Gage Piancone, Vice President at Sunshine Metals
Managing the supply chain in the aerospace industry has always been a complex affair. The need for global capability is constantly intensifying, along with a keen focus on local service and support. What’s important to note is that no single country has a monopoly on the supply of raw materials, including metals, such as Steel, Aluminum, Titanium, Copper, and more, primarily used for the manufacture of aircraft. As such, aerospace manufacturers and suppliers are caught up in a tedious and complicated process of sourcing materials from different regions worldwide. Amidst the plethora of available suppliers procuring raw materials and metals, procurement managers are faced with the challenge of finding the best suppliers based on their specific requirements, budget, and delivery timelines. This is where companies like Aero Metals Alliance (AMA) is making a difference with its exemplary services dedicated to the aerospace industry. As a premier metal distributor, AMA specializes in providing aerospace companies with Aluminium, Stainless Steel, Alloy Steel, Titanium, Nickel Alloys—all sourced from five of the world’s leading suppliers of metals.
As an alliance of five top-tier metal suppliers— Progressive Alloy Steels Unlimited (PASU), Sunshine Metals, Wilsons, Service Centres Aero, and Gould Alloys— AMA equips the leading OEMs and sub-contractors in the industry with a wide range of materials, processing capabilities, and services. With strategically placed service centers in the UK, France, Germany, the U.S., China, and India, AMAoffers complete supply chain management systems tailored to its customers’ needs. John Olson, Vice Presidentat PASU, emphasizes that each constituent partner of AMA has deep expertise and strength in specific fields; for instance, Sunshine Metals specializes in the supply of Aluminum, and PASU is renowned for Steel supply. “When a customer needs one material or the other, we determine which company they need to work with. In case they need both, we come together and work with them accordingly,” states Olson.
Driven by the need to maximize the spindle time for core business activities, companies are increasingly looking to optimize production processes while also focusing on lowering buy-to-fly ratios and reducing the amount of waste. Against this backdrop, AMA plays a crucial role and is committed to exceeding customer expectations in every aspect of their business, including material supply, logistics, supply chain management, value-added processing, as well as engineering excellence. “By undertaking some of the machining processes, from simple cutting to more intricate processing for supplying near net shape pieces, we are effectively freeing up spindle time for our customers. We can tailor our services according to our customers’ need—be it performing specific operations or extending them till the finished product is ready,” says Gage Piancone, Vice President at Sunshine Metals.
John Olson, Vice President at PASU
Olson highlights that PASU offers a full line of aerospace quality stainless and re-melted alloy products-complemented by custom supply chain solutions. PASU also provides multiple value-added processing capabilities, including production cutting, plate processing, waterjet cutting & near-net shape processing, heat treating, destructive testing, and more. Instead of adopting aone-size-fits-all approach, PASU follows a case by case strategy with every single customer based on their distinct needs while considering the pricing, delivery, and inventory requirements.
“If a customer approaches us for an LTA or a blanket order for a product, we can give them access to an online portal where they can check at any time the items they have on their blanket order. They can see the inventory levels of those specific items and can schedule shipments for those directly without having to get in touch with us,” Olson explains. This simplifies the overall process as they just have to put in the required quantity and then schedule a specific new Purchase Order (PO) number against it along with the desired date. As soon as they hit save, the request is immediately sent to the operations teamat PASU to pull that order and ship it based on the specified schedule. “Our quality system is AS9100 certified and all our suppliers are either AS9100 or ISO certified, depending on the quality requirements,” says Olson. Moreover, PASU is the right-to-buy supplier for Lockheed Martin on their F-35 program (a part of the Joint Strike Fighter program). As they have subcontractors and partners all over the world who are manufacturing parts of this combat aircraft, PASU provides these companies with the materials they need based on the Lockheed Martin negotiated price.
AMA’s other pillar, Sunshine Metals, is a premier supplier of specialty metals and custom supply chain services for aerospace and defense applications. As a leader in the optimization of raw materials, the company provides near net shape, semi-finished products and kitting, scrap/revert utilization, and more from its expansive inventories of plate, rod, bar, and forgings. The company’s value-added services include multi-axis machining, nesting, drilling/tapping, milling, surfacing, dovetailing, prep sawing, and straight, circle, and shape-cutting capabilities. Besides, in terms of quality control, the company provides CMM inspection, USI testing, heat-treating or retempering, electrical conductivity, and hardness testing.
“Our focus is on being valuable partners to the parts manufacturers, Tier-1 to Tier-4,by helping them finish parts in a more expeditious fashion without tying up their expensive finishing equipment,” asserts Piancone. Currently, Sunshine Metals isin the process of developing an e-commerce site in order to help streamline and enhance its customer experience. This will allow customers to seamlessly log in, get their paperwork, place orders, and receive quotes—all through an automated system that will push the orders and quotes into Sunshine Metals’ ERP system as well.
Piancone asserts that unlike its competitors, each company in AMA is more flexible and nimbler in terms of managing value-added services for its customer base. “We are quick to react and make decisions when it comes to the need for additional capital to start new programs, acquire new equipment, and establish new facilities. At the end of the day, we understand we’re here to provide anexceptional service to our partners in an expeditious fashion,” says Piancone.
Considering the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the aerospace and defense industry, Olson emphasizes that post these unprecedented times, businesses would need to be more creative in their approach to steer ahead of the competition. “We’ve been proactive with value added processing and are all ears for our customers who want to share with us their needs around creativity in the future,” states Olson.