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Fri, Jul 08, 2005

Cirrus Design Boss: Getting It Right Starts With 'Right Now' (Part 1)

Part One Of A Series of Chats With Cirrus Design's Alan Klapmeier

Over scrambled eggs with Alan Klapmeier, it's hard not to get the impression that the boss of the nation's fastest growing GA manufacturer is just as driven as ever. He's determined to demonstrate the value of personal aviation to the rest of the world... He rattles off a list of agenda items, things that concern him, projects in the works, and his plans for the current SR2X line (while still not allowing us to publicly talk up anything beyond that... for now). With hundreds of SR20s and SR22s rolling off the assembly line in greater numbers than ever before (and we must note, with increasing efficiency), you'd think that a guy sitting at the top of this empire would be ready to relax a bit. Not a chance.

Alan Klapmeier is still a man on a mission. 

The SR2X line is going strong. A tour with Dale Klapmeier and Cirrus's David Coleal was the first one I'd sampled of the production line in a little over a year -- and I was staggered at the difference. Count 'em all up and you can see far more product on the floor than ever... and more space to work on them. With increased production scheduled to hit the skies by this fall, this is a tripling of the production line in just a tad over three years... a remarkable achievement in production efficiency.

The basic structure of the SR series seems to have changed not a whit when you look at the outside... but inside is a new substructure that is easier to build, inspect and maintain... and far more cost effective to construct. It's also a slicker looking bird with a number of cosmetic improvements adding a finer sheen to an already pretty flivver.

The result is measurable progress in taming delivery squawks, airframes that are now coming together in well under 2000 labor hours, and continual progress toward future production increases... vitally necessary if Cirrus is finally going to finally, consistently, out-produce long-time industry heavyweight, Cessna Aircraft.

The production upgrades are critical to the future success of Cirrus Design. Already running in the black, the means by which they will be able to keep prices in check and devote more capital to R&D comes from leaner manufacturing techniques and expert analysis of every factory detail involved in building each Cirrus. Restructuring the supplier base has decreased a number of costs dramatically, and nearly $12 million in run rate savings has already been achieved on 2005 production volumes. Better yet, there is more to come.

The SR2X fuselage has received most of the upgrades, thus far, in production technology... leaving the wing assembly (soon) to receive similar treatment -- allowing for the possibility of even greater efficiencies in the future -- and happier customers, to boot. Already, 2005 customer squawks are well under half that seen in 2002. No kidding... the production gnomes at Cirrus are on a roll...

It's good that production can handle the heat -- because sales are showing serious opportunities for growth. With months of production backlog already in the bank, Cirrus' John Bingham is working hard to push into new markets in the increasingly fruitful overseas market. Sales centers are being established in key nations, support networks are being set up as well, and certain markets are already responding aggressively. In Australia alone, Cirrus outsells all other GA birds combined.

But, back to Alan and the scrambled eggs....

To Be Continued, Next Week...

FMI: www.cirrusdesign.com

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