METI Plans Nationwide Parts Network to Raise Competitiveness of Aviation Industry
(Source: The Japan Times; posted Oct 15, 2017)
To help give the nation’s growing aircraft manufacturing sector an edge, the industry ministry plans to create a framework that facilitates cooperation among Japan’s parts makers to boost productivity and court business from abroad.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will launch the Nationwide Network of Aircraft Clusters later this year as part of an effort to increase industry-wide sales to ¥3 trillion by 2030 from ¥1.8 trillion in fiscal 2015.

Aircraft are made with millions of components requiring repair and maintenance that usually involves years of business contracts. Aviation’s potential to pump cash into rural economies stably and on a large scale like automakers do makes it an attractive industry.

Japan is home to more than 40 so-called manufacturing clusters — groups comprising companies at various levels of the supply chain and in the same geographic area — that supply aircraft parts or are preparing to enter the industry, according to METI.

Examples include the Matsusaka cluster in central Japan where a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. subsidiary is developing the nation’s first domestically produced passenger jet with Kobe Aero Network, a group of 21 small and midsize companies endorsed by Kobe.

While such collectives benefit from being able to leverage economies of scale in sourcing materials and integrated manufacturing processes that make it possible to produce high-quality products at lower cost, METI says wider collaboration across the various groups has been rare.

The network plan entails forming a secretariat that would connect the clusters and create a website where aircraft makers such as Boeing Co. and Airbus SE and engine makers like Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC can gather information on them.

METI will ask each cluster to join the initiative, ministry officials said.

The hope is that stronger solidarity in the aeronautics industry will help boost competitiveness against foreign rivals as demand for aircraft climbs in line with economic growth in Asia and the spread of low-cost carriers, they said.

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