Northern Ireland is the top UK region for supply chain excellence


That was a key takeaway from an ADS Group event held at Titanic Belfast recently.

ADS, the trade organisation for companies in the UK Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space sectors invited its members to attend a Supply Chain Excellence event to bring together the UK and Ireland’s aerospace and defence supply chains.

ADS’ business excellence programme, SC21, encourages best practice and increased competitiveness among Aerospace and Defence companies operating in the supply chain of major manufacturers such as Bombardier, Airbus, Rockwell Collins, Thales and Rolls Royce.

Almost 50 companies travelled to Northern Ireland for the two day event sponsored by Invest NI. Sixty five companies from across the UK and Ireland were recognised with awards for boosting their competitiveness.


We have a strong cluster involving over 70 companies within the Aerospace, Security, Defence and Space sectors, employing around 10,000 in Northern Ireland. Almost half of these businesses are now engaged in SC21.

Partnership in practice

Bombardier Belfast, Rockwell Collins and Thales play a key role in supporting local companies participating in the SC21 programme. In sponsoring businesses, these major manufacturers help to encourage improvements in the reliability and quality of their supply chain, while also validating the reputation of SC21 participants as credible suppliers in the industry.


There is a collective focus among industry and government to help ensure that Northern Ireland stays ahead of the curve in these high value sectors. Almost three years into the implementation of Northern Ireland’s Partnering for Growth Strategy there is encouraging progress against its ten year targets as businesses working in the industry create employment and generate more sales.

This strong engagement in the last two years has delivered:

  • 30% growth in revenues - now £1.3 billion
  • Employment grown to nearly 10,000

Among those succeeding in the global marketplace is JW Kane Precision Engineering. The company recently secured a significant package of work with Safran, the world’s second largest manufacturer of aircraft engine nacelles. 

C Series

Bombardier Belfast’s position as a centre of excellence in key aerospace technologies has helped to cultivate a strong local supply chain. 

We are proud of the technology that Bombardier has developed in Northern Ireland. Its C Series programme is critical to the long-term future of its Northern Ireland operations and the vote taken by the US International Trade Commission not to impose tariffs on C Series aircraft is good news for Bombardier and Northern Ireland’s indigenous aerospace industry. Watch the latest video about the C Series.


Did you know: The wing factory is the only facility of its kind world-wide where raw material is brought in at one end and a completed wing ready for aircraft assembly line is dispatched from the same factory.

Invest NI - a business partner

There is an ongoing programme of investment by Northern Ireland aerospace companies in technology, people and R&D to support expanding production rates in many of the world’s aerospace programmes. Invest NI has offered £42 million in support to companies across the aerospace, security and defence sector over the last five years.

Castledawson-based Moyola Precision Engineering is the latest company to benefit. Our £1 million offer will help ensure the family business has the technology in place to meet future market demands.


SC21 Achievers in Northern Ireland

Fifteen Northern Ireland companies were recognised this year at ADS’ SC21 Supply Chain Excellence event. Five secured awards for the first time and ten received reaccreditation, clear evidence of the culture of continuous improvement across our Aerospace cluster and the commitment to drive supply chain productivity improvement and competitiveness.

There are now over 30 Northern Ireland companies active on the SC21 Supply Chain Excellence journey who are seeing the benefits and expanding their customer base. Their performance demonstrates that Northern Ireland can deliver on time and in full, to exacting quality standards in a globally challenging cost environment.

Invest NI provides a blend of financial and advisory support to those participating on the programme and encourages other companies to explore how they could benefit.

View a list of Northern Ireland Supply Chain Excellence award winners for 2018.

Today’s event is a celebration of the important contribution supply chain companies make to the quality, competitiveness and capability of the global aerospace and defence industry. I congratulate all those in Northern Ireland and across the UK whose achievements have been recognised with awards.

This week we have seen the aerospace sector set a new record for annual aircraft deliveries. Supply chain companies who are committed to continuous improvement and raising their performance are essential to this achievement.

As our industries get ready for Brexit, investing in competitiveness and taking part in programmes like SC21 is one of the most important steps companies can take to make sure they are well prepared.

- Paul Everitt, ADS Chief Executive

World Aerospace Outlook

Many challenges remain for the aerospace sector but there are also tremendous opportunities to be grasped. Between 2017 and 2034, some 38,000 new passenger aircraft with a market value of US $5.5 trillion will be required. There is a current backlog of work with equates to nine years of work for the industry. This is set against projected demand for air travel growing by 5% every year to 2030.


As well as Aerospace, Defence and Security, Space is a significant emerging market encompassing industry, academia and government. Robert Hill, Northern Ireland Space Office, explains Northern Ireland already has many of the key skills required to capitalise on the burgeoning space economy.


Applications have just closed for an innovation challenge Space for Sustainable LivingLed by Airbus Defence and Space in partnership with Digital Catapult NI, Invest Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Space Office, the competition encouraged Northern Ireland small and medium-sized enterprises and research institutions to generate new business opportunities using satellite imagery.


The challenges facing in some areas of manufacturing are not unique to Northern Ireland, and are the result of global pressures, market slowdowns and business restructurings that are beyond the reach of any government intervention.

Invest NI has a range of very specifically focused sectoral strategies and we are confident that this is the best approach to growing manufacturing.

Invest NI Manufacturing Support

While the impact of the loss of large manufacturing companies to Northern Ireland cannot be downplayed, in some areas we are seeing strong signs of recovery. Forecasts predict substantial growth in aerospace, agri-food and sustainable energy by 2020.

Growing and strengthening our indigenous manufacturing businesses is at the core of our strategy and Invest NI will continue to promote our strengths in subsectors such as aerospace technology or materials handling at every opportunity.

We have a strong manufacturing base and Invest NI has been working closely with local companies to support their continued growth and competitiveness in areas such as on-time delivery and quality which are crucial to success in high value sectors of the manufacturing economy.

We offer support for investment and job creation as well as a suite of programmes addressing all the key aspects of business development and competitiveness. Read how Strabane manufacturer Fabplus benefited from our support in an ambitious expansion.

Encouraging our manufacturing supply base to invest in their capabilities and resources enables them to diversify their sales base into other key customers worldwide.

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