A landing gear side brace assembly spindle connection pin on the QTN 450MY-2000. Image: CFN PrecisionClick image to enlarge

The Problem: Diversify beyond landing gears to withstand market volatility

The Solution: 5 axis VMC and multi-tasking machines

Ontario landing gear manufacturer readies for competition with $1 M+ machinery investments

 

2013 was a big year for CFN Precision, a Tier 2 aerospace parts manufacturing company in Vaughan, ON.

It was the year Japanese corporate giant
Sumitomo's landing gear division, Sumitomo Precision Products (SPP), established its global aerospace division in Ontario and purchased CFN to help supply components to the new company, known as SPP Canada Aircraft Inc. (SSPCA).

"We were quoting for business with SPPCA early in 2013. SPPCA recognized that CFN may have strategic value in terms of being a subsidiary and within the following months, CFN was acquired as of May 1, 2013," says Rick Lavigne, director of business development. "Sumitomo realized to increase its presence in North America and be recognized within the key landing gear supplier base, such as Messier Dowty, UTC Aerospace (formerly Goodrich) and Heroux Devtek, it had to increase its manufacturing presence in Canada."

While Sumitomo now owns CFN, it will continue to operate independently, says Lavigne.

"We are owned by Sumitomo, but we are considered to be a separate entity and have to continue to grow, perform and be profitable. Our business is comprised of about 95 per cent landing gear with a diversification strategy to bring other aerospace components into the mix to balance the business. We'd like to create a balance of about 70 per cent landing gear and 30 per cent with other suitable aerospace products."

According to Lavigne and in reference to industry studies, if you look at the total manufacturing costs of an airplane, landing gear represents approximately three per cent of that cost, while the fuselage represents another 27 per cent, wings, 28 per cent and the tail section, 10 per cent.

"This is 68 per cent of total aircraft manufacturing cost and potential scope of business that CFN is beginning to focus upon."

And CFN is on its way to expanding beyond landing gear, adds Lavigne.

To achieve its goals of expanding its manufacturing business, CFN has invested more than $1.5 million in new machine tools, including a Matsuura H.Plus-630 horizontal machining centre, purchased in 2012, and the most recent machine tool investments, two Mazak machines, a five axis VMC Variaxis i-700 and a QTN-450MY-2000 turning centre with multi-tasking capability, installed late last year.
It also purchased a tool vending
system, the Matrix, from Iscar Tools, Oakville, ON. The new machines join a family of close to 45 CNC machines in the 5,100 sq m (55,00 sq ft) facility. CFN Precision has plans to increase plant capacity.

Aerospace precision
CFN supplies complex components and assemblies to many of the world's largest aircraft manufacturers, including Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Embraer, Gulfstream, Learjet, Dassault Aviation, Magnaghi Aeronautics and Sukhoi.

Manufacturing landing gear, the bulk of CFN's work, is challenging, says Lavigne, because it demands quality and performance-critical requirements, which means zero damage tolerance. CFN's 35
machinists have developed the skill to manufacture such parts over the past three decades, but it also requires machines capable of delivering the precision and tight tolerances (for some parts, measured in microns) required for these types of components.

Structural aircraft components also require tight tolerance, precision machining, but because of the nature of these parts, they're more suitable to high volume, lights out manufacturing, a goal on the horizon for CFN,
says Albert Egger, director of operations. He adds that the new Mazak machine tools will help the company achieve its goals of improving productivity and efficiency.

"We were using 3+2 and 4+1 before we purchased five axis machines. It was time consuming and not efficient because of the number of set-ups required and because of trying to hold the tight tolerances. Achieving the tight tolerances for landing gear is very difficult and without the right equipment it's a challenge. It's why we're purchased the new machines."

CFN's machinists underwent training with Mazak staff last October. "It went really well and I was impressed with the Mazak guys. We had four days of training and they did a good job training us on the machines," says Egger

Manufacturing for success
A key component of CFN Precision's manufacturing strategy is flexibility, adds Albert Egger, director of operations.

"We're looking at purchasing more machines because we want to be more flexible to respond more quickly to customers and help us grow."

Integral to its manufacturing strategy is something Egger calls "leagility" which combines Lean manufacturing tools with Agile manufacturing methods.

"We're using a strategy right now that is comprised of 75 per cent of Lean tools and 25 per cent of Agile manufacturing. Customers don't want to wait for product so we need to be quick and still be able to produce high quality parts."

Egger's manufacturing strategies would not be possible without good employees, he adds.

"If asked what is the biggest asset in the company, my answer, without a doubt, is always good employees. I'm a strong believer in good people at the right place on a global level or frontline work. This helps our business because it makes us more flexible and more competent to master the ever-changing business environment." SMT

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