-T / T / +T | Comment(s)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Lord Looks for International Strategic Growth

"There is not a single helicopter manufacturer that does not use the [vibration control] system or is currently looking to incorporate it." -Rachid Bendall

By Andrew Drwiega, International Bureau Chief

Lord Corporation intends to broaden its aviation business in its 90th anniversary year and as part of that it will have a stronger presence in the European aviation sector, said William Cerami, president of global aerospace and defense, speaking May 28 at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London.

Although strong in fixed-wing aviation, the rotorcraft sector is a focus for the corporation, particularly through the integration of its active vibration control (AVC) systems. One of the latest helicopters to make use of this is AgustaWestland’s AW139, which incorporates the company’s active vibration control system (AVCS).

Cerami said that Lord had experienced very successful growth in the last 10 years, resulting in being close to recording $1 billion in sales annually, although the aim is to double that to $2 billion by 2022. Aerospace currently represents around 35 percent of the complete Lord portfolio of markets, which also include automotive and industrial assembly as well as oil/gas and industrial equipment.

“There has been a lot of collaboration [with industry OEMs]… and the plan is to triple our aerospace and defense business,” stated Cerami. While he acknowledged that the defense business in the United States had peaked and was now in decline, he stated that there was still a requirement to sustain legacy aircraft, particularly helicopters, as there were no new problems on the immediate horizon pre-2030s when Future Vertical Lift (FVL) would begin to be implemented.

He said that Lord has been working with all of the main rotorcraft OEMs across military and civil projects, including the main players in the U.S. Army’s Joint Multi-Role (JMR) Technology Demonstrator project. Cerami said that Lord reinvests 8-10 percent of sales revenue into IT and development projects annually.

Rachid Bendall, director of business development at Lord, said that the corporation added value through collaboration and risk sharing. He said that AVCS is so effective that it borders on giving a “jet smooth” ride in helicopters. Through that lack of vibration and noise, he added, helicopter pilots had been able to increase their speed by around 11-15 knots which could mean that users in sectors such as oil and gas could make additional flights each day.

Collaboration was across the spectrum of OEMs: “There is not a single helicopter manufacturer that does not use the [vibration control] system or is currently looking to incorporate it,” said Bendall. With Lord being a private company, “investment of between $80-$100 million annually on R&D was possible as there was no pressure to return profit to shareholders,” he added.

Cerami said that European OEMs Airbus Helicopters and AgustaWestland had proved to be early adopters of new technology and that Lord’s technology is across “practically all of their platforms.” One of the first Airbus helicopters to incorporate vibration control was the EC225, he noted. He also did not fail to mention collaboration with Bell Helicopter over its new 525 Relentless and 505 Jet Ranger X and with Sikorsky involving the S-92 and S-97 Raider.

Addressing the subject of keeping confidentiality across a wide range of OEMs, Bendall stated: “We never share technological development from one platform to another. Our engineers do not work across projects.”

Strategically, the company is actively looking for mergers and acquisitions, stated Cerami. This is evidenced by the recent incorporation of sensing system acquisitions creating Lord MicroStrain (fourth quarter 2012) and STI Stellar Technology (first quarter 2014). “We want to consolidate the supply chain and there will be an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars,” stated Bendall.

Cerami believes that the business can benefit from emerging opportunities with rotorcraft OEMs globally including Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) in India, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Russian Helicopters.

Focusing on Europe, the organization has been based in Geneva, Switzerland since 2009 and has a staff of 50 including around 15 engineers, although most of them are continually out to customers in Germany, France and Italy.

Related: Components and Accessories News

Live chat by BoldChat