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Royal Aeronautical Society


Supply Chain Management

Efficiency is one of the most essential aspects of industries everywhere today and it is particularly important in the field of aviation. With goods flying all over the world every day, businesses need to have a firm understanding of where everything is, where it is going, and when it will be delivered. This is where the supply chain comes into play.

Supply Chain Management includes all planning and activities which are directly involved in linking major business functions across companies so they can maintain a high performance. To achieve this you need to be able to coordinate well with all potential partners whether they are customers, suppliers, or any third-party that may be involved in the supply chain process. Sending the product off is only a small part of the supply chain. In order for the process to be successful, there needs to be good planning and communication between each link. Collaborating well and having a good sense of cohesiveness will go a long way in all logistics management activities. 

In the area of aerospace, the supply chain in crucial to the manufacturing of aircraft such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380. With aircraft as large as those, parts must be delivered from various subcontractors around the world. To put it in perspective, the Boeing assembly site for the 787 is in Everett, Washington USA however the parts were sent in from locations all across the globe including: the central wing box from Japan, horizontal stabilisers from South Korea, fuselage sections from Italy, passenger doors and wiring from France, floor beams from India, and power distribution systems from Connecticut. All these locations paint a very vast and complex supply chain network for Boeing. The smaller manufacturers may sometimes experience difficulty with such large orders from companies like Boeing and Airbus; however, the management of the supply chain is what attempts to maintain the timely delivery of needed parts.

Logistics is a part of the supply chain and is important in that it adds the value and time utility. It implements and controls the efficiency of the flow of goods and services both incoming and outgoing. The major functions that make up logistics include: transportation, inventory, warehousing, material packaging and handling, and security. When all of these operations are run smoothly, the products are delivered on time to the right people in the right place.

Skills and Qualities

  • Leadership ability
  • Capable of handling stress
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Quick thinker
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Ability to multi-task


Supply chain management is a fast-paced area of all industries. The people who work in this field need to be aware of everything that is going on around them. The details of orders, tracking numbers, incoming and outgoing products are all important aspects that need to be checked thoroughly. Working in logistics requires good communication between all parties involved so being in contact with other companies is routine. Without those who control this division of business, industries everywhere would be without the products they need and deadlines would never be met.

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Case Study

Samantha Ball

Material Logistics Unit Apprentice

I am an apprentice at MBDA in Lostock on a four year structured programme that involves a rotation of placements throughout the business whilst continuing education and skills development. Whilst everyone else in my college year was looking at university prospectus’ I was busy searching for upcoming apprenticeship opportunities. My view was why would I sit in a classroom and learn something that I could learn so much better by experiencing it hands on?

In the current economic situation jobs are scarce and people are finishing university with masses of debt unable to get a job in a relevant field. Apprenticeships seemed to provide the perfect balance of not only qualifications and experience, but also personal development.

So far I have worked in Major Equipment Procurement, Logistics, Commodities and Supply Chain all of which will help me to gain the experience and skills for a future Logistics role. I have also completed my NVQ Level 3 in Business Administration, and completed the first year of my Business Management degree. My current role is within Supply Chain where I am learning the importance of supplier relations and non-conformance management. Alongside this I am also competing as part of Team MBDA in the Brathay Apprentice Challenge with 7 of my peers, which is an excellent opportunity for us to work hard as a team and help to improve the reputation of apprenticeships.

I am very ambitious and my aspiration is to lead. I want to have influence and make a difference to how things work and to have the confidence and ability to manage a team of people.

My advice for young people would be: don’t be pressured by others into the contemporary further education route, look at all your options and decide what is best for yourself so as to get you where you want to be. I won the national EEF award for the ‘Outstanding Achievement for a First Year Apprentice’ and already have learnt so much more in the industry than I ever could have from a textbook in a classroom.

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Samantha Ball :: Material Logistics Unit Apprentice Samantha Ball :: Material Logistics Unit Apprentice Samantha Ball :: Material Logistics Unit Apprentice