Lean Manufacturing in the Aerospace Supply Chain

What is Lean Manufacturing?

The process of lean manufacturing is one that suppliers have to take seriously in order to meet consumer demands. Lean refers to all parts of the process, from design and manufacturing to delivery and support, according to a recent Boeing article. The processes in each of these areas are highly efficient in creating a product, doing so at the lowest price point possible for internal and external consumers.

Why is Being Lean Gaining Popularity?

Lean production is not a shiny new term, having been introduced about half a century ago in the auto industry by Toyota. However, the basis of it is now being applied to many other industries.

The heightened interest in lean manufacturing for suppliers boils down to staying competitive in changing times. It’s about winning new business, as well as creating and keeping jobs. Providing high-value services is important to consumers, too. There are additional considerations within the aerospace industry.

The Push for Lean Manufacturing in Aerospace

The push to be lean in the aerospace supply chain is very noticeable. Customers urge suppliers to reduce costs and improve lead times so they can have a step up on the lower cost countries that they compete against regularly.

Given that consumer pressure, suppliers are rethinking processes to improve efficiency and productivity while reducing pricing. What it all comes down to is improving the bottom line, as well as setting up the organization for continued growth.

Now the fundamentals of lean are being applied by Boeing, Commercial Airlines and many others in the aerospace industry. In 2014 alone, Boeing implemented up to $1.1 billion in cost-cutting measures suggested by suppliers. That obviously has a meaningful positive impact on their bottom line.

Shimco on Lean Manufacturing

Here at Shimco, we listen to consumer requests and understand the importance of lean processes. We are actually building a facility that will incorporate lean processes with the latest equipment and technology. By looking at established processes in new ways, the result will decrease waste, increase efficiency and, ultimately, lower costs for our clients.

Shimco prioritizes staying up to date on skills and tech upgrades to provide the best efficiency possible to our valued customers. The lean process is one we embrace, from design to development to delivery.

While change is not easy to adapt to, it is necessary for suppliers to continue to flourish in the aerospace supply chain. Effective change involves listening to consumers’ demands for lower prices, reviewing operations and incorporating the latest technologies, as well as a reduction of waste. We are listening and acting accordingly in these lean times.

A Review of What’s New in Space

Robots in Space

Shimco Supplied Parts for the Canadarm 303 Robotic Arm

It’s hard to browse the news headlines lately without some mention of upcoming missions to space. In particular, the Mars One Mission has been getting a lot of press attention. The idea is to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. Beginning in 2026, crews of four are expected to depart every two years to Mars, following the first unmanned mission to the planet, which is to be launched in 2020. In the years to come, a demonstration mission, communication satellites, two rovers and several cargo missions are to be sent to Mars, which will aid in building a sustainable living environment for the astronauts who will eventually settle there. The mission represents a massive leap forward in our understanding of space, though there is still much to learn and accomplish before such an operation can safely take place.

Fortunately, many organizations are continuing to make strides in the study of astronautics. NASA is perhaps the most well-known, and for good reason. For decades, NASA has been at the forefront of space exploration and discovery. Shimco has supplied various products to NASA over the years, including custom washers that were used in the Canadarm 303 robotic arm, which traveled aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. Currently, it is on display at the Canadian Space Agency headquarters.

More recently, Shimco has been in talks with SpaceX to supply parts for their projects. SpaceX is another major contender in the aerospace sector. As the world’s fastest-growing provider of launching services, this company is certainly one to watch. Currently, the Dragon Spacecraft from SpaceX is providing regular cargo resupply services for NASA missions.

We look forward to seeing where each of these organizations will take us over the next few years and decades, and are proud to assist them in reaching their goals by providing them with precision manufactured parts. For a full review of our services and capabilities, please reach out to Shimco online or by calling +1 (905) 471-6050.

Striving to Keep Flying Above the Competition

Aerospace Industry Trends and Shows

Keeping up with the latest air shows

Shimco has been steadily thriving under the guidance of President and owner Peter Voss. It has carved out a comfortable niche for itself in commercial flight, defence, space and nuclear power industries by fitting into the role of the reliable manufacturer of metallic and non-metallic high-quality precision parts.

Over a period of 25 years, Shimco has undertaken and executed a large number of high volume projects on-time and with a negligible defect rate. From raw shim stock to shims and spacers, each product is crafted by an expert team and then subjected to stringent quality and compliance tests. With respect for tight deadlines, Shimco has revolutionized the way low-volume, rapid-turnover, high-precision production is executed.

