Aerospace partnership celebrated
A crowd of more than 200 came out to Muskogee Technology’s open house Friday, April 24, to celebrate the partnership it has established with GKN Aerospace. City, state and local government officials, economic developers and educational institution leaders were given tours of the flagship manufacturing plant and the new heavy fabrication facility, Muskogee Technology North, both in Atmore, Ala.
“The reason we are gathered here today is to unveil to the general public the transformation that has happened here at Muskogee Technology,” said James T. Martin, CEO of Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority.
Many public figures spoke during a special presentation.
“Without companies like Muskogee Technology and GKN, we would not be able to do what we do in the state,” Deputy Secretary of Commerce Angela Till said. “We look at new industries … and everybody gets excited over those, but actually it’s our existing industries in the state that is the backbone of our economy.”
GKN’s top officials also spoke at the event.
“Muskogee Technology delivers quality parts to the very first private jet ever made of carbon fiber, and this is just the start of a journey,” President and CEO of GKN Aerostructures North America Daniele Cagnetel said.
“I was very excited to see the facilities here, and when … I was introduced to a member of staff, and the first thing she told me was, ‘You know, I love my job.’ That’s the true fiber that makes Alabama successful and makes this place successful and will keep them (MT) growing.”
Vice President and General Manager of GKN Aerospace North America Jeff Barger said he was impressed with Muskogee Technology from the beginning.
“The quality of the parts and the on-time delivery has been exceptional.”
Also on hand were members of the Tribal Council of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
“We know the importance of building relationships with companies, as shown in our partnership with GKN, and how opportunities for businesses creates jobs for the state of Alabama,” Tribal Chair Stephanie A. Bryan said.
Tribal Vice Chair Robert McGhee spoke of the history of the tribe and how the partnership with GKN is meaningful.
“I love the fact that GKN’s own facility in Tallassee, Ala., are on the lands that once was Creek Indian lands of Tukabatchee,” McGhee said.
“Poarch is a family; it is our family. So our business ventures, all of them, are deeply personal to us. These enterprises create jobs and economic security for us and for our neighbors, and that is critically important now and years to come.”
Muskogee Technology expands to accommodate new machines
What do you do when you have huge machines and equipment but do not have a facility large enough to house them? As the old adage goes, “build it and they will come.”
That is exactly what Muskogee Technology in Atmore, Ala., has done. In July 2014, the need for expansion was obvious when the Poarch Creek-owned company started receiving heavy fabrication contracts, which required a new brake press machine so big they are literally erecting a building around them. Thus, MT North was born.
“By having this machine in-house, it allows us to eliminate the cost of going outside the company and is a lot faster for us to do ourselves” instead of sending products off to be finished, said Accounting Manager Lou Roberts.
After purchasing the old Brantley’s Tires building on North Main Street, part of the building was torn down to make room for the machine in its 12,000-square-foot space. Roberts said the machine is on order and will be arriving within a few weeks. After arrival and placement on the recently poured foundation, it will take another couple of weeks to build the building.
“The brake press is AB 600-14, which allows for a 600-ton capacity and has a 14-foot bed,” said Procurement Officer Wes Woodruff.
According to Jeff Nelson, Muskogee Technology plant manager, the equipment forms sheet metal and will allow the company to better fabricate steel parts for its customers, which include Caterpillar, Gardner Denver, Siemens and others.
MT North also has a new plasma cutter. This machine will cut up to 6 inches of carbon steel and is more efficient than the water jets used at the south end facility.
The plasma cutter is an HPR 400 machine, which uses a special technology for cutting metal to create extreme and lasting results.
Muskogee Technology North opened in August 2014 and already churns out tons of parts using the plasma cutting machine, straightening presses and heavy welding areas to make FRAC pumps and wind turbine tooling. The company prides itself on 100 percent on-time delivery and responsiveness in creating and manufacturing high-quality products and by implementing government-needed services with precision.
Capitalizing on its state-of-the-art software, Muskogee Technology demonstrates its professionalism and accuracy on doing things right the first time and every time. Muskogee Tech measures its success by making sure its customers are satisfied and get supreme products that are set to high standards.
Massive freezer creates big opportunities for Muskogee Technology
Business is booming at Muskogee Technology, and the reasons behind it are recent additions to the facilities in Atmore. Partnering with GKN Aerospace gave Muskogee Technology opportunities to work with quality customers and produce quality parts. The company utilized the space it has by expanding its abilities to manufacture at a higher level, building an industrial freezer and adding a cleanroom to produce parts.
Muskogee Technology began building the freezer in 2013 and started housing composite materials it purchased from GKN in May 2014. Since then, a cleanroom has been installed and four cutting machines were brought in to cut the material for GKN and its customers.
Those parts are made out of what is called prepreg composites, which made the freezer at Muskogee Technology necessary for complete operation. Prepreg is a temperature-sensitive material and must be stored at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or colder to prolong its shelf life. At Muskogee Technology, the freezer is kept between 0 and -5 degrees Fahrenheit, said Mal McGhee, director of marketing for Muskogee Tech. The shelf life of inventory kept in the freezer is about two years.
MT makes parts for various aircraft, engine inlets and other commercial components, such as rotor blades and assembly structures. Having a freezer in-house allows the company to work more efficiently and have better access to the material.
“When it’s thawed out, the material is in a roll of fabric, kind of like vinyl,” McGhee said. “It is then laid down on cutting machines and they cut the material using computerized knife cutting software.”
Muskogee Technology has been working with GKN for a couple of years, McGhee said. With the addition of the freezer and cleanroom cutting machines, the company now has the ability to mass produce products for its customers.
New cleanroom expands Muskogee Tech’s composite capabilities
Muskogee Technology has received the next certification in its steps to become a leading company in the aerospace industry. The company previously was certified on the industrial freezers it constructed to house composite fibers.
On Feb. 11, Muskogee Tech achieved its quality certification from GKN Aerospace on the new cleanroom MT has installed to produce parts for its GKN contract, including making parts for its customers. This certification allows Muskogee Tech to go into full production cutting composite material for GKN, a global engineering group.
Four new Eastman cutter machines have been installed in the cleanroom, which is an almost perfect environmental room consisting of the lowest levels of pollutants possible. By controlling the level of contamination, the cleanroom provides the most sterile of conditions for manufacturing excellence.
Muskogee Tech now will be able to perform at its highest level, making this certification a milestone for the company.
“This is the next step in our partnership agreement with GKN,” said Lou Roberts, accounting manager at Muskogee Technology. Roberts said the company first purchased inventory in a consignment agreement for production, then completed the industrial freezers to house the inventory internally. Now, with this certification in place, Muskogee Technology becomes a qualified vendor to perform the necessary tasks for even larger manufacturing work in the aerospace industry.
What that means for the GKN contract, Roberts said, is “to take a portion of that inventory, take it out for (GKN’s) customer, and cut it into kits to send back to GKN in Tallassee (Ala.), who will take those kits and put them into the form of a fuselage (the main body of an aircraft).”
The kits are designed in halves, the right side and the left side, and will be fitted into molds to make a complete fuselage, which will be baked in an autoclave oven, using the pre-fabricated materials from the freezer, until it becomes hard.
With this new endeavor comes the opportunity for more jobs. Roberts said about 10 new people will be employed to run the machines and about three or four others will further increase their responsibilities at Muskogee Tech.
“It’s a whole new operation we’ve never done (before) … it’s a whole new kind of quality function our quality team has not been exposed to,” Roberts said. “Although we are in the aerospace industry, we haven’t been into full-blown airplane construction” until now.