Cyclone Manufacturing Takes Aerospace Machining to New Heights
Cyclone Manufacturing, Inc. is a family-owned Canadian firm that is soaring upwards like a high-powered jet. Over the past few decades, it has gone from being a small machine shop that served various markets to a major player in a single sector, namely, aerospace. The company manufactures aerospace assemblies and components and has worked with top-ranked aircraft original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and their suppliers.
Clearly, the company’s tight focus on the aerospace field is working, given the company has “grown over fifteen percent per year over the last six years,” says Vice President Robert Sochaj. The firm performs roughly ninety percent of its own work including machining, tube bending, welding, sheet metal fabrication, anodizing, painting, assembly, non-destructive testing, and final processing.
The company is vertically integrated to handle everything from engineering planning and program management to procurement, manufacturing, surface treatment, and final processing. Putting these services together under one umbrella saves clients time, maximizes efficiency, and helps Cyclone stand out from the competition.
Its electrical-mechanical assemblies can have up to two thousand components. “We make parts from simple bushings to ten-metre components,” continues Sochaj. The company has made structural parts for the Boeing 747, 787, and 777, the Airbus A330, A320, and A350, and Bombardier’s CL300/350 and Global 5000/6000 aircraft.
Recent growth has been spurred by “customer demand of aircraft and the innovation and technology we’re putting in,” says Sochaj. The firm works directly with Boeing, Bombardier, and Lockheed Martin and with the top suppliers to Airbus, Embraer, Gulfstream, and others. Regardless of the manufacturer or supplier involved, almost all of Cyclone’s work is done for the civilian aerospace market with approximately five percent consisting of military-related work.
At present, Cyclone uses 120 three, four, and five-axis computer numerical control (CNC) machines from Japanese firms such as Mazak, Makino, OKK, and Kitamura as well as a number of manual mills, lathes, water jet equipment, CNC routers, CNC brake presses, and automated deburring equipment, among other gear, to produce its structural aircraft parts. Having high-end CNC machines allows the company to manufacture complex components quickly and efficiently. The company’s six Mazak and nine SNK machines, which are three metres or greater, have helped it compete in areas where general machining facilities have a difficult time.
Cyclone Manufacturing was a much smaller affair when it was launched in 1964 by one Ted Kosiorek in west end Toronto. Cylindrical grinding was one of the initial focuses of this fledgling machine shop.
The late 1970s saw the company diversify and start to emphasize the aerospace side of its business. Around the same time, Robert’s father, Andrew Sochaj, joined the firm.
In 1981, Cyclone purchased its first CNC machine. Throughout the 1980s, the amount of aerospace work handled by the firm increased. Andrew Sochaj acquired the firm in 1990 and growth became the order of the day. In 2003, the head office was moved to Mississauga. By 2005, it boasted a line-up of twenty-five CNC machines. In less than five years, that figure doubled. While CNC machining remained central to what it did, the firm began to introduce new services.
A branch was opened in Milton, Ontario (a small city near Mississauga) in 2007. The third operation in Mississauga soon followed. Then, in 2013, Cyclone opened a fourth facility in Mississauga, and there is also a manufacturing operation in Kraśnik, Poland that the company took on in 2015.
The expansion was driven by bigger and bigger contracts. In 2003, for example, the company secured a $3.6 million contract with the Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) of Taiwan.
Andrew Sochaj remains president and owner, and his daughter Lillian works in the accounting department. Robert Sochaj notes that being a family business has been definitely beneficial. “You have people you can trust.”
Along with increases in inventory and manufacturing area, employment has soared over the years. In the late 1980s, Cyclone Manufacturing employed roughly two dozen people. Today, the company counts approximately 775 highly-skilled workers. It keeps certain things in mind when it hires new staff. To accompany technical skills, a good attitude and common sense are important, notes Sochaj.
Cyclone is accredited in AS9100, the aerospace industry’s quality management system. It also has National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program certification. “We have five quality engineers reviewing standards and processes pretty much full-time. We are approved for over one hundred controlled specs with our OEMs,” states Sochaj. Not surprisingly, standards are also stringent for anyone who wants to work as a vendor for the firm.
Inspection is enhanced by an in-house chemical processing laboratory and metrology department. All parts and components are checked to ensure they have been made to precise customer specifications. Cyclone also performs equipment, delivery, and capacity analysis regularly to determine what works and what does not. Modifications are made if problems are detected, says Sochaj.
Throughout most of the company’s history, it has mainly marketed itself through its reputation for quality work. Referrals from satisfied customers have ensured a steady flow of work, says Sochaj. “If you help a Tier One and the OEM can see it, then the OEM will either direct you to another Tier One or see if they can help you directly,” he notes.
The company belongs to the Ontario Aerospace Council (OAC) as well, which has also helped in getting the Cyclone name recognized in the industry.
While business is booming, it does face some industry headwinds. Washington D.C. and Ottawa have been trading levies on steel and aluminum in an unofficial trade war for the past two years. While some tariffs have been lifted, there is still uncertainty about the possibility of “future tariffs by the Canadian government,” says Sochaj.
If Tariffs are removed from Cyclone negotiations and its customers, the growth will continue in an upward trajectory. The firm has plans to expand the range of aerospace-related services it offers. “We are looking at doing nickel plating, titanium cleaning, and robotic painting,” says Sochaj. The company plans to have either its nickel plating or titanium cleaning services operational “within the next twelve months,” he adds.
Staying on top involves monitoring technology trends in manufacturing, but so far, three-dimensional (3D) printing, a form of additive manufacturing is one technology that is not practical in the structural component segment. “If you’re going to look at a part that’s a metre in size, it would probably print in twenty-four hours, where you can machine it in two hours right now,” says Sochaj, adding that it is a technology worth watching, however.
For now, Cyclone is content to keep its main operations in the Mississauga area. The company has not, however, ruled out opening a location in the United States at some point over the next few years.
For all the company’s success, Sochaj remains very down to earth about the company’s future. “Our goals are to make structural assemblies that are in the three to eight-metre range and go from there,” he says.