With a manufacturing and supply chain network that spans the U.S. and India, Aerostar’s offering is simple: exemplary engineered components and customer service, and always at a highly competitive price.
As a global manufacturer and supplier of engineered components to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies, OEMs, and Tier 1 companies, Aerostar Manufacturing, from its base in Romulus, Michigan, services a mind-bending array of global industry leaders. These include internationally recognized and admired brands in the automotive, heavy truck, furniture, air handling, elevators, telecommunications, agricultural, electronics, hydraulics, and medical industries, to name a few, along with the hydrogen and electric-vehicle sectors.
Supporting more than 30 manufacturing-partner facilities throughout India via its operations at manufacturing plants in Romulus and Fort Wayne, Indiana, as well as sourcing and supply chain offices in Pune, Bengaluru, and Chennai, India, Aerostar offers extensive capabilities including but not limited to machined castings including gravity die, investment, permanent molds, high-pressure die castings, shell molds, fabrications, gear manufacturing, forgings, stampings, extrusions, and more.
Committed to embracing and developing the latest technology within the industry, Aerostar has seen huge advances since its inception.
“As a machining company operating for 50 years, you’re always exposed to a lot of machining technologies that improve over the years,” says Senior Vice President, Robert Johnson. “We have state-of-the-art machines, and we’re constantly bringing on new equipment year-over-year.”
Some of these innovations include lean principles, Oracle NetSuite ERP/MRP integrated across its manufacturing network, full gate review/APQP product launches, integrated inventory, and supply chain management software that provides real-time risk mitigation. There is also internal “dual-sourcing” with LLC and domestic manufacturing options, customizing supply chain strategies to adapt to customer needs, optical measuring systems/laser systems, high-tolerance CMMs, and project management software integrated online for project timeline and action tracking.
“We’ve always been a full-service company with fully staffed engineering, program management, and quality system departments,” says Johnson. “On the engineering side, we’ve put in technologies like 3D printing machines so we can work with advanced development and speed of launches.”
Aerostar also boasts a plethora of software that it continues to test while implementing the latest CAD and CAM simulation software for machining and assemblies and is installing a new Oracle-based ERP system corporate-wide.
The company has also been leading the development and assembly of commercial EV battery trays for one of the largest diesel engine manufacturers in the world, Johnson adds, applying its combined 100-plus years of manufacturing expertise in the latest light-weighting, commercial applications to support global clients.
“We’ve also built a tech-savvy team domestically and internationally to support our customers in North America and abroad, while transitioning daily projects and all program management tools, from basic Excel to Monday.com, which enables us to build intuitive and customizable dashboards. These make it easy to delegate tasks and track live progress,” he says. “They allow us to handle customers and projects with transparency and efficiency.”
The company has purchased new scanner technology that sustains its levels of world-class quality and is purchasing new wireless gauging technology, as well as additional CNC machines, to support the changes that come with improving technology for cutting metals.
This ongoing commitment to advancing technology has greatly aided the company’s flexibility in serving a wide variety of industries through a highly capable in-house engineering team.
“The bulk of the domestic activities of Aerostar are machining, sub-assembly, and testing work and it goes back many years,” Johnson explains. “We continue to grow domestically in the U.S., and we’ve partnered with one of our large strategic customers to develop sourcing strategies to supplement some products we were once manufacturing domestically.”
Aerostar has also partnered with several suppliers in India to provide engineered components used in assemblies and has continued to develop that business unit to supply sourced product, both internally for its needs and externally to direct customers.
“We have large growth in the engineered components, so all customer contact is through Aerostar engineering-program management, supplier development teams, and quality engineers located in the U.S. here at Aerostar.”
The company’s breadth of core competencies in machining parts in various metals, and their assembly, has led to the acquisition of different clients year-over-year, and to the ability to attract different markets.
“Our engineering team has a vast knowledge of machined and assembled components and can provide instant feedback to customers with design or build needs,” Johnson says. “We have positioned our engineering teams to be in front of the customer, but also in front of our suppliers globally to address all needs. We use the latest software to provide simulations or 3D models of critical components to achieve desired results.”
Additionally, Aerostar’s in-house team of manufacturing, process, and quality engineers combined with its overseas team members in those fields, work hand-in-hand with the supply base to bring the best ideas forward to the ever-growing markets Aerostar serves. “When you can mitigate customer risk while still offering a world-class quality product at a cost-competitive rate, you quickly become your customer’s go-to source for engineered components,” says Johnson.
