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What’s in a Name?: Vector Aerospace Expands Services and Establishes a new Identity

What’s the best way to present yourself to the market? That’s probably the most important question that any company needs to answer. And, if you expand your services and capacity, how do you get customers to see you in a new light and stop thinking about you in terms of what you used to be? These are the fundamental challenges that companies need to address when making changes to their organizations.


May 27, 2008
By Drew McCarthy


Topics

What’s the best way to present yourself to the market? That’s probably the most important question that any company needs to answer. And, if you expand your services and capacity, how do you get customers to see you in a new light and stop thinking about you in terms of what you used to be? These are the fundamental challenges that companies need to address when making changes to their organizations.

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The servicing of helicopter structures, components and engines remains at the core of Vector’s business model.


These are the very challenges that the Vector Aerospace Corp. is facing today.  Right now, Vector Aerospace is a relatively new name in the helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) industry. With the enormous capital outlay and highly skilled work force that is required, a new helicopter MRO doesn’t suddenly appear out of the ether. So the question is, who are they and where do they come from?

The answer partly depends on what you may already know about some other companies – companies with more familiar names. How about ACROHELIPRO, Atlantic Turbines International and Sigma Aerospace? What about the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) Defence Aviation and Repair Agency (DARA) rotary-wing and components businesses?

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These are the companies and organizations that now make up the Vector Aerospace Corp. The current challenge for the new company is to align these legacy operations and create and manage all of the emerging synergies – and do so under a new brand in the marketplace. These are things that don’t necessarily happen overnight.

Says Phil Kemp, vice-president of sales for the Vector Aerospace Corp., “We have to keep communicating to make sure there’s awareness and clear understanding in the marketplace. Customers can still continue to expect the same high level of service, and along the same product areas that they’ve been accustomed to from these legacy operations.”

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“Lean practices have
an incredible impact on productivity and quality,” says Phil Kemp,
vice-president of sales at Vector Aerospace.


The official corporate renaming took place in February 2008 at Heli-Expo in Houston. On the trade show floor “several participants were looking for the name ‘ACROHELIPRO’ and couldn’t find it,” says Kemp. “When they saw the name ‘Vector,’ they just assumed they were at the wrong booth. However, we were aware this could be a potential issue, and the Vector team proactively spread the word regarding the name change immediately prior to and during the show, to minimize any misunderstanding.”

Since then, there has been steady progress in name recognition and a better understanding of the enhanced services that have come along with it. By the time HAC had rolled around in Calgary, the new identity had become clearer to most of the attendees.

For the record, here’s how it now works: Vector Aerospace Corp. is the parent company. It owns the three historic operating divisions, ACROHELIPRO Global Services (Helicopter Services), Atlantic Turbines International (Engine Services), and Sigma Aerospace (Engine Services).

The former ACROHELIPRO (with facilities in Richmond, BC, Langley, BC, Van Nuys, CA, Dallas, TX, and Andalusia, AL) now goes by the name of Vector Aerospace Helicopter Services – North America.

There are also two new Vector Aerospace companies in the UK, created when Vector Aerospace International Ltd. acquired the UK MOD’s DARA rotary-wing and components businesses this past April.

In the UK, the Fleetlands rotary business, which provides maintenance, repair and overhaul support for the MOD Chinook (CH-47), Lynx and Sea King helicopters, was renamed Vector Aerospace Helicopter Services Fleetlands.

The Almondbank components business, which provides maintenance, repair and overhaul and component support for these and other helicopter and fixed-wing platforms within the UK, both for MOD and other customers, is now called Vector Aerospace Component Services Almondbank.    

These acquisitions have expanded Vector’s customer base and have also given it access to new markets in the defence sector. The company has also added MRO skills and capabilities, opening up the possibility that Vector might create a European centre of excellence in helicopter maintenance.

