Aerospace Steel: Solving Challenges in Supply Chain Management


The aerospace supply chain comprises vendors all across the globe, including raw material suppliers, component manufacturers, OEMs, and service providers. In such a complex system, disruptions can significantly impact production, and it’s critical to manage your supply chain to stay ahead of potential shortages. Read on to learn how.

Aerospace Supply Chain Challenges

Global shortages of specialty steels is one of the biggest challenges facing aerospace manufacturers. Compromising on the steel you use is not an option; many aerospace grades are explicitly made for extreme conditions — such as vibration, temperature fluctuations, and corrosive environments — that more common steels cannot handle.

Steel Shortages 

Shortages may be caused by: 

  • Disruptions in raw material supplies
  • Operational issues at steel mills
  • Geopolitical tensions affecting international trade
  • Sharp increases in demand. 

Companies like the France-based supplier Safran are taking a closer look at steel supply issues, with supply chain ranking as a “number one watch item,” according to CEO Olivier Andriès. COO Alberto Gutierrez at Airbus discussed steel shortages in mid-2023, stating, “We are starting to do better, but it is not enough. 2023 is going to be difficult, and 2024 will remain difficult, but there is now a higher level of resilience, and we can absorb difficulties.”

Steel Stockpiling

One situation that can exacerbate shortages is stockpiling – when manufacturers attempt to insulate themselves from supply disruptions by abandoning a just-in-time inventory in favor of stockpiling large quantities in-house.

While this might seem like a prudent strategy to support production for an individual company, it can create more scarcity in the market and lead to further supply chain challenges.

Aerospace Supply Chain Solutions

Component manufacturers can (and should) take steps to mitigate the risk of a steel shortage by building a more resilient and reliable aerospace supply chain.

Diversify Suppliers 

The pool of aerospace-worthy grades is small and shortages quickly disrupt component production. A prudent way to address this risk is to identify multiple suppliers so a shortage of product from one vendor can be filled by another.

Sullivan Steel is an authorized distributor under Pratt & Whitney LCS and our Quality Management System is certified to ISO 9001:2015, AS9100D, AND AS9120B.

Qualify Alternative Grades

Reducing reliance on a specific grade enhances flexibility, particularly when aerospace steel is in short supply. Qualifying additional grades is difficult, as it requires rigorous testing and validation. However, it can be a valuable strategy for supporting aerospace component production.

Sullivan’s experts can help with qualifying alternative grades, providing support throughout the testing process so manufacturers can expand their options and strengthen the aerospace supply chain.

Enhance Digitization and Automation

Using software solutions for improving visibility throughout supply chain processes and for automating time-consuming tasks frees up time for experts to evaluate market conditions and make informed purchasing decisions. Combining real-time market and production data enables a company to anticipate and quickly respond to changes (such as steel shortages), or seize new opportunities as they arise. 

Strengthen Your Supply Chain with Sullivan Steel

Navigating the aerospace steel supply chain requires problem solving. At Sullivan Steel, we act as a buffer against supply chain disruptions. With a team of steel experts to support your orders, we offer a range of aerospace grades for flight-critical and non-flight-critical components, including:

Can’t find what you’re looking for on the market? Contact Sullivan for hard-to-find grades that can strengthen your aerospace supply chain.

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