Report from an aerospace supplier’s open house

We were unable to attend, but Allison Tapert, the promotions and marketing coordinator for the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance, was kind enough to share an account and photos of the organization’s Thursday breakfast event at Umbra Cuscinetti’s Everett plant, featuring CEO Robert Collett, PNAA’s executive of the year.

There’s another breakfast event on Nov. 6 in Tacoma featuring the PMW Operations of Cadence Aerospace, PNAA’s company of the year.

We found this bit in the Umbra Cuscinetti report particularly interesting:

Today, Collett says his biggest challenge is finding people. “We are struggling to get machinists, and are talking about going out of state. We really expect to grow. Finding machinists is paramount to us.”

Here’s the full report from PNAA:


[Begin news release]

For more information:

Allison Tapert, Promotions &Marketing Coordinator

Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance

425.885.0290 / contact@pnaa.net / http://www.pnaa.net

Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance’s Aerospace Executive of the Year, Bob Collett, Reflects on Umbra Cuscinetti’s Achievements at Breakfast Meeting

Everett, WA – October 29, 2013 – Over 40 Aerospace Executives found their way through heavy morning fog to attend Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance’s October Breakfast Showcase featuring PNAA’s Aerospace Executive of the Year Robert Collett of Umbra Cuscinetti.

During the two hour meeting, Collett provided an overview of his aerospace career and information about Umbra Cuscinetti’s operations in Italy, Germany and the United States. Umbra, a supplier of actuators, ball screws, torque tubes, and gears used on the aircraft wings, provided tours of its new 70,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility which is expected to generate 100 new jobs and $50 million by 2015.

Bob Uptagrafft, PNAA Vice Chair and senior program manager at Impact Washington has known Collett since 2009 and has watched Collett transform Umbra into an efficient, and successful manufacturing facility. “This didn’t happen by accident. And to say the change has been explosive is an understatement,” Uptagrafft said.

PNAA Board Chair JC Hall, agreed. “When I was first introduced to Umbra Cuscinetti 5 years ago, I would have described it as a failing company. Their costs were out of control, and their Everett product line showed little potential for growth or profitability. Under Collett’s leadership, the company has made a massive turnaround. Bob has driven manufacturing excellence to achieve profitability while expanding their customer base and product offerings. He and his team have created a totally different company in a few short years.”

According to Collett, when he took the reins at Umbra, the company was delivering torque tubes and gears at a disappointing 70 percent on-time delivery record with Boeing. Within 10 months, Collett and the Umbra team were back on schedule and that “really opened eyes at Boeing,” he said. “We did it through LEAN, and streamlined our processes. We looked at processes in our offices and the factory floor. LEAN is a business tool, and you have to do it throughout the organization to be effective.”

Hall, who is also Director of Sales for Esterline Hytek Finishes, said after the meeting “Bob is the kind of leader that does the basics very well. He focuses on understanding the customer’s ‘hot buttons’ and pressing them repeatedly. His focus on key areas such as Lean Manufacturing implementation and unflagging delivery performance are perfect examples.”

Collett began his career as a machinist on the shop floor over 30 years ago. In 1985, he went to work for GE as a shop operations manager and quickly rose through the ranks – as vice president of marketing and sales in Dayton, Ohio and later president of a GE owned aerospace company in Montreal, Quebec. He joined Umbra in 2009.

Today, Collett says his biggest challenge is finding people. “We are struggling to get machinists, and are talking about going out of state. We really expect to grow. Finding machinists is paramount to us.”

Umbra isn’t your typical machine shop. It’s clean, bright and orderly. Everything from the walls to the floor to the equipment is painted white making it a very pleasant work environment. “I love coming to work and want everyone else to feel that way too,” he said.

Although Collett seemed uncomfortable talking about his aerospace accomplishments, he spoke highly of his team at Umbra. “Italian engineers are amazing. I salivate over the prospects of what we can do as a group. I am proud of the people I work with and I love coming to work. And that’s because of the people I work with,” he said.

After Collett’s presentation, meeting attendees toured Umbra’s new facility to see everything from how torque tubes were made and painted to how gears were machined.

“By offering breakfast meetings like this, PNAA introduces its membership to the ‘rock stars of manufacturing,’” Hall said. “Exposing our members to these ‘best in class’ companies and executives helps us expand our view of what is achievable and opens the door for each of us to remain globally competitive.”

PNAA hosts its next Breakfast Showcase on November 6 at La Quinta Inn in Tacoma and features its Aerospace Company of the Year: Cadence Aerospace – PMW Operations. A tour of the Cadence facility will take place after the meeting.

About PNAA’s Executive of the Year Award: Bob Collett of Umbra Cuscinetti received the PNAA Executive of the Year Award in February 2013. This award is presented annually to an aerospace executive who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Industry. Collett was chosen by PNAA members for his leadership of the Everett-based aerospace company Umbra Cuscinetti.

About PNAA: The Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA) is a non-profit organization that has been promoting the growth and success of the aerospace industry in the Northwest for over 11 years. Its primary purpose is to assist members in being globally competitive. This is accomplished through frequent educational and networking events and informing members and participants of important industry changes and business opportunities.

About The Umbra Group: The Umbra Group, of which Umbra Cuscinetti Inc. is a subsidiary, has headquarters in Foligno, Italy. The company employs 900 people and total sales are $170 million. Umbra Cuscinetti Inc. is also a member of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance.

[End news release]

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