VOL. 7 May ISSUE YEAR 2006
in Vol. 7 - May Issue - Year 2006
Surface Preparation Specialist To Fly Even Higher After New Investment
Wheelabrator Group Chief Executive Officer, Robert E. Joyce, Jnr.
Wheelabrator treatment of aircraft parts is a critical step in the manufacturing process for many companies.
Specialised peening services are provided to the autosport industry
Christian Tyroll and Tony Grammauro celebrate the Impact Finishers Nadcap accreditation
Wheelabrator Group, the world’s leading surface preparation and finishing equipment specialist, received a massive vote of confidence in its future when it acquired new owners in February.
Wheelabrator Group received the thumbs-up when top private equity professionals Mid Europa Partners (MEP) acquired all its outstanding equity - through their Emerging Europe Convergence Fund II, LP - from an investment group led by Bard & Company.
Mid Europa Partners, with offices in London, Budapest and Warsaw, has a strong track record of supporting companies operating in Central and Eastern Europe, which – along with Asia - is where Wheelabrator Group’s plans for significant expansion are focused.
The Wheelabrator low down
Employing over 1,200 people worldwide, Wheelabrator Group owns, designs, manufactures and provides wheelblast, airblast, wetblast and mass finishing equipment for peening, cleaning, deburring, etching and polishing applications. With superior application expertise, Wheelabrator machines are known for unsurpassed technology, quality standards and durability. The group recently launched its global after-market parts and service division, Wheelabrator Plus, through which it provides seamless service for surface preparation machines on a global scale.
Wheelabrator equipment and subcontract services are well-accepted in the global automotive and aerospace industry sectors, through product ranges such as Sisson Lehmann, Schlick and Vacu-Blast airblast peening equipment, and Impact Finishers, the specialised subcontract shot peening division..
Commenting on the new ownership, group president and chief executive officer Robert Joyce said: “This is a major milestone in the development of our company, which is currently enjoying record sales revenues.”
“Central and Eastern Europe has a key role in our growth strategy and MEP brings financial muscle and expertise in the market segments we have targeted in these regions. This makes them the perfect partner for us to work with, as we take our growth to the next level.”
As a result of the new investment and in the light of the group’s expansion plans, its corporate functions will transfer from the USA to Europe, however Wheelabrator Group will continue to build up its market share and prominence in North America.
Mr Joyce said the MEP investment reflected the challenge for companies such as Wheelabrator to follow customers as they moved overseas. The group has been successful in tracking down and retaining traditional business partners as they increasingly shuttered capacity in North America and Western Europe and moved to Central and Eastern Europe or Asia.
He said: “We’re already ramping up our presence in these markets. We have an existing plant in Poland, for example, and expect to triple its size in the next three to five years.
“We also have two joint ventures in China and will be boosting our presence there over a similar period. We plan to quintuple the number of direct employees we have in that country and eventually have manufacturing capacity there too.”
Investment in research & development
There are also plans to invest significantly more in Research and Development. With Wheelabrator Group’s customers advancing towards technology intensive products, surface preparation solutions are required to follow suit.
This occurs not only in the preparation of the component surface, but even more so in the material handling. The need for a single source supplier by its clientele has prompted the group to provide upstream and downstream systems to the blast machine. With its own innovative work handling arrangements to feed and receive parts from the blast machine, Wheelabrator differentiates itself from its competitors by providing a seamless solution. Continuing with the commitment to offer equipment and solutions that increase productivity, an increasing number of installations are integrated with robotic and other automation systems. Wheelabrator Group grew rapidly through acquisitions in the 1990s and now has installations in over 90 countries. In 2005, the management team divested of the non-core distribution business and established a new capital structure for its more profitable industrial equipment operation.
Mr Joyce said all these changes had given Wheelabrator Group two important advantages in its highly-competitive market: a decentralised structure and now an investor chosen for its enthusiasm for the group and its plans, which brings much relevant expertise.
Wheelabrator Group’s devolved structure appears to reflect Joyce’s own personality and operating methods.
He said: “I’m not a central command-and-control kind of guy. I give people goals and they have to go out and achieve them. Each line of our business has a manager for every region - North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific - located in that area and usually from it.”