While, at a glance, the company may be seen from the outside as a CNC machining operation for the automotive sector, Aerostar makes a significant number of component parts for other industries and businesses, including Google, making a fluid connection for servers that feed the global search engine.
In the last two years, Aerostar has seen its prospects transition from those of a $60 million company to a potential $260 million-plus company in the next few years through its active sales funnel, thanks to the acquisition of new leaders and team members, domestically and internationally, to the engineering, quality, and sourcing teams. “Our manufacturing base in India has grown rapidly over the last few years. Our customers are leaving China and asking our network in India to deliver,” Johnson shares.
“Due to our marketing efforts and customer support, our sales funnel has grown year-on-year to provide opportunities we never had before,” he says. “The latest accomplishments have been an award for the commercial EV tray assembly and Toyota Material Handling components for their new electric-powered hi-lo.”
In terms of analyzing a customer’s expectations, the Aerostar team does a great job of helping customers search out the price, quality, delivery details, and everything else they require, while also understanding and taking into account their tolerance for risk, and putting together custom solutions that satisfies their requirements.
“That may be a domestically sourced product or a dual-source product,” says Johnson. “We do a lot of internal dual-sourcing where we’ll manage low-cost country options, put an internal manufacturing supply chain strategy on top of that, and cover a lot of risk.”
Regarding expansion of the company’s facilities, Aerostar has recently opened its doors to a state-of-the-art, 54,000-square-foot light manufacturing and warehousing facility housing multiple assembly lines for critical fuel delivery systems, with plans to support newly-awarded programs launching this year and for the next five-plus years. The warehousing infrastructure includes a floor wire guidance system that enables the company to have automated self-guided lift-and-carry-and-deliver equipment.
“We’ve also implemented one of the top warehouse management systems in Oracle—NetSuite—to help manage the flow and tracking of inventory,” Johnson says. “In our existing manufacturing facility, we’ve reviewed all production equipment and processes to ensure we have the best running equipment and we continue to eliminate older equipment to make space for new, efficient, and more automated systems.”
Aerostar has also recently expanded into a third office in India with high-quality engineering and sourcing capabilities to manage its growing manufacturing activity.
Along with these advances, the company has faced some challenges that, fortunately, it has handled admirably. Producing world-class products while emphasizing globally competitive pricing is for experts, and requires the continual focused development of a worldwide, world-class team.
“The manufacturing industry is one of the oldest industries in the world,” says Johnson. “People come and go every day in search of their own personal goals and accomplishments. COVID may have stretched many companies and people’s will to work face-to-face with others or even in an office environment, but we know we can’t get product designed or manufactured, improve processes, and enforce them without good people working together side by side.”
Company milestones include an impressive history with its present owners and 15 years of a successful internship program with more than 100 interns leading to 25 percent direct hires from various schools.
“We work with a lot of the local colleges and universities: Henry Ford Community College, Wayne State, Eastern Michigan, as well as the University of Michigan, and we currently have somewhere between 20 and 25 percent on staff that have been hired direct,” Johnson shares.
Looking forward, the company has dedicated its resources to achieving sales goals by continuing to expand its customer portfolio and establishing KPIs and a solid marketing plan to drive sales higher, which will require Aerostar to muscle up its sales team.
“Our focus is to become a name that is synonymous with manufacturing engineered components,” says Johnson. “To become a global leader in the manufacture of engineered components and be our customers’ select supplier and ‘go-to’ choice for supply chain management.”
Aerostar also has an advantage over similar companies with its ability to provide full customer service from sales staff to product development team, and truly considers its staff to be a part of the family. “We have people who care,” says Johnson. “They care about the company, the customers, and above all, the quality of workmanship when it comes to their jobs.”
With a leadership team that enthusiastically embraces meeting customers’ requirements and expectations, as well as its lodestar of the highest quality at a competitive price, Aerostar has a rich and fulfilling future to look forward to.
“We were a smaller company, and we’ve continued to grow, and now we’re becoming a larger company but we’ve not lost that small company feel,” Johnson says. “We’re very customer-focused. Everyone who works here is part of the family and we know everyone’s story, and we know everyone’s family. It’s a good journey we’re on.”