In a bid to extend its influence and continuously evolve according to the latest industry standards and innovations, Shimco spends time and money attending top-of-the-line air shows hosted by communities and societies of import within its target market.


  • Farnborough and Paris Air Shows

The Farnborough, UK and Paris, France air shows are held in alternate years, and are the global premier annual air shows. These air shows garner phenomenal support from both aviation enthusiasts and professionals because of the broad selection of revolutionary flight technologies on display. It is an educational (as well as a family) event, and it brings to the general public the latest updates, discoveries and aviation inventions from around the world. An information and expertise smorgasbord, these air show are the perfect stage for Shimco and its quest to stay in the know.

  • Heli-Expo

The Helicopter Association International’s Heli-Expo is a large scale annual event that covers a myriad of agenda points. It not only offers educational courses to attending flight industry employees to equip them with necessary skills for management and maintenance, it also provides free safety and compliance training for the rotor or VTOL niche. Shimco’s regular attendance allows it to network with influencers and gain knowledge about an important division that uses its products.

  • Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA)

PNAA is especially geared to assist the Pacific Northwest aerospace industry in every way possible by building networking abilities, polishing skill-sets, allowing access to business opportunities and keeping ventures updated regarding emerging markets. Shimco relies on the PNAA to outpace the competition by leveraging education to boost company R&D and ROI.

  • Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) Shows (Americas, Europe, Asia)

Sponsored by Aviation Week, these shows are key stages for gathering business intelligence, test driving innovations and acquiring well-qualified leads. Shimco’s attendance to the Maintenance Repair Overhaul show enables it to network with the influencers within the maintenance, repair and overhaul industry – a market segment that requires precision machined parts and accounts for a growing part of Shimco’s business.

To know more about the product range and the riveting case studies of customer success, contact +1 (905) 471-6050 or email info@shimco.com.

Canada’s Growing Manufacturing Sector

Since our company was established over 25 years ago, we’ve been a well-known and reliable manufacturer of precision parts used in the aviation, defense, nuclear and a number of other industries. Headquartered in Ontario, Canada, we’re proud to play a significant and important role in Canada’s manufacturing industry.

The Canadian government is working hard to promote and advance manufacturing in the country by creating a variety of programs, funds and initiatives. For example, Canada’s Economic Action Plan includes programs that are meant to support manufacturing jobs, technology, and innovation to advance the automotive, aerospace, defense, and construction industries, among others.

According to the Canadian Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), the rate of growth for the manufacturing industry is holding steadily, with exports climbing to their highest level in more than a year. For example, the PMI was 55.3 in November, signaling a period of growth in the manufacturing sector. Additionally, the manufacturing sector is making a significant impact on Canada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with overall growth of 0.3 percent in October. This manufacturing surge and GDP growth are setting up Canada for strong fourth quarter growth.

At Shimco, we’re focused on improving the efficiency of our operations  and working to promote and advance the manufacturing sector in  Canada.  We are automating more of our processes and using recently implemented state-of-the-art enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to increase output. Our automation and ERP programs allow us to run our advanced manufacturing and business areas even more effectively and efficiently, including scheduling, production control, inventory control, internal reporting, metrics and much more. Furthermore, we attend various industry trade shows and events to promote the aerospace and defense industry in Canada. We’re extremely proud to be part of Canada’s growing manufacturing and industrial business.

Product Spotlight: Polyimide Shims

At Shimco, we have over 25 years of experience producing many different kinds of shims for a range of industries and applications. We are truly experts in shims.

One of the many types of shims we produce—used mainly for the aerospace industry, but certainly not limited to this—are polyimide shims, made out of a polyimide polymer such as Dupont’s Kapton®.  The concept of these types of shims is the same as others, but there are certain qualities of the material that make it advantageous for particular needs and applications.

Polyimide shims begin in foil form, just like our metal laminates, but get glued with a unique and proprietary glue compound developed by Shimco. The end product can be peeled just like any other shims but can also be pressed back together by hand if the incorrect number of lawyers are removed.

These polyimide shims are often used between metallic and non-metallic parts. Since polyimide is an electrical insulator, it aids in the electrical isolation of the adjacent parts. This electrical insulation property is important as it helps to stop the transmission of electricity, such as is the case during in-flight lightning strikes.

