients can’t afford partners who drop the ball even once.”
With order books bursting, airplane manufacturers have boosted production rates in assembly plants around the world. Yet they no longer want the burden or cost of buying and warehousing large stocks of components in advance. Instead, they’re demanding suppliers and transport and logistics partners organize smaller volume shipments of parts on a more frequent basis for delivery where they’re needed.
“The transportation bill rises as a result, but the savings realized in warehousing huge stores of expensive components is far higher,” Mr. Le Grand says, noting the wide geographical spread of manufacturing sites makes having regional as well as global transport and logistics assets essential for success. In the case of Bolloré Logistics, he says, that’s built on a dedicated aerospace sector staff and 23 specially adapted warehouses constituting what he calls “a veritable network within the group’s wider global network.”
Given the remarkably tight schedules and dizzying costs incurred by delays and missed deadlines, painstaking planning of aerospace cargo transport and logistics is also a must. So, too, is maximizing visibility and communicating the status of freight as it moves from global suppliers to manufacturing production centers spread across North America, Europe and Asia.
As in any industry, however, surprises and setbacks can arise and create problems.
To circumvent those, sector specialists typically work with dual – if not multiple – local, regional and global transport, storage and customs brokering partners.
Detailed contingency plans are also developed and updated to overcome potential complications. Meticulous information and data management, meantime, allows transport and logistics providers to keep manufacturing clients fully informed on operational performance factors, and identify areas for improvement.
“Using the most advanced technologies for data management and analysis of activity also helps us prepare the predictability and preventive operational methods that all players will need to have in the future,” Mr. Le Grand adds. “At these production speeds, you need to anticipate what clients will need – and when – and put it in their hands at exactly the right time.”
Where those challenges posed by aircraft production not formidable enough, transport and logistics specialists have also seen activity soar elsewhere in the aerospace sector. With government budgets being slashed across the world, defense ministries and armed forces are increasingly sub-contracting myriad activities to experienced and reliable service providers.
Satellite construction and launches are undergoing a revolution of their own. In addition to the enormous, high-powered satellites traditionally deployed by defense and scientific interests, hundreds of smaller, lower-orbiting versions are being launched by private companies for use in constellations for various communications functions. A consortium called Oneweb has even contracted the production of over 900 smaller satellites – and launch of around 650 of those -- to provide world-wide internet access.
“The rate of spacecraft launches is rising, and will continue surging in coming years,” says Mr. Le Grand. “That requires quality supply chain partners during satellite construction, and in transporting that very fragile cargo to launch pads when that time comes.”