ASCO celebrates 60 years with open house

11/07/2014 9:471 commentViews: 17

The Stillwater facility will go online in phases, producing aircraft parts from steel, aluminum and eventually, titanium in a highly efficient LEAN manufacturing environment.

Asco and Lean ManufactoringASCO Aerospace USA workers prepare to work on one of the aluminum supports the company manufactures for the Boeing 787.
When Belgian aerospace firm ASCO Industries purchased the shuttered Mercruiser plant in 2012, Stillwater’s leaders looked forward to a brighter future for that facility and the city.

They saw what that future looks like Wednesday, when ASCO Aerospace USA celebrated its parent company’s 60th anniversary by hosting an open house and plant tour.

ASCO Industries vice chairman Trudo Motmans welcomed guests, saying the company bought an empty factory and promised to have it equipped by 2014. At the time, the company said it expected to invest up to $100 million in the facility.

“Our colleagues have made it happen,” Motmans said. “An important part of the growth of this company will occur in these walls.”

Stillwater Mayor John Bartley said he thinks it’s remarkable how well ASCO’s vision partners with the city of Stillwater’s vision.

“They undersold the monumental project that has taken place behind these walls,” he said. “We are extremely fortunate to be part of that partnership. Thank you for all you’ve done for our community and I look forward to the next 60 years.”

The Stillwater facility will go online in phases, producing aircraft parts from steel, aluminum and eventually, titanium in a highly efficient LEAN manufacturing environment.

The steel line came first and a line that makes aluminum structural pieces for the Boeing 787 recently launched.

Planning Manager Gregory Dewil said the company’s first phase of startup should be complete by the second quarter of 2015.

A third production line to make titanium parts won’t come until a later phase.

ASCO Industries makes parts for the biggest names in aviation, serving Bombardier, Airbus, Gulf Stream, Cessna, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

The company is developing new processes at the Stillwater plant to increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve turnaround on orders. Its “one stop shop” concept takes their products from raw castings to finished parts under one roof and removes the uncertainties that come with relying on subcontractors.

The plant is on schedule for development but behind on staffing after an extended construction period that required hundreds of loads of dirt to be hauled away and hundreds of loads of concrete to be poured to make a foundation that was thick enough to support massive machining and treatment equipment.

The floor had to be thick enough to hold the weight and prevent vibration because aircraft parts are made to exact specification with very narrow tolerances.

Computerized milling equipment makes it possible to meet those exacting standards and ASCO has state-of-the-art equipment, including four machines that were custom built in Germany because existing equipment wasn’t large or powerful enough. Each machine cost the company $3.5 million and if necessary, there’s room to add two more.

The company also uses one of three large vacuum ovens in North America to heat treat steel and increase its resistance to breakage by taking it to 2,000 degrees then cooling it to 400 degrees within 10 minutes, using liquid nitrogen. ASCO’s unit can treat 4,000 pounds of materials.

Strangely, while opening the Stillwater plant the company also learned the high-tech solution isn’t always the best solution. An electronic tracking system for every action in the plant was too unwieldy in an electronic format so workers went to a system utilizing large pieces of paper and sticky notes that’s visual and easier to follow.

It worked so well it’s now being used in other ASCO facilities.

Oklahoma State University physics professor and Secretary of Science and Technology for Gov. Mary Fallin, Stephen McKeever, called ASCO Aerospace USA a tremendous boost to the local community and praised the company for maintaining a continuity of ownership under three generations of the Boas family.

The company can help Stillwater become a place where young people interested in science, engineering and technology want to be, he said.




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