The ground-breaking took place some 60 days ago of ULD solutions provider ACL Airshop’s new $7.2 million air cargo products factory in Greenville, South Carolina. The facility is set to create approximately 32 new jobs.
ACL Airshop is a subsidiary of Ranger Aerospace and has become a worldwide provider of fleet control, leasing, sales and repair services for ULDs. The company also manufactures cargo control products, operating on six continents and serving nearly all of the world’s top 50 air cargo hub airports. In the coming years, ACL Airshop plans to expand to serve a majority of the world’s top 100 airports.
Located in Park West Commerce Park, the 60,000 square foot facility, due to come on-stream in April next year with a formal opening later in May, will feature high bay manufacturing spaces for air cargo nets, transportation straps and other products. Amenities for employees will include indoor and outdoor gathering spaces and a future workout centre for fitness and health.
The South Carolina Coordinating Council for Economic Development has approved a $100,000 Set Aside grant to assist with the costs of site work and infrastructure improvements.
“The new factory will give ACL Airshop more capacity, faster throughput, modernised machinery, consistent quality, with LEAN design throughout. I view it as a fundamental leap forward for this important division of the company,” says ACL Airshop chairman and CEO Steve Townes.
ACL Airshop is “simultaneously expanding and improving numerous other operating sites,” notes Townes. ACL Airshop now has operations at 50 of the world’s top 100 cargo airports.
“We have new facilities at LAX, JFK, NRT, BOG, LGG, and enhanced facilities at AMS and HKG plus the new factory at GSP. Our three large gateway locations are AMS, JFK, and HKG, which are being invested as sophisticated ULD Fleet Ops Centres, integrated with our own ULD Control logistics programs, and our new Bluetooth innovations for customers.
“Those three major cargo hubs are the anchors for our worldwide leasing and services network. We have become a very efficient ‘ecosystem’ type of company, a hybrid structure that is highly responsive — and fast — for airlines customer requirements,” says Townes.
The strategic Importance of Asia is clear for ACL Airshop. Townes says: “Our fastest growing region in the world is Asia-Pacific. That tracks and mirrors the measurable growth of the air cargo aircraft fleet in that region and the growth of air cargo tonnage in that theatre. We have doubled our global geographic footprint in the past 30 months.
“Although we are aggressively growing each region of ACL Airshop, with numerous facility enhancements and staff additions, and of course our huge annual spend on our own ULD fleet, it is Asia-Pacific where we have placed our largest and fastest bets. Five years ago we had one station there (Hong Kong); now we have 14 and still growing. On six continents, our customers said grow the network and indeed we are.”
One modern business term that excites Townes is Industry 4.0 and its relevance to what ACL Airshop do.
He explains: “The first industrial revolution was in the 1700-1800s with the growth of factories. The second was the advent of mass production, starting in automobiles in the 1920s-30s. The third big wave was in the 1960s with computers, with rapid acceleration ever since.
‘Industry 4.0’ is considered to be the rise of smart systems, the Internet of Things, which includes the rapid rise of robotics, smart manufacturing machines, and instantaneous Big Data merging so many industry sectors into giant high-speed interconnected ecosystems.
“Our Bluetooth innovations for ULD track and trace offer airlines the technology needed to know the location and status of every ULD. And with the Bluetooth tag tied to the serial number of the pallet or container, and hence the Airway Bill, it yields a whole new level of logistics efficiencies for the end-user shippers.
“This is a first-to-market innovation in which we are partnered with CORE Transport Technologies of New Zealand. CORE’s patented Bluetooth application for ULD fleets is proven in the field, and rolling out steadily among multiple airlines, including one of the world’s top ten,” says Townes.