Among the new entrants to the Top 100 is Asco, which is at number 96 after growing sales 11% in 2008. The ascent of the Belgian manufacturer reflects its success in gaining footholds on new aircraft programmes.

Asco specialises in large, complex hard-metal components (particularly titanium components). Historically, it had a niche focus on wing flaps and slap tracks, but it has diversified into parts for landing gears, engine mounts, bulkheads and pylon brackets. "You can hardly find an aircraft in the sky without Asco parts," asserts Aziz Erdinc, vice-president of marketing and business development.

Asco's leading-edge, high-lift slat mechanisms feature on a wide range of Airbus, Boeing and regional aircraft programmes, among them the A350 XWB, A380, 787, Bombardier CSeries and Dassault Falcon 7X. Asco also manufactures the deployment mechanism of the A380's droop nose, a moveable leading-edge device intended to reduce drag. A similar device will feature on the A350 XWB, with Asco again manufacturing the deployment mechanism.

Meanwhile Asco flap tracks have been selected for the Airbus A400M, Airbus A321, Next Generation Boeing 737, Bombardier CSeries, Cessna Sovereign and Gulfstream 550. The A321 and 737NG also incorporate Asco flap carriages.

The package Asco provides to the A400M programme comprises more than 5,000 components, manufactured on a build-spec basis using titanium, aluminium and steel. Full design responsibility for the package is allocated to Asco.

As part of its ongoing research and development effort, Asco is striving to continually improve the take-off and landing performance of its high-lift mechanisms, reduce their weight, and simplify them. Erdinc estimates that 15% of turnover is allocated to R&D.

The company remains independent, privately owned and family run: its chief executive Christian Boas is a descendant of its founder, Emile Boas. Headquartered at Zaventem, close to Brussels airport, it operates subsidiaries in Gedern, Germany and Delta, Canada.

Asco has responded to the threats from programme delays and economic turmoil by implementing lean manufacturing practices such as kaizen. Should production cuts become a reality, it has the option of reducing the number of temporary workers that it employs as a buffer against fluctuating demand.

At a glance

  • Top 100 rank 96
  • HQ Brussels, Belgium
  • Aero revenues $345m
  • Sales growth 10.8%
  • Operating margin 4.7%
  • ROCE 6.7%
  • Employees 1,250
  • CEO Christian Boas


Source: Flight International