Aeronautics is a demanding sector, with no room for error. The French precision machining company Mecaprec found that working closely with Seco helped it to grow tenfold in a decade while supplying parts for the world’s biggest aerospace companies.
Nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees in southwestern France is the small town of Lavelanet. The town is home to Mecaprec, a precision machining company with clients that include some of the world’s biggest aeronautics businesses. It’s also the hometown of company CEO Jean-Marc Gomez. “I acquired the company in 2008,” Gomez says. “At the time, it employed 12 people and had annual sales of some 780,000 euros. I was very keen to invest in my hometown and provide employment for local people, so it was a natural fit. Around that time, I also met Christian Gil. He told me that if I took the company over, he’d come in as my workshop manager, and he’s been there ever since. He’s passionate about machine tooling, too, and together we have built an amazing team of people – we love what we do!”
Mecaprec was a company with genuine expertise in terms of hard metal machine tooling. Gomez soon realized that with new aircraft coming to market, such as the Airbus A350, there was
going to be increased demand for hard metal parts and that could be a profitable area to explore. “But back then,” he says, “Mecaprec wasn’t certified for the aeronautics industry, so our primary focus was to obtain EN9100 certification, which we achieved in 13 months.” Then recession hit, and sales dropped 40 percent. “But we came through thanks to some loyal customers and by expanding our production to include some finished products,” Gomez says.
This led Mecaprec to invest in a series of Makino machines, which then brought Seco Tools to their attention. “They had the tools we needed for a big contract that we landed in 2011 for Aubert & Duval, a world leader in upscale metallurgy. The distributor was too expensive, so we were happy to work directly with Seco, and the rest is history.” Since then, the two companies have worked together closely, adopting new tools as they have been developed, which has helped Mecaprec to further expand its product range while reducing unit costs. Since then Seco has been the company’s biggest supplier of cutting tools.
Today Mecaprec employs 75 people and has annual sales of 10.5 million euros, supplying parts for such customers as Airbus, Boeing, Dassault, Embraer and Airbus Helicopter, along with tier-one suppliers such as Figeac Aero, Aubert & Duval, PCC France, Artus and Mecachrome. Some 98 percent of Mecaprec’s work is in the aeronautics industry, mainly working in titanium, inconel and stainless steel. The company mills parts in dimensions ranging from 10 millimeters by 10 millimeters up to 1,500 millimeters by 1,500 millimeters, turning out some 80,000 units each year.
“Our biggest challenge is optimizing our prices while ensuring irreproachable quality,” Gomez says. “The aeronautics industry is a zero-fault sector, so we need to adopt all the industry 4.0 automation and data exchange tools we can to compete with low-cost countries, and that is what we are doing.”
And while there are many suppliers out there, what Mecaprec is looking for are true partners. “We want suppliers who will bring us their new technologies, supply us seamlessly, train our people, listen to our needs and keep us at the cutting edge – in Seco’s case, literally!” says Gomez. “We have a great relationship with Seco, and we look forward to that relationship continuing long into the future as we grow.” Mecaprec has just expanded its site, adding 2,000 square meters of space (bringing the total up to 6,500 square meters) and invested some
24 million euros in 35 new machines. Thus, says Gomez, the company is looking to diversify over the next few years. “I’d like to see Mecaprec’s expertise extending into different industries such as automotive and oil and gas,” he says. “It’s never good to keep all your eggs in one basket, so diversification will be our focus in the short to medium term. I’m looking forward to seeing what exciting new projects the future has in store.”
FACTS ABOUT MECAPREC
Opening date: 1986
Location: Lavelanet, Arriège, France
Size: 6,500 square meters