MONTREAL, 3 Dec. 2013. “In 30-kilometer radius, you can find all the parts to build an aircraft,” says Suzanne M. Benoit, president of Aero Montreal, of Quebec, “but we also have universities, trade schools, and research.” In fact, Quebec boasts 42,500 employees in aerospace, roughly 215 aerospace companies, and annual sales of $12.1 billion annually. “Quebec ranks number six worldwide in terms of aerospace sales,” Benoit adds.
Aero Montreal is an industrial group designed to increase competitiveness of the aerospace sector and to define and work on the most important issues for the industry, says Benoit.
Strategic committees within Aero Montreal have been created around some of the most pressing challenges, trends, and opportunities in aerospace, including supply chain mutation around the world.
Aero Montreal staff also focuses on visibility and branding. Montreal is the third world capital in aerospace, after Seattle and Toulouse, France, Benoit explains. “We need to promote the aerospace industry cluster in Montreal, with four large OEMs and 15 Tier 1 manufacturers and suppliers, including Rolls Royce and Thales,” she says. “Montreal also has 200 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that used to sell directly to Tier 1 companies, but with mutation in the supply chain, the big companies now deal with smaller number of suppliers. As a result, SMEs often don’t know the Tier 1 suppliers anymore because many are foreign. These SMEs, therefore, have to convince foreign companies that they are the best because they want to be in their supply chain.” Aero Montreal has a strategic committee that can help.
“When you look at aerospace, every nation wants to bring its own potential to the industry—to create high-value jobs and deliver technologies that make their way into many other projects,” describes Maria Della Posta, chair of the board at Aero Montreal and senior vice president of sales and marketing at Pratt & Whitney Canada. In fact, Posta is the first female chairperson of Aero Montreal since it was formed by industry in 2006. “Every nation has the pride that comes from indigenous capabilities, so there is a lot of competition,” she adds.
“In Canada, there is a large aerospace footprint and we must remain competitive,” Della Posta says. “Governments play a big part in that, and we play a part through innovation, technology, skilled labor. Competition has many forms, and it’s as much a factor in North America.
“When it comes to products, we [at Pratty & Whitney Canada] are seeing a drive to improve products from the perspectives of fuel consumption, performance, and refresh cycles,” Della Posta describes. “Airframe manufacturers every five or six years are looking for an injection of technology, and it’s a challenge for industry. We’re talking about hundreds of millions invested in R&D. At Pratt Canada, $400 million is invested in R&D and Quebec alone invests $1 billion in R&D—and you can’t keep that up without support from government.
“Refresh cycles are coming much quicker, and you need to invest in R&D to keep up with the competitive landscape. Aerospace has evolved because one trend lends to another and we communicate and collaborate and learn from each other,” Della Posta continues. “Ninety percent of what we do is exported out of Canada, so we need to sharpen our game plan to continue to sell abroad.”
“We are lucky to have the support of the Quebec and Canadian governments. It is crucial to level up the technology today and in the future,” Benoit explains. “We do a lot with Technology Readiness Levels 1 through 3; we’re not concerned about commercialization at this stage. Yet, when at TRL 6 through 8, these are the areas that cost the most. Many call it “Death Valley” because companies don’t have the money to invest and it’s so risky—the technology being developed may fly eight to 10 years down the road. It’s important for the government to help industry finance this portion of development.”
“We need to be able to compete with Europe and the U.S. on a level playing field; it is crucial for us to survive in this industry. When Airbus, Boeing, and Bombardier choose new landing gear, they will go where they have done a demonstration project for it; they don’t choose something just on paper, but require a concrete example,” Benoit explains. Aero Montreal’s MACH initiative helps local aerospace companies do just that.
The MACH initiative “aims to strengthen the supply chain structure and companies involved in it by creating special collaboration links among customers and suppliers. It will also promote the implementation of strategies and projects which will help fill in existing integration gaps of the Québec aerospace supply chain. By doing so, it aspires to help develop a world-class supply chain.” For more, visit http://www.aeromontreal.ca/about-mach/.
Challenges are also a call to action, Della Posta says. “In the end, if we are successful, we rise up and create jobs in the entire aerospace industry.”