Investment in professional sales training
Other significant group investments during the last 12 months have included: an upgraded IT system – global ERP; the creation of common systems for sales and marketing and contemporary Sales training techniques aimed at increasing customer satisfaction and retention.
Referring to the sales training, Mr Joyce said: “We provided the same training for everyone, regardless of their background, nationality, or language, delivered in the local tongue.”
In aerospace and automotive applications, Wheelabrator Group utilizes its years of experience and technological expertise to strengthen parts that undergo cyclic loading, prepare surface for downstream processes and increase the operating lives of critical components.
Industry experts within the group reinforce the fact that Wheelabrator’s unique understanding of the precision required directly translates into its treatment of aerospace and automotive parts as a critical step in the manufacturing process for many companies.
Where aerospace applications are concerned, for fuselage and outer skins, the group offers chemical-free selective paint stripping, wing skin peen forming, distortion correction and saturation peening.
Its wing-related services include peening stringers, chords and spars, preparing surfaces prior to bonding, skin peen forming and saturation peening.
For landing gear and components, it provides chemical-free stripping surface etching and texturing and shot peening for fatigue life improvement.
Engine components such as fan and compressor discs, blades and shafts undergo coating removal and shot peening in Wheelabrator manufactured equipment.
Nadcap accredited subcontract services
The group provides specialist subcontract shot peening and vibratory finishing services to the aircraft and aerospace industries through its Impact Finishers team, located in various locations throughout England and the Republic of Ireland, France and Germany. Other industry sectors served by the team include autosport and automotive, medical, power generation and petrochemicals.
In the last few months, Wheelabrator Group has invested a significant amount in premises and equipment for Impact Finishers. Further good news for the Impact Finishers team came when it was awarded the prestigious Nadcap (National Aerospace & Defence Contractors Accreditation Program) accreditation at both the Coventry and Slough facilities. Launched in 1990 by the Society of Automotive Engineers, this is a universal standard administered by the not-for-profit Performance Review Institute, to ensure manufactured aircraft components pass through consistent quality standards and manufacturing processes.
Now specified by most prime manufacturers in these sectors, the Nadcap accreditation allows aerospace equipment manufacturers to use Impact Finishers, confident of receiving the highest standards of service, conforming to strict industry guidelines.
In addition to the sectors served by Impact Finishers, Wheelabrator Group is active in many markets, including the steel foundry, forge, shipbuilding, rail, and construction industries.
Among other processes, its technologies are used to remove scale, paint, flashing, grease and burrs, as well as etch, polish, deburr and profile parts. Wheelabrator Group surface preparation experts are constantly providing innovative and unique solutions for applications such as cleaning of automotive engines and components, railway carriages, and spectacle frames; deburring parts for the diecasting industry; and removing rust and scale from structural steel.
Wheelabrator Group’s airblast equipment is provided via product ranges Vacu-Blast, Sisson Lehmann and Schlick. The last of these, along with the Pangborn Europe, Tilghman Wheelabrator and Spencer Halstead ranges, offers wheelblast technologies, with vibratory finishing equipment being available through the Wheelabrator Vibro range.
In addition, the group provides Abrasive Developments wetblast equipment and, in the UK, the Clean-Tek range of aqueous washing and degreasing machines, plus ultrasonic equipment, to companies in a wide variety of industries.
Whatever the product range, Wheelabrator Group’s manufacturing process reflects audits and specifications such as SAE, MIL and AMS, as well as Nadcap, with compliance being monitored closely and continuously.
The group’s product and service offerings are reinforced by aftermarket support division Wheelabrator Plus. Among the advantages offered by its experts are the provision of parts, including polyurethane masks and fixtures. In most areas - though not North America – they also supply aerospace industry-approved peening and blast media.
Business as usual
Overall, Wheelabrator Group says its technologies, coupled with its global experience and reach, allow it to provide an unrivalled service across a wide range of requirements. Regardless of the size of parts to be processed or productivity requirements, it designs and constructs the appropriate surface engineering solution for each customer’s needs.
Providing reassurances about the impact of the new investors, Mr Joyce said: “The message to all our existing stakeholders, including staff and customers, is that it’s very much business as usual. Our customers will continue to receive a very high quality of service in all respects, delivered by the same people who provide it now. Where change will be evident is through our expansion into new markets and the even better solutions we will provide to our customers.”