When people think of aerospace they often only think of flight controls and engine parts. Some of the parts we think the least of are the ones ordinary people come in contact with every time they fly. Chances are when you pull back the pocket to look for the safety card or get your elbow hit by the drink cart moving up and down the aisle, Asil Aerospace had a hand in making that happen.
“We don’t say we are a CNC machine shop,” explains Chris Penta, operations manager at Asil Aerospace. “We are a sheet metal fabrication & CNC house that specializes in aircraft interiors like lavatories, seats and galleys.” Since 1985 Asil has become as diverse as their customer’s needs. They offer everything from Engineering, Reverse Engineering, CNC machining, sheet metal and fabrication, assembly, spot welding, vacuum forming, commercial welding, honeycomb composites, CNC punching, plastics, to CNC sheering and notching. According to Chris, “Some customers came to us for CNC but then needed sheet metal and riveting, while others seek us out for assembly and then are stoked to see we can also do CNC and Sheet Metal. We are a one-stop service center for many of our customers. They like not having to send me a part for CNC then off to someone else for sheet metal, then back to another guy for assembly. “We have it all.”
John Demerjian came to this country in 1976 from Syria with nothing. He spent the next few years trying to provide for his family in a new land and saving enough to start Asil Tool in North Hollywood in 1985 The name was derived by spelling his daughter (Lisa’s) name spelled backwords. He incorporated in 1997 and became Asil Aerospace. John is obsessed with everything being perfect for the customer. It is not uncommon for he and Chris to be at the shop well into the nighttime hours, ensuring all goes as planned. The 13,000 sq.ft. facility runs two shifts a day, six days a week and has a dozen employees. Chris doesn’t look at it as work, but more as an adventure and fun. “I like dealing with engineering issues, customers, and employees,” tells Chris. “Problem solving means never a dull day, never the same thing. A new day, and a new challenge make coming to work fresh and new. Chris started at Asil only 8 years ago with zero experience in manufacturing and machining. His eagerness to learn saw him quickly progress to operations manager. “John put me in the shop and said figure it out,” laughs Chris. “Business was slow at the time and I came in hoping my sales background could help the business. He took a chance on me, he saw something in me, and I found something within myself that makes working at Asil the perfect fit for both of us.”
Chris found that the enthusiasm that paid off for him learning the ins and outs at Asil were not the asset he had hoped for out in the field. “To some, young means no experience and nothing else,” clarifies Chris. “They can’t see past your youth regardless of your knowledge. I’d walk into some bigger clients and they were reluctant to give me a chance. Please give me an opportunity to earn your business, but no one would.” Becky Ganssle, a buyer at Zodiac Aerospace was the first to let Chris into the ring. “Becky handed me a drawing and said to let her know what I can do. She was the first one to give me a chance and I appreciate that opportunity. If you look at that wall you will see we have hundreds and hundreds of orders from them now. It all started with that one drawing. We exceeded expectations on that first part and continue to due so, now we are one of their top vendors and shows hard work pay’s off.” As our name grew we have been able to connect with many top tier suppliers, Asil is grateful for each and every customer that we have.
Asil Aerospace has grown tremendously in the last decade, adding more and more CNC capabilities into the mix. “When I started we had one Akira Seiki V3 XP,” tells Chris. “It was new technology and many of our long time employees were skittish to work on it. Once they saw a complete new guy jump on it and pump out jobs they were less afraid of the change. They figured if I could use it anyone could.” Since then Asil has added three Ganesh manual CNC machines that they love and two more Akira Seiki machines. “We added an Akira Seiki SR2 that we got from Rene Castillo at So Cal Machine early in 2015,” expands Chris. “We fell instantly in love with it and added a V2.5 in December. The Akira Seiki brand has been amazing, very little down time and needs minimal service. If we do have an issue Rene has his people out the same day for service.” Chris finds that usage of non specialized or proprietary nuts, bolts and fasteners to be handy. It allows them to replace items by just going to the hardware store. “Not having to order some special bolt from Germany or Asia is a little thing that we appreciate, but for us the real value in Akira Seiki comes from the total customization of the machine.” With Akira Seiki you don’t have to purchase all the bells and whistles if you only are in need of two bells and no whistles. “We were able to save a lot of money over other competitive brands by building it just the way we wanted,” continues Chris. “Rene understands what our needs are and helps to custom build a package that fits our manufacturing requirements and budgetary hopes. You may want a USB reader or a specific controller, but not a chip hogger. Other brands up sell you into a package that might include both, but we have no use in having the hogger. With Akira Seiki we pay for only the features we want. Akira Seiki and Rene are rock stars and we can’t imagine being without them”
“It is difficult to find people with a skill set as diverse as we need,” explains Chris. “We need crazy guys who are well rounded with a plethora of skills and not just a button pusher.” After failed attempts at finding new employees online and at the local college Chris turned to a staffing company. “I quickly learned that I am not an HR specialist,” jokes Chris. “My hope is a staffing company will be a solution. It is great for us to audition employees with very little hassle. They screen prospects and place them predicated on the skills we are looking for.
Asil Aerospace has always been a family business and their employees are part of the family. “Finding people to work with, and next to every day is very personal. It is important to us that they do their job well and that they are people whom we want to spend every day with. All my guys know me as Chris and I know them, and their wives and their kids. Asencion has been working at Asil for 30 years and his son recently joined the amazing team. We have a father and son team out in the shop and we love that.” With so many machines and capabilities it is important to Asil that all their employees are trained in as many aspects of the company as possible. Twice a month they do some kind of training. It might be FAA manual or safety on the CNC punch or it could be what to do in an emergency. “Never stop learning,” exclaims Chris. “One thing I really like about this business is that I learn something every day. We lead by example. Having John Demerjian as our go to man in the shop there is not much the Asil team cant accomplish.
Customers are a part of the Asil Aerospace team,” concludes Chris. It’s a team effort and we go about making the best possible parts hand in hand.” Quality is the highest priority at Asil Aerospace and they strive to continuously improve on everything they do. “As the operations manager, I am the face of the company. I visit our customers and I hold my head up high, proud of what we produce at Asil. If parts are not perfect they don’t leave the shop. I don’t want to ever be ashamed of representing Asil Aerospace in the field. I am comfortable taking on responsibility and acting independently to meet established objectives. I am a person who knows how to communicate effectively with others in order to meet goals and keep projects on track. My guys know this and they don’t let me down. Our parts represent us and the time it takes to put a nice grain finish down or scotch brite to remove tooling marks is worth its wait in gold. Most of the time a drawing won’t call out for a polish or for us to grain them, we just do it because of our reputation to deliver amazing parts.” Customers see the extra care and think Asil went the extra mile. But for Asil Aerospace it isn’t extra, it is just the standard service they provide to all their customers. “We are excited to keep producing top notch parts, looking forward to many more years manufacturing high quality parts to our customers.”