NORWICH — Unison Industries, a GE Aerospace company in Norwich, has been serving the aerospace industry for over 30 years.
It is a supplier to nearly every engine and airframe program that provides the most advanced performance solutions including aviation, space and defense, power, oil and gas, and transportation.
Unison Operations Manager Shannon Slack said, “We build alternators that create power for commercial and military engines and build temperature sensors that are used for a multitude of reasons to take temperatures throughout the engines and supply signals to the pilots.”
Recent product portfolio expansions include off-engine harnesses and radiation free ignition systems for large industrial power turbines.
Other key projects from the last six months included building carts which allowed sensors to be safely transported between departments and creating foam inserts to better optimize the space available and protect the delicate parts.
Slack said the company is recognized in the industry for specialization in advanced materials, design, technology, and systems integration.
New agreement with major airline
In April, Unison Industries announced it will extend its mechanical support of the C-17 Globemaster III aircraft through a new, five-year repair agreement with Boeing.
“We are thrilled to be elevating the relationship between Unison Industries and Boeing with this repair agreement, which touches upon many products in the Unison portfolio,” Unison President and Ceo Tom Hoferer said.
Boeing delivered the first C-17 in 1993 and now provides sustainment and maintenance for global fleet of 275 aircraft in eight U.S. allied countries.
Unison Industries will be the repair source for multiple components on the aircraft’s four PW2000 engines. The agreement covers repairs for harnesses, exciters, rotors, and stators at Unison’s Norwich and Jacksonville, Florida sites.
“We look forward to working closely with Boeing over the coming years and continuing to support the critical missions of this aircraft as it enters its 30th year in service,” said Hoferer.
Slack said, “Our overall business grew by 20 percent and we specifically had a large amount of growth in our space admission business.”
She said between salary and hourly roles the company has 400 employees.
Slack explained they recently kicked off a new lean process, which is an improvement tool to develop and prove concepts before they are fully implemented across the business.
These concepts either come from employees or a management team who work to identify areas where they can improve production or mitigate safety concerns.
She said they partnered with BOCES as they have a welding program and one of their welders goes to BOCES to find students and inform them about the work they do at Unison.
“We’ve had some really impressive turn out with them,” she added.
She said Commerce Chenango does a lot of connecting with different businesses and has some really great programs to help high school students prepare for the work force, supplying basic skills they may need to go into the production environment.
Slack said they received recognition from their space customers by building an ignition system for a rocket, that enables space travel for humans to go the furthest distance from earth.
“The trial was unmanned to make sure everything was safe enough,” said Slack.
Finding the right people
“We have had some challenges in hiring and retaining all of the individuals we need to support the growth that we have,” Slack said,
“We’ve also had some challenges with our supply chain in terms of getting the material on site that we need to build and support our customers,” she added.
She said the suppliers may have gone through changes after COVID by letting some employees go during that time when volume was low. Now demand has returned but not the employees, so companies are seeking to fill the gap.
Slack said many found new jobs outside of the industry.
Employee retention was difficult in 2023. The company is working to attract new employees with updated offers.
Slack said higher level production roles are difficult to fill as they require technical experience; usually three to five years worth of machine experience. She said hiring people with five years or more experience was a challenge, but companies are finding workers with one to two years of experience.
She said, “Because we are in a smaller community, and a couple of other big employers are about a half hour away, we are working with the same pool of talent.”
Made in Norwich but out of this world
Slack said new technologies are expanding and one of Unison’s ignition systems, made in Norwich, will help take people into space and travel far from Earth.
“We’re having a pretty big impact on the space companies to go further and further,” she said.
Slack explained they are growing an additional 20-25 percent this year and year-over-year they have achieved double digit growth. They are also in the process of setting up trainings to develop their team internally.
She said the company wants to offer further individual growth in current development opportunities to their team and currently are setting up flow lines in the alternator part of the business to help support the increase in demand.
“Commerce Chenango is so involved with many local activities and they really work on Chenango County as a place where people want to come and for us to have a bigger presence in the local community,” said Slack.
“It’s also very important to me personally, as a female leader, to help support other female leaders,” she added.
“Commerce Chenango has great programs where they specifically work on helping female workers and leaders and that will be something to help to bring a lot more visibility and value as to what we do in this building,” she said.
Slack said their big focus is on building the right culture that attracts and retains employees.
“I care a lot about the business and invest in people, she added. “Regardless of business metrics, it is how we care about our people that makes us a success.”
Unison’s large product portfolio has been supporting missions both near and far for decades. Unison ignition systems have ignited rockets and helped bring astronauts home safely on space missions.
For further information, visit unisonindustries.com or firstname.lastname@example.org