South African State-owned aerostructures company Denel Saab Aerostructures (DSA) is consolidating all its operations into a single building. This move, to be completed by the end of this year, will save the company R20-million a year and this will pay for the costs of the move within two years.
DSA currently occupies space in several buildings in the aerospace complex in Kempton Park, at OR Tambo International Airport. (Other residents of the complex include Denel Aviation and Turbomeca Africa.) The move will see the space occupied by DSA cut in half, from 50 000 m2 to 25 000 m2. The company also hopes to improve efficiency by having every element of its business, from design to manufacture, under one roof.
“It brings us in line with global best practice and strengthens DSA’s position as a cost- effective supplier in a highly competitive industry,” affirms company CEO Ismail Dockrat. “By cutting down on our production costs and streamlining the workflow, the consolidation will contribute to the long-term sustainability of the company. We will now have one company with one vision working together in one building.”
This consolidation will require moving machinery and tools, some of which are large. Once positioned in their new locations, they will have to be recalibrated, while processes will have to be reindustrialised. In a number of cases, the equipment and processes will have to be requalified to the standards demanded by the customers. And all this must be done without disrupting DSA’s production and delivery schedules.
Currently, DSA’s biggest programme is its work for the Airbus Military A400M military transport and tanker aircraft. It is responsible for the design, engineering and manufacture of several significant parts of the aircraft – large primary structures, without which the aircraft cannot fly. These are the top shells for the centre fuselage section and the wing/fuselage fairings.
The top shells can be thought of as being equivalent to roof panels. The company is producing two top shells for each aircraft – one in front of and one behind the wing box, which joins the wing to the fuselage. The wing/fuselage fairings are manufactured mainly from compo- site materials but include aluminium parts. Each such fairing is 15 m long, 7 m wide, and nearly 3 m high. The company is also negotiating with Airbus Military to manufacture composites ribs and spars for the A400M tail.
DSA also produces major components for the Saab JAS39C/D Gripen fighter, namely the main landing gear unit and the rear fuselage, along with wing pylons, although this work is likely to cease before the end of the year, as Saab switches its focus to the new-generation JAS39E/F Gripen. Further, DSA has long-term contracts for, and is the sole source supplier of, tailplanes for the Gulfstream G150 business jet, although the production tempo varies according to the state of the global economy.
In addition, the local company produces rotor blades and rotor heads for the AgustaWestland A109 and A119 helicopters and manufactures drop tanks for the Denel Rooivalk attack helicopter. DSA is also responsible for the structure-related engineering of the local machine. The company is also a Boeing-accredited supplier and produces some parts for Boeing aircraft.
While the Denel group as a whole recorded a profit of R111-million in the 2010/11 financial year, DSA made a loss of R104-million. However, this was significantly down on its R263-million loss during the previous (2009/10) financial year. That figure, in turn, marked a major improvement over the R328-million loss in the financial year before that.