As was noted by the local media (Machesney Park company receives rare honor for second time, Littlestar Plastics honored by UTC Aerospace, Littlestar Plastics earns UTC Gold Supplier Status), the recognition is both an honor and a challenge.
It is an honor because we feel we’ve built the best highly-engineered polymer manufacturing team in the world and this is a recognition of our team’s hard work.
It is a challenge because the standards are so exacting and we have to meet them year-after-year, day-after-day, in each shipment and every part.
It is important for us to continually earn the trust of a company like United Technologies. Because with trust comes opportunity. Bob Ligi, Associate Director Composite & Plastics Strategic Sourcing, was one of the executives that came to Machesney Park to present the award. Bob talked with our team from Thinker Ventures after the ceremony, and he highlighted some of the opportunities ahead for Littlestar.
“We have a lot of divisions at UTC Aerospace Systems. Littlestar deals a lot with ES, our electrical systems unit, but we have an interiors group that has all of the interiors of a cabin. Now, with the purchase of BE Aerospace and Rockwell Collins, our business with Littlestar will grow even more.
“Our spend right now, if you take both plastics and traditional composite materials, is roughly $600 million. It’ll go over $1 billion when the (Rockwell Collins) acquisition is completed. Of that spend, a small percentage, about $60 million is in plastics right now. There’s huge growth potential right there.
“But there’s also this huge untapped market in metals. How many more components can we bring into the plastics division? Airbus and Boeing have come to us and said you better figure out a lighter, cheaper way to make these structures for us. If not, guess what, we’ll pull them back in.
“That’s a threat. A real threat. So we just had a meeting with central and divisional heads to think about what can be done differently. Think about seat frames? Why can’t that be plastic? The brackets. How many brackets are on a plane? Those should be plastic. Every pound we cut off an airplane is a $1,500 savings to the company that owns the plane on every flight. That’s huge.
It’s been an evolution, but we’re finally figuring out we need to become a non-metal structure house and accept thermoplastics.
As we make that evolution, Littlestar is going to get visibility across all of our divisions, not just UTAS. Gold suppliers get first opportunity to bid on projects. If it’s molded or machined, Littlestar is going to get a chance at that work before it gets offered to someone else.
Last year there was a perfect example of why Littlestar is Gold to us. We came to the company with a new family of parts. They were larger than any machine at Littlestar could handle. A couple of weeks later, Littlestar notified us they bought a machine to make the parts. That’s a tremendous financial commitment, but it didn’t surprise us. That’s the difference when you’re dealing with a company that has achieved Supplier Gold.”