Understanding cost drivers within an aerospace manufacturing supply chain for fibre reinforced plastic structures

  • Matthew Mullan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Increasingly stringent emission targets has encouraged prime airframe assemblers to reduce aircraft weight, in doing so reducing CO2 emissions associated with fuel burn. All three major aircraft manufacturers have chosen to achieve this by incorporating greater proportions of advanced composite material within aircraft structural design. This research presents the development of a novel approach to simultaneously model continuous and discontinuous production processes, enabling new understanding of composite material production cost drivers within an aerospace manufacturing supply chain. The sources of composite component cost drivers are traced through a complex manufacturing supply chain to understand specific driver impact. A hybrid mass and energy balance methodology is presented to simulate composite material production processes within a framework using physics inputs. Verification of the simulation results has been demonstrated through comparison with real aerospace material pricing. A production cost mark-up factor has been identified. as the greatest contributor toward material price, owing to its recurring manifestation at each tier interface. Dominant production costs at discrete supply chain tiers have been shown to develop from raw process materials, through energy dominant production techniques, finally resulting in large labour commitments for material handling and equipment preservation. The methodology investigates two non-deterministic aspects of production simulation; cost drivers changing with time and production processes changing with technology. This research has identified the cost drivers associated with composite component production are resultant from a multi-tier production supply chain, introducing non-value added costs at each ~tier interface. Through an analytical modelling method, the understanding of material production costs is encouraged, which may prompt a shift in composite material procurement strategies. The model has demonstrated that with ever increasing material production costs, product ion technology can provide a quantifiable reduction in component weight and composite material cost.
Date of AwardJul 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorAdrian Murphy (Supervisor)

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