by Lindsay Hughes

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A Cadorath employee restores the shroud housing contour of a Rolls-Royce M250 engine. Cadorath supports about 80 percent of the Rolls-Royce M250 First Network for rework tasks.Cadorath Photo

The Cadorath Group business model is simple: “The customer always comes first.” That’s what was stressed to Vertical during a recent visit to the company’s sprawling Winnipeg, Man.-based facility. But when you’ve enjoyed the success that the group has had for more than 60 years, and spread into such a variety of supporting industries, that might be easier said than done.

Founded by Gerald J. Cadorath as a plating shop in 1954, the Cadorath Group today includes Cadorath Aerospace (which offers aeronautical product repair, modification and overhaul), Cadorath Aerospace Lafayette (based in Broussard, La.), Cadorath Distribution (aeronautical product and component supply), Meridian Helicopters (helicopter sales and brockerage, leasing, pre-buy inspections, insurance, and financing), Cadorath Uniflyte (agricultural manufacturing), Cadorath Coating (coating and plating solutions), and Cadorath Engineering (a Transport Canada delegated Design Approval Organization). However, David Haines, Cadorath senior vice president, told Vertical that despite the company’s growth, there are some sectors it won’t go into because its industry partnerships are too important.

“The customers we have today are, in many cases, the same customers we had in the early 1990s. These customers helped us get to where we are today,” he said. “We value that extension of trust and have taken the position of a supporting role; a position in which we intend to stay.”

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Precision machining of Rolls-Royce M250 gear box housing units is just one of many processes Cadorath completes in-house at its Winnipeg, Man., facility. Cadorath Photo

The story of the company’s expansion actually begins with its founder’s first attempt at retirement in the early 1970s. Gerald had established the plating shop in 1954 with help from his wife, Blanche, and his family, and served as owner, salesman, manager, driver, and shop hand. After he handed over the company reins to his successor, “he soon discovered being retired was not where he wanted to be at the moment,” said Haines. “In the Mr. C way, he said [to his successor], ‘This company isn’t big enough for the both of us, so you go out and find other industries that will benefit from what we can do.’ And in ’74, we started Uniflyte.”

From there, the company continued to grow, transitioning from a leased building into its current multiple facilities spanning 25 acres and housing over 250 employees. “Sometime in the ‘70s, the aviation community approached Gerald about doing aviation dimensional restorations,” said Haines. “Supporting the [Allison/Rolls-Royce] 250 and T56 engine lines is how Cadorath made its entrance into aviation.”

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Cadorath was founded as a plating shop in 1954, and remains committed to bringing high quality plating solutions to its aviation customers. Lindsay Hughes Photos

Today, Cadorath Aerospace repairs or overhauls more than 12,000 parts each year and it services products from companies including Rolls-Royce (under Rolls-Royce ARF approval, the company supports about 80 percent of the Rolls-Royce M250 First Network for rework tasks), Pratt & Whitney, Turbomeca, Honeywell, General Electric, Sikorsky, and Bell Helicopter. Its processes include vacuum brazing, electroplating, metallizing, welding, internal and cylindrical grinding, conventional and CNC machining, LPI, MPI, and ultrasonic testing inspection, automated and manual shot peening, robotic HVOF, flow rigs and repair development, and it keeps millions of dollars in inventory to help support customers. These include industry leaders such as StandardAero, Vector, Heli-One, PHI and Bristow, to name a few.

A Family Business

Gerald retired (for good) in 2001, and sadly passed away earlier this year. His son, Gerald O. Cadorath (Gerry), has been at the helm of the business since his father’s retirement.

Unsurprisingly, family and trust are immensely important to the company. While three generations of Cadoraths helped build it, many upper management positions are filled with people who began as shop workers 20 to 30 years ago. Haines is one example of that, starting with Cadorath as a machinist in 1991, and moving through inspection, customer service, and sales, before accepting a senior management role. Over the years he was present for major company landmarks, including the creation of Cadorath Aerospace Lafayette, and the acquisition of Meridian Helicopters.

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Cadorath Aerospace has facilities in Winnipeg, Man. (pictured here), and Lafayette, La. Lindsay Hughes Photo

Meridian, owned by Michael Bashlor, was “more of a broker” at the time of the acquisition, Haines explained, and Cadorath was just starting to venture into the Bell Helicopter rework business. However, a new business opportunity quickly emerged.

“Somewhere along the line, a Bell 206L model came for sale and the guy we purchased it from wanted to . . . lease it back, so it was an easy decision,” Haines said. “Then we just started looking at opportunities of buying and refurbing helicopters.”