What’s another benefit? Polyimide is thermally stable over a wide temperature range, as are carbon fiber parts. However, metallic parts expand and contract more readily under temperature fluctuations.  Placing Polyimide between metallic and carbon fiber parts provides a buffer for this thermal expansion and contraction, helping to alleviate some of the stress and pressure on the assembled parts when temperatures fluctuate.

Polyimide is also resistant to reaction with many chemicals.  Placing it between chemically dissimilar parts helps to prevent undesirable reactions between those parts, reducing the need for frequent inspection, maintenance and possible repairs.

Check out an example of these shims that were produced for a client of ours, and feel free to contact us with any questions or for more information.

Keeping Up With the Aerospace Industry

Airplane_silhouetteAt Shimco, we have over 25 years of experience working with the aerospace industry, providing them with solutions to their needs. As such, we are always staying connected to the industry, and informed about the latest news, topics, trends, and changes.

One of the best ways to do this, of course, is to attend aerospace industry conferences and trade shows. In general, trade shows provide an invaluable opportunity to connect with peers and customers while learning from them.

We recently attended the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA) 2014 Conference, February 4-6, and it was a great success. 33 speakers and panelists combined with 455 attendees from all over North America and Europe.

We were there as part of the Ontario Aerospace Council’s booth, and we displayed our brochures and interacted with many people in the industry. There were many learning opportunities and presentations given by major aerospace OEMs, including Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, and more. It served as a great industry update.

Shortly after that we attended Helicopter Association International’s (HAI) HELI-EXPO 2014, February 24-27 in Anaheim, CA. There were over 19,000 attendees and 714 exhibitors, along with 42 aircrafts flown in for the event.

One of the focuses of the conference was the large backlog of Boeing and Airbus aircrafts, and the debate over whether the demand is real or if it’s actually a market bubble.  Other concerns were raised over the ability of the supply base in keeping up with this demand currently, while the major OEMs consider increasing production rates on certain model even more.  And a common element in many of the presentations was the push to more fuel efficient planes and engines, and even changes in interior plane designs, to meet global demand now and in the future.  But many of the OEMs and their suppliers are challenged by technical and regulatory hurdles as they try to bring new models or design changes to the market as quickly as they can.

There were plenty of interesting presentations at HELI-EXPO, with many of the presentations geared toward helicopter operators. We found the event to be both informative and useful; we had the opportunity to meet with companies such as Sikorsky, Airbus Helicopters and MD Helicopters, as well as with many tier 1 and tier 2 suppliers.

These two recent conferences were great ways for us to keep up with the aerospace industry and many of the people within it. We look forward to the next event!




Responding to the Changing Economics of the Supply Chain

At the beginning of 2013, Supply Chain Digest ran a story in which supply chain “gurus” made predictions for the year ahead. Some came true, some didn’t.

One of the predictions came from analysts at IDC Manufacturing Insights. It dealt with manufacturer sourcing, and the overall prediction was for “changes in sourcing practices.” This seems to have happened in several ways.

One of the biggest is seen in the overall changing economics of the supply chain. Sub-OEM suppliers are now pushing their suppliers for lower prices, smaller quantities per shipment (moving more and more to Just-in-Time practices) and better payment terms—net 60 is now common, but some are asking for net 90. In essence, the financial risk is being pushed down the supply chain and suppliers are being forced to carry more working capital. As stated in this article, there is now a “relentless pursuit of greater operational efficiencies” which seems to be leading this shift.

What does this mean for suppliers? Like it or not, as this becomes the norm, suppliers will have to adjust and adapt accordingly. As OEMs demand cost reductions, suppliers will have to place greater emphasis on efficiency and lean manufacturing principles. This means satisfying customers needs and demands, while eliminating what isn’t essential. It means reductions in inventory, reviewing all operations, and reducing waste wherever possible.

Of course this is not easy, and as the risk continues to get pushed down the chain, it becomes more challenging for suppliers. However, by adopting leaner practices, unexpected benefits can often be seen, and a true commitment to what the customer wants is demonstrated.

Shimco’s Milling and Machining Services

As manufacturers of precision formed and machined parts for a range of industries—including aviation, nuclear, defense, and more—we take great pride in our work.

machined_formed_bannerOur pride is evident in our milling and machining capabilities. We purchase plate materials for milling and machining but also manufacture our own laminated sheets for machining into machine-to-print parts. While the majority of our products are sold to Tier 1 manufacturers and OEMs , we can and do make products for anyone requiring precision, high-quality parts.

