Automation is one of the top machine requirements for Canada’s Koss Aerospace, a Tier 1 manufacturer of commercial aerospace and defense structural aircraft components and assemblies. Management at Koss Aerospace knows that precise machining on a large and small scale can win the confidence of major aircraft producers, so the company uses 5-axis machining centers from German machine builder Handtmann A-Punkt Automation for high-speed aluminum machining.

Koss Aerospace provides complete, integrated components through high-speed multi-axis machining, assemblies, kitting, and metal finishing. The company manufactures ribs, spars, floors, cross beams, and seat tracks for commercial, business, and defense aircraft. Machining capabilities range from small, 3-axis to large, complex 5-axis components up to 10ft long. Major aerospace OEMs such as Bombardier, Boeing, Airbus, and Gulfstream partner with Koss Aerospace.

“We are well diversified in our customer base,” says Alexander D. Cajic, vice president of business development. “Having a balance of aircraft programs keeps us less susceptible to economic downturns. Our objective is to become the partner of choice to leading aircraft manufacturers.”

Continuous improvement

To optimize efficiency, manage cost, and achieve the quality needed to compete successfully in aerospace, Koss uses advanced software to track and measure almost all aspects of the manufacturing cycle, using real-time data such as downtime, time per part, or amount of parts per year. Koss also established a program management team and a plan to fulfill the 90% to 100% on-time delivery mandate of OEMs.

To improve efficiencies and prevent delays, Koss Aerospace uses several key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate quality, delivery performance, and productivity. Weekly meetings and a flexible team contribute to the successful process.

“There are three outstanding features that make Koss Aerospace one of the leading companies in the sector: Koss’ vertical integration is a competitive advantage that not many companies have. Koss Aerospace provides a complete manufacturing solution. Superior quality and service ensure company growth. Additionally, superior technology such as automation ensures productivity for the future,” Cajic adds.

Investing for growth

In the past five years, Koss Aerospace has invested about $10 million on technology, including automation. In 2014, Koss Aerospace needed a machine to fit into a 352" space – including pallet system – with no compromise in machine envelope size or performance. Handtmann offered its HBZ CompactCell 200/100 horizontal machining center, which met the requirements for size, automation, efficiency, fast cycle times, and high material removal rates. Koss Aerospace ordered two of these 5-axis horizontal machining centers, each equipped with automated pallet systems with eight pallets and a 2,000mm x 1,000mm table. An additional pallet rack holds six pallets. Each pallet is individually controlled, and the entire automation system requires one operator. Setup is performed on one pallet while another pallet is in the machine, reducing non-productive time. Since machine setup accounts for 20% of total manufacturing costs, having a pair of machines with the same programs and tools leads to maximum utilization.

“Handtmann machines and automation truly revolutionized our production facility. It gave us the productivity and efficiency to compete against much larger Tier 1 companies,” Cajic says. “Handtmann machines have physical advantages such as high material removal rates, efficiency, and accuracy.”

According to Cajic, 80% of parts Koss manufactures are made of aluminum, the company’s core competency material. “The flexibility of the machining centers allows for the machining of various aluminum parts on one machine type,” Cajic adds.

Machinist Ljubisa Bodiroga, who operates two Handtmann machines, commends the machines’ speed and alerts.
A machinist’s point-of-view

Ljubisa Bodiroga, a machinist who has worked for Koss Aerospace for five years, says, “The speed of the Handtmann machines is one of the main competitive advantages.”

Safety programs are an integral part of a machine. Bodiroga adds that if there is a problem, “My machine is so smart, it stops, and it says you have an issue with the program.”

The Handtmann machines are the only ones at Koss Aerospace that have these alarms. Bodiroga is satisfied with the cooperation between Handtmann and Koss Aerospace and he is glad to have Handtmann available for support such as preventive maintenance. Koss produces in three shifts, so machine reliability and service support are crucial.

Looking forward

“High material removal rates and a minimum of two pallets as well as automation integrated in the machine are a must-have for Koss Aerospace,” Cajic explains. “The trend to increase quality, improve workflows, and reduce costs on any strategic approach should include automated solutions. We’re looking to incorporate automation for efficiency so we can compete globally.”

For added production capacity and to react to short-term modifications of customer orders, Cajic adds that “Koss Aerospace plans to invest in new machinery and sophisticated technological products from Handtmann in the near future.”

Handtmann CNC Technologies Inc.

Koss Aerospace

About the author: Nicole Pfaff is a student intern in international business for Handtmann A-Punkt. Its U.S. subsidiary in East Dundee, Illinois, can be reached at or 847.844.3300. Handtmann’s Canadian agent is Cahmac Int’l Machinery Inc.,