With 2018 sales worth £3.53bn across its aerostructures, engine systems and special technologies portfolio, GKN Aerospace’s CEO, Hans Büthker revealed his thoughts in a pre-Paris Airshow meeting held at the Royal Academy of Engineering, London recently. Mike Richardson reports.
Alongside GKN Aerospace colleagues, Hans Büthker presented an overview of business performance in the last 12 months, an exploration of key technological developments and an insight into the company’s future direction and goals.
The overriding message from GKN Aerospace is that it is able to play the aerospace game on a global scale. Indeed, if you compare the company with its competitors, GKN Aerospace is now the global number two in in terms of revenue for aerostructures and engine systems.
“We aim to follow our customers’ manufacturing requirements around the globe,” Büthker stated. “Often, we need to be involved in defence-led development or production programmes in the US, so proximity to the OEM is important. For example, a customer will ask that we position ourselves close to their own operations, such as in China which is a growing piece of the jigsaw in terms of volume. China is a trigger for growth, and also our expansion where we are investing and expanding our footprint there.
“There are requests from our key customers to follow them into China in terms of workshare obligations on the civil market side. We announced a joint venture with COMAC and AVIC last year and we are working hard to make this a success. We’re able to offer a healthy balance in terms of our aerostructures, engines and business jet work. Our business portfolio comprises 71% civil and 29% defence, but we would expect to see a little more growth in our defence capabilities. To follow a customer, you need to have a network of centres of excellence to undertake your production duties.”
According to Büthker, the five aircraft platforms of the A320neo, the 737MAX, the Boeing 787, the A350 XWB and the F-35 dominate the market, which is said to account for 49% of all worldwide deliveries.
“GKN is involved to all five programmes, but even if we take the top ten programmes, we still tick all the boxes, so it’s impressive to see how well we are positioned. In strengthening our global network, customers expect us to follow them, which means we need to offer a global network in order to cover the entire globe and satisfy their key technology demands. This is one of the reasons why we are balancing our footprint. Whilst we have invested in some structural improvements in the US, we are now investing heavily in Asia too.
“Technology is a key driver for success; another is our global footprint. More and more of our customers are pushing for us to cover the globe. GKN is building a global, coherent system for its customers and through the acquisition of certain niche businesses, we are gradually building a global and coherent centres of excellence network for our customers. This also means that our value proposition is changing accordingly. It’s a new way of doing business, and customers are interested in this.”
Büthker reckons GKN Aerospace’s showing at the Paris Airshow will involve a lot of focus on the company’s key technologies, especially thermoplastics and additive manufacturing.
“GKN’s challenge is to ensure it is in a position to demonstrate all its technologies. Bundling our technology metrics and the business models behind them offers an attractive package for many of our customers - plus we have the right performance and the ability to help customers out with more affordable products too. Our key message comprises key technologies in combination with a global footprint. It is this asset that makes us unique.”