Flying Colours' new cabinet shop near St Louis has been humming in recent weeks as craftsmen sand, polish and assemble cabinets for large business jets.
The company's massive nearby maintenance hangars had little free space, packed to the gills with seemingly every type of business aircraft.
Times are good at Flying Colours, at least according to executives, who say they have turned down work for lack of capacity.
But the Canadian company has plans to ease the strain, announcing at the start of NBAA an expansion into two new sites – one near St Louis, the other in Peterborough, Ontario.
"There are always people who want this type of service and this kind of product," Dave Stewart, vice-president and general manager of Flying Colours' US operation, told reporters in September.
"I haven't seen a downturn since I've been with the company," he adds. "We are always looking to hire more people and expand."
Flying Colours expects to begin construction of the new Peterborough facility this autumn, saying the planned 9,290m2 (100,000ft2) site will provide more space for aircraft completion work, refurbishments and heavy maintenance.
The facility will include an area that will accommodate up to four Bombardier Global 6000-sized jets, and a separate paint shop large enough to hold aircraft as large as Boeing Business Jets and Airbus A220s.
Interest by customers in conversions of A220s to business jets is partly why Flying Colours is expanding in Peterborough, says director of sales Kevin Kliethermes.
Peterborough is where Flying Colours' original Canadian operation is based.
Flying Colours expects to open the new site in the St Louis suburb of Chesterfield, Missouri – home to four other company hangars – on 1 December, it says.
That 2,790m2 facility will enable Flying Colours to perform avionics and interiors work on three large business jets – such as Globals or Gulfstream Aerospace aircraft – simultaneously, it says.
Flying Colours will hire about 100 more staff as part of the expansion, it says. The company also has an operation in Singapore.
"Every one of the facilities is going through a significant expansion," says Kliethermes.
Executives attribute increasing demand to several factors, among them that Flying Colours is a Bombardier-authorised service centre.
"To be a preferred completion centre – your reputation speaks for itself," Stewart says.
But also, Flying Colours maintains a wide variety of aircraft and offers services that span aircraft life cycles – from new-aircraft completion work to heavy maintenance checks and refurbishments, he says.
The company has recently been performing detailed cabin completion work for Bombardier Global 6000s. It performs similar work on Global 7500s and Challenger 850s.
Flying Colours modifies CRJ200s into corporate shuttles, converts CRJ700s into special mission aircraft and modifies Challenger 650s for medevac work. The company is also modifying six Q400 turboprops into multimission aircraft (capable of carrying passenger, cargo or performing medevac missions) for Canadian aerial firefighting company Conair Group.
It maintains aircraft made by Dassault Aviation, Gulfstream, Hawker Aircraft, Embraer, Learjet, Sikorsky and Textron Aviation, and services systems made by companies such as Gogo, Honeywell, Rockwell Collins, Viasat and others.
The planned expansion at Chesterfield and Peterborough follows the company's opening in March of the Chesterfield site where it primarily designs and builds cabinets and other interior products for large business jets.
Stewart is proud of the cabinet shop – it was designed using the "lean manufacturing" principles he learned from working 14 years at the Canadian division of Toyota, which helped pioneer such manufacturing processes.
He first applied those principles at Flying Colours' Peterborough site, then last year brought them to Chesterfield.
During a tour of the US site in September, Stewart explained how that cabinet production process curves logically around the room, step by step. The company stations crew managers on the floor so they can oversee work. Every crew lead oversees five technicians, every supervisor manages five crew leads and every manager monitors five supervisors, Stewart says.
"The perfect ratio to do that is five to one," he explains.
Stewart encourages executives to walk the shop floor and look for areas of improvement – called "gemba walks" in lean manufacturing parlance.
He uses a host of charts and graphs to define processes related to scheduling, material sourcing, production, quality improvement and various other aspects of the business.
And Stewart employs formulaic (and proven, he says) methods, such as using a "problem solving" worksheet that walks employees through a process of defining and solving business issues.
Behind it all rests Stewart's philosophy that success comes from following the best-known processes.
"This is all about following directions perfectly," Stewart says. "The process has been designed to be… close to perfect."
Source: Flight Daily News