The Manufacturer MX Awards 2022 People & Skills award winner LISI AEROSPACE puts its people at the heart of the business. The Manufacturer’s Lanna Deamer paid this forward-thinking company a visit to find out more
Are you a nervous flyer? I’ve been there. After watching one too many disaster movies, the thought of boarding a plane can be terrifying. But let me tell you, a visit to LISI AEROSPACE will change everything. As I toured their facilities and saw the level of detail and care that goes into the production of every component and fastener, I felt my anxiety melt away. These aren’t just any parts; they’re rigorously tested and inspected to ensure that they meet the highest safety standards.
Watching the engineers at LISI AEROSPACE meticulously craft each piece with precision and care, I felt a newfound appreciation for the technology that allows us to soar through the sky. Not to mention the fact that I can indulge my passion for travel with multiple holidays a year – a fact my colleagues on The Manufacturer podcast like to rib me about.
But in all seriousness, witnessing the level of expertise that goes into every component and fastener, it’s clear that LISI AEROSPACE takes no chances when it comes to safety.
So next time you’re feeling nervous about taking a flight, remember the level of dedication that goes into each and every component. A visit to LISI AEROSPACE will put your mind at ease and leave you feeling confident that you’re in good hands.
At the start of March, my very own personal chauffer (otherwise known as Tom St John) and I headed up for a string of factory visits in and around the Midlands, a key hub for UK manufacturing. We started off the week with a visit to LISI AEROSPACE.
A rather long safety video was our first point of call before moving on to be kitted out in some glamorous safety gear. This was probably the most PPE I’ve ever had to wear on a tour before, from big clown shoes… (sorry I mean safety shoes), to protective glasses and some classic manufacturing earplugs that kept falling out of my ears every two seconds, I was wearing the full works and ready to go!
A little bit of history
Part of the LISI global industrial group, LISI AEROSPACE is a worldwide manufacturer of assembly solutions, as well as engine and structural components used in aircrafts and has been present in the aerospace industry since 1977. The company’s products feature in the majority of the world’s aircraft and at every stage in their lifecycles. Serving more than 300 customers in 30 countries, the LISI teams excel through its capacity to innovate and ensure operational performance.
From watches and screws to nuts and bolts, the LISI Group has adapted to the needs of its customers for more than two centuries. This capacity enabled the company to benefit from the rise of the auto industry in the 1960s, and then that of the aerospace industry the following decade. The complementary activities of the Kohler, Viellard and Japy families led to the creation of a world-leading manufacturer in niche sectors.
LISI AEROSPACE make fasteners for the airframes which hold together the skeleton of the aircraft. The fasteners range in size from around four millimetres to 25mm in diameter, so the product can be either really small or quite large depending on the application. LISI’s fasteners could be holding together a fine structure on the wing of an aircraft or even holding an engine in place. The company predominantly serves commercial aircraft, working with the likes of Airbus, Boeing, EMBRAER, Bombardier, ROLLS ROYCE, UTC, SNECMA, GEAE, etc.
The company’s product line covers standard and specific aeronautic fastener solutions, locking solutions like latches and expandable bolts, as well as a broad array of interior fasteners. If needed, LISI AEROSPACE also develop and supply the associated tools. The company’s innovation ensures its products evolve to meet the changing constraints of the aerospace industry: assembly cycles, conductivity of composite structures and installation noise are some of the challenges it works to overcome by improving its products.
The company speaks about its four core values in its DNA:
- Customer focus
These values were really brought to the forefront whilst touring the shop floor. LISI AEROSPACE won the People & Skills category at last year’s The Manufacturer MX Awards and I asked Mark Capell, General Manager of the Rugby site, what’s been the secret at LISI. He explained: “When my predecessor retired along with around 60% of the previous management team, I took over as General Manager in January 2020. It’s fair to say that the old management style was ‘old school’ with elements of ‘them and us’. We have worked hard to change the factory culture and improve collaboration and communication with the workforce. By March of that year, the pandemic had all but stopped the aerospace industry and I was still in the middle of rebuilding the team.
“Through some internal promotions and external hires – all selected for team fit rather than specific experience – the team was complete by mid-2020 and everything and everyone seemed to click into place. It was Kirstie Kennedy’s first management role in HR and our new Financial Controller, Sandra Tomes, brought a level of collaboration with manufacturing we had never seen before. In October 2020, we officially started our smart factory project with support from the AMRC and funding from Innovate UK.
“Ondrej Polak built his Process Development department from the ground up to grow the skills we needed. We completely re-thought our training programme for the internal recruits for the smart factory roles to increase engagement, bridge the digital skills gap and provide exciting career paths for the early adopters in the workforce.
“We achieved Investors in People Gold standard, something I thought was crazy to do in the middle of the pandemic, but it highlighted Kirstie’s drive, ambition and belief in the team. We also implemented a CSR programme which, in addition to supporting multiple charities and holding various fundraising events, included a wellbeing programme with champions to support the workforce through the challenging times of the pandemic, furlough and beyond. We held wellbeing weeks and health screening which literally saved the life of one of our team who was diagnosed, and subsequently successfully treated, for cancer following his test results.
“We have built partnerships with the University of Sheffield AMRC, University of Cambridge IfM, University of Birmingham’s organisational behaviour department and the De Montfort University Engineering department.
