If you have been a loyal follower of our Supply Chain Matters commentaries and predictions concerning Aerospace supply chains, you would be aware of the difficult position these value-chain ecosystems currently find themselves in. Once more, you would have had awareness to these challenges three year ago.
Thus we were somewhat amused to stumble upon this week’s Bloomberg Businessweek article, With Epic Backlogs at Boeing and Airbus, Can Business Be Too Good?
The article poses a fundamental question. With over 10,600 of firm orders for new aircraft among both Airbus and Boeing– When is order backlog too big?
In a July 2011 commentary, Aerospace Supply Chain Are Now Stressed, we observed that the building multi-year backlog comes amid an industry track record of not so stellar performance in operational consistency, two-way communication and predictability. Over two years later, although some progress has been made, many of the same challenges remain.
The question posed by Bloomberg, and indeed the Wall Street investor community, is indeed the appropriate question. As the article points out, if a wait for a new airplane stretches out over too many years, it can fundamentally impact the business model strategies of airline customers. Some of those dynamics are already occurring surrounding the continued undelivered backlog of Boeing’s new 787 aircraft. It further can motivate these same customers to consider alternative aircraft deployment or procurement strategies.
Another important consideration are the quickly changing economic environments that often drive demand for airline travel. Airlines from emerging markets are estimated to make-up at least a third of the current order backlog. Current concerns surrounding former booming developing markets are becoming evident in global equity markets as foreign currency tensions, devaluation and and other local economic factors impact business growth within these markets. There will certainly be increased airline travel within emerging economies but this demand needs to be balanced with economic up and down cycles.
In a meeting with Wall Street analysts this week, the CEO of Boeing reported strong earnings for the recent fical quarter but raised some warning signs for 2014 regarding earnings growth. Investors responded by driving Boeing stock down by over 5 percent.
Boeing’s 2014 operational plans call for increasing aircraft deliveries by 10 percent, roughly 715-725 aircraft amid a backlog of 5100 aircraft orders. By the end of the year, Boeing expects to be delivering two new 737 aircraft every day, yet only 10 new 787 Dreamliners monthly. Airbus remains operationally upbeat, empowering localized operational decision-making, yet the realities of a near decade of backlog is hauting.
The new reality is that investors are now becoming aware of the flip side of euphoria- you have to deliver the goods according to customer desires and expectations, and you have to be able to assure required operational on-time performance at customer ship time.
In our most recent commentary regarding Aerospace supply chains, we opined that agility and responsiveness are indeed going to be very important industry differentiators along with on-time and consistent performance for new product development milestones.
An enviable industry position awash with order backlog does not condone business-as-usual. Rather dynamic and responsive capacity management, end-to-end value chain visibility, enhanced supplier collaboration and goal-sharing all come into play.
Each of the major aerospace OEM’s can certainly boast of record performance in 2013, but the real challenges remain as each supply chain ecosystem responds to unprecedented requirements for development and execution. They will each put to the test the real meaning for agile and resilient supply chains.