Eight miles high and rising fast, Koss Aerospace provides precision, machined components and sub-assemblies for clients in the aerospace industry. The Canadian company’s flight log spans 34 years and its passenger manifest includes some of the biggest names in aviation. Dan Harvey offers you a window-seat ticket.
Koss Aerospace began by taking several small steps for itself and eventually achieved giant leaps for the aerospace industry. The Mississauga, Ontario-based company was founded in 1975 by Drago Cajic, a visionary who coupled his aerospace manufacturing background with business acumen to provide a figurative airlift to an organization that soared stratospherically.
“He began by purchasing small equipment and then grew the business by engaging the interest of local Canadian aerospace companies,” relates Alex Cajic, the founder’s son and Koss Aerospace’s vice president of business development.
Today, with a flight record of success that surpasses the 30-year point, Koss Aerospace circumnavigates the globe in supplying complex airframe components and subassemblies to international customers who require unerring precision and shuttle-altitude quality.
Koss Aerospace lends its collective, extensive manufacturing expertise toward a full array of integration, manufacturing, processing and assembly capabilities for commercial and defense industry clients. “Our highly skilled personnel specialize in structural components, producing parts found in the specific areas that comprise an entire aviation structure, such as wings, fuselage and landing gears,” says Cajic.
EXPANDING ITS COMPETENCIES
Specific organizational capabilities include complete manufacturing solutions that encompass high-speed multi-axis machining, subassembly, kitting and metal finishing. Further, Koss Aerospace enhances its know-how with state-of-the-art CNC machinery and full in-house programming.
The company lofted itself to higher altitudes in 1992, when it established its Brampton Processing facility, an addition that offered comprehensive metal finishing services that include anodized chrome plating, passivation, cadmium plating, painting, aluminum heat treatment, MPI, LPI, stress-relief embrittlement, shot peen, hard chromium plating and alodine.
“Usually, the processing stage presents a big bottleneck for most manufacturers, because they have to subcontract the work out and deal with multiple processing houses,” says Cajic, “but we circumvented such logjams by establishing Brampton Processing.”
The development enabled Koss to become vertically integrated – straight through manufacturing, processing and assembly – and in control each step of the way. Brampton Processing, as a fullservice metal finishing facility, presents Koss clients with a one-stop shop that accomplishes surface treatments with all major OEM approvals. “In this way, we have increased our turnaround and, in turn, our competitiveness,” Cajic points out.
It’s crucial that Koss develops such innovative methods to demonstrate its value, as its existence depends on maintaining a long established, strategic relationship that it has forged with the aces of the aviation industry (companies such as Bombardier, Viking, EADS and Goodrich, as well as the U.S. Army).
MAJOR FACILITY INVESTMENT
Koss’ main production activities are housed in a modern, 40,000-square-foot facility located right next to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. “In the past two years, we’ve invested about $6 million into this new building and its equipment,” reports Cajic.
Staffing this modern plant are highly skilled individuals whose insights into the aerospace industry’s challenging requirements are as deeply imprinted as the fingerprints they leave upon the technology they handle. Currently, Koss has 100 employees: 35 within Brampton Processing and 65 with Koss Aerospace, informs Cajic. “We have about 24 machining centers with capabilities that cover the spectrum of small-to-large components. We can do parts as big as 14 feet.”
Specific technological capabilities include CNC milling (horizontal and vertical machining, 5-axis machining, high-speed multi axis machining up to 15,000 RMP), extra-large CNC milling and CNC turning. The company works with a variety of materials, as it manufactures parts from aluminum, brass, carbon, alloy and stainless steels, aerospace plastics, titanium, exotic alloys and copper, among others.
QUALITY ON THE RADAR
The company’s high-altitude success is further fostered by embracement of total quality management concepts that engenders a team-oriented environment focused on excellence. Its registrations and certifications include SAE AS-9100 and ISO:9001:2001. Corporate quality policies led to a department staffed by trained technicians who assume responsibility for raw material verification and product requirement validation, as well as assurance of specification compliance throughout the entire manufacturing cycle.
Koss also maintains an ongoing and aggressively lean manufacturing and continuous improvement program. “That came about in 2006, when we moved from a 15,000-square-foot plant and into our current 40,000-square-foot facility, which we did because of increased work volume from existing customers as well as the potential for new business,” explains Cajic.
The timing proved provident, he adds, because the aerospace industry experienced a growth explosion. “As we garnered new business, we designed our new facility with efficient flow and lean production in mind. We ensured that we situated everything appropriately, with a layout designed for maximum efficiency, and then made subsequent upgrades to ensure that all elements cultivated the leanest operation.”
Implementation of the lean manufacturing principles, as well as facility expansion, has translated into substantial growth for the 34-year-old organization, reports Cajic. “In 2006, when we made the move, our sales were in the $5 million range. This year, we anticipate doing about $12 million,” he indicates.
THE FUTURE: IMMEDIATE AND LONG-TERM
As with any business in any sector, Koss Aerospace keeps its eye on the developing global economic situation. But the company isn’t quite sure how the downturn’s impact will play out in relation to its own fortunes. Looking down from a 30,000-foot perspective, Cajic observes: “In my professional experience, I’ve already witnessed several recession cycles. Typically, the aerospace industry lags one or two years behind what’s currently going on. Right now, we’ve amassed a pretty hefty order backlog, so we expect to remain busy with work that will be coming in. However, our activity will taper off, as recent orders for business and commercial jets haven’t been rising too rapidly. Then there’s always the potential for cancellations.”
Preparing for any possible eventuality, Koss strategically responds by not taking on too much debt. “We manage growth in a way that enables us to handle different situations,” says Cajic. “As we anticipated that things would slow down, we are now well prepared.”
In terms of technological trends, Koss is always looking at new equipment and processes to keep up with changing industry needs. “We’re seeing an increasing influx of work that involves composite technology, a development that we’re exploring in two ways,” relates Cajic. “First, we’re considering starting a brand new company, much as we did with Brampton Processing. Second, we’re looking at possible acquisitions.”
But as Koss Aerospace is very systems oriented, it’s not enough for the company to have the right equipment and achieve the appropriate capacity. It’s equally important to Koss that it has the right infrastructure in place, to ensure high-quality and on-time product that keeps the company competitive. As Cajic indicates, it’s easy to buy equipment, but organizational culture, attitude and service orientation require cultivation. As it looks toward meeting the ever changing, demanding requirements of the aerospace industry, Koss has all of the elements in place.