The official opening of the AJW Technique Component Repair & Overhaul facility occurred April 4, 2013, just six months after purchasing the assets of Aveos Fleet Performance in September 2012. The facility had extensive repair capabilities with best-in-class equipment but the infrastructure, certifications and workforce needed to be started from scratch. AJW Technique was able to achieve certification from Transport Canada (TCCA), FAA and EASA as an approved maintenance repair facility in those six months and has begun to fulfill repair contracts.
“AJW Technique primarily provides a broad range of Airbus and Boeing commercial aircraft repair and overhaul services, although we will soon be including helicopters, military, regional and business jets within the range of capabilities,” Christopher Whiteside, president of AJW Group, commented at a special ceremony attended by senior ministers from the Québec Government. “AJW Technique is actively working with new customers within the region to develop mutually beneficial support agreements. It is the centralized hub for the AJW repair supply chain and will ensure that the A J Walter Aviation customer base of more than 800 airlines receives exemplary support.” The opening of the160,000 square feet facility in Montréal has been underpinned by Government support and investment.
As the facility ramps up its technical capabilities in tandem with the streamlining of all processes, the company says it expects to reach its repair potential of around 25,000 units per annum in record time. The company believes their unique access to extensive Airbus and Boeing inventories is a key differentiator that will enable the business to underwrite its repair management guarantees.
“AJW Technique is not just a repair management provider. As part of the AJW Group it works alongside A J Walter Aviation, AJW Capital Partners and AJW Leasing to deliver a comprehensive range of aircraft support services,” explains Whiteside. “We work closely with the OEMs and other specialist repair shops on a global scale to support our power-by-the-hour, pooling, sales, exchanges and loans business. We’re a safe pair of hands with over 80 years in the industry and we invite all operators to talk to us about how we can improve their repair management cycles.”
AJW companies are based out of London, Singapore, Dubai, Miami and Montréal with strategic spares stock held at these locations; across the UK, Europe and North America. AJW provides sales and service support from a network of offices globally; conducting business in 115 countries.
In an exclusive interview at the grand opening, Whiteside was pragmatic and confident in his team, union-management relationships and their all or nothing approach. “We are a half a billion dollar business,” he said. “Had we gone out and bought or started a mum and pop shop even half the size…it doesn’t give the scale or the profile that A J Walter currently is expected to do.” He says he believed that to enter the component repair business they needed something proportionate to the size of their business. “Now admittedly this is over the top,” he said. “But the compensation for over the top is, you’ve got everything and therefore when you walk in to see somebody, all of a sudden, you can do 70-80 percent of their demand at day one rather than saying actually I can only do 5 or 10 percent and it’s an uphill battle.”
Whiteside went on, “Technique is challenged to bid for that business but like all companies they’ve got to prove they can do it well and they’ve got to prove they can do it quickly and they’ve got to prove they can do it within certain economic confines.” When asked what the biggest challenge from this point forward is Whiteside said, “Nothing keeps me awake in the sense of feeling I’m never going to get it done.” But he went on to add that their immediate concern is, “getting all the sales open and that is not until the end of June. The fact that it’s all cash out and no cash in [at this point].” Whiteside said that he expects the breakeven point to come by the end of next year.
Union issues flared up at that facility when it was AVEOS. Asked about the union now and how he feels about having to work with one Whiteside had this to say, “We have a good relationship with the union. There’s a thousand stories running around about this place maybe some are true. When I bought AJ Walter in 1994 twelve people came with the company and those people are still with me apart from my secretary who was my father’s secretary who retired and my chief inspector who died and even I can’t do anything about that. So those ten people have obviously been very happy to work for me for the past 20 years and therefore as a sociable, responsible employer, what do I have to fear from reasonable people on the other side?”
He said they don’t anticipate any workforce problems going forward. “We’re honorable. [Years ago] I said to my father, ‘Why have we been in business such a long time and why are we so successful,’ and he said ‘Because we do what we say we are going to do and we pay our bills.’ I said ‘How can it be that simple?’ and he said, ‘It is that simple.’ If you are like that with your employees it’s the same,” Whiteside said. One of the things he is most proud of in his career Whiteside said, “is attracting a bunch of talented people who could go and work for Boeing or Honeywell or British Aerospace or British Airways. We have a very strong culture at AJ Walter.”
When asked what the lessons learned since acquiring the assets, getting the certifications in place in such as short time frame and opening for business are, Whiteside said relationships are key as are in-person meetings. He said he learned that government can actually help when it comes to supporting and contributing to tax breaks, soft loans, grants and the like. Another piece of advice he offered, “Work in a courteous way with the authorities.” And finally, “Don’t dither. If you decide to do something, get on and do it. Do it quickly,” Whiteside said.
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