As the go-to source for international aviation leaders who require unique solutions, Harco designs and manufactures products that have been integrated into today’s most advanced aircraft. But Harco’s technically superior sensors, thermocouple systems and cable assemblies are so versatile that they have proven themselves in industrial applications as well. Dan Harvey describes the factors contributing to the Connecticut-based company’s high-flying success.
HARCO’s innovative output is so comprehensive that the award-winning company’s fingerprints can be found throughout the entire body of many advanced aircrafts. “Our products can be found from the nose to the tail,” says Richard Hoyt, marketing manager of the privately owned organization. “We can provide customers with a whole suite of air data systems for their applications. That’s one of the biggest advantages we offer.”
Based in Branford, Conn., HARCO not only designs, manufactures and distributes aerospace airdata systems; its complex production capabilities also yield high temperature gas turbine sensors, on-engine electrical cable assemblies, airframe electrical cable assemblies, and other advanced sensor products.
According to the company, HARCO directly or indirectly supplies product for programs such as the Boeing 777, Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter, Airbus A380, Boeing/Lockheed Martin F18, Embraer 190 and Phenom 100, Eclipse 500, and Pilatus PC21. The F35 Lightning II – the world’s newest, most sophisticated multi-role fighter plane – features HARCO temperature and speed sensor designs.
Moreover, the company’s technically advanced custom sensors, thermocouple systems, cable assemblies speed sensors, resistance temperature devices (or RTDs), high security switches and position and proximity sensors are used in a wide range of both aerospace and industrial applications.
BIRTH AND SUBSEQUENT EXPANSION
HARCO was established in 1951, born from a need for temperature measuring devices to service aircraft engines, naval nuclear reactors and rocket engines. “One of the first things the company worked on was designing and manufacturing thermocouples for Pratt & Whitney,” says Hoyt. “Subsequently, we expanded our product offerings and, in turn, our customer base.”
Today, the company’s primary market is the aviation industry (commercial aviation, business and general aviation, military aviation), while its secondary market is industrial (high security switch, land power generation, marine power generation and propulsion, and oil & gas).
But aviation work is where HARCO truly shines. For more than half a century, international aviation leaders have turned to HARCO for innovative solutions. For instance, when Eclipse Aviation wanted to advance its industry by building a very light jet, the company chose HARCO to design and build the air data system. When the U.S. Navy wanted to improve the safety and reliability of its pilot ejection system for its Harrier Aircraft, it had HARCO build an electronic airspeed-altitude sensor.
TWO PRODUCTION FACILITIES
HARCO currently has two manufacturing facilities (one in Connecticut, the other in Mexico). Its main production site, located in Branford, contains more than 50,000 square feet that accommodates numerous manufacturing resources such as metal and ceramic laser machining, 2D matrix marking, semi-automated fabrication on thermocouple caps and junctions, electromechanical metal forming, glass sealing, an electronic discharge machine, CNC benders and in-house mold-making and prototyping capabilities.
“Along with design, development and manufacturing, we’re capable of performing a good portion of in-house testing, too,” Hoyt adds. Indeed, HARCO has full lab capability, including complete automated testing of air data sensors and includes areas such as wind tunnel, heater calibration, and ATP testing. “We also have vibration and extreme high temperature testing for environmental testing and qualification,” says Hoyt.
Five years ago, to continue meeting increased manufacturing demand and customer requirements, HARCO established a fully equipped, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Guaymas, Sonoro, Mexico. That expansion, coupled with lean manufacturing initiatives implemented in the past four years at the Branford Facility, helped HARCO reduce manufacturing lead times and inventory investment while improving on-time deliveries.
As Hoyt indicates, lean manufacturing represents a major investment area for HARCO. Specific lean initiatives include working to develop key suppliers to support just-in-time material requirements, extensive lean training of the entire manufacturing team, and a re-layout of the production lines that allow for point-of-use inventory, automated materials management systems, fully equipped dedicated product family assembly areas, and implementation of enhanced manufacturing software. “By implementing our lean manufacturing program, we’ve reduced our lead times and investment in inventory,” reports Hoyt.
