Soaring to New Heights

Along with the soaring demand for civil aircraft from Asia, there has also been a significant rise in aircraft component manufacturing in the continent. Several Japanese companies are adept at the job and can prove to be competent partners for other Asian players.

The civil aircraft market is expected to grow double to approximately 40,000 aircraft in the coming two decades, and 40 percent of the demand is considered to originate in the Asia-Pacific region. Alongside the increasing demand for civil aircraft, manufacturing aircraft components in Asia is also on the rise. However, many aircraft components manufacturers have reported their difficulty in finding qualified suppliers in Asia.

Japanese companies could be of help here, especially in transforming Asian manufacturers into aircraft component manufactures. In April 2019, a joint venture for manufacturing aerospace equipment was established in Malaysia by Sapura Industrial Bhd, a major Malaysian auto parts manufacturer with Wada Aircraft Technology Co., Ltd and its subsidiary, Aero Inc. that has a track record in designing and assembling aircraft parts and fixtures in Japan. In the next five years, it will invest about $24 million to construct a plant to manufacture aircraft parts in the Kuala Lumpur metropolitan area. The joint venture plans to fully manufacture and assemble aircraft parts from 2021.

Imai Aero-Equipment Mfg. Co., Ltd (IAC), a long-time partner with Japanese heavy industries for the aerospace industry, has manufacturing bases in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The Malaysian factory is equipped with 5-axis machining centers and surface treatment plant. The tank size is one of the biggest around South East Asia. The company is an important supplier for Spirit AeroSystems Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has been producing parts for Boeing 737 and 777 in Vietnam and Jamco has been making composite material and interior components in the Philippines. Thanks to the Automobile industry in Asia, there are thousands of Japanese manufacturers all over the continent. They can be important bases for expanding the Aircraft supply chain in Asia.

Since governments in many Asian countries have been working on the vitalization of the Aircraft industry, ‘Asia Aircraft Supply Chain Forum’ was held in November 2018. Major aircraft companies such as Boeing, Safran and Collins Aerospace, and Asian manufacturers met together in Tokyo. In addition, the Ministry of Industry, Thailand and The Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA), Malaysia, presented their strategies to promote the industry. Over 350 officials and experts from international companies participated.

Imai Aero-Equipment Mfg. Co., Ltd (IAC) has manufacturing bases in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, and is an important supplier for Spirit AeroSystems Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

Many panelists highlighted the need for Japanese technologies and partnerships in Asia during the ‘Asia Aircraft Supply Chain Forum’.

Japanese experience in aircraft industry

Japan’s aircraft industry is expected to be $18 billion in 2020 and about $27 billion in 2030. Over the past 40 years, the industry has been developed through participation in international projects with Boeing and engine OEM manufacturers. Now, Japanese companies are responsible for 35 percent of the airframe of the B787 and 23 percent of the PW1100G-JM engine, which is on the A320neo. In January 2019, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and Boeing signed an agreement to deepen cooperation in future technology in areas such as electric technology, including advanced lightweight batteries, advanced motors and controllers necessary for electric propulsion systems in aircraft; high-rate, low-cost composite production technologies; and automation technologies to improve manufacturing productivity.

Japan is also working with Airbus. METI and DGAC (French aviation authority) established the Japan-Airbus Ad Hoc Civil Aeronautical Industry Working Group in March 2017, introducing new technology from even outside the aviation industry in Japan. Hence, many Japanese companies had to participate in the Airbus training.

METI has also supported basic research and development of materials for aircraft such as Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMC) for further heat and pressure resistance.

These experiences have led to the development of Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), Japan’s first jet airliner with 70-90 seat capacity. Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation targets the first delivery of MRJ in mid-2020 to All Nippon Airways.

Japan’s aircraft SME networking

Not only large companies, but Japanese manufacturing SMEs are also increasingly interested in the aircraft industry. There are more than 40 aircraft manufacturing clusters in the country, which are listed on the website of ‘The Nationwide Network of Aircraft Manufacturing Clusters’ (NAMAC). Most of them have secured the certification of JISQ9100, which is equivalent to AS9100, a quality management standard. Aircraft manufacturing requires certified NDT (Non-destructive Testing) professionals and it is not easy for SMEs to secure those professionals. In this regard, Japan National Aerospace Non-Destructive Testing Board (NANDTB-Japan) was set up in 2017 to certify NDT professionals of NAS 410 for SMEs in Japan. The first examination will be held by the end of this year.


The civil aircraft market is expected to grow double to approximately 40,000 aircraft in the coming two decades, and 40 percent of the demand is considered to originate in the Asia-Pacific region.

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