“We have implemented an apprentice programme, partnering with the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) for our maintenance apprentices plus recruited apprentices in IT, HR and finance as well as L6 apprentices in the Process Development department to build the software and data analytics skills needed to support the roll out of our smart factory. As part of the apprentice programme, we are members of the Make UK Nextgen Makers programme.
“Everything the judges saw on the assessment for The Manufacturer MX Awards had been created by the new team in the previous two years. And everything we have achieved as a team has been done because we believed it was the right thing to do and to create an environment that everyone wanted to be a part of. We didn’t do it to win an award – but it was an amazing feeling when we did as it proved that we are on the right track!”
Attracting skills has been a huge challenge within the manufacturing sector for years. LISI AEROSPACE was not immune to these issues, as Mark explained: “We’ve worked hard to engage in the local community to get our name out there; we’ve sponsored local teams, got involved in local charity events and raised our profile.
“We’re seeing a steady flow of good quality candidates coming through the door. But the other side of the coin is getting the younger generation into the factory. We know that manufacturing has had a bit of an identity crisis, perhaps not with the younger generation but their parents. We’re engaging with the local schools and colleges to break through those preconceived ideas that teachers and parents might have had previously.”
Kirstie Kennedy, HR Manager at LISI AEROSPACE explained how the company’s apprenticeship programme began several years ago and the team have been honing it ever since to ensure it best meets the company’s needs, and those of its apprentices and the aerospace industry as a whole.
“When I first joined the company, the apprentice programme wasn’t fit for purpose as it was mainly for production operator roles. We decided it needed enhancing so we spent a lot of time making sure that we were looking at the right skills needed for the future of the business. There has been a lot of work behind the scenes getting the programme to where it is today because we looked at a range of disciplines from across the business, from maintenance engineers, data analysts to HR and accounts functions – we made it a priority to look at every department, highlighting how important they are to our business.
“At LISI AEROSPACE, we’re very big on recognising talent, in particular people’s attitudes. If a person’s attitude is right and they are a good fit within our team, we can teach them the skills to be successful. That’s why we offer apprenticeships to existing employees who show potential and perhaps want to upskill in different areas.”
In terms of encouraging more young people to consider a career in manufacturing, the company recently held an open day for National Apprenticeship Week 2023. It was an opportunity for local school children and their parents to come along and learn more about what the company does and what it’s like to work there. One of the most important aspects of the day for LISI AEROSPACE was to highlight how the reality of modern manufacturing facilities are far removed from what most people imagine.
A significant issue encountered while collaborating with schools and parents is their persistent belief that manufacturing is a grimy and unpleasant setting, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The manufacturing sector has advanced technology that is awe-inspiring and relevant to what many children engage in during their leisure time, such as playing games with VR headsets. Manufacturers have the opportunity to harness this technology for the benefit of factories and the future generation of engineers.
LISI AEROSPACE also recently attended an event at the nearby MTC where the team got the opportunity to speak with more than 100 young people to raise awareness about apprenticeship opportunities, how it is a great way to kick-start a successful career and how manufacturing has changed significantly over the years, to become a leader in developing new technologies and talent. Finally, the company is also getting involved with an Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education Trailblazer Group to help develop a cold forming apprenticeship alongside other employers from the industry.
It’s not just about attracting talent though. Kirstie explained that to retain existing talent, manufacturers need to be one step ahead. She said: “Looking at the benefit package for example, we’ve just bought in an electric car scheme which isn’t just a perk for senior staff but everyone in the business.
“Companies need to be more active in their local communities and get their name known among the future generations. We appointed an in-house STEM ambassador to bang the drum for us at the many school and career events. A big challenge is that a lot of people don’t know what we do here at LISI, so we’ve been working hard to be present on all social media platforms, sharing what we’re up to.”
As I walked around the LISI’s Rugby site, one employee benefit caught my attention. Sure, an electric car scheme sounds pretty impressive, but in today’s world where the cost of living is skyrocketing, a company that prioritises your mental health and wellbeing is truly invaluable.
That’s where Paul Watts, Production Operator, comes in. He’s been a wellbeing coach for two years now and when he first heard about the opportunity, he knew he had to get involved. As someone who could have used a wellbeing coach in the past, Paul understood the importance of having someone to talk to or even just listen. And the fact that LISI has a dedicated wellbeing team speaks volumes about the company culture.
Paul said: “Under Mark Capell’s leadership, employees feel secure and valued, knowing that their mental health is a top priority. The wellbeing room is a testament to this commitment. It’s a private and peaceful space where employees can come to unwind and talk to someone in confidence.”
And Paul’s dedication to the cause is clear, balancing his day job on the shop floor with his passion for mental health and wellbeing. He continued: “It’s not just a nice-to-have perk. Employers can’t expect their staff to perform at their best if their mental health is suffering. But with a company that understands and listens to their problems, employees feel a stronger connection to the company and are willing to go the extra mile.”
At LISI, the focus is not just on building great products for the aerospace industry, but also on building great people. And that’s something truly special.
Watch the video of our recent visit here.
- A company that prioritises your mental health and wellbeing is truly invaluable.
- Working to change the factory culture and improve collaboration and communication with the workforce goes a long way.
- Flying by aircraft is incredibly safe – components are rigorously tested and inspected to ensure that they meet the highest safety standards.
- Manufacturing’s identity crisis perhaps lies with parents and teachers and not the younger generation.
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