At both facilities, HARCO adheres to the industry’s highest standards of quality and compliance. “HARCO’s attainment of ISO: 9001/AS9100 registration 11 years ago, along with various other industry certifications and our dedication to continuous improvement, demonstrate our ongoing commitment to meet or exceed our customers’ expectations,” says Hoyt.
DOUBLING ITS GROWTH
Thanks to the commingling of the various commitments, i.e., to manufacturing, design, R&D, quality, customer service, HARCO has enjoyed substantial growth, reports Hoyt. “In the past 10 years, we’ve consistently achieved double-digit growth and, in the last five years, we’ve almost doubled our growth,” he points out.
As far as R&D, HARCO invests more than 50 percent of its earnings into this area. This financial commitment enabled the company to secure patents for several technologies, and it resulted in innovations such as a stable intert metal matrix composite (the SIMx for high-temperature applications) and its Magneto-Optical Sensors (MOPS) for position sensing.
The SIMx represents HARCO’s embrace of nano technology. SIMx is composed of base materials embedded with nano particles that deposit themselves within the grain boundaries and within the base material. It inhibits grain growth and migration of ionic contaminants. The nano particles also hinder movement of dislocations, thus stabilizing the structure under load. The material is extremely stable at elevated temperatures in corrosive environments and after exposure to heat induced by TIG welding.
With MOPS, the company employed fiber-optic technology in developing yet another advancement. MOPS are solid-state sensors with optical fiber transmission that employ a magnetic target with the sensor. An interface card houses a bi-directional driver/detector and performs threshold and position decoding. MOPS has numerous applications for proximity detection, displacement sensing, and angular rotation, and its numerous advantages, such as increased miniaturization, reliability, and standardization of sensor application, places it far above similar products used in aviation.
“R&D commitment is also evident in our high security switches, which help secure state and government facilities, and position and proximity sensors, which are used in multiple applications,” says Hoyt.
HARCO, which has 210 employees at its U.S. location, has organized itself into manufacturing business units where cross-functional teams support customers’ product acquisition and manufacturing requirements. Each business unit includes a manager, contract administrator and a cross-functioning engineering team. Each team includes production planner/buyer, production supervisor, and designer as well as software, electrical, mechanical, manufacturing and quality engineers. The teams support the customer during all stages of the product life cycle. Machinery and personnel are dedicated to each business unit for prototyping, tooling and production.
“Essentially, our team collaborates with a customer’s own engineering team to provide the best solution available – custom designed, if necessary – at cost-effective prices to meet their specific application requirements,” explains Hoyt. “The two teams work together during the new product selection and identification phases, through to the concept and development phase.”
HARCO’s team stays with the program through its life cycle and release to manufacturing. Further, the company’s information technology environment facilitates speed, accuracy, and reliability of the product development process. A Product Data Management application allows development team members to work with a consistent data set and control and change data associated with the product, such as configuration management. It also controls project workflow through the program’s approval stages. Design and analysis tools utilized include solid modeling, finite element analysis (structural, vibration, and heat transfer), computational fluid dynamics (CFD), 3D magnetic simulation, and electrical circuit and printed circuit board design.
Finally, HARCO offers continued services including factory repair, customer training and full warranty. “We have an FAA repair station license [#YIUR064J] that allows support for a product’s entire life, offering the customer complete after-the-sale support,” says Hoyt.
Meanwhile, HARCO plans to continue investing in new manufacturing equipment, research & development, advanced work processes, new product development and employees – and it anticipates ongoing positive outcomes from this financial commitment. Already, the company has achieved a remarkable level of technological superiority, a direct result of its ability to anticipate customer needs and design a leading-edge solution that more than meets those needs. No doubt, its ambitions will help it soar to even higher altitudes.