ZHUHAI, China—Chinese company Nanshan Aluminum will supply aerospace-grade aluminum plate to Boeing, taking a key step in accessing the global market.

Nanshan will use the contract as a foundation for expanding its plate business, and expanding into aluminum extrusions and aluminum and titanium forgings, Chairman Cheng Rence said.

Chinese manufacturers are small players in the global aerospace metals market, in which companies such as Boeing and Airbus demand material properties that are not easy for inexperienced firms to achieve.

Airbus contracted China’s Southwest Aluminum in 2011 to supply aluminum plate. The Chinese plant of U.S. company Aleris will also supply aluminum to Airbus under a long-term contract signed in July.

Despite the challenges of working with new suppliers, cultivating them is in the interest of aircraft makers, since they intensify competition.

“Developing local suppliers and incorporating them into the global aerospace supply chain is a key focus of our industrial cooperation with Chinese industry,” said Ian Chang, who manages suppliers in the country for Boeing’s commercial business. “This new collaboration will capitalize on Nanshan’s vertical integration, new equipment and ability to offer firm fixed pricing to build an aviation aluminum supply base in China that can be globally competitive.”

Boeing has been working with Nanshan to qualify its aerospace materials operation. Nanshan is based in Shandong, a province in eastern China.
The agreement between Boeing and Nanshan was announced at Airshow China here.