The Meridian business took off from there, and at the time of Vertical’s visit, it had six helicopters out on lease and one in the hangar being refurbished. But even with this new service offering, Cadorath maintained its stance of playing a supporting role for its customers. Gord Mitchell, operations manager at Cadorath Aerospace, explained that the new business offered Cadorath an opportunity to broaden its existing partnerships.

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Roy Hartfiel, Cadorath’s director of business development, is a company veteran who climbed the ranks through inspection, quality, customer care, and sales. Lindsay Hughes Photo

“When we expanded into the leasing sector, we did so knowing we would able to reciprocate [business],” he said. “So some of the facilities that have entrusted us with their work are now able to receive some wrench work back from us, whether it be on the engines or on the components.”

A Well-Organized Space

Mitchell is another company veteran who started working in the shop in the ‘90s, and has seen a lot of change and growth in the company — specifically in the Winnipeg shop. On a tour, Mitchell explained the thought behind every employee’s workstation, and how the organization of the facility has allowed work to flow more quickly and efficiently through it. The environment is busy, but runs smoothly thanks to the careful planning of the space.

Previously separated into cells, the shop has since been opened up, with processes bunched into work areas, without segregating employees. “In the cell concept you build silos,” Mitchell said. “You end up with individuals who are focused and specialized on one product and you don’t get a lot of blending . . . so we quickly dismantled [the silos] and kept our processes combined.”

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Cadorath’s facilities are home to over 250 employees. Lindsay Hughes Photo

The shop is also home to a bullpen that contains customer care, production control, and inspection, allowing direct and simple workflow by eliminating the time needed to move upstairs and through offices to hand over a paper. The layout originated from the idea that communication needs to directly flow from the customer, to customer care, to production or inspection.

The members of the customer care team, led by Leigh Hoffman (who joined Cadorath as an inspector in the late ‘90s), have all worked on the production floor, bringing technical expertise and hands-on experience to the other end of the phone when customers call.

“It gives the customer that extra level of confidence that you’re talking to somebody who actually knows what you’re talking about,” Roy Hartfiel, Cadorath director of business development, told Vertical. “This is the hand that was in the shop . . . doing the actual inspections and routing the repairs.”

Experience is certainly not something in short supply throughout the facility, from 20-year veteran welders, to Francisco “Cisco” Lindo, the plating shop supervisor who’s been with the company for more than 25 years.

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Some of the company’s welders have over 20 years’ experience. Cadorath Photo

“Employee number five was actually Cisco’s mentor,” Hartfiel noted. “A lot of the production hurdles we’ve overcome through the years were in part resolved by Cisco. There aren’t too many parts that Cadorath works on that Cisco hasn’t worked on himself.”

But while the company benefits from its employees’ decades of experience, it isn’t rooted in the past. New processes and innovations are constantly taking place, both in terms of the services Cadorath provides, and in the facilities themselves; the company recently invested over $10 million into pollution control and improving its environmental practices. The treatment of wastewater has been one focus for the company as it has embarked on a mission to reduce its waste.

“All of our wastewater is treated long before it is expelled from the building,” Mitchell said. “It’s inert and clean. We fit in very well with a green footprint as best we can.”

New Opportunities

Facing a downturn in the helicopter industry, Cadorath has sought new avenues for growth — and the fixed-wing market has come into focus. The company is looking to introduce a one-stop shop solution to the market, and is now providing solutions for landing gear rework, among other parts.

“We’ll grow as we can with it, and change what we have to, and make the adjustments as we do,” Hartfiel said. “That’s how we managed to succeed over the years and that’s what we’ll do with the fixed-wing market now as well. Learn as we go.”

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A Cadorath employee operates a coordinate-measuring machine at the Winnipeg facility. Lindsay Hughes Photo

Further expanding on its commitment to the aviation sector, Cadorath recently celebrated its Design Approval Organization delegation from Transport Canada.

“We are excited about the additional value we will be able to show our current and prospective customers as a result of this approval,” said Haines. The success that Cadorath has enjoyed is a testament to not only its ambitious founder, but to the various employees that have contributed to the company throughout the years. It’s what keeps customers coming back, and it will be what propels the company into the future.

“We’ve been providing quality products and industry solutions that bring value for a long time. That sort of commitment comes from combined integrity, loyalty, and trust, and that originates with people,” said Haines. “Our employees are the most skilled in the industry. We could have the best machinery in the world, but without our people, forget it.”

As for Gerald J. Cadorath’s legacy, that lives on through his now fully realized vision.

Haines recounted the last time he’d seen the company’s founder, during a tour of the facility. “He could never have imagined that this is where we would be today,” he said. “I know that the vision he had will be carried on by his son, Gerry, and the Cadorath team.”

Even during a difficult time in the industry, Hartfiel is confident in Cadorath’s future with Gerry at the helm.

“Gerry sees our future; he’s our visionary,” he said. “He’s very much like his father.”