A message from Colleen Athans, Vice President of Supply Chain at GE Aviation, during the 2017 Paris Air Show.

Everyone loves firsts. First deliveries, first engine to test, first flights. For many people, this year’s Paris Air Show is the first opportunity to see the new CFM LEAP-powered Airbus A321neo and the Boeing 737 MAX-9 in flight. Exciting!

But I see things a little differently. I see those beautiful engines powering those aircraft not as firsts, but rather as the culmination of years of diligence, hard work and preparation by 27,000 of the world’s brightest, most knowledgeable and experienced minds that make up our global supply chain. Humbling!

Colleen Athans, Vice President of Supply Chain at GE Aviation

We have never experienced anything like the LEAP production ramp, which will see us grow from producing 500 LEAP engines this year to some 2,200 engines per year in 2020 and beyond. But we do have a lot of experience to draw on.

For example, GE and CFM have been producing more than 2,000 large commercial engines annually for the better part of a decade. And for the last 5 years, our production has grown at 5% per year, so we are used to both growth and large volume — as are our suppliers. To handle the ramp in LEAP production, we have added more than 1.5 million square-feet of new production and Services footprint, which includes eight new facilities and additions to 10 existing plants.

For years, we’ve been industrializing groundbreaking new technologies that are key to LEAP’s performance, like additive manufacturing and ceramic matrix composites. We employ a “four bump” strategy which advances these technologies from invention at GE’s Global Research labs, to early industrialization in our FastWorks labs, to low rate production in our Lean labs, and finally to full rate production in our shops. This systematic approach enhances our ability to learn quickly so we can scale technology faster. For example, by the end of this year, we will have produced 21,000 additive fuel nozzles, and reduced our CMC production cycle to be comparable to most metal parts.  Fantastic!

The preparation also extends to our supplier base. We are dual-source on 90% of the LEAP engine hardware, providing the continuity and resiliency we need. For the last several years, we have had intensive engagement with suppliers, holding them to the same high standards of readiness that we hold our shops.  By the end of this year, our teams will have conducted some 400 on-site supplier assessments, and developed improvement action plans covering 85% of the purchased content of a LEAP engine.

No question, the LEAP ramp represents a big challenge. A historic challenge. But we’re ready. So, as the 737 MAX-9 and the A320neo take to the skies over the show for the first time this week, I’ll look up like everyone else. But I’ll be seeing the flights through the eyes of the 27,000 people who make up the GE Aviation Global Supply Chain. Proud!

Stay up-to-date on all of GE Aviation’s news and announcements throughout the Paris Air Show at geaviation.com/shows!

Interested in learning more? Take a 360 degree tour of GE Aviation’s Brilliant Factory in Muskegon, Michigan: