It is nothing short of eye popping: 855 parts reduced to 12? GE’s ATP is going to be an amazing piece of technology. It certainly will show case the company’s additive manufacturing capabilities.
Lower weight and better fuel burn are equally impressive – indeed these numbers along would attract a lot of attention.
But consider this. If an operator had an ATP in service, and needed parts, where could he or she go? It looks like only GE will have the parts. Moreover, if a small part needs to be replaced, does this mean that a number of other parts also get replaced at the same time? After all, with part consolidation it appears that replacement might mean a lot change when there is a replacement part is needed.
This is really a very good strategy for GE. They can eliminate an entire supply chain in the MRO field. Rather than allow each member of the supply chain make a profit, GE as sole source, gets a better profit and in all likelihood can offer parts cheaper than they do now. No more grey market parts. No more loss of control. GE is the source and that is all there is to it. Quality is built in and guaranteed. Nobody is going to be able to replicate a GE part with GE’s say so.
For operators of turboprops the GE solution could seem very attractive. It seems simpler and, potentially, cheaper. GE seems focused on pushing the simpler is better message as they are making a big splash of their single lever technology on the ATP as well. For an operator, this all sounds like an attractive solution. GE has to be creative to break the hold of the PT-6 on the market. The approach they are taking looks like it could be effective as it hits key hot buttons.
But a thought occurs to us that may not be so apparent to operators. Once your aircraft is GE powered, how does the lifetime cost add up? Having a sole source for spares might not be as cheap as it seems. GE built its enormous power in aero engines by being smart with technologies and business. GE’s future seems tied to its growing additive manufacturing. It appears GE is heading towards even greater power as it controls the spares business. How much of the benefit will GE share with its customers? This strategy is going to be fascinating to watch.