This article originally appeared in the Heli-Expo 2019 edition of Insight Magazine. Written by Ben Forrest. Read the digital publication here.
In 2009, when avionics maker Northern Airborne Technology (NAT) decided to close its manufacturing operations in Canada, a group of employees recognized an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.
There was still considerable demand for NAT products in the marketplace, and the talent pool left behind at its facility in Kelowna, British Columbia, was second-to-none. So, they banded together to form Anodyne Electronics Manufacturing Corp. (AEM). This new company continued to contract-manufacture and service the former NAT products while developing new products of its own—a signature line that has become one of the most trusted in the helicopter industry.
“We’re constantly being approached for new products and new projects, as well,” said Tony Weller, director of sales and marketing for AEM. “Nothing moves quickly in the aviation world, typically, so it’s been a work in progress to gain that credibility and placement. But it continues to pay dividends: we’re being asked for by name.”
AEM now has more than 90 employees based in Kelowna who design, manufacture and support avionics, aircraft audio systems, intercoms, tactical FM radio systems, illuminated panels and display products, internal and external PA (public address) systems, audio amplifiers, audio adapters, and remote switch assemblies.
The company is a Transport Canada approved manufacturer and maintenance organization, has European Aviation Safety Agency Part 145 approval, and is ISO9001/AS9100D registered.
Its broad customer base spans the entire rotorcraft industry worldwide, from small independent operators to major original equipment manufacturers. AEM is an approved supplier for Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters, Boeing Helicopters, Bell, Sikorsky, Hindustan Aeronautics and Embraer, among others, with several long-term agreements in place.
Quite simply, AEM is leading by design. “The systems and the categories that we operate in,” said Weller, “we’re ahead of the game. That’s for sure.”
In the past year, SMS Canada Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Structural Monitoring Systems plc of Australia, acquired AEM. AEM and SMS had worked together for years to develop, produce and certify structural health monitoring technology, which the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approved in 2018.
The merger puts AEM on excellent financial footing, with more capital at its disposal than ever before.
“Anything we decide we want to embark on now, or products that we wish to entertain, or different avenues we want to take, the capital investment is available,” said Brian Wall, general manager of AEM. In fact, “AEM is actively looking for like companies to acquire that complement our existing product line,” said Wall.
The company isn’t releasing specific details about which new products will hit the market in the months ahead just yet, but the same commitment to quality and unparalleled customer service remains in place. “I think when readers see the words ‘AEM’ and ‘audio’ in the same sentence or paragraph, it’ll make sense to them,” said Weller. “They know where we’re probably headed.”
Overall, AEM continues to be a key provider in airborne law enforcement, firefighting and helicopter emergency medical services, which were all staple markets for NAT, as well.
As for the company’s focus on quality, said Wall, “We realize the importance quality has in the industry. Failures in the aerospace industry don’t go over well at all, and we’ve got a very solid track record of delivering a quality product to the market, on time.”
AEM modelled its corporate culture on the culture at NAT. It focuses on the customer, teamwork, and continuous improvement. “It’s an important part of our recruitment processes,” said Weller. “We’re looking for people who fit that mould, where quality is important to them—where they actually care about what they’re doing. They understand the need for a quality system and why we need to abide by it, and what that means for our customers. “So, there’s a real sense of pride within our organization that when our product goes out the door to the customer, it is a quality piece.”
AEM is a Tier 1 supplier to some providers and a Tier 2 to others. As Wall noted, contracts for both sets of customers have stringent quality control mechanisms. “We take pride in where we peg ourselves on achieving those goals and accomplishments,” he said.
Going forward, AEM remains focused on leading by design, guided by the same values and commitment to quality which have been with it from the very start.
“Look to AEM for some new things coming down the line,” said Wall. “We have a strong background within our R&D department in the audio realm, and we’re looking to make some new product launches in the next 12 to 18 months. They’re going to be some pretty unique products, as we look to innovate with the new ideas we have percolating around here.”