Bombardier in Belfast to deliver complex aerostructure systems

‘Site specialisation’ strategy introduced as company presses ahead with 1,800 NI job cuts

Belfast’s Bombardier facility, a newly designated centre of excellence for aerostructure systems.  The Canadian-owned plane and train maker said it intends to complete its 1,080 redundancy programme in Northern Ireland by the end of January. Photograph: David Young/PA Wire

Belfast’s Bombardier facility, a newly designated centre of excellence for aerostructure systems. The Canadian-owned plane and train maker said it intends to complete its 1,080 redundancy programme in Northern Ireland by the end of January. Photograph: David Young/PA Wire

 

Bombardier’s Belfast plant will be designated a centre of excellence for aerostructure systems as part of a new “site specialisation” strategy unveiled by the Montreal-based company.

Jim Vounassis, Bombardier’s vice-president for operations strategy, said the Belfast facility will be given a “global mandate” to deliver complex aerostructure systems.

“Belfast already was a centre of excellence for complex composites. It makes the most complex composite we have in the company – the Cseries wing,” Mr Vounassis told a Bombardier investor briefing in New York on Thursday.

But he said the Canadian aerospace giant intended to expand the role played by its Northern Ireland plant within the wider Bombardier group.

“We are making Belfast a centre of excellence for aerostructure systems, whether they are composite or metallic,” Mr Vounassis said. “The simple components parts will go out to other facilities in the system that specialise in making component parts.”

A review of Bombardier’s working practices had revealed that previously “a lot of things were being done in a lot of places” that were basically the same function. He said that was clearly not cost competitive.

A part of Bombardier’s five-year turnaround plan, which is heavily focused on reducing its global costs, the group will change the way it works.

This, according to Mr Vounassis, will result in “fundamental structural changes”, including the development of site specialisations such as the Belfast facility.

NI operations

During the investor briefing, he did not detail if this could have ramifications for the Northern Ireland operation, particularly whether the plant could lose any of its current functions.

Two months ago, Bombardier announced it intended to axe a further 7,500 jobs worldwide. That is in addition to its current redundancy programme, which will result in 1,080 job losses in Northern Ireland by the end of January.

Chief executive Alain Bellemare told investors and analysts in New York that the turnaround plan was “on track”, though he did not provide any further detail on the proposed global job losses.

But he and other members of the senior management team were decidedly upbeat on the group’s prospects, which may deliver a much-needed confidence boost for its Northern Ireland operations.

Mr Bellemare said Bombardier was intent on aggressively reducing cost and both de-risking and stabilising the business.

He also said the company had made huge progress in 2016 and was still on target to be a $25 billion-a-year business by 2020.

Bombardier shares rose on Thursday after the plane and train maker said it expects earnings and revenue to increase in 2017, and investors pressed management on the cost of value guarantees for older jets.