Established in 1970, and part of the larger IMP Group, IMP Aerospace has earned a reputation as a leader in the field of military aircraft engineering, depot level maintenance and related specialized services. The Canadian-based organization provides a broad spectrum of engineering and manufacturing service to global aerospace customers. While it has experienced some recent economic turbulence, it’s not flying on a wing and a prayer. It knows exactly what it wants to do – and where it’s headed. Dan Harvey reports from the cockpit.
From its headquarters in Halifax, Nova Scotia, IMP Aerospace provides a broad range of engineering and manufacturing services to the global aerospace industry.
It’s part of the larger IMP Group International Inc., a global manufacturing force that focuses on sustainable growth across different sectors including aerospace, aviation, airline, healthcare, information technology, hospitality and property development.
The Aerospace division includes three sites located in Nova Scotia. From this Canadian region, this division – a fully certified AMO (Aircraft Maintenance Organization) and ATO (Aircraft Technical Organization) operation – provides engineering, depot level maintenance, and auxiliary services. Its impact is demonstrated in military aircraft, avionics production, and the manufacture and assembly of metal and composite components used by major aircraft manufacturers.
HISTORY: FROM SEA TO SKY
Division roots date back to 1967, when Kenneth C. Rowe established Industrial Marine Products Ltd. (IMP), an enterprise that eventually diversified beyond water-related products. (Rowe is now executive chairman and guides and sets policies for the IMP Group.)
A major milestone occurred in 1970, when IMP purchased Fairey Canada Ltd. “Fairey was an aerospace enterprise that performed work in the Canadian Department of National Defense [DND] after World War II,” relates Carl Kumpic, vice president of international marketing. “When that British organization went bankrupt, Rowe acquired the assets and operation and, from there, established IPM Aerospace.”
At the time, the Fairey operation consisted of two airport hangers. IMP has grown much larger. “Activities are based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, centered at the Enfield airfield, in an area that includes nine hangers and about 600,000 square feet of total space,” describes Kumpic. “Today, at least 1,800 of the 3,600 people working within the IMP Group are employed in the aerospace segment.”
Main services include depot-level maintenance on the CP-140 (P-3 Orion) aircraft and the CH-124 (H-3) Sea King helicopters. Experience in these programs gained IMP Aerospace major contracts that support the USN H-3 Sea King and the SAR helicopter (the CH-149 [EH-101]) Cormorant.
As IMP Aerospace developed, it gained licenses as a Lockheed Martin authorized P-3 Orion Service Center and as a repair center for the Sikorsky H-3/ S-61 helicopter. The division also designs, installs and fits major systems for military aircraft.
Shop facilities include component modification, repair and manufacture for new, rebuilt and replacement parts. Capabilities include aircraft paint removal and finishing, a wide range of metal processing, comprehensive non-destructive testing, and acoustic and insulation material fabrication.
Engineering teams supports the commercial aviation market. Activities include structural analysis and finite element modeling; modification, installation, design, and certification; analysis (fatigue and damage tolerance, and weight and balance); electrical load and EMI/EMC analysis/testing; ground and flight system functional testing; materials and process engineering; Aircraft Structural Integrity Program; (ASIP) management, and corrosion control/prevention techniques.
The Wright brothers would be happy.
ESTABLISHING A STRONG REPUTATION
The division has engaged in many programs, and these represent major milestones. These include:
- Sea King – Center Section Repair (CSR): The Canadian Sea King fleet has been in service since the mid-1960s. With the 1993 cancellation of the NSA/NSH helicopter replacement program in 1993, DND needed to install several CH-124 modification programs to extend fleet life. The CSR program involves removal and replacement of major structural elements including lifting frames within fuselage and gear-box mounting beams. IMP Aerospace took on responsibility for reengineering the original design, the manufacture and procurement of more than 1,000 detailed parts required for ship set kits, and material fitment of the re-built fuselage section into the aircraft.
- US Navy/FMS H-3 Sea King Depot Maintenance: In November 1999, IMP Aerospace was contracted by the US Navy to do standard depot level maintenance (SDLM) for the H-3 Sea King fleet. The contract stipulated overhaul, repair, engineering and flight line support services. (It’s worth noting that IMP had to aggressively compete with other highly qualified Canadian and American companies to gain the contract. It came out on top.)
- Canadian Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter (CH-149 Cormorant): In July 2000, IMP Aerospace won a contract (from the Canadian government) to provide in-service support of the CH-149 Cormorant SAR helicopter.
