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A-Line/Muru

A-Line/Muru

Rob MuruFor CDR’s ongoing SME CORNER series, we recently sent News Editor, Daniel Kitchen, to visit this boutique fabricator of precision metal components for the defence and aerospace industry. Here is our report.

Being able to ride the wave is perhaps the most important skill for an SME (Small, Medium-sized Enterprise) in Canada’s defence industry. In this case the “wave”refers to the boom and bust cycles of Canada’s procurement industry which many SMEs struggle to deal with. How to take advantage of market these gyrations is something Rob Muru, President of A-Line, has come to understand after nearly 30 years working in the precision machining business.

A-Line was founded in Toronto in 1964 as a tooling manufacturing company by Rob’s father. Rob spent quite a bit of time working with machines growing up and decided to take over the family business in 1988. Almost immediately after taking over at A-Line, Rob was asked by Orenda Aerospace in Toronto to produce what would be A-Line’s first ever engine component. While Rob was confident in his manufacturing expertise, he explains that he was wary to enter this market due to the immense pressure and importance of producing such components.

Fast forward nearly 30 years and Rob not only has excelled at making those engine components but he has been successful in transforming A-Line into one of Canada’s most specialized aerospace machining companies. Since then A-Line has grown from a mere few employees, including Rob himself, to over 30 employees with 5 buildings on 30,000 square feet worth of property and a battery of over fifty highly specialized machines.

These machines include CNC Turning Centers, CNC Water Jets, Wire EDMs, CMMs, Sink EDMs and 5 Axis Haas Mills.

A-Line’s highly trained team together with its computerized machines is what allows them to produce critical components for some of the world’s most advanced aerospace and defence OEMs.

Apache Helicopter

COMPONENTS FOR APACHE HELICOPTER

Since turning its attention to the defence customer, A-Line has been contracted to produce components for some of the most sophisticated aerospace platforms such as the Apache helicopter, F117 Nighthawk, F-18 fighter aircraft and an array of Satellites and Anti Submarine Warfare equipment.

Some of the components that A-Line works on can take hundreds of hours worth of machining to perfect and this is especially true of the satellite components. Satellite components have provided Muru with a significant learning and skills building exercise as these are some of the most difficult parts to manufacture.

Its battery of precision machining equipment notwithstanding, “down-time” is not something A-Line is familiar with. Depending on the project, the company will run their machines 24 hours a day to meet its client’s deadlines. As Rob told CDR, “If you want to get something done quick, you don’t go to a big shop”. With project lead times ranging from two weeks to 24 hours in some instances, A-Line’s team must be ready to meet the challenges associated with component design problems, which often requires them to bridge the gap between engineers and program managers.

GOING THE EXTRA MILE FOR THE CUSTOMER

As in most industries, advanced technology and a great team is not enough to differentiate a company from its competitor.

In order to qualify as a viable contractor for the aerospace projects they work on, A-Line has acquired certification from AS9100, a widely adopted and standardized quality management system for the aerospace industry, as well as National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program (NADCAP). Both of these certifications have allowed A-Line to enter this niche market of aerospace component manufacturing – a market where they have since thrived. Rob Muru affectionately applies the appellation, a “Boutique manufacturer of defence products” to what his company does.

A-Line’s other OEM customers include MDA, Honeywell, Boeing, Magellan, L-3, ComDev and the U.S and Italian Navies to name just a few – not bad for a small machine shop in downtown Toronto. But, with an array of clients such as this, it’s clear that A-Line is not merely an offset option for Canadian contracts but rather, it’s clearly a leader in its field. Having been in business for all these years Rob Muru credits his company’s long history to its ability to weather the ups and downs and vicissitudes of a fickle industry.

Just this year, Muru correctly predicted that aerospace manufacturing would downshift in 2016 and accordingly he has made the necessary adjustments. It’s just another example of why we think this innovative SME will continue to thrive and grow in a highly competitive aerospace and defence market. A-Line is certainly a company to watch in the years ahead.

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