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Boeing steps up titanium scrap recovery efforts

Keywords: Tags  titanium, Boeing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, scrap, titanium scrap, aerospace, TMX Aerospace, Jeff Capenter Frank Haflich


LOS ANGELES — Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) is stepping up its titanium scrap recovery efforts, as it expects today’s surpluses in both secondary material and mill products to disappear by 2014.

Jeff Carpenter, senior manager for raw materials for BCA’s supplier management group, said at the International Titanium Association's (ITA's) annual meeting in Atlanta that the Seattle-based Boeing Co. subsidiary’s revert program will prepare the aerospace giant for the time when surpluses end.

Carpenter described the current soft market for titanium scrap as "temporary" and said he expects demand for not only scrap but also titanium metal to "tick up" in 2014.

Boeing is still carrying "a lot" of titanium mill product inventory, he observed. Moreover, its rising airliner production is chewing up an increasing amount of metal, generating ever more titanium scrap.

"That will start to correct," he said of surpluses.

He pointed out that BCA’s overall build rates will have risen some 30 percent from today’s levels by 2014. Much of that increase will come from rising production of the 787 Dreamliner, which is due to reach its targeted monthly build rate of 10 planes per month by late 2013.

By that time, the 787 Dreamliner will consume more titanium than all of Boeing’s other models combined, Carpenter said. He also noted that the Dreamliner’s build rate was slated to reach five per month shortly, up from the current three and a half.

Chicago-based Boeing Co. has already almost phased out its periodic auctions as it seeks to "close the loop" on titanium scrap (amm.com, March 20). Carpenter said that it is also making progress in bringing machine shops—an industry sector which outsiders have described as one of the most resistant—into the revert flow. He noted that when Boeing started its revert program a few years ago, it included just a "handful" of participants; today, 70 out of 200 machining operations are in the fold.

Although this is still a minority of the targeted machine shops, Carpenter told AMM after his presentation that this represents significant growth over the past year. He expects Boeing to essentially reach its goal by the end of 2014.

Suppliers to Boeing’s commercial airliner programs largely buy their materials from Boeing’s own "exclusive service provider"—Kent, Wash.-based TMX Aerospace Inc.—in the first place.

Still, aerospace industry sources said that some machine shop owners have balked at relinquishing the right to sell their scrap, viewing this as a traditional profit center.

"It doesn’t matter. We have an aggregate metal strategy," Carpenter told AMM, pointing out that the revert provision has always been in the contract that these shops sign as suppliers to Boeing.


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