In mid-April, Supply Chain Matters published a commentary citing Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation who for decades has assumed the role of major aerospace airframe components supplier

Mitsubischi MRJ jet

Source: Mitsubishi web site

and in the process of preparing to unveil a sleek new 90 passenger MRJ regional jet. This effort represented Japan’s bid to assume an OEM brand after almost 70 years.

This new MRJ features little of the carbon fiber composite materials and lithium ion batteries of the larger OEM’s, yet promised to deliver 20 percent in fuel savings from aircraft offerings from competitors Bombardier and COMAC for airline or private operators. These fuel savings are supposed to be achieved through use of Pratt and Whitney’s newer engine fuel-saving technologies along with a thinner wing structure. In April, the aerospace provider had booked 166 firm orders for the MRJ.

Last week came word that the Japanese consortium building the MRJ announced a third delay in the program. The aircraft was scheduled to make its first flight by the end of this year, and reports indicate that first flight has moved out another year to the second quarter of 2015.

Design and regulatory approval along with other issues were cited as reasons for the delay. A company statement noted: “Design and respective certification have taken greater resources than anticipated which, in turn, impacted component deliveries and aircraft fabrication.” In essence, similar to larger OEM’s the supply chain was greatly impacted by whatever the latest design changes turned out to be.

In its reporting of this development, The Wall Street Journal cites St. Louis based Trans State Holdings as the initial launch customer, and who is now working with Mitsubishi to minimize the impact of this latest delay.

This was an example of a supplier transforming itself to a brand owner.  It now appears that the supplier has succumbed to similar major program delays as the bigger OEM’s.

This is yet another reminder to our community of the critical importance of integrated program and product lifecycle management along with deeper collaboration across the extended supply chain on important milestones.

Bob Ferrari