Boeing flying high in a thriving local market

When it comes to the local aerospace sector, Boeing Australia is finding it’s all up, up and away for both domestic defence as well as commercial aeroplane components manufacturing. Branko Miletic asked the celebrated planemaker what’s on the horizon.

Manufacturers Monthly (MM): When it comes to aerospace engineering, is it the military or civilian sectors where you are seeing most growth for 2017?

Boeing Australia (BA): Boeing in Australia has a robust business as evidenced by its 3000-plus employees across 27 sites. They’re working in advanced manufacturing for our Commercial Airplanes business, research and development, defence systems design and development, and sustainment services for both commercial and military aircraft. We continue to see strong demand for the aerospace capabilities we’ve developed in Australia, which is truly gratifying as we celebrate our heritage in Australia, which dates back 90 years to 1927.

MM: How would you compare Australia’s aerospace sector to other developed countries?

BA: Australia has a robust aerospace sector, which Boeing proudly supports across both commercial and military customers. The Australian supply chain that we have developed in-country, including small to medium-sized enterprises, contributes to many of our most important programs at Boeing both in the US as well as here in Australia.

While it would be difficult to compare Australia to other countries, suffice it to say that Boeing has operated in Australia dating back 90 years now – and we see a long future ahead of us in the country.

MM: Is innovation a key component of growth for the local aerospace sector or is it just a matter of sheer numbers?

BA: Innovation and aerospace have gone hand-in-hand ever since the very beginning of the industry. Boeing invests heavily in innovation, not just to stay ahead of the competition but to help anticipate what our customers will need years from now. In 2015, Boeing spent US$3.3 billion (A$4.3 billion) globally on research and development.

Here in Australia, innovation and research and development remain significant activities that Boeing undertakes on its own as well as in concert with long-term university and research partners.

At Fishermans Bend, the co-location of our manufacturing and research and development businesses is essential for developing future innovations and enhancement of Boeing products, as well as for supporting Boeing Aerostructures Australia’s day-to-day program requirements in support of Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes business.

In Brisbane, Boeing continues to invest in cutting-edge technologies to support the Australian Defence Force with networked systems, remotely piloted aircraft systems, and other high-tech solutions.

Boeing has long recognised the key role research organisations play in the future of the Australian aerospace and manufacturing industry; for instance, Boeing has partnered with CSIRO for over 27 years and during that time has jointly created countless technologies to support the aerospace industry. Further, our strategic partnerships with universities nationwide are critical to developing a pathway for talented aerospace engineering students and collaborating with academic staff.

MM: What about engineering and design – how do local engineers compare?

BA: Due to our unique position in the Australian marketplace, Boeing attracts the best engineering talent in the country. This combined with the company’s long and diverse history in Australia have provided a combination of experience and capability that has exceeded expectations on a number of recent Boeing programs. Boeing Australia’s engineering team has been recognised within Boeing as well as outside the company for their innovative ideas and their can-do attitude to implement solutions that drive down cost while increasing efficiency and productivity.

MM: With the skills in automotive manufacturing being lost, is there room for these skills being taken up by aerospace?

BA: Commercial aircraft production rates are increasing to levels never previously seen in the aerospace industry. As this happens, we continue to seek out talent – from university students through experienced professionals – to support our engineering and manufacturing requirements.