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Five Questions About Fabrication

Already one of the largest manufacturers of machined parts in the world, in October 2017 Spirit AeroSystems announced its plans to grow its fabrication business to exceed $1 billion over the next five years. Katie Wesbrooks, director of Program Management, answers the most often asked questions about Spirit AeroSystems’ experience and leadership in 3-, 4-, and 5-axis machining.

Katie Wesbrooks Director of Program Management

1. Why is Spirit AeroSystems “back” in the fabrication business?

The easy answer is that we never left! It’s just a matter of focus. Most people know Spirit AeroSystems for our major structural assembly work for Boeing, Airbus and a growing list of defense contractors. We haven’t talked a lot about the large number of detail components we build—more than 38,000 different parts a year. In looking at growth opportunities, it seems smart to leverage one of our core competencies.

2. The company recently celebrated the official openings of fabrication “centers of excellence”—what does each facility offer?

At our headquarters location in Wichita, Kan., we offer two centers of excellence — one for 5-axis machining and one for chemical processing. The 5-axis center of excellence focuses on large, complex soft metal parts for fuselage, pylon and wing structures, all built on high-tech, high-speed latest generation equipment. The chemical processing center is unique within Spirit and within the aerospace industry in terms of scale, complexity and speed.

The 3- and 4-axis center of excellence in McAlester, Okla., focuses on the fabrication of complex commercial and military aircraft parts. Since new equipment was installed in 2017, more than half of the 1,000 small- to medium-sized parts scheduled for production have been through their first article inspection.

3. You mentioned chemical processing—why is that unique to Spirit?

Few manufacturers offer both parts fabrication and processing. Again, it’s important for people to understand the scale of what we offer. Spirit has one of the largest automated processing lines in the world.

4. What about cost? Is Spirit able to be competitive on price?

There are a lot of savings in going to a one-stop shop. Spirit delivers efficiencies in machining, assembly and processing, all in one location—there’s no need to ship from one facility to another, which means no double handling, no double inspections, reduced risk of damages and no having to manage multiple suppliers. Give us a single purchase order and we can provide the product. Yes, I’m happy to say we’re competitive. Give us a project, and we’re ready to prove we can meet or exceed expectations.

5. Can Spirit handle more work? With the demands of OEMs, will smaller projects get lost?

Spirit AeroSystems has over 2.6 million square feet dedicated to fabrication with open capacity. We invite anyone looking for solutions to come visit our facilities. Walk the floor. Talk to our people. You’ll see the vast capabilities, the investments in the latest technology and equipment, meet some of the most experienced engineers, machinists and technicians, and walk away with an understanding of why Spirit is focusing on fabrication.

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