AEI sits down with Souriau-Sunbank VP of Sales, Anne-Marie Andrews
Air Electro: What makes SOURIAU different from other connector manufacturers?
Ann-Marie: SOURIAU – SUNBANK Connection Technologies is a company that is more than 100 years old and has a very rich history, which in turn has contributed to the company’s heritage and culture. We have always been a very customer-oriented company, tuning into our customers’ needs and using that as a driver for our business strategy. We also take great pride in the fact that our products and our company have a reputation for high quality and strict quality control in the connectivity market. Our clients often validate their appreciation by regularly giving us awards for top supplier. In industries such as commercial and military aviation where lives are at stake every day, it is critical to be able to deliver highly reliable products, and that is why we chose “Reliable people, reliable solutions” as our slogan. We believe that reliability is what is most important for our customers.
Air Electro: SOURIAU has been focusing significantly on REACH? Can you please tell our customers why REACH is important for your company?
Ann-Marie: REACH is a topic that we have talked about a lot here at SOURIAU because it impacts our sales but also our production methods. In contrast with RoHS which only takes into account the finished product, REACH addresses chemical substances that are included in the finished product but also in the production means.
This affects SOURIAU in its use of hexavalent chromium (Cr6+), included in REACH’s list of banned chemicals. We use it for cadmium plating, black zinc nickel plating and composite etching. It is not present on our end products, but it is a key component for ensuring their high-quality finish.
REACH originally planned to ban Cr6+ in 2017 which would have left SOURIAU, as well as all the other connector manufacturers, unable to deliver to their customers while they develop a substitute. For this reason, SOURIAU allied itself with 3 other major connector manufacturers to submit a request to postpone the ban date by at least 4 years, and up to 12 years for certain applications such as military and civil aviation where it is of critical importance.
During this time, we have been developing substitute techniques to achieve the closest result possible and have made great progress thanks to our dedicated and innovative engineers. Our composite connectors are already produced without any Cr6+, and our R&D team is still developing solutions for the rest. To this day our consumption of hexavalent chromium has dropped 50 %.
Air Electro: What are your thoughts on the current lead times in the industry, overall, and what is your advice to SOURIAU product customers?
Ann-Marie: Lead times in the industry are long, and this is due to capacity limitations for all connector manufacturers following sustained increasing demand from aircraft manufacturers. Here at SOURIAU, we are currently expanding our capacity significantly to reduce lead times on key product families but the effect may only be felt in the mid-term future. For that reason, my advice to SOURIAU customers is to try and plan out your connector needs as much as possible over the future so that we can anticipate peaks and manage, as best as we can, to deliver quickly and smoothly.
Air Electro: What are the current challenges your company is encountering and how are you tackling them?
Ann-Marie: The challenges we face are numerous and constant. Our industry is becoming ever-more competitive and it is important to stay ahead of the curve. That means investing heavily in innovation, research and design, as well as attracting top talent to our company.
In terms of innovation, we are deploying a new pilot project called the Agora, which is a physical and digital space where anyone from SOURIAU can meet and discuss topics of their choice with fellow colleagues. The idea is to stimulate outside-of-the-box thinking and open the doors to good ideas which can come from anyone. It is not limited to technological innovation, topics also cover managerial and commercial innovation.
In terms of company appeal, we are pursuing multiple projects to ensure that top talent is attracted to our company, including organizational perks such as subsidized company restaurants, receptionists, health insurance, and so on, but also communication efforts, by being present at recruitment fairs and advertising in top university magazines and press.
Air Electro: What’s next for SOURIAU? What should the customers expect in the next few years considering you are now a part of a larger group of companies owned by Transdigm?
Ann-Marie: That is a good question and one to which I wish I had the answer. The only thing we know for now is that it is business as usual.. Transdigm is already an experienced aviation and defense equipment manufacturer, so I’m sure customers can expect the same high quality and high reliability, if not better.