In an industry as exacting as aerospace, there’s no room for gaps, and Ontario-based Shimco has made a business out of filling them.

Founded in Markham, Ontario in 1985, Shimco is the only company of its kind in Canada—and one of only about 12 in the world—producing small precision parts for the aerospace industry. Its product line includes solid, laminated, edge-bonded and tapered shims and spacers. These are used by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Tier 1 suppliers to fill small gaps between aircraft parts—not unlike the wooden shims used by carpenters to level surfaces.

An image of some of Shimco’s colourful shims.
Shimco's shims.

From Ontario to the World

An image of example of one of Shimco's small, chrome aerospace parts.
An example of one of Shimco's small aerospace parts.

Shimco’s parts are created in small batches to precise customer specifications, using state-of-the-art milling machines and horizontal lathes. The company’s customers include most of the world’s large aircraft manufacturers and suppliers, including Airbus, Bell Helicopter, Boeing, Bombardier, Embraer, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and SPP Canada.

Since 2011, Shimco’s business has more than doubled. The company has deliberately sharpened its global aerospace focus while concentrating on improving efficiencies, strengthening talent, and introducing automation and modern IT solutions, including enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

Peter Voss, the company’s president and CEO, says that 99% of Shimco’s business is now attributed to aerospace-related sales, up from 65% just five years ago.

Targeted Growth in Canada’s Technology Triangle

Shimco’s success saw the company outgrow its former Markham facility and relocate to Cambridge, Ontario in February 2016. In keeping with its new home in what’s often referred to as Canada’s Technology Triangle, Shimco’s 25,000 sq. ft facility is cutting edge, incorporating lean manufacturing principles, new robotic and digital equipment, and ERP-IT integration. The company aims to realize a net productivity gain of 100% within one year.

“Shimco will benefit from the pool of hands-on, educated workers” says Voss. The Technology Triangle encompasses close to 1,000 companies that generate $30 billion in combined annual revenues. In fact, the company has already filled a number of positions at its new location.

Shimco has also participated in employee training programs provided through the Canada-Ontario Job Grant, which assists companies with the cost of upgrading employee skills.

A black and white image of one of Shimco’s advanced machines.
Shimco's advanced machinery in action.

Innovative Global Partnerships

At the 2015 Paris Air Show, Shimco signed an agreement with Keronite—the British developer of an environmentally friendly, electro-chemical surface treatment for light alloys—with the goal of combining the two companies’ expertise to create next-gen “green” shims for aerospace applications. The Keronite treatment shows tremendous potential as a clean alternative to the traditional and toxic anodizing process for aluminum, magnesium and titanium.

The agreement, which gives Shimco commercial worldwide rights to anything that requires a Keronite coating on a shim, space or washer, has attracted the attention of a major aerospace OEM [whose name couldn’t be revealed at the time of writing].

The OEM is looking to partner with Shimco in the creation of a Centre of Excellence, which will develop additive manufacturing and advanced coatings, primarily for the aerospace market. Initially, the focus will be on Keronite applications, with other research projects to follow. The plan is to add an additional 30,000 sq. ft to Shimco’s new Cambridge facility, with the entire second floor dedicated to the Centre of Excellence.

Industry and Academia Unite

The proposed plan would not only see the OEM invest in the centre, but also partner with a number of Ontario universities, including the University of Waterloo, University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and McMaster University. Its administration and research will also be supported by Ontario Centres of Excellence, the Consortium for Aerospace Research and Innovation in Canada (CARIC), and the Green Aviation Research and Development Network (GARDN).

“The universities are looking for somewhere to do some of their own research in a real manufacturing environment,” explains Voss. “We intend to provide that service to them, and others.” The OEM intends to assign other R&D projects to the centre, to tap into Ontario’s world class academic and research talent. Together, the collaborators will create an innovation powerhouse for the development of cutting edge, environmentally friendly aerospace technologies.

An artists' rendition of Shimco's new Centre of Excellence facility in Cambridge, Ontario.
Artists' rendition of Shimco’s new Centre of Excellence in Cambridge, Ontario.

Meanwhile, Voss says Shimco will continue to pursue international growth through attendance at major trade shows, partnering with the Ontario government on foreign business development, and working with the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service.

“This type of [government] support for global expansion is invaluable to our success,” concludes Voss.

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