Hamilton Sundstrand 787 Program VP Geoff Hunt spoke recently with Airline Procurement about the company's $15 billion deal with Boeing to provide the electrical, auxiliary power, air-thermal management, hydraulic, fire protection and engine systems for the Dreamliner. (Edited for clarity and length.)

AP: Can you please provide an overview of Hamilton Sundstrand's 787 systems program?

Hunt: Boeing awarded us nine major systems in 2004. We have the largest systems content on the aircraft. We have a series of business units positioned across the US and internationally. The systems that we have under the 787 program cover several major areas. We have an air management systems group based in Windsor Locks [Conn.]. We have our electrical power systems group and our hydraulics systems group based in Rockford [Ill.}. We have an auxiliary power system team based in San Diego; they also make low-pressure fans, so we have about 20 low-pressure fans that move the air around in the cabin. These are the three major parts of the program. In addition to that, we have a fire and smoke protection group down in North Carolina. We have an actuation division to provide about 40 different actuators and valves into our package and they're based in the UK. And in Germany we have Nord-Micro to produce the cabin pressure and control system for the airplane. But the bulk of the activity takes place in Windsor Locks and Rockford.

AP: There seems to be a lot at stake in terms of schedules and delivery expectations. How does Hamilton handle these pressures?

Hunt: If you look at the innovation of the airplane, especially at the electrical architecture, clearly as the primary supplier we have a major role to play in this. We've invested a lot in the development of these systems. As we developed our Airplane Power System Integration Facility in Rockford, we worked very closely with Boeing in making sure our development schedules aligned. So being able to provide the power-on software to them when they needed it was a key milestone for us. I know there is clearly some more work to do, but we're actually pretty pleased with the whole power-on activity. It was virtually a flawless performance of our systems and the aircraft systems they integrate through the power-on process. And a lot of that was a result of all the precursor work that went into it, especially at the factory in Rockford where we dry run this stuff. We were able to bring this all out and put all the time we needed into wringing it out to make sure that it's right for the airplane. As far as the balancing of schedules, Boeing has indicated that they're going to fly in the fourth quarter of this year. Our teams work hourly with them to make sure of the power-on sequence and go through steps needed to support the progressive systems testing at the aircraft level, and the work in their labs supports that goal.

AP: The contract is valued at $15 billion over 20 years. Did that call for a lot of up-front investment on your part?

Hunt: Typically with large commercial aircraft we invest heavily in the development of the products. Clearly in the 787 we are investing in some of these new technologies and the electrical architecture is a major piece of it. But we also have the first installation of a fuel inerting system on a commercial airplane from day one, so there's another piece. The motor controller technologies that we're bringing to bear, high-power motor controllers which are part of the enabler of the more-electric architecture, is something that we're clearly focused on right now. The APU is the first all-electric APU to go onto an aircraft. Again, this is an enabler for this more-electric architecture. So it's not new that we would invest at the beginning and we're obviously investing in some technologies that we're bringing to the market here as well.

AP: How do these systems tend to work together?

Hunt: One of the unique things we bring to the table, and we like to think that we do this pretty much better than anyone else out there, is a total systems integration capability. And this is a capacity we've developed over the course of years and years of our own internal core development and by integrating acquisitions and so on. And the bringing together of Hamilton Standard and the Sundstrand Corporation nearly 10 years ago was a key piece of that and where our abilities are now. We have business units around the company, but I run a central platform integration office charged with bringing all of these elements of the system together and identifying where we can bring value to the customer through integration. For example, we've been able to reduce the number of motor controllers on the 787 by multiplexing one controller to perhaps do two or three different functions that you would not necessarily be able to get to if it was a distributed system across a number of different suppliers. Coming from that systems integration background allows us to continually serve Boeing as we find ways to improve the overall system. So although the design of the airplane has been settled for some time, we sit in a unique position in being able to look across large elements of this and refine the detailed architecture and the components and how they hook together.

AP: As the design and technology of the Dreamliner is expected to reduce fuel burn, has the overall weight of these systems been a topic of discussion?

Hunt: The total systems approach that we're bringing to the airplane is part of the overall fuel burning benefit that the 787 has, and the systems piece is about 3% of the improvements in fuel burn that the aircraft is bringing to the market. So a significant piece comes from the systems and the more-electric architecture is a part of that too. When you bring a systems integration capability, you can identify and remove components off systems and provide the optimum weight for a particular function. The ability, for instance, to remove motor controllers from the airplane through some fairly sophisticated multiplexing between systems yields a direct weight benefit. So we certainly look at all of these installations in terms of weight and our integration capability allows us to do that sort of optimization.

AP: Do you think the aviation supply chain needs to be rethought, not just in light of this program and the delays but across the industry?

Hunt: There's a high level of logistics involved with the global partners that Boeing has in its production line. The partners around the world are building various sections of the aircraft and they install these sections with the systems we provide. So when the aircraft comes together in Seattle, it's a much more efficient bringing together of the major pieces. We have a very large content of systems, but we actually deliver the majority of our equipment not to Boeing's final assembly line but, in fact, to the various global partners around the world. About 90% of our content goes to these global partners and just 10% goes to Seattle. While that's a new way of doing things and it makes for a more efficient airplane build sequence, it's really not a great change for us as a company. It means we put a different address on the box that we're shipping some of our equipment to, but other than that it's a fairly easy system to manage because of all the IT capabilities that are now in place. So I think it's a pretty good model and, from a supplier perspective, it doesn't make a big difference.

AP: How much do communication and logistics impact program performance?

Hunt: A great deal. From our perspective, you need a solid communications and logistics network with your suppliers and partners. Boeing established a partner council and all of the major partners are members. The council meets periodically to bring the partners together and facilitate the communication and so forth. I think these sort of initiatives have helped us understand what the needs are and how best to deal with them.

AP: What have been some of the biggest challenges and lessons of the program so far?

Hunt: We're always learning as we evolve our systems integration position in the market and as we step up our components supply position. We've gone to subsystems and now we've got major systems that we're integrating. Some of the steps that we took on this program involved establishing a platform program integration office, which has helped us learn how to put stuff together better. That's a key stride for us because it positions us more clearly with integration. And this is the way we see the industry going and where our strategy is going. The integration office is an absolutely great vehicle for us to develop that competence and continue to learn how to do it better than before.

AP: Is there a significant evolution in moving from one program to the next?

Hunt: One of things we benefit from under the UTC umbrella is the ACE operating system we use to measure excellence and ensure quality in our products and processes. As you move though a program and introduce new technologies and so on, the system paces how you manage and incorporate things, how you learn your lessons, how you balance your risks, how you ensure your quality, etc. So having this operating system in place helps us nurture new technologies and make sure that we bring on new programs and manage programs at a pace that's appropriate. This also helps us deliver on our commitments to the customer. I think that's an important element for a company like us to have.