Known for its stringent quality demands and ever-evolving rules and regulations, the aerospace industry, particularly in North America, can be a cutthroat environment for those in the business of supplying parts and components to the world’s leading aircraft companies.
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And yet for Koss Aerospace, which has been around since 1975, the past four decades has seen the company only continue to build upon its success, progressing to the point today where it’s known as one of the most reliable and high quality producers of aircraft components for the North American market. In a conversation with Industry Today, Alex Cajic, Vice President of Business Development for Koss, shares insight into how the company is able to continuously succeed amidst a crowded, dynamic industry and market.
Koss Aerospace was founded in 1975, beginning as a small machine shop based out of Mississauga, Ontario. Entrenched in the aerospace industry since day one, the company was originally established under the name of Koss Machine & Tool Company, initially building its reputation up by manufacturing parts for McDonnell Douglas, an aerospace manufacturing corporation and defense contractor that would later go on to merge with Boeing, as well as Dehavilland Aircraft, which eventually would become Bombardier.
Getting their foot in the door with industry giants, Koss continued to grow their activity and overall operations as they began to catch the eye of the other major players in aerospace. “It’s been a wonderful progression to get to where we are today, and while we still enjoy partnerships with those two companies, we have since expanded our customer base greatly to include a wide range of commercial, business, regional, and even defense aircraft programs,” says Alex Cajic, whose father, Drago, founded the company.
With regards to some of the specific programs the company is currently a part of, Cajic says says they are involved in pretty much every platform for Bombardier’s CRJ aircraft, as well as its C-Series (C100/C300), LEAR75, Challenger (350/605), and Global (5000/6000/7000/8000). For Gulfstream, they supply parts to its G-class (450/550/650), as well as Airbus’ A330, A350- 900, and A350-1000. “You’ll also find us manufacturing for Boeing’s 777 and 737 aircraft, as well as its F-18 fighter jets and Apache helicopters on the defense side of things,” says Cajic.
The diversity of programs and companies speak to the manufacturing capabilities of Koss, but Cajic says it wasn’t always like this. “In 2008, we were growing very heavily with a small core of customers and while we had a broad product base, we wanted to diversify our revenue streams and position ourselves for a lot of new aircraft programs that were coming on at this time.”
It’s a jump that every supplier would like to be able to make, but what exactly enabled Koss to do so in such an effective manner? “We have a few key advantages that our customers find real value in, the first of which being that we are a vertically integrated manufacturer.”
Koss operates its own machining and manufacturing facilities, as well as a building dedicated strictly to processing. “Our ability to have our own processing facility is a huge benefit for our customers, because in the aerospace industry, processing is an area that really bottlenecks, where there really aren’t a lot of companies that do it on their own.” As such, it makes this operation a very costly one, but with Koss owning their own facility dedicated to it, Cajic says they’re able to “seamlessly provide any and all processing and finishing requirements, which goes a long way towards their ability to consistently meet lead times” for their customers.
Although operating from a position of strength, the company hasn’t rested on its laurels, but rather has been quite proactive in ensuring that the success they’ve had over the years doesn’t slow down any time soon. In fact, over the 18 months, Koss Aerospace has invested over $5 million into new manufacturing technology, taking their operations in Mississauga to an entirely new level.
“With areas like China, India, and now even Mexico, existing as attractive areas to do low cost business, we had to look at ways we could drive our manufacturing costs down while still maintaining the same level of production output and quality,” says Cajic. As a result, the money has gone into purchasing new, state-of-the-art, automated CNC and deburring machinery that has enabled the company to run a third shift without an operator while the plant is closed.
The company can now also operate via flexible manufacturing cells, where an operator is able to run as many as three machines at once, switching parts without any breaks in the process. What does this mean? Maximum machine usage.
Turning the Corner
Koss’ investment have led to an increase in production, which also means more chips to account for. In response to such, the company has additionally invested in an automate system that manages these excess chips while recovering coolant. All in the all, the company has emerged in 2016 looking more polished and productive than ever.
After all, they say in order to make money, you must first spend it, and the returns on Koss investment have already begun rolling in. “From 2014-2015, we saw a growth of 15 percent, followed up by a 20 percent growth in the 2015-2016 calendar year,” says Cajic, adding, “Our forecast for the 2016-2017 year is much of the same, as we expect growth to be around 15 percent.”
When one considers Koss’ industry awareness and willingness to invest in order to improve, it’s not surprising to see this level of success. Combine this with the fact that they have been a dedicated lean manufacturer since 2009, which has led to an overall 95 percent satisfaction in time of delivery and a quality rating of 99.5 percent, the list grows short in who stands amongst them in not just the North American, but global aerospace supply market. And their customers certainly appreciate it, with Boeing awarding them with a Gold rating in quality and delivery and Bombardier recognizing them with a 4-Star Certification for their excellence of service.
At the end of the day, Koss Aerospace is company with a plan, with its eyes set on both where the aerospace industry currently is, and also where it looks to be heading. It’s a strong position to be in, and the company doesn’t look ready to relinquish such any time soon.