“1-D bending involves the bending of incredibly thin tubes, which traditionally had been perceived as not strong enough for use in engine construction. Yet, our adaptation strengthens the tube and ensures that it will not deteriorate more quickly than the rest of the engine.”
Can you introduce Proform to our readers, and its offering to the aerospace industry in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and further afield?
We have been working in the aerospace industry for over 35 years, and it represents around 25% of our turnover, from customers primarily in France, but also the US, the UK, Belgium and Brazil. We work mainly on long-term contracts with companies such as Airbus, Bombardier, Goodrich Aerospace (UTAS division), Dassault Aviation, Liebherr Aerospace and Sonaca. We have manufacturing sites in France and Tunisia, and most of our aerospace production is currently located in France.
How have you noticed your customers’ attitudes changing over the past few years?
Customers are shifting to work with bigger suppliers because they can integrate more processes more easily, and so, because we are a middle-sized company, we will have to grow in order to attract these customers. Our relationships with our sub-suppliers will have to change, as our customers are looking for R&D-focused, integrated suppliers, with sub-suppliers involved throughout the entire engineering and design process.
Customers in the aerospace industry are always looking for cost efficiency, not only in terms of saving money on purchasing products, but also in the longer term, taking into consideration factors such as the future energy consumption of those products.
What is the current R&D strategy at Proform?
Our current R&D strategy is to focus on developing truly innovative products that no other company can offer. We are also working on developing some technologies which are widely used in the automotive industry for application in the aerospace industry, for example hydroforming. The aerospace industry has longer qualification procedures for new processes than the automotive industry, but this is changing now, and we are playing a role in that change.
Are there any recent significant case studies of innovative solutions that you have developed?
We have been working in partnership with Tier 1 suppliers to develop 1-D bending techniques, which we have been specialized in for some time. 1-D bending involves the bending of incredibly thin tubes, which traditionally had been perceived as not strong enough for use in engine construction because the engine environment is so severe. Yet, our adaptation strengthens the tube and ensures that it will not deteriorate more quickly than the rest of the engine. We were the only company able to develop a method of bending the material into the very specific shape while increasing the tube’s strength.
What is the strategy for Proform in the coming years?
With the aerospace industry in a production ramp-up phase, we want to capitalize on this opportunity and strengthen our position in the market. We are studying a new strategic plan as part of GIFAS’s “Ambition PME” scheme plan in order to grow the company and make partnerships with others. Finally, we are certain that Proform will be able to meet the production needs of the ramp up phase and meet Tier 1 supplier demand. The most important thing about Proform is that we have no limits; we are pushing ourselves to perform better and provide more innovative solutions every day, and we will continue to do so.