Sherbourne Consulting

Case Study Sourcing for Flight-Critical Items in China


China is becoming an important player in aircraft manufacture. It has a major role in the manufacture of every airplane made by Boeing and Airbus — bringing some of the best capability in terms of value, ability to meet production rates, and quality.

Case Study Summary

Our client was a leading supplier of aviation sensors that measure flight-critical systems on commercial aircraft and helicopters. They must be highly accurate and conform to strict standards.

  • The goal was to reduce costs, but retain quality.
  • Our approach included a very detailed review of capability in the manufacture of both components and of the finished sensors.
  • We went to great lengths to transfer knowledge to the client and ensure that their staff could manage the new vendor base by themselves.
  • Results included safe and excellent components with impressive savings.
Photograph of Dave Roberts, China consultant

For enquiries, please contact: Mr. Dave Roberts
Aerospace & China Consultant
+44 (0)1789 731 803
LinkedIn | Email

Sherbourne Consulting has extensive experience in the Chinese market, with specialist consultants based in the UK and China. We are able to provide long-term support across a wide range of industries.

Please contact our team for any further information, or to arrange an appointment for a more detailed discussion and tailor-made advice.

Client — Sensors for Aerospace

A leader in their market for aircraft sensors, our client was under pressure from Boeing and Airbus to reduce costs year-on-year.


At the same time, the parent company in the US was looking for increased contribution from the business.

Target — Strict Aviation Requirements for Sourcing

We were asked to demonstrate that Chinese suppliers could meet the stringent requirements of safety and traceability as required in the aviation industry.


“There is huge potential in China for the emergence of new vendors who can develop and meet the highest technical needs of aerospace companies.” Dave Roberts, Sherbourne Consulting

In more technical terms, we had to ensure that suppliers could meet the unique tolerances of run-out and concentricity on some of the parts.

Also, when it came to manufacturing, there were some extremely high-quality anodised finishes that required consistency of colour between batches.

Method — Sourcing Components, Ensuring Safety Standards & Selecting Best Vendors

After identifying promising vendors in China and Taiwan, we arranged meetings with government officials and private companies in 4 different cities.


Representatives from the UK and the US parent company assessed the vendors for both finished products and components. The visiting team concluded that sourcing finished parts was not an option, as the technology was not advanced enough, but components themselves could be sourced.

Following discussions and a review of drawings, we developed a process to ensure that the references to internal client and British standards could be easily understood by the potential vendors.

  1. Desk & resource research
  2. Long list (100 vendors)
  3. RFI to shortlist (12 vendors)
  4. Review vendor manufacturing processes & quality systems
  5. Identify improvements to meet aerospace standards & key criteria
  6. Review with vendors: obtain buy-in & commitment
  7. Selection of preferred vendor

Our process led to the selection of a single supplier, currently producing automotive and home entertainment components. We facilitated their agreement to an action plan and timescale to produce sample components. We also made sure that the supplier addressed the issues identified during the audit.

Finishing Touches & Transfer of Knowledge

When samples had been evaluated and the vendor had completed the actions required to meet the audit standards, a final visit was arranged and managed. As a result, our client confirmed that all manufacturing and quality processes were now in line with aviation standards, and the supply contracts (also developed with our help) were signed.

At each stage of the process, knowledge was transferred to the client. This was to ensure that after the project had finished, our client would be able to manage a lower-cost economy vendor base by themselves, and understand the cultural and legal differences that affect these relationships in China.

Results — High-Quality Vendor & Lowered Costs

The result overwhelmingly justified the investment. The outsourcing of the initial components ensured that our UK client could achieve the cost targets set by Boeing for a key programme — without negative impacts on either quality or profitability.

“The consultants helped us to find reliable partners in China and the savings we have made are impressive. There are significant opportunities for future expansion.” — Client Supply Chain Manager


Further evaluations of other potential vendors visited also identified their potential to supply parts that were not included in the initial RFQ.

The end result was a high-quality vendor with growth capability that could meet all the short to medium term demands of the group for fine tolerance components. In addition, we compiled a range of other evaluated vendors, which would subsequently supply a whole range of quality parts to the group.

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