With a focus on quality and precision, Koss Aerospace, a company based out of Mississauga, Ont., serves the aerospace industry with the manufacturing of structural components and assemblies, as well as offering various types of processing.
Koss was started in 1975 by Drago Cajic, now Owner and President of the company. With a background in aerospace manufacturing, specifically in machining, Mr. Cajic was able to save some money and acquire equipment to start his own business. “It was definitely a one-man operation, says Alex Cajic, Drago’s son and the Vice-President of Koss. As his first step, Cajic approached aircraft manufacturers with his expertise; through persistence, he was able to get some orders and start the business. “The expertise was technical, initially,” says the younger Cajic. “But he was good at managing money, he was good in his technical trade, and he was good with people. That was a good foundation for him to start from.”
Getting it right, from start to finish
A focus on vertical integration distinguishes Koss from its competition, says Cajic. The company is able to produce a completely machined component, fully processed. Koss completes the machining, assembling and processing of parts up to 14 feet in length for its customers, who include Bombardier, EADS, and the U.S. Army. The parts Koss makes can be found in the wing, the fuselage, and the landing gear of planes.
Because of its relationship with Brampton Processing, which was formed in 1991 by Drago Cajic, the company can efficiently take care of the necessary surface treatments—such as chromium-plating and anodizing—on the parts it machines. This works out to be a great benefit to customers and gives Koss a competitive edge. Explains Cajic: “Traditionally, processing is the bottleneck: to go to multiple sources and manage that becomes difficult.” Primarily, the treatments protect parts from corrosion and rust; Koss also paints components and can test them for strength and integrity, utilizing two non-destructive methods: LPI, which stands for liquid penetrant inspection, is used for aluminum and titanium components, and magnetic particle inspection, for ferrous metals.
Staying strong through ups and downs
Since 2006, Koss has invested more than $6 million in facilities and equipment, which translated into a huge benefit in terms of purchasing power when the Canadian dollar was high; it also led to more business from Canadian companies. More recently, the weakened dollar has made Koss more appealing to the European and U.S. markets, so they are focusing their marketing in that direction—where they can be more competitive, Cajic says. “It’s worked in our favour in both ways.”
The nature of its business has given Koss some protection to see it through these tough economic times, says Cajic. “I’ve seen two economic cycles throughout my career at Koss, and aerospace is typically about two years behind the local economic environment.” Since its customers presently have three-year work backlogs, Koss currently has a solid order book and a healthy accumulation of projects. Cajic says that, from experience, he expects to see a more significant slowdown in the next one to two years. “My customers are confident their three-year backlog is pretty stable,” says Cajic, also noting that there could be cancellations and deferrals, if their clients’ situations merit them, but “without a crystal ball” he admits it is impossible to know. However, it is possible for Koss to work through tough times, he says. “Are we prepared for that? My answer is yes.”
A work environment geared towards success
“Equipment and facilities can be bought, but the culture within our organization is truly what’s important in order for us to have the infrastructure to produce a quality product on time,” Cajic says. “That’s something that’s a little less tangible, but it’s very important.” Koss has dedicated project managers for each customer to ensure high quality and timely delivery. “Our goal is to be a very low-maintenance supplier or partner,” he adds.
Koss encourages communication with their employees, who are highly skilled and one of the company’s strongest assets. Says Cajic: “We value their opinion, because they’re very skilled in their respective roles.” Koss provides an ideal work environment where employees are comfortable and can perform to their full potential. Cajic describes the workspace as well lit by windows and skylights and brightly painted and relates that when Koss’s had its 40,000-square-foot facility custom built, consultants were hired and given the task of creating a lean, clean work environment to ensure a smooth workflow. “Everything was strategically placed, from the position of our quality department to our programming,” says Cajic. “It’s a very clean and modern shop that was designed for maximum efficiency. As a result, we have the infrastructure in place to meet the demands of large projects.”
This means that Koss has room to grow, says Cajic. “Since we’ve moved to the new facility, we’re in a very unique situation.” Because Koss is experiencing record sales and is only utilizing 60 per cent capacity, it has the ability to take on very large projects. “And in this industry that’s very rare,” he adds.