In passenger terms, the quality and comfort of an aircraft’s interior can have a major impact upon overall journey satisfaction. A high flyer in this market, Contour Aerospace Limited is a world leader in first class and business class aircraft seating, and particularly in terms of innovation and technology. Within the history of the company can be traced many of the major innovations of aircraft seating over the years including the first lie-flat bed in 1996, the first commercial swivel seat in 2000, and the first modular seat in 2010.
Contour Aerospace’s own structure has also evolved over time having begun life in 1933 as LALA Rumbold & Co Ltd. The Contour name first appeared in 1960, and then in 1996 both this and LALA Rumbold were integrated under Britax International. Various internal developments ensued until 2004 when the Contour name was revived as one of four specialist companies within the Premium Aircraft Interiors Group. Today, Contour Aerospace has undergone another change, which is designed to propel the business even further in the premium class sector.
“At the end of January 2012 Contour Aerospace merged with Zodiac Aerospace,” reveals Paul Tedstone, supply chain director at Contour Aerospace. “Zodiac Aerospace is a very ambitious company with a pedigree for acquisitions and in order to facilitate their further growth within the aerospace cabin interior they felt
their seating portfolio could benefit from expansion. As such, Contour Aerospace sits well alongside the existing Zodiac Aerospace companies to enable them to deliver, and further their dominance in, first and business class cabins.
“Likewise for Contour Aerospace this is a fantastic opportunity to be part of a much larger organisation. We were private equity owned before the merger, whereas we now have an owner that recognises the importance of aerospace philosophies and manufacturing, which should enable us to grow further strengths within the sector, and indeed the Zodiac Aerospace network,” he continues.
Following this, Contour Aerospace is now entering a period of integration with Zodiac Aerospace’s own supply and customer base, looking at the commonalities between these and how they can be merged, both internally and externally, in a united set-up. As a satellite company though, Contour Aerospace will continue to trade under its existing name. Taking the advantage of the lean efforts and the shared resources from the global Zodiac Aerospace organisation, provides Contour Aerospace a strength in the premium seating second to none.
The company will also be maintaining its fixture on the premium and business class sectors where it supports all of the world’s leading airlines such as British Airways, Virgin, Air France, Thai Airways, Air China, and Air Canada. Likewise within this, the company works across multiple aircrafts on the Airbus fleet, including A330s, A300s, A320s and A380s, and Boeing from the 747 and 777 to the 787 and 767. Both of these two manufacturers form an integral part of Contour Aerospace.
“We work together in partnership through the early stages of conceptual design to prototyping and into development, testing, manufacturing, and even supporting of series manufacture,” elaborates Paul. In terms of why customers continue to return to Contour Aerospace, he adds: “We have a long history as a company in being at the front edge of producing first and business class seats to a very high standard that are always different to our competitors. Customers also come back to us though because they like our products, and the style of our seats, so many contact us year-after-year either looking for something different, or even maybe more of the same.”
In order to deliver such high specification and innovative products, Contour Aerospace also relies heavily on the quality and sourcing capability of its own supply chain. To this end the company has built up a vast global supply base that extends from Thailand and China through Europe to the US, Canada, Mexico and South America, and even down to South Africa, as well as a large local presence in the UK. Whilst some of these relationships have inevitably developed over many years, it is supplier performance that is integral to their continuation. Furthermore Contour Aerospace is not only committed to continuing to improve and develop its existing supply base, but is always on the lookout for new skills and technologies within the ever growing and emerging supply chain that compliment its activities.
Last year was significant in terms of progressing Contour Aerospace, not least as the business saw a 30 per cent increase in its turnover. Internally a lot of changes were made to the organisation in order to make it run more efficiently and to reduce costs within the business. As a result, performance has improved both internally and externally towards its customers. “We’ve driven hard on pushing continuous improvement and developing our supply chain to increase our delivery performance and quality of product to achieve the end result of on time delivery to our customers. This has been a huge focus within the organisation to improve our operational excellence internally and to bring quality parts in on time at the right price. Financially this puts us in a much healthier position, as well as making us a much leaner organisation, and in 2012 we will continue that journey further,” highlights Paul.
One way in which Contour Aerospace has achieved these ambitions is to adopt some of the technologies and philosophies that have previously been heavily associated with the automotive industry. By continuing with such developments within its organisation, Contour Aerospace is confident of its ability to firstly grow its market share, but to also push its offering in terms of first class, business class, premium economy and retrofit column line seating to be absolutely world class.
Products: Aircraft interior