TransDigm, AdelWiggins, & The Aerospace Aftermarket | In Practise

TransDigm, AdelWiggins, & The Aerospace Aftermarket

Former President at Transdigm

Why is this interview interesting?

  • History of Adel Clamps and Wiggins Connectors
  • How TransDigm innovates and creates new business lines
  • How Boeing redrafted commercial aftermarket contracts for the 787
  • How TransDigm looks at switching costs
  • Challenges to aftermarket pricing on new platforms
  • Outlook on aftermarket growth

Executive Bio

Brady Fitzpatrick

Former President at Transdigm

Brady has over 32 years of aerospace experience and is a Former President at TransDigm. He joined as Director of Operations at Adel Wiggins where he was responsible for the LA facility before being promoted to President of the division with full P&L responsibilities. Brady then joined Zodiac to run a Cabin facility and he now works at Senior Aerospace. Prior to Transdigm, Brady had roles running facilities at Honeywell and Moog.Read more

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Interview Transcript

Disclaimer: This interview is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. In Practise is an independent publisher and all opinions expressed by guests are solely their own opinions and do not reflect the opinion of In Practise.

Brady can you provide a short introduction to your background please?

I have been in aerospace for a little over 30 years. I began in engineering, working for systems integrators and companies like Honeywell, then transitioned to Moog doing very intricate critical flight control systems, so understanding aircraft operations was critical. I moved around within Moog and ended up running one of their special processing facilities midway through my career. Moog acquired a vertically integrated facility in Torrance which had everything from heat treat and special processing to non-destructive testing.

I got good exposure to that piece of the business which was hard work. We expanded that business to include processing for all worldwide Moog facilities. We upgraded and automated it and would receive weekly shipments from rural New York or Baguio City, Philippines. We would do the special processing as a cost center, then ship it back. I completed my Master’s in Business when I was there and shortly thereafter went to work for TransDigm as the director of operations for one of their facilities in Los Angeles.

TransDigm focus on component suppliers, who are lower on the radar than system integrators. I spent two years as a director of ops, then became president at AdelWiggins in Los Angeles. I was in that role for eight years, then made a work life balance change by taking a role with Zodiac, which was an old Heath Tecna facility in Bellingham, Washington. I wanted to get out of LA and quit commuting, so moved up there. It was a turnaround situation so it was tough for the first few years, but good aftermarket business which was under leveraged.

I was able to use some of the skills I learned at TransDigm to expand the value in the five years I was there. The first year I was there we lost almost 30 million and when I left, we were making 15% EBITDA. It was one of the better cabin facilities within Safran who acquired it three and a half years ago. I then transitioned to Senior during the pandemic when Safran began making organizational changes due to wanting their decision making to be centralized. At Senior, I did large monolithic products for Boeing in the sub-tiers and the Japanese heavies. That is my background in a nutshell up to the current state.

Can you briefly describe AdelWiggins' business at TransDigm in terms of the products, employee count and revenue when you joined?

When TransDigm started, the founders Doug Peacock and Nick Howley acquired four businesses; Adel Fasteners, Wiggins Connectors, Aero Products and Controlex which were small component aerospace businesses at the time. Their first move, post-acquisition, was to merge them into two and reduce the management structure. AdelWiggins was formed in the mid-90s and was based out of Los Angeles. Wiggins Connectors are fluid connectors for aircraft – mostly under the floor of the aircraft – for waste, water, potable water, pneumatics and air conditioning vents. These are flexible fluid connectors, fuel systems and some hydraulics, combining all the tubing in the wall of the aircraft. The other project was Adel Clamps which is primarily vibration damping, clamps and P-clamps. There are literally tens of thousands of them in every aircraft and they hold every wire bundle and pneumatic line in the fuselage. It allows them to vibrate without shaking the wiring and the casing. Those were the two primary products at AdelWiggins. They also had special connectors with military quick disconnects and some refueling products.

Is it all commercial aircraft or were there also military uses?

No; it was 55% commercial and 45% military.

And mainly aftermarket or also some OEM mix?

It was both; direct OEM sales with Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier and Embraer but there was also a strong aftermarket segment. The wire metal clamps were sold directly to the clients on the fuselage side but the engines also used numerous clamps, so we had direct sales into Snecma, GE and Pratt.

Adel was formed in the 1930s, Wiggins in the 1920s; how are these businesses so durable?

The architecture of aircraft systems has not changed much and both Wiggins Connectors and Adel had a reputation in the industry with very innovative products. They continue to innovate, mostly to reduce touch labor at the OEMs. Many times, the old threaded fluid connectors took several minutes to join a certain pipe fitting and then there was also an electrical jumper for moving any static electricity from one section of the pipe to another.

They made a clam shell quick connection which included grounding in the body. They kept innovating and leveraged their brand name in the industry. They had close relationships with both the OEMs and engineers. When Boeing designed a new aircraft, our engineers were always there helping develop new fluid and hydraulic subsystems. The Adel side has a simple fastener, but they introduced an elastomeric vibration dampening cushion material which goes around the P-clamp. It had to be durable because it was located in horrible environments of fuel, oil and direct sunlight.

You had to stay close to the air framers, engineers and new platforms to ensure you were first in mind for Boeing and Airbus when they did new platforms?

Yes, absolutely, and we continue to foster great working relations between key engineers at OEMs who design subsystems and run into problems. They would contact our chief engineer. We would send people up there to work with them closely. You need to be at the table when they are first sketching out a new aircraft and at various forums and meetings. We always ensured we had people on SAE committees in discussions with the FAA. It is key to be intimate with the customer at that level, from engineer to engineer type of sales process.

Do you see any risk of TransDigm operating companies losing that innovativeness working with air framers on OE platforms?

No, and when I was there, they were keen on maintaining that. They understood the power of that and continue to foster that as part of their third value driver of profitability. If you look at TransDigm's P&L they do not spend a ton of money on R&D. They ensure they have a sponsor and an OEM to do the R&D work. As a result, their hit rate is very high as a percentage compared to many companies.

Does the aftermarket pricing strategy add any tension to that relationship with the OE for new platforms?

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TransDigm, AdelWiggins, & The Aerospace Aftermarket

August 16, 2021

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