Standing Tall in a Highly Competitive Industry

Koss Aerospace

When it comes to manufacturing for the aerospace industry, precision work and producing expert quality parts and sub-assemblies are just the starting point. But, when you are recognized with 5 Star Certification by an industry leader like Bombardier, you know that you are among the best of the best in your field.

Koss Aerospace has made a name for itself in what is already a very competitive field by delivering top-quality parts for their clients. Each part that goes into a plane has to count, and with all the new innovations that are taking place in the aerospace industry, it’s not good enough to just stick with what you have.

Manufacturing companies need to keep up and stay on top of the latest techniques. “Our strength is complex, five-axis machining and large parts up to four meters. There are not that many companies that can do that,” says David Cajic, Vice President of Operations for Koss Aerospace.

The 5 Star Certification from Bombardier puts the company in a distinct status among suppliers. To be considered for this certification, a supplier has to achieve a score of at least 85 percent in areas such as product performance, airline support and customer focus.

Not only does the certification from Bombardier set Koss apart from other manufacturers, it is the constant work the company puts in to find improvements and efficiencies for its clients that puts Koss in a class of its own.

“We are always pushing to improve in the work we do. That is one way we pass along savings to customers. That is not only part of our larger projects, but in the quality of our day-to-day jobs that we have been doing for years,” Cajic says. “We take a look at these and see if there are opportunities to improve on them. It could mean that we start the whole procedure from scratch or we use a different machine that is more applicable to producing a particular part.”

A big part of aerospace manufacturing is problem-solving, and that means being able to come up with inventive ways to develop parts that a client is looking for. While companies like Boeing and Bombardier both build airplanes, their specific requirements can vary and manufacturers need to adapt to make the unique parts needed. As an example, Koss recently had to build a specific piece for Boeing.

“We called it the Boeing door. It was a small door with a very thin wall and the geometry was very tricky,” Cajic says. “We had to seek out exceptional tooling to meet the requirement and then had to develop the programming to make it. All this presented quite a few challenges to make but we ended up producing a very high quality product that we are continuing to make today. We continued to refine it and made it a much higher quality and very well finished part coming off the line.”

While the company has become a leading manufacturer, Koss Aerospace wasn’t always Koss Aerospace. The company was founded back in 1975 as the Koss Machine and Tool Company in Mississauga, Ontario, by Drago Cajic, David’s father. Drago recognized the value that comes from automating the manufacturing process and Koss became an early adopter of computers, establishing its first computer-controlled manufacturing unit in 1981.

Not only did the company advance how it produced parts, it also was able to turn out more intricate parts and provide more precise tooling options for clients. It was at this point that Koss opened a processing plant in Brampton, Ontario. This marked a significant point in the company’s development as the facility made possible a vertical integration over all the steps of the manufacturing process.

In essence, Koss was now able to take control over the entire supply chain required to manufacture parts for clients. “We added really specialized machines that are used for high speed aluminum machining. We also had to tool them up and get the accessories, and develop our techniques for using them,” Cajic says.

By the 2000s, the company became known as Koss Aerospace and began supplying more complex parts and sub-assemblies to Boeing’s defence and commercial segments. “The tooling we started doing was quite unique and specialized because it is done at such high speeds, so you can’t use conventional tooling. Almost everything we have is specialized. We had gotten rid of older equipment and brought in new, specialized machines.”

Now Koss is a supplier for well-established aerospace companies like Saab, Gulfstream and GE in addition to Bombardier and Boeing.

For Cajic, Koss was more than just his father’s company. He had an interest early on in the work his father did and wanted to be part of it. “I started working there in my teens part-time on Saturday and in the summer. My father trained me and I became a skilled machinist and held various roles in the company. I was involved in purchasing, programming, hiring, troubleshooting on the floor and some of the sales.”

And while the aerospace industry looks for ways to minimize its carbon footprint, Koss has been making strides to find ways to make their processes more green and efficient. The company was able to make some substantial improvement in how it reduced the waste produced from the manufacturing process.

“We have a recycling system that I introduced to the company that was about finding better and more efficient ways to recover the coolant that our systems use,” Cajic says. “Through this program we have reduced the amount of coolant we use by nearly 90 percent. There is also a cost savings attached to this because we had to pay for getting rid of the waste as well.”

The company has also converted to LED throughout its plants and is now using plastic reusable boxes whenever possible instead of cardboard. “It’s something that individuals need to do and even more so for companies. Governments are also pushing for that,” says Cajic. Koss also engages its partner companies to help find more environmentally conscious ways to produce parts.

It’s an exciting time to be in manufacturing for the aerospace industry as new digital technology improves efficiency and pushes the boundaries of what companies can produce. We are in what is known as Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution, where computers and machines are converging to reshape the manufacturing floor and open up the possibilities.

“There will be continued growth for the industry in Canada and I’m confident that there will be others like us,” Cajic says. “The aerospace industry is quite large and we supply one unique sector of that. Aerospace really is one of the bright stars in Canadian manufacturing.”

An Ounce of Prevention

While no one plans to get physically injured or exposed to dangerous working situations at their place of employment, getting hurt on the job is, unfortunately, a common occurrence. 2.8 million non-fatal workplace injuries were reported in 2019, as well as 888,220 nonfatal injuries and illnesses causing a private industry worker to miss at least one day of work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Preventing these types of injuries along with time missed — in fact, making a workplace as safe as possible — is imperative for all organizations. Unfortunately, the best of intentions don’t always lead to the best results.

Past Issues

May 15, 2021, 4:34 PM EDT