OPINION: Airframers should approach further rate rises with caution
Boeing in 2017 successfully transitioned to a production rate of 47 aircraft per month on its 737 line, as it works to address its swelling single-aisle backlog, which hit 4,668 firm orders at year-end.
With that in mind, its previous decision to increase output to at least 52 aircraft per month by 2018 is already beginning to look a little conservative.
Airbus is in a similar position and plans to raise production of A320-family jets to 60 by 2019. Its recent move to up the pace of final assembly at Tianjin is another measure to support that goal.
Although the Chinese line will only build six aircraft per month, that, plus output from the site at Mobile, Alabama, will contribute around 16% of the total.
But with enormous backlogs and continued demand, the big two will be tempted to push rates higher still, to 65, or even 70, aircraft per month.
While that may be theoretically possible, whether it is desirable is another matter entirely.
Already stressed supply chains will be put under further pressure – and it would only take the slightest hiccup to cause a major ripple down the line.
Higher production rates also hinge on continued global economic and passenger growth.
There may be a medium-term opportunity to cash in, but “build them and they will come” is not a viable strategy on which to build a business.