May 21, 2012 | last updated June 5, 2012 10:03 am

Metamorphosis in Manchester | 'Mom & Pop' aviation parts manufacturer working into conglomerate

PHOTOS/PABLO ROBLES
PHOTOS/PABLO ROBLES
GE Aviation Manchester started as a small aerospace component supplier in the 1960s, originally called Dynamic. Since Fairfield conglomerate General Electric purchased it in 2007, the Manchester company has increased its number of GE parts.

When the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner took to the skies in March, a Manchester manufacturer soared from 'Mom & Pop' to conglomerate.

The business once called Dynamic now is part of the GE Aviation family, powering one of the most fuel-efficient commercial aircrafts in the Boeing family.

Dynamic, as the business was originally called, was acquired by GE five years ago. Now, each time the Fairfield mega-company celebrated an aerospace achievement like the Dreamliner in March or the delivery of the first GEnx-powered Boeing 787-8F, its employees and managers are reminded of the growing role they play in the future of flight.

"People build a pride and loyalty for working for this company," said Jean Czachor, GE general manager for the Manchester division.

The delivery of the Dreamliner to Japan Airlines in March was a victory for both GE and Boeing. The plane made of composite materials and powered by GE's fuel-efficient engine was fraught with delays and big expectations, but since that first delivery, more Dreamliners keep rolling off the line and flying to various destinations around the globe.

In Manchester, the flight of all GE-powered aircraft is a reminder how the company morphed from a small parts supplier to a member of the $19 billion segment for one of the 20 largest companies in the world

"The business came out of the small business realm, and it became GE," said Czachor, who came on as general manager for the Manchester division after GE took over. "It creates a nice family environment, so people know each other."

The company now called GE Aviation Manchester was founded in the 1960s as Dynamic, and after several mergers in the 1990s became Dynamic Gunver Technologies. In 2004, the company was sold to Smiths Aerospace, a division of the Smiths Group of the United Kingdom.

GE purchased the Smiths Aerospace division in 2007. GE placed the acquisition under the Unison Engine Components operating group, a wholly owned subsidiary of GE Aviation.

In Manchester, the company makes combustors and case housings for various customers including Pratt & Whitney of East Hartford, Rolls-Royce and Volvo. Only 18 percent of the Manchester components go to GE.

Even though supplying GE was a sliver of the company's business before it took over, Manchester is growing the amount of work performed for GE engines, in addition to trying to grow with some other customers.

"We try to balance the growth," Czachor said. "We are all in the same area trying to compete for more business."

The larger OEMs like Pratt and GE tend to subcontract out their parts work, instead of acquiring companies and bringing the work in-house, said Allen Samuel, executive director of the Rocky Hill trade association Aerospace Components Manufacturers, which represents 73 Connecticut aviation parts makers.

"The OEMs tend to be less of a detail part manufacturer," Samuel said. "It has become much more economical to subcontract out that work."

For conglomerates like GE, acquiring parts manufacturers does happen occasionally, although it is rare, Samuel said. In the case of Dynamic, the company was part of the larger Smiths Aerospace business.

When GE acquired Smiths Aerospace for $4.8 billion in 2007, Jeffrey Immelt, GE chairman and chief executive officer, said the product offerings would be complementary and help the aviation segment grow more than its average 10 percent per year clip.

In the year following the Smiths Aerospace acquisition, GE Aviation's revenues rose from $16.8 billion in 2007 to $19.2 billion in 2008. The segment then suffered two down years before rebounding to $18.9 billion in 2011 with $3.5 billion in profit.

GE Aviation is third most profitable segment in the GE conglomerate, which had $147 billion in revenues in 2011.

Since the Manchester division became part of GE Aerospace, the shop had been slowly converting to more GE engine work.

"There's a lot of different specialized processes," said Ted Chandler, plant manager for one of Manchester's five buildings. "There's been a lot of equipment brought in since GE came on."

Chandler's facility used to perform 100 percent overhaul work for all of the Manchester customers. Since the acquisition, the percentage of overhaul work declined to 25 percent in favor of more GE engine work, including the GE T700 for military helicopters, particularly Sikorsky's Blackhawk.

The Manchester division hopes to grow with more than just GE products. The facility wants to become part of the supplier base for Pratt & Whitney's geared turbofan line of engines.

Over the five buildings, GE Aviation Manchester has 245,000 square feet of production and office space and 370 employees

Its production volume increased 5 percent from 2011 to 2012, and the division expects another 5 percent in 2013, Czachor said. For the next 10 years, the company expects a similar annual volume increase, due to increases from all its customers.

While the Manchester division still benefits from the 'Mom & Pop' atmosphere that was its foundation for the last 50 years, being part of the conglomerate has its advantages, too, Czachor said.

The division can leverage all the GE resources, and it is close enough to the GE Aviation facility in Lynn, Mass. to work closely with the parent company.

"Anything that is leverageable that we think will help the business," Czachor said.

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