- CP-140 Avionics Incremental Modification Program (AIMP): For years, DND considered making mission systems upgrades for its CP-140 Aurora fleet. As such – and despite budget constraints – it established AIMP. IMP proved the logical choice. Indeed, with its extensive CP-140 experience, capabilities, and strategic position within Canada’s aerospace sector, IMP became the go-to installer for prime contractors that competed for components projects within the AIMP program.
Such programs demonstrated IMP Aerospace’s capabilities and made the division a major component of the IMP Aerospace Core Group. Its efforts – and accompanying success – helped gain the Group recognition as one of Canada’s “50 Best Managed Companies.”
Along with the Aerospace division, the highly diversified IMP Aerospace Core Group includes:
- The Avionics Division: For more than 30 years, this division has provided the military and aerospace industries with the design and manufacture of wire harness assemblies and the repair, overhaul, and product improvement of avionics equipment. Products and services apply to land armored vehicles, military and commercial aircraft, satellites and the International Space Station. Located close to Halifax, Nova Scotia (Hammonds Plains), the division employs more than 300 people and operates a 43,000-square-foot facility. Its substantial investment in equipment (e.g., laser marking, cutting, thermal chambers, clean room facilities) enables the division to operate efficiently and continually improve quality, enhance responsiveness to customer needs, and expand capabilities. Further, the division is governed by a continuous improvement initiative that vigorously oversees management and production processes.
- Aerostructures: Representing more than 40 years of experience in the aerospace industry, this division deservedly earned recognition as a lean manufacturer that integrates structural assemblies and components. Customers include the leading global aircraft companies such as Bell Helicopter, Boeing, Bombardier, Cessna and Lockheed Martin, among others. Along with its all-embracing manufacturing capabilities, this vibrant division provides remanufacturing and repair/overhaul service on P-3 flight controls and airframe components for Lockheed Martin, DND and the US Navy. Its remanufacturing processes – replacement and refurbishment of assemblies – results in a “like new” state. This provides an effective (and lower cost) alternative to new component purchase. Further, the division’s technology is state-of-the-art: To support its manufacturing activities, it boasts tool and design and fabrication capabilities, and it utilizes CATIA V5 and Mastercam modeling and CNC programming software. In addition, a fully integrated Enterprise Resource Planning system ensures optimal production planning and control.
PRESENT AND FUTURE TENSE
With current global economic circumstances, it’s impossible to talk about a company with such a rich heritage of success without considering the recession. Kumpic describes how it relates to IMP Aerospace: “We’re working with companies in places like Spain, Greece and Portugal that suffer capital-related lost opportunities, but Canada hasn’t really been impacted too significantly. Business carries on well with the domestic customer.”
In terms of manufacturing, things have slowed a bit, he concedes. “But, we’ve managed to find new customers and markets that ameliorate any loss. If anything we are seeing growth, because we’re taking active steps to identify more military work that will shelter us from a storm – the downturn in the commercial area.”
Still, IMP Aerospace feels the pressure that low-cost producers generate. “We’re competing against Mexican and China companies, with their low labor rates,” says Kumpic, “and we’re seeing companies such as Boeing and Pratt and Whitney sending a lot of their work into these countries.”
“We’ve made ourselves more efficient and, in turn, more productive. That’s the best way to effectively compete,” explains Kumpic.
But the challenge also involves effective branding. “With any company in whatever industry, marketing and promotion prove critical. You have to make potential clients aware of your abilities and value proposition,” says Kumpic.
And promotion is blanketed in the organization’s overall strategy. “When you’re dealing with the high variability that defines the current – and highly competitive – global economic environment, wherein we all reside, a viable strategy needs to be developed. Even more, it needs to be reviewed on an annual basis and corrected if, when and where necessary. That’s what we’re doing. That’s the best way to keep aware of what’s going on. That approach helped us develop tactics that will lead us in the correct direction.”
What does that mean, specifically? “Several things,” answers Kumpic. “For one, it means placing our money most appropriately – into improving infrastructure and systems.”
That’s internal, he indicates. But how about external? “That means market exploration, determining the kind of resources we need, and how to obtain those resources.”
Resources aren’t just material but human – and that’s an area where IMP Aerospace has targeted its future direction. “We coordinate with universities and technical colleges,” reports Kumpic. “We provide them with our forecast about skills needed, and we help them develop a curriculum and course-ware and help graduates move into the manufacturing sector and, hopefully, into IMP.”