Our facilities feature state-of-the-art VMX Hurco CNC vertical milling machines, a new Mazak high-volume horizontal CNC mill, taper mills, lathes and a variety of high-speed hydraulic shearing machines.  Our technicians are highly skilled and experienced, expertly performing drilling, counter boring, threading, pocketing, profiling, and many other milling and machining operations.

We can machine aluminum, bronze, brass, titanium, nickel, steel, plastics, and more, producing parts up to 42.000” long, 20.500” wide and between 0.001” and 20.500” high, with tolerances within ± 0.002”.

Our machining capabilities are equally impressive and highly regarded, manufacturing custom shims of all types, included fully or partially laminated, tapered, and edgebonded shims, along with spacers, fillers and washers. We work with aluminum, steel, titanium, plastics, fiberglass, and almost any polymer.

Our shims can be made as thin as .001”, up to any thickness desired, and shapes can range from simple (round, square, rectangular) to complex (horseshoe, loose leaf, slotted). We can also offer a range of finishing services, such as heat treating, non-destructive testing and surface treatments.

There’s a reason high-tech industries with extremely high standards have relied on our milling and machining services for over 25 years. Have questions? Contact us today, we’re happy to help.

Manufacturing on the Rise: Global Demand, Increased Costs Overseas, and the Attractiveness of Manufacturing in North America

During the past few weeks, we’ve been hearing and reading the news reports showing stronger-than-expected numbers related to the economy. These numbers all point toward a rise in manufacturing in the U.S. and North America. One recent report from The Week sums up why manufacturing here is on the rise, offering these three reasons:

  • Global demand is on the rise.
  • Overseas manufacturing isn’t as cheap as it once was.
  • More foreign companies are moving manufacturing operations to the U.S.

Meeting global demand

After declining for several years now, companies’ inventories have been depleted. Consequently, it will take a while to manufacture enough product supply to get inventory to sustainable levels again, and the push to do this is happening now. At the same time, global demand is rising and this puts even more pressure on companies to manufacture more products.

Saving money by staying close to home

The recent trend we’ve been seeing is more manufacturers are staying close to home and turning to suppliers in North America rather than going to China or other foreign destinations. After years of going overseas, manufacturers are “reshoring” and realizing the many advantages – including money saving and quality assurance – of manufacturing closer to home.

Moving manufacturing operations to – or back to – North America

More foreign companies are turning to North American suppliers, or they’re locating their manufacturing operations here. They’re “waking up” up to many manufacturing advantages: In May, a report in USA Today said, “Foreign manufacturers aren’t the only ones waking up to the benefits of making things in the U.S. Since 2010, more than 200 companies, mostly U.S.-based, have brought back production they had sent out of the country.”

In the days ahead, we look forward to more manufacturers around the world hearing the “wake-up call” and recognizing the many advantages offered by manufacturers and manufacturing operations in North America.


Understanding Different Types of Shims

Shims are integral for many various parts, serving a range of industries and applications. However, not all shims are created equal, and different shims serve different purposes. Below is a description of four different types of shims, and what they are used for:

Traditional Shims: Shims are thin pieces of material used to fill in small spaces or gaps. Typically a solid piece of metal, this can be a spacer, washer, or filler. Traditional shims are designed into the assembly as pre-planned parts. They are not adjustable, and are designed with specific thicknesses, lengths, widths, etc.

Edge Bond (Adjustable) Shims: These are shims measured for inaccuracies. Technicians using them will pull off one or three layers to compensate for machining errors, whereas other products are designed into the assembly, and then they remove layers.  Shims are designed to fit into certain spaces, which are designed for adjustment, but are part of the assembly package. These are for very fine adjustments between parts being assembled. Machined out of foil, 20-80 layers are cut out using CNC machining, edm wire cutting, and other processes. The foil layers are then put into jogs, and the edges are glued with specific aerospace-quality glue. After that, the layers are peeled off to make the length of the assembly to the exact specifications.

 tapered_shims_bannerTapered Shims: When surfaces have a taper on them, tapered shims are used to fit in between the other parts. They can make the assembly tight by pushing apart the pieces, and sometimes they will push into the assembly, with the rest of the shim designed into the assembly.

Peelable (Adjustable) Shims: These shims have flat, three-dimensional layers that are glued together so that the technician can peel away layers not needed to get to the exact right thickness.  Typically they are 2,000th-3,000th of an inch thick.