Commercial airline manufacturer Airbus wants to partner with Wichita’s aviation suppliers to increase the amount of components and services it buys from local companies.
To that end, Airbus officials said Tuesday they will hold a supplier conference – the Airbus Air Capital Supplier Summit – with area aviation suppliers Aug. 6 at the National Center for Aviation Training.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran and Airbus Americas chairman Allan McArtor announced the event in a conference call with reporters.
“We hope to create opportunities for Kansas businesses and Kansas men and women to develop a closer relationship with Airbus,” Moran said. “That is a very exciting opportunity and an opportunity to … create jobs in our state.”
In the past five years, Airbus said it has spent $300 million with Wichita suppliers. Nationally, it spends $12 billion a year in 40 states for components and supplies. It wants to double that amount over the next 10 to 15 years, McArtor said.
“Because of the rich heritage of Kansas (and) the Wichita area, we want to cultivate the supply chain and the Kansas contribution of that supply chain,” he said.
It’s the first U.S. supplier conference for Airbus, which is based in Europe. If it’s well received, Airbus may hold a second one, possibly in northeast Kansas, Moran said.
At the Wichita event, Airbus will meet with suppliers to understand their capabilities and how they can add value, said David Williams, vice president of procurement for Airbus Americas. He said Airbus currently is seeking suppliers for work on its Airbus A350 and its A320neo and is working to drive down costs on its single-aisle aircraft.
“All the different programs, we’re driving at opportunities to take cost out of the system and looking for new suppliers to add value to the supply chain,” he said.
Suppliers could be direct to Airbus or they could supply other Airbus suppliers, such as Spirit AeroSystems.
“Some of the suppliers that we may be introduced to on Aug. 6 could easily be part of that leg of this supply chain,” Williams said. “Not everybody can be a direct supplier to Airbus. … Small to medium organizations can sit very well and add some value and expertise in the second-tier and third-tier (supply chain.)”
The conference will focus on suppliers with products in five key areas: aerostructures and materials; equipment and systems; propulsion; cabin; and new technologies.
Casey Voegeli, director of business operations at Exacta Aerospace, said he plans to attend.
“Everyone’s going to be there,” Voegeli said. “There won’t be one shop in town that will not be there.”
Exacta, which makes machined part components and sheet metal details and assemblies, does work for the Airbus A350 for Spirit. But the company would like to grow the amount of work.
The company went through an extensive process to be certified with Airbus. That opens the door for more work for the company, which would like to become a direct supplier for Airbus, Voegeli said.
Keith Dial, production manager for Chrome Plus Inc. in Wichita, said it’s easy to see why Airbus wants to join with Wichita subcontractors and suppliers: It’s the quality of the parts manufacturers here, Dial said.
“This town understands the requirements of aircraft parts,” he said. “They do make beautiful parts.”
Chrome Plus does processing work for parts after they’re manufactured, including parts that go on the Airbus A380, A350 and A320. That work has been an instrumental part of Chrome Plus’ growth, he said.
The time is right for Wichita suppliers to stand out, said Suzie Ahlstrand, interim director of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition.
“We’re very excited in hosting this event, which will focus on connecting our local supply chain with Airbus and the EADS procurement teams,” Ahlstrand said. “We want to help make those connections.”
At the daylong conference, Moran and McArtor will explain the importance of the relationship between Airbus and Kansas, according to information from the GWEDC.
In the afternoon, Airbus procurement executives will explain how to contract with Airbus and its subcontractors. Small and mid-sized suppliers are encouraged to attend and participate in the afternoon one-on-one meetings with procurement managers and Airbus suppliers.
In order to match them with the proper representatives, companies must complete and submit a questionnaire by July 20.
‘Where the engineers are’
Airbus also announced Tuesday that it plans to grow its engineering center in Wichita, its largest engineering center outside Europe.
The center in Old Town, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this month, employs about 350 engineers. It expects to add 60 more to do engineering work on the A350 XWB, McArtor said.
McArtor said he is in discussions with Airbus leaders in Wichita in how to accommodate the engineers in additional space.
“Wichita is where the engineers are,” McArtor said. “It is such a rich heritage of engineering talent and aerospace talent.”
Airbus is also expanding efforts with Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research to work on the development of embryonic technologies, such as advanced composites, McArtor said. It’s also actively looking to acquire U.S. companies that operate aviation services businesses, such as air traffic management, aircraft maintenance, component repair or related issues.
“We have a very aggressive program to look at acquisition targets in the U.S. and around the world,” McArtor said.