On a mission to always anticipate and then exceed customer expectations, Noranco Inc. continuously invests in new technology. Recent acquisitions will enable the organization to hurdle the high bar it set for itself, Dan Harvey reports.
Based in Canada but boasting a global reach, Noranco Inc. provides technological capabilities such as precision machining and sheet metal fabrication – complemented by assembly and finishing services – for high-profile customers in the aerospace, commercial, military and technology market sectors.
Established 35 years ago (and once known as Noranco Manufacturing LTD), the Pickering, Ontario-headquartered company initially focused on sheet metal fabrication. However, a corporate decision, made about 11 years ago, diversified the company toward its current course.
“The driving factor behind the decision was that our customers sought an organization that could provide machining capabilities in addition to sheet metal work, which we have now developed further into vertical integration of the two by providing higher level assemblies,” explains John Nicholson, Noranco Inc.’s director of new business development.
The company saw this as more than just the kind of challenge that shakes the status quo: It also perceived a new revenue stream as well as a means to grow the business in a new direction, relates Nicholson.
Acting upon these recognized opportunities, in March 2008, the company completed the purchases of MBM Tool and Machine Co. Ltd and Excentrotech Precision Inc. “These acquisitions were strategic moves designed to help the company achieve its goal of becoming a major global player,” comments Nicholson.
The development resulted in a new name and organizational structure. Today, Noranco Inc. is comprised of three divisions (Noranco, MBM and Excentrotech) and three manufacturing sites located in the Greater Toronto region. This arrangement provides Noranco with a broad capability range – sheet metal fabrication, precision CNC machining, assembly, testing and kitting – directly applicable to its aerospace industry – related activities and, in turn, compliant with customers’ exacting specifications and requirements. “The acquired companies were privately owned, Canadian-based machine shops that had developed strong reputations in the aerospace industry,” informs Nicholson.
As far as customers, Noranco serves world-class OEMs such as Bombardier Aerospace, Honeywell, Messier Dowty, Goodrich, Bell Helicopter, GE Aviation (formally Smith Aerospace), Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Celestica, Indal Technologies, and MDS Sciex, Positron.
For these clients, the newly structured Noranco group is now a leading provider of high-precision, multi-axis machine details, fabricated sheet metal components, and complex assemblies. “As a supplier for both fixed and rotary winged aircraft, Noranco’s product footprint includes large, monolithic aero-structures, wing and fuselage stringers, avionics, electronics, power distribution chassis, and flight safety equipment,” says Nicholson.
In particular, the new divisions specialize in landing gear components, assemblies and testing, Nicholson relates. “Both of the acquired companies demonstrated substantial expertise in landing gear technology, specifically in the manufacture of components for landing gear and for assembling subsections. As a result, Noranco has now become an expert in these areas.”
With the acquisitions, Noranco now possesses over 210,000 square feet of total manufacturing space and an increased workforce that includes more than 400 employees. Essentially, the company’s production facilities – spreading across a 40-mile region that includes Pickering, Woodbridge and Vaughan – offer a range of equipment, technological capabilities and services that amount to a “one-stop” shop for its customers.
Specific manufacturing capabilities include early design assistance and manufacturing engineering, CNC technology (machining, punching and forming), welding, assembly and chemical processing. “With the acquisitions, and the accompanying purchase of new equipment, we now have 88 CNC machining centers, split between milling machines and lathes, including palletizing machines and the multi-tasking Mazak Integrex technology,” reports Nicholson.
A versatile organization, Noranco manufactures a wide variety of products that find application even beyond the aerospace industry. The company also serves the technology sector with components used in medical or scientific devices, electronic components, enclosures, assemblies, and frames. It also services the telecommunications industry with appropriate components, enclosures, assemblies and cabinets.
In developing products, Noranco works with a spectrum of materials that range from various grades of aluminum, through copper and brass alloys, stainless steels, Titanium, and low and high Nickel content alloys such as Inconel, Monel, Aeromet, and 300M among others.
Through every step of its evolution, Noranco studiously maintains stringent quality control programs and certifications, which include SAE AS9100B and ISO: 9001 standards as well as NADCAP for certain processes. This effort ensures that the company preserves its well-earned status. Noranco is also approved under the Canadian Controlled Goods program (CCG) to receive ITAR drawings.
“One of the reasons we became a world-class supplier during our relatively brief existence is our reputation for excellence, which has been fostered by our excellent track record in customer service and reliability and by maintaining the highest standards relating to quality and delivery,” says Nicholson.
Moreover, Noranco integrates Six Sigma and lean operations into its business practices. Specific objectives of all quality initiatives include the fostering of a business culture wherein all employees assume responsibility for organizational success and accept ownership in quality-control efforts. In addition, the initiatives enable Noranco to fully comprehend customer needs and encourage the company to develop methods to improve capabilities and processes, no matter how complex. In all, these efforts enable the company to improve its operations at the same time that it reduces expenses, making it a cost-effective solution to customer needs.
Nicholson readily supplies specifics: “We have a flexible manufacturing environment that includes a state-of-the-art ERP system that enables quick response to customers’ tight delivery schedules. Further, our expertise in program management, lean manufacturing and supply chain management guarantees our customers’ compete satisfaction.”
If that isn’t enough to underscore the company’s integrity, Noranco also is deeply concerned how its business affects the environment. In this regard, the company commits itself to ecological protection via responsible activity management, with the upshot that its concern will mitigate the impact its manufacturing activities have on the environment. Specific accomplishments include installation of environmentally friendly water filtration and dust collection systems and implementation of metal recycling and office waste recycling programs.
FOCUSED ON GROWTH
Nicholson reports that Noranco’s immediate and long-term plans include sustained organizational growth and an increased global footprint, which would extend its current shipping boundaries that take in the United States, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Mexico. “Also, we’re looking to transform ourselves into a fully integrated company as it relates to our ability to manufacture and assemble major systems and sub-assemblies of aircraft structures and landing gear systems,” says Nicholson.
Since its inception in the early 1970s, Noranco has never relented in its ongoing effort to upgrade equipment and processes. So far, such perseverance allowed the company to put in place the kind of cutting-edge technology and systems (not to mention a highly skilled workforce) that never disappointed customers in terms of their expectations. It only took the company 35 years to reach its current level. There’s no telling how high it will fly unfettered in the new millennium.