New Piper: Pursuing The Past To Find The Future

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New Piper said last week that it has achieved shorter product-development cycles and greater efficiency in its "Factory of the Future" by implementing the production techniques developed by automobile manufacturers in the 1980s. "That task was nothing less than changing the way Piper does business," New Piper CEO Chuck Suma said in a news release. New Piper also noted that it took only six months to achieve FAA certification of its newest model -- the 6X, a normally aspirated, fixed-gear version of its more complex six-seat Saratoga II aircraft that dates from the 1980s. "People said it couldn't be done in that short a time," Suma said. The 6X should be ready for delivery next month, Suma said last week at EAA AirVenture. New Piper spokesman Mark Miller said the straight-legged Saratoga fills an important niche for those who want high performance without the maintenance and complexity of retractable gear. The company is hoping to have the turbocharged 6XT version of the aircraft certified shortly. Both are powered by 300-hp Lycoming engines and have top speeds of 153 knots and 165 knots respectively. The fixed gear shaves about 15 knots from the Saratoga's top end but it also knocks as much as $100,000 from the sticker price. The 6X is selling for $336,000 and the 6XT for $356,000. New Piper Aircraft is headquartered in Vero Beach, Fla. Among the techniques used by New Piper's "Factory of the Future" are efficient deployment of workers during the assembly process, "just-in-time" inventory tracking, and standardized tool sets for technicians. New Piper said it is the only GA manufacturer using the system, called Flow Technology.