A recipe for success

A recipe for success

Gemcor’s executive vice-president & COO, Tony Goddard discusses how the company has grown to become a true integrator for the aerospace industry.

When building a home, many have tried to cut corners and cost by acting as our own general contractor – only to end up with two subcontractors fighting over who is right and who is wrong. The potential savings dwindle and the results worsen when you are left to solve the problem on your own.

Just as in everyday life, the aerospace industry looks for simplicity and accountability from a single supplier, and also for the size and financial security to ensure long-term support. The perfect one-stop shopping scenario is for a supplier or integrator to deliver the entire process or production line with a single point of responsibility. In the past, the flaw to this approach was that no single company had all of the pieces to the puzzle; therefore, an integrator would need to subcontract to fill in the missing pieces. A good solution, you might think. Well, not really.

The reality was that the integrator would need to mark up the subcontractors’ prices, because they were now owning the risk for the entire project. Typically, a single-source integrator also carries the full cost burden, not receiving payment until a complete line or process is installed and signed off, even though they paid their subcontractors long ago. The aerospace industry pushed back at integrator fees and, as with your own home contractors, finger pointing ensued between the integrator and subcontractor, leading to poorer-than-desired results.

The industry encouraged integrators to become larger, so that they could offer the entire solution in-house with no reliance on outside subcontractors for key elements of the system. Many companies responded by developing expertise organically, so they could be perceived to offer one-stop shopping. While internal growth was less costly, it resulted in integrators learning on the go. When that inexperience resulted in poorly-executed projects that were late and over budget, they found themselves removed from future bid lists.

Tony Goddard, executive vice-president & COO, Gemcor

With the increased use of carbon composite in airframe structures, Ascent Aerospace knew it was imperative to address this segment of the market head-on, but with a better approach. Ascent went on a mission to become a world-class integrator, capable of providing strong expertise in each required discipline. Over a period of four years, Ascent made a number of key acquisitions. The result: a group of businesses, each an industry leader within their own discipline, now acting as one, truly-integrated supply base.

Coast Composites has delivered some of the largest-ever Invar and carbon fibre layup tools for building composite aerostructures. Global Tooling Systems has likely produced more wing assembly jigs than any other tooling provider in the world. After creating the composite structure and holding it within a jig, assembly is completed with drilling and fastening. Gemcor has the largest installed base of fastening systems in the world after inventing Drivmatic one-up fastening to support aircraft production in WWII. In France, an acquisition from Areva brought project management expertise honed as a tier 1 integrator of more than a dozen final assembly lines and pre-final assembly lines.

In aerospace, there is simply no substitute for decades of proven experience. Regardless of the size of the engineering department, a highly-qualified and capable integrator with expertise in every corner of a customer’s needs can’t be built overnight, from the ground up. A true single-source integrator should have proven tools in their own toolbox to deliver on contractual obligations, in timely fashion, and with no risk of finger pointing that can degrade the success of the project.


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