New ownership, new machine tool investment and new resources combine to drive Bromford Industries’ portfolio growth strategy within the aero engine manufacturing supply chain. Aerospace Manufacturing reports.
Liberty Hall Capital Partners acquired Bromford Industries in March 2016 as a platform business, upon which to grow its portfolio in aerospace manufacturing. Bromford’s position as a platform business, from its sites in Birmingham, Leicester and Alcester, provide the base upon which growth will be achieved organically and by the acquisition of complementary business and services, and is firmly geared towards achieving excellence in the aero engine manufacturing sector.
Bromford Industries has already deployed £10 million of investment in capital equipment to support the growth of customer programmes, including the world’s largest single aisle engine programme. Further investments were made in resources for infrastructure that mirror the expanding market. Based on the investments, Bromford Industries has developed long standing strategic relationships with key customers resulting in a market share increase of 15% in 2016.
Bromford is a member of Midlands Aerospace Alliance and ADS Group; the benefits from such memberships allow the company to engage with peer groups and focus customer activity into relevant and specific areas.
When asked what the most important assets of a company are, Gary Lowe, CEO, says: “Number one is customers. If you don’t maintain positive customer relations, you can’t grow opportunities. Secondly, people – skilled workforce, culturally aligned with your vision and collective ambition. Finally, you need a supply chain that works in partnership with you. All that, supported by investment in technology and in your people, is what builds a business.”
Regarding industry competition, Lowe says: “We differentiate ourselves on so many levels beginning with our professionals, ownership structure, ability to invest in latest technology, all the way to our total commitment to customer satisfaction.”
The best of the best
All the hard work has paid off for Bromford. This year at the Pattonair Global Supplier Conference in Dallas Fort Worth, the company’s site in Leicester was presented with the Best Performing Supplier Award 2017. This is the fifth Pattonair Award that Bromford Industries, Leicester has received in the past seven years. The Leicester site’s effort, focus and hard work was recognised with 100% delivery and 100% quality, demonstrating that with the right mindset and application, it has become the norm year after year.
Bromford Industries supply machined components to several aircraft programmes including A320, A330, A350, B737. Considering the constantly changing demands of the industry, current design challenges that face the company’s aero engine OEM manufacturing customers still remain to be those of making engines quieter, more fuel-efficient and lighter, in pursuit of clean sky goals. The change in recent design philosophy – smaller, faster, hotter core engines, better by-pass ratio and leaner fuel burn, dictates the drive to innovative technologies and lighter, heat resistant materials.
Such materials are harder to machine and present challenges in machining time and cutting tool consumption, all of which present a cost challenge to manufacturers. What is more, the increase in production of single aisle airliners has created a massive demand for aero engines, which has caused the current supply chain demand from OEMs to take on new levels of complexity in balancing cost against quality and on-time delivery. This demanding environment is an area where Bromford has continued to excel and grow.
Grow by leaps and bounds
The CFM LEAP programme is experiencing the biggest ramp-up ever known in civil aerospace. Being part of the LEAP programme requires huge flexibility in production – more parts in less time. To cope with this volume in time, Bromford acknowledges that it needs to adopt an innovative production mindset – going from batch production to single piece flow. To get there, areas such as takt times, SMED activities and dedicated cells are utilised to prevent unnecessary impacts on production as Bromford service multiple programmes. Reflecting on its customers’ challenges, Bromford Industries is investing in the latest technologies – Okuma machines MU6300 and in fixtures and tooling that are successfully designed for machining complex engine components on a single machine tool.
Bromford Industries has acquired the majority of Okuma machines in Europe. The highly capable Okumas machine super alloys using the latest cutting technology and ceramic inserts, to remove material quickly, utilise capacity and increase the speed of production. With their minimum downtime for breakdown and the dependable service provided by a third-party installer, Bromford Industries is still developing and maximising the machines’ full potential.
Bromford Industries also engage with third-parties, such as cutting tool specialists, MTC at Coventry, AMRC, etc. to support its continuous improvement and product development capability.
Currently, Bromford is analysing CNC programming and in particular new strategies for CAD/CAM modelling and has committed to an advanced CAD/CAM software to help fully-optimise machining strategies. Planning for the near future - 2019/2020, Bromford Industries is also considering investment in a Fastems FMS with a view to further supporting schedule ramp up on major engine programmes.
In support of machining efficiency, the company is currently involved with additive layer manufacturing (ALM) technology, and current development in this area will keep pace with aero engine applicability and development, ensuring that whilst the business’s primary focus remains machining, technologies such as ALM, can be viewed and utilised as complementary technology, rather than disruptive. Bromford Technologies, in Alcester, is already using plastic additive manufacturing to produce tooling and aid new product introduction and parts development.
Bromford Industries believe that the biggest challenge coming from next year is the management of upscale operations in a controlled fashion to meet the increasing volume demand from customers while remaining competitive and preserving leading quality performance. Secondly, and an equally important challenge, is attracting new talent to the business to propel the company forward on its defined growth trajectory.
The lack of promotion and Government support of apprenticeships in the last 10 years can easily be seen in engineering. Meeting such challenges and maintaining complete customer satisfaction at all times is challenging, but the company looks at it more as an opportunity to showcase its full capabilities.