(London) Quebec aerospace SMEs participating in the Farnborough Air Show have not wasted their time over the past three days. Like the industry’s major contractors who are benefiting from the resumption of air transport, our agile and ingenious companies, which often toil in the shadows of the giants, are also tasting the benefits of the recovery and reaping the efforts that they invested in it.
Posted at 6:30 a.m.
I shared with you on Wednesday the good news that Airbus and Pratt & Whitney gave us on the sidelines of the Farnborough International Air Show, but since Saturday I have been meeting the managers of some thirty SMEs that are taking part in the Salon and who also have great stories to tell.
Stories that even force us to revisit certain apprehensions or certain prejudices that we have with regard to foreign companies that get their hands on our businesses, convinced that they will quickly draw as much blood as possible from them to leave only empty carcasses a few years later.
Yes, it is possible. Yes, it is a risk that should not be minimized.
But it is also conceivable that the arrival of a new player who suddenly takes control of one of our large companies will turn into a trigger for a tremendous growth opportunity.
DCM was founded in the 1980s in Boisbriand, a “machine shop” like there are hundreds in Quebec. Over the years, DCM grew and participated in several Bombardier programs until the company was acquired in 2009 by Éric Ledoux, a specialist in mergers and acquisitions who until then worked at CGI.
“I saw the company’s potential and, since 2009, we have made six acquisitions. Today, our group has three factories in Boisbriand, Blainville and Saint-Bruno. We specialize in aerostructures and we also do aftermarket work,” summarizes the CEO and owner of DCM, which employs 365 workers.
DCM was associated with the CSeries program when Bombardier started it and continued to be an Airbus supplier in the new A220 adventure.
“We make aerostructure components, ground maintenance tools and replacement parts. Since Airbus took control of Mirabel four years ago, we have become a supplier to the group in Toulouse for all its other programs – A320, A330, A350… – to the point where we have just opened this year an office-workshop there,” the entrepreneur explains to me.
DCM now exports 70% of its production abroad. Airbus Europe, which accounted for only 5% of its sales four years ago, now generates 20% of its turnover.
“At the head office in France, we recognized our agility and our ability to deliver. We have been very busy all week in Farnborough, demand far exceeds capacity. It’s like that, aeronautics, we go through cycles.
“We are almost back to the level before the pandemic, but we remain cautious. Our only obstacle is the labor shortage. We should be above 400 employees, if we find them, ”laments Éric Ledoux.
In the wake of Bomber
Another aeronautics subcontractor, the Delastek company of Shawinigan, has also grown up within the bosom of Bombardier, but today benefits as much from the increase in the production rate of the A220s at Mirabel as from that of the jets. Bombardier business.
The pilot cabin designer, who develops and manufactures the metal frames of the cabin edge panels where the screens and pilot controls will be installed, as well as the aesthetic covering parts in plastic or composite material that dress the pilot cabins , invested heavily in 2008 when Bombardier decided to launch the CSeries.
“We were there from the start. We manufacture them today, just as we designed and developed the cockpits of the Global 7000 and 8000 business jets that we manufacture in Shawingan and at our plant in Querétaro, Mexico,” explains Andy Lessard, Delastek Business Development Manager and Mexican Plant Manager.
Son of the founder of Delastek, Andy Lessard must now manage both the increase in the order book for the A220 and that of the Bombardier Global.
“We had no choice but to open a factory in Mexico, where we manufacture 75% of our cabins, while the Shawinigan factory produces the rest.
“But it’s in Shawinigan that we do all the research and development. We have 20 engineers, but we are expecting a new mandate from a European company that will lead us to hire 25 additional engineers in Quebec and perhaps even open a plant there,” says Andy Lessard.
If the major prime contractors have gone back to business, our SMEs are in a position to take full advantage of it and also participate in the relaunch of our aeronautics industry.