Lead times for aerospace parts may continue to worsen before they get better as surging demand and constricting labor shortages continue to disrupt the supply chain. Within the past year alone, lead times on some materials have risen from 20 to 40 weeks to anywhere from 75 to 85 weeks or more.
“They keep pushing back the data predictions. Last year, they were estimating it would be better by the first quarter of 2023, but here we are and it’s much worse,” said Jamie Barron, Vice President of New Source Corporation.
Unfortunately, external factors that have impacted mill orders and hard alloy aluminum extraction delivery timelines have kept worsening, instead of improving as projected – and hoped. There are no quick fixes to aerospace’s supply chain challenges.
Demand keeps rising
Lead times keep rising largely because demand for metals is increasing both in the aerospace industry and in other industries. Aerospace companies increasingly compete for supplies among themselves as well as with automotive manufacturers and construction companies.
Increasing demand rates by aviation manufacturers such as Airbus and Boeing have exacerbated supply chain challenges in recent months. There is also more demand from the military.
Modifications to defense contracts like those for the HIMARS missile launcher and Javelin weapon system have increased demand tremendously due to Ukrainian support, Barron said. Meanwhile, restrictions on using Russian materials due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war limit supplies even further.
Labor shortages linger
Staffing is also a big challenge. Companies struggle with hiring, training, and the loss of skilled workers due to a labor shortage pinching the aerospace and defense sector.
Turnover has “significantly increased” at almost 70% of aerospace and defense companies, according to the 2022 Aerospace & Defense Workforce Study conducted by Ernst & Young LLP on behalf of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).
Manufacturers that used to run three fully staffed eight-hour shifts per day may only be 60% staffed now, for example. “The shortage of personnel is compounding supply chain challenges because they can’t keep up. They are no longer pumping out metal at maximum production for 24 hours a day,” Barron said.
“You put that with the fact that there’s only a handful of approved manufacturers for aerospace parts, and there’s a continuously bigger hole.”
Tackling supply chain challenges
Recognizing the industry’s labor challenges, New Source Corporation has invested in its workforce so that it continues to deliver quality service to customers as it grows. For example, it has increased its minimum pay as well as salaries across the board. It has also given employees more paid time off. “We’re staying relevant not just in our industry, but in general,” Barron said.
New Source Corporation has also addressed supply challenges caused by surging demand for metals. “We’re putting hundreds of orders on books to deliver more than a year from now. We know our customers aren’t going anywhere,” Barron said.
New Source Corporation communicates with customers frequently to help them stay ahead of the supply chain perfect storm. It also works closely with its suppliers.
New Source Corporation has one of the largest inventories of aluminum extruded products, tubing, and other high-performance alloys in the country. Contact us today to learn how we can help you overcome supply chain challenges, and get you the right pieces for the right price at the right time, every time.