Cyclone Manufacturing enters its 50th year in business in 2014 and yet, perhaps an even bigger anniversary is the 25 years that its President, Andrew Sochaj, has been at the helm of control. In a conversation with Industry Today, Sochaj talks about the explosive growth his Canada-based company has experienced over the past couple of decades, its present position today in the aerospace market, and why he doesn’t expect things to slow down anytime soon. Steve Engelhardt reports.
Founded in 1964 by Ted Korsiorek, Cyclone Manufacturing began as a small business operating out of a small shop in the west-end of Toronto. Today, Cyclone operates out of four facilities in Ontario, three in Mississauga and one in Milton, whose plant space combine to equal over 280,000 square feet, and employs over four hundred individuals. The origin of this growth across fifty years can most accurately be traced to 1989, when previous ownership retired and elected Sochaj to run operations as Cyclone’s president.
“Back then, in 1989, our company consisted of about 25 employees, brought in around $1.6 million in sales, and had a single facility that spanned a mere 24,000 square feet,” Sochaj says, adding, “we had two default customers, whereas today, we do business and provide extensive service to every single major commercial airline.” While they formerly were primarily a machine shop cutting chips, Cyclone soon expanded its capabilities to 3- and 4-axis machining as well. “We continued to grow and, soon again, we found ourselves needing to expand to 5-axis machining as well, in order to become more efficient and reduce a number of operations.”
He says that this growth trend continued through the end of the 90s, and it quickly became apparent that many of the suppliers he was relying on for his business simply could not keep up with his demand. “Our suppliers couldn’t keep up with us and I found myself constructing a new shot peening operation whose capabilities allowed us to continue without missing a beat,” he says, adding, “I really had no choice, given our suppliers’ situation, but to go ahead and build it.”
The same thing happened again a few years later when Cyclone was forced to build its own anodizing shop, as suppliers once again just couldn’t keep pace with the company’s surging growth. “While we initially had to take some time to get ourselves up and running in these areas, we took it as an overall advantage in the long run, as we moved closer and closer to becoming fully vertically integrated.”
Today, in 2014, that trend has just about come full circle for Cyclone, as vertical integration is now a defining part of their identity, with the company being responsible for producing 95 percent of their own components across their four facilities. In what started as a business whose only capability was machine-cutting chips, now is one that produces airframe, wing, fuse, and machine components, as well as providing tube bending, welding, and surface treatment services as well.
Cyclone has four facilities, three in Mississauga and one in Milton, all of which serve different production roles, which Sochaj says is not just a result of his company’s rapid growth, but also of the way the markets and supplier bases have shifted. “We were growing 20 to 25 percent a year, meaning we would double our business every three to four years,” he says, adding, “we could have just doubled the size of our facility, but, again, that would only be sufficient for only the first few months before we’d have to expand again.” Instead, for every new operation process his company implemented into its production capabilities, he simply bought a new facility and set up the production for it there.
“Of our three Mississauga locations, in Building 1, you will find our original machining operations, in Building 2 we are doing sheet metal, heat forming, heat treatment, and welding, while at Building 3 it’s mainly processing and building,” he says, adding, “and in our most recently purchased facility in Milton, we are increasing machining capacity in 5-axis equipment and researching the latest technology to keep up with demand.”
Sochaj says he doesn’t expect this trend of expansion to stop anytime soon, as “last year in October we were working at 75 percent capacity, but now since we added the 60,000 square foot building in Milton, investing 20 million in the process, we are back to 52 percent capacity already,” he says, adding, “I think pretty soon we’ll find ourselves ready to expand and acquire yet again.”
Partnerships Big and Small
Cyclone’s comprehensive production capabilities have established them as one the top options for aircraft businesses, and one needs to look no further than their client list to see why. Working with companies like Boeing, Embraer, Airbus, and Bombardier, Cyclone not only services the biggest aircraft companies in the world, but also provides a variety of different components to each, evidencing the depth of quality in their parts. “We produce winglet components for Boeing’s 737 and 787, while also providing trailing and leading edge metallic components,” Sochaj says, adding, “with Bombardier, we produce all of their original jets’ components, mainly wings and fuse, as well as develop protective spars for Embraer’s Legacy 450 and 500.”
Sochaj says that while his company provides extensive service to the companies listed above, perhaps his largest partnership is the one they enjoy with Airbus. In addition to the components they provide for the Airbus-350, Cyclone also is one of only two North American companies that is certified and approved for total sulfuric analyzing for Airbus, an ability Sochaj attributes to his company’s high degree of vertical integration. “Our production capabilities have gotten us to where we are, and the platform we find ourselves on in 2014 is likely the biggest we have ever been tasked with,” he says, adding, “It’s very exciting.”
And yet, while Cyclone is a regular amongst the biggest players in aerospace, Sochaj says he enjoys the partnerships with fellow suppliers in Canada, and North America by extension, just as much. “We don’t consider the other suppliers around us as competition,” Sochaj says, adding, “we would rather work with them to bring more business into our area so that we can grow together.”
He recalls a recent experience with a fellow Canadian supplier who was machining components as part of an order for Boeing, however, they ran into a problem with their paint adhesion and couldn’t fix the problem on their own. “A company executive reached out to me on a Friday, told me about their problem, and then said that they needed the order to be ready by the following Monday,” Sochaj says, with a laugh. Sochaj says his team came in over the weekend and processed the components without a hitch. “In this process they were in danger of halting Boeing’s assembly line, but everything worked out and was ready by Monday and they even received a nice letter from Boeing complimenting them on their work.”
Sochaj says that for all the success his company has experienced (they grew 25 percent in 2013 and expect the same for 2014), they don’t forget about where they have come from, and try to reflect that philosophy in instances such as the one above. “We will help anyone we can, whether it’s a major aerospace company or a small supplier, it’s a team effort, and it’s something I’m quite proud of.”
He and the rest of those at Cyclone have a lot to be proud of these days, as they have taken aerospace by storm and look to keep things gliding high for many years to come.