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Jet engines are a high-tech, big business with sales of over $50 billion per year. The business requires enormous investments in closely held technology. It is a much different kind of endeavor than any other of today’s more common high-tech business that stresses speed to market. Aircraft engines require a very long time commitment since products may take a couple of decades to become profitable, but then continue to generate revenue for many years. Indeed, most of the net revenue is generated by selling parts for and servicing engines produced and sold decades earlier.
The jet engine business is a highly competitive one, dominated by three major companies who have competed for market share using technology and business acumen since the 1950s. The nature of the business has evolved considerably from those heady days at the dawn of the jet age. One significant aspect is the increased importance of the supply chain. In the early days, engine companies manufactured the vast majority of an engine in-house, over 80 %. Now the percentages are reversed, with 80 % of an engine produced by risk-sharing partners and suppliers. This increased dependence on the supply chain has changed both business and technology aspects of the enterprise. It is a complex chain indeed, with many partners and suppliers working with competing engine manufacturers. For both the manufacturers and suppliers, this broadening of relationships has served to hedge financial risk and provide opportunities to inject new ideas and innovation into products.
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- Innovation Challenges in the High-Tech, Long-Cycle Jet Engine Business
Alan H. Epstein
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