Spreading your wings

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Canadian manufacturers are in a good position to benefit from changes in the global aerospace sector

Quality problems with Boeing’s Dreamliner and serious crack issues with Airbus’ A380 have spurred an industry-wide push to shorten the supply chain, and Canada’s manufacturers stand to benefit from the change.

“British Columbia is part of the Northwest hub, and Boeing wants its supply chain in proximity,” says Steve Archer, director of business development at Avcorp Industries Inc., Delta, BC. “Companies in Japan and other parts of Asia are now compelled to look at collaboration with local suppliers in the Pacific Northwest, which is providing opportunities for Western Canadian companies.”

There is room for growth in the BC lower mainland for companies like Avcorp that serve the nearby Boeing assembly plants in the Puget Sound area. And Avcorp, which also designs and builds airframe structures for Bombardier and Cessna, sees the trend as creating overall opportunity for aerospace manufacturers in the eastern part of the country, too.

“If you look at Bombardier in the east, it is also tightening its supply chain,” says Archer. “Mitsubishi Heavy Industries moved its tooling from Nagoya Japan to Mississauga in the Greater Toronto Area. This is greenfield. It is an automated, lean plant for wing assembly.”

Machine shops across the country stand to gain from the changes occurring in the aerospace sector, in particular shops servicing the sector in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

In Manitoba, the largest aerospace cluster in Western Canada is home to three world-class firms–Boeing Technology Canada, StandardAero and Magellan Aerospace Ltd.–Winnipeg (Bristol Aerospace) and supported by a large number of small to medium sized aerospace suppliers, including precision machine shops, tool and die makers, and precision sheet metal fabricators. In 2011, BAE Systems announced it had signed a contract with Magellan Aerospace Corp. for the production of advanced composite empennage assemblies for the F-35 Joint Strike Figher program. In the same year, industry revenues exceeded $1.6 billion. 

Ontario’s 350 aersopace firms (OEMs, Tier 1 integrators and Tier 2 and 3 suppliers) sell approximately $6.5 billion annually and employ more than 22,000 high skilled workers. In March, Sumitomo Precision Products added 50 jobs at its new production facility for aerospace landing gear in Mississauga, ON. The facility has become the Japanese company’s global headquarters for its aerospace division. Sumitomo sources about a third of its landing gear components from Ontario suppliers and is expected to increase this sourcing in the province because of the new facility.

Quebec boasts the third largest aerospace manufacturing cluster in the world and is based in the Greater Montreal area. It is a hub of research and development and manufacturing activity. According to Investissement Quebec, a financing corporation that supports aerospace investment in the province, close to 70 per cent of all Canadian aerospace R&D is carried out in the Greater Montreal area, representing an investment of approximately $700 million a year. In 2011, the Quebec government and six strategic partners from the Quebec aerospace industry launched a project to develop an environmentally friendly aircraft. $150 million has been earmarked for the project.

In April 2013, three European aerospace engineering and design firms–PFW, FFAC and LGM–announced they would be setting up operations in Montreal. Initially they plan to provide engineering services to the area’s equipment manufacturers and eventually become a parts suppliers for Bombardier and other customers.

Industry activities in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec are just a few of the many aerospace manufacturing opportunities for job shops with the right technologies and capabilities to service this growing sector. SMT 

Written by Mary Scianna, based on published information from contributing editor Tim Wilson.


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