Vector is now working to maximize the crossover benefits resulting from the amalgamation. One of the first crossover sessions to take place was a joint sales meeting between former ACRO sales staff and the Atlantic Turbines International (ATI) sales staff (They will remain ATI until NBAA in October 2008). Says Kemp, “We discovered that there is a great deal of commonality as well as many shared opportunities for us. Essentially it [amalgamation] doubles our effectiveness and our capabilities.”

With the restructuring, the new company now boasts services to commercial and military customers for various types of gas turbine engines, components and helicopter structures from facilities in Canada, the US, the UK and South Africa.

The servicing of helicopter structures, components and engines remains at the core of Vector’s business model. The recent changes have been based on analyzing, reorganizing and redeploying the shared assets that contribute to that end.

One of the most significant recent initiatives is the recent company-wide implementation of Lean manufacturing processes along with in-depth product rationalization.

“Lean practices have an incredible impact on productivity and quality,” says Kemp. “The process is so valuable and effective because it’s all based on experience, knowledge and common sense.”

With the process nearing completion, Kemp says that the initiative has so far been highly successful. “Since beginning the process in late 2007, through a close analysis and re-allocation of our current personnel and resources, we have achieved a dramatic increase in our ability to meet customer demand, quality and satisfaction expectations while decreasing turn-times.”

To illustrate the point, Kemp refers to the relocation of the Bell component line in Andalusia, AL – traditionally, a structures and avionics operation, but with an existing Bell component capability as well. 

“The decision enabled us to not only meet our current global demand for Bell component repair and overhaul, it allowed us to increase capacity and therefore, increase our service levels to customers today, and into the future. Our success has paved the way to the planned opening of a new, expanded Andalusia facility later this year.”

Kemp also points to the recent success of Lean initiatives in the RR250 engine product line.  “We have experienced tremendous success with our customers, as indicated by our receiving the Rolls-Royce 2007 Customer Satisfaction Award,” he says.

“We wanted to increase our repair and overhaul capability to meet the growing demand of our traditional, as well as our growing list of new customers. The result of Lean re-organization on the RR250 engine line is that we achieved our goals of increasing capacity and efficiency.  This outcome, coupled with our commitment to increase parts inventories and rental assets at our three RR250 engine facilities (Richmond, BC, Van Nuys, CA, and Dallas, TX) represents increased levels of service and quality.”

Other recent changes at Vector Helicopter Services include exiting the hydraulic accessory and blade repair markets.  Kemp explains that this decision was a deliberate effort to re-allocate resources to developing higher-demand service areas.  In particular, he points to the re-assignment of resources from the company’s blade repair department, where technicians now focus exclusively on performing composite repair; a discipline in high demand, and one which closely aligns into the company’s structural repair operations at its Langley, BC, location.

In making these operational adjustments, Vector Helicopter Services continues to provide support to its traditional core product lines, including engines, dynamic components, structures and avionics.

Meanwhile, Vector is continually looking to identify ways to expand within these lines, as evidenced in its successful activities in the Integrated Cockpit Display System (ICDS) or “glass cockpit” market.

Over the past two years, Vector’s Langley avionics department has partnered with Sagem Avionics on numerous platform installations, and currently, its Andalusia avionics team is collaborating with Chelton Flight Systems to outfit US Navy TH-57 helicopters with the Chelton glass cockpit system.

At the HAC show in April, Vector became the first company ever to bring a helicopter onto the trade show floor, a Bell 206B (owned by Slave Lake Helicopters) was on display at the Vector booth, complete with a Sagem avionics installation.

“By now,” says Kemp, “our immediate customers are very aware of what we are doing and how it will positively impact our ability to provide enhanced world-class service to them. We are confident the name Vector Aerospace will soon become familiar to all of the potential new customers who are out there in the marketplace.”

As aftermarket opportunities continue to increase in the booming helicopter industry, Vector Aerospace has now positioned itself to play an even greater role in acquiring its share of all that new business.


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