"We know this element exists," says Shelton, "but we are not too affected by it as we are one of only four companies in the world that manufactures our type of products. We deal direct with the manufacturer, such as Boeing, so there isn't really the opportunity for a gray market supplier to try and pass off a look-alike product on the customer."
Although Hydro and Dedienne design and manufacture thousands of products, certain items rise up to the top for each company.
For Hydro, the stars are its unique Electronic Jacking and Leveling (EJAL) System and the Landing Gear Equipment, which is used for the removal, installation, and transportation of nose and main landing gears for all commercial aircraft.
Dedienne's Triple Jack Product for the new Airbus A380 aircraft will keep the company busy with its development and testing. Also, the new license for all of the Snecma Services for the CFMI engines - a cooperative effort between GE and Snecma - will have Dedienne working hard to keep pace with the engine manufacturers.
Volot explains that when an aircraft is purchased, the blueprints are part of the deal, but the blueprints will be valid only on the purchase date.
"Everyday, when we manufacture a tool, we have to check that the blueprint (technical drawings) have is the latest revision. There are so many revisions and if the tool is not made to the latest revision, it could possibly break a part on the aircraft. This can cause the customer a lot of money and can affect safety procedures. For example, Airbus and Boeing, if they find out that some tools are not good or efficient over a period of time, they do a revision on the tooling specification and modify the tools."
He adds, "In the past, the FAA didn't look at the
tooling aspect and GSE. Now, with all of the questions of quality and security,
the FAA, as well as the JAA in Europe, are taking a harder look at tooling and
ground support equipment."
Hydro concurs to a point with respect to oversight from agencies regarding the gray market and suggests the FAA, JAA, and CAA get involved, but only on the surface. From a tooling point of view, all of those regulatory bodies have more important things that they believe they have to do to maintain the safety of the air traffic around the world.
Hydro and Dedienne have offered traceability on all company products from the very start. They feel this is very important for the customer and for them as a tooling manufacturer.
"We keep traceability of every tool we make," says Volot. "Tomorrow, or even years later, if a customer asks us about a tool, we have traceability on the materials used, the manufacturer, and who made the tool, the control papers - all of this is in the file. So if there is a problem with the tool, the customer can come back to you and find out why there is a problem. From the very beginning, we have all of the files."
Hydro's Cornwall adds, "We have traceability right throughout - that's one of the criteria within the ISO accreditation. We can also guarantee as a licensed manufacturer as we are, that the customer is getting the latest issue or upgrades to the drawings. Many times, the customer will give us a part number and when we interrogate the system, it's been superceded. We then offer him the latest issue drawing. But unless you have access to all the files within either Airbus or Boeing or other manufacturer, then you wouldn't know if you had the latest issue or not."
Dedienne and ATME perform calibration and testing services for customers. Certificates for equipment testing and calibration services are also provided to customers for quality assurance.
"We provide a test certificate if the tool requires a test," says Volot. "For all of the tools, we provide quality certification with part number, serial number, and designation if tool is brand-new or second-hand. Or, if a company sends us a tool to be calibrated, we certify the tool after calibration."
Challenges and Trends
Aside from keeping an eye out for gray market vendors, a challenge as Hydro sees it is that the tooling aspect of aviation gets forgotten from time to time.
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