(London) Quebec SMEs attending the Farnborough Air Show have wasted no time over the past three days. Like the industry’s great contractors who are benefiting from the resumption of air travel, our agile and ingenious companies, often working in the shadows of the giants, are savoring the fruits of the recovery and reaping the effort they put into it.
Posted at 6:30am
I shared with you on Wednesday the good news that Airbus and Pratt & Whitney brought us on the sidelines of the Farnborough International Air Show, but since Saturday I’ve been meeting the managers of about thirty SMEs attending the salon and who also have great stories to tell tell.
Stories that even make us reconsider certain fears or certain prejudices towards foreign companies that get their hands on our businesses, confident that they will quickly drain as much blood as possible from them, only to be empty a few years later to leave carcasses.
Yes, it’s possible. Yes, it is a risk that should not be minimized.
But it’s also conceivable that the arrival of a new player who suddenly takes control of one of our large companies could trigger 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 mergers and acquisitions specialist who had previously worked at CGI.
“I recognized the potential of the company and since 2009 we have made six acquisitions. Today our group has three factories in Boisbriand, Blainville and Saint-Bruno. We specialize in aircraft components and we also do aftermarket work,” summarizes the CEO and owner of DCM, which employs 365 people.
DCM was associated with the CSeries program when Bombardier launched it and continued as an Airbus supplier in the new A220 adventure.
“We make aircraft components, ground maintenance tools and spare parts. Since Airbus took control of Mirabel four years ago, we have become suppliers to the group in Toulouse for all their other programs – A320, A330, A350… – to the point where we have an office workshop there just this year have opened.” the entrepreneur explains to me.
DCM now exports 70% of its production abroad. Airbus Europe, which accounted for just 5% of its turnover four years ago, now generates 20% of its turnover.
“At the headquarters in France, we recognized our agility and our ability to deliver. We’ve been very busy all week in Farnborough, with demand far exceeding capacity. It’s like aviation, we go through cycles.
“We are almost back to pre-pandemic levels, but we remain cautious. Our only obstacle is the labor shortage. We should be over 400 employees when we find them,” regrets Éric Ledoux.
In the wake of bomber
Another aerospace supplier, Shawinigan-based Delastek, also grew up in Bombardier’s fold but is now benefiting as much from Mirabel’s ramped-up production rate of the A220 as from that of the jets.
The pilot cabin designer, who designs and manufactures the metal frames of the cabin edge panels where the screens and pilot controls are installed, as well as the aesthetic plastic or composite trim pieces that clad the pilot cabins, invested heavily in 2008 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 facility in Querétaro, Mexico,” explains Andy Lessard, Business Development Manager and Delastek Mexico Plant Manager .
Delastek founder’s son Andy Lessard now has to manage both the growth in the order book for the A220 and that of Bombardier Global.
“We had no choice but to open a factory in Mexico where we make 75% of our cabs while the Shawinigan factory makes the rest.
“But Shawinigan is where we do all the R&D. We have 20 engineers but we are awaiting a new mandate from a European company that will lead us to hire 25 additional engineers in Quebec and maybe even open a plant there,” says Andy Lessard.
When the major prime contractors are back in business, our SMEs will be able to reap the full benefits and also get involved in restarting our aviation industry.