RCU Review: An RCU Industry Profile Aero Works


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    Contributed by: Ken Isaac | Published: July 2013 | Views: 17940 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    RCU Interview - Aeroworks

    Ken Isaac
    { RCKen }
    Email me

    About the Author


     

    RCU Industry Profile by Ken Isaac (RCKen)

    Aeroworks Contact Information
    www.aero-works.net

    (303)371-4222

    info@aero-works.net

    RCU's Industry Profile series are a series of articles intended to give our members a look inside the companies that produce the products that they use everyday. This series is not intended as ads for the company being profiled, but rather it's targeted to show what makes these companies "tick". If you have any questions about this article, or would like to suggest a company to be covered, please send me an email.

     Make sure to check out our video interview with Aeroworks

    Like everybody else, I like to eat hot dogs. But there's an old saying that says that after you find out how hot dogs are made you probably won't want to eat them any longer. As I set out to start this series of articles that thought came to mind more than once. I wondered that once I started to "peak behind the curtain" of some of the companies that provide us with the planes, equipment, accessories, and others that we all use in this hobby I was afraid that I might not like what I found. But I really didn't worry "too" much about it and set out to start looking at the companies in the RC Industry. The first company that we will be doing in our Profile Series is Aeroworks. So let's dive right in and take a look at what makes Aeroworks "tick" as a company that provides high quality airplanes and accessories for all of us.

    Aeroworks Airplanes

    30cc Extra ARF-QB
    100cc Yak 55 ARF-QB
    50cc Pitts Python ARF-QB

     

      Aeroworks has been in business for a bit over the last 20 years, and in that time they have grown to be one of the best manufacturers of high quality ARF's. Many of the planes that they produce are considered to be some of the best flying planes out there. One thing that I've found in my time in this hobby is that many of Aeroworks customers are fiercely loyal to the company and usually have more than just one airplane from the company. The reason for that kind of customer loyalty is a direct result of the company mindset at Aeroworks. The company's founder Rocco Mariani maintain customer satisfaction as one the most important things that they do, and everything he does in guiding the company comes from that ethos. Rocco and his wife Sandy operate the company, along with a staff of 9, in the Denver, Colorado area. Located near the Denver International Airport Aeroworks is housed in what is a standard commercial/industrial district, the likes of which can be found in most large cities. In the back of my mind I think I expected to see a business where everybody was out back flying airplanes all day long, so when I pulled up to Aeroworks I was a bit disappointed I guess. Other than a small sign out front with the company name on it, there are no other signs that one of the better businesses in the industry was housed in the building. After getting over the lack of nobody flying planes out back, I parked my rental car and headed on inside to meet with Rocco. Once I got inside though, any disappointment over the lack of looking like a "RC Company" was gone. As I got inside I entered into the main waiting room which also housed display cases and shelves used to sell most all of the small parts and accessories that Aeroworks sells. Also in the waiting area were planes proudly displayed on the walls, and a huge P-51 sat on the ground next to the chairs in the waiting area. Oh yeah baby, it was clear now that I was in a company in the RC Industry!


    Rocco & Sandi Mariani, and the staff of Aeroworks

    Parts and accessories on sale in Aerowork's office.

    Some of Aeroworks planes displayed on the walls of the main office.

    More Aeroworks planes on display.

     

    Aeroworks Airplanes

    30cc Edge 540 ARF-QB
    30cc Ultimate 20-300 ARF-QB
    .60-.90 ProX 260 ARF-QB

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    After spending a little time in the showroom area Rocco continued the tour and took me back to the warehouse. Aeroworks has 20,000 sq. ft. of storage area and most of that area was stocked from floor to almost the ceiling with boxes, parts, and accessories. Rocco explained to me that Aeroworks feels that's it's very important to have as many of their planes in stock whenever possible. Many of you know how things go with some companies that they have a large line-up of airplanes only to always be out of stock of these planes, Rocco and his crew try to avoid that whenever possible. They do realize that it's not possible to have everything in stock all the time, but they do their best to keep as many planes in stock whenever possible. This fact becomes even more impressive when you look at the Aeroworks line-up of airplanes. With the exception of the true builder kits that Aeroworks started out with, every ARF-Quick Build plane that they have ever produced is still in their active line-up and they continue to produce these planes. This is a huge indication of just how successful Aeroworks is in that all of the planes ever designed by them are still in demand with their customers. Rocco mentioned that many of their customers have been with them for years and years and are very loyal. Some will continue to buy the same plane over and over again as it wears out or crashes, while others simply are working their way through the Aeroworks catalog of planes as they continue to try different planes. In addition to all of the planes stocked in the warehouse they also stock the accessories and parts needed for all the Aeroworks planes.

    Aeroworks shipping department

    Aeroworks shelves filled with planes

    Rows and rows of shelves filled with planes

    Empty shelves waiting for a new shipment of planes to arrive

       

    Aeroworks Airplanes

    100cc Yak 54 ARF-QB
    150cc Extra 260 ARF-QB
    85cc Yak 54 ARF-QB

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      It's hard to have a conversation with a company that produces RC aircraft without talking about the topic of China, and the production of aircraft there. Many people think that most, if not all, planes produced in China are going to be low quality (translate to cheap). Sitting with Rocco I brought up this subject. Rocco's answer was pretty simple: the factories in China are going to produce exactly what you ask them to produce. If you want them to produce a low cost and low quality airplane then that's exactly what you will get. But on the other hand, if you contract a factory to produce high quality planes and accessories then that is what you are going to get. And that is what Aeroworks does. Rocco makes many trips to China every year so that he can be involved with every aspect of the production process to ensure that he is getting the quality that he pays for and also demands. And it's a never ending process according to Rocco. Many times a factory will produce a high quality prototype but when it comes time to make a production run a factory will take shortcuts that reduce the quality of the final product. So quality assurance is never ending for Aeroworks. They constantly check the production of their planes to ensure that the same quality that they designed into the plane is being produced. And the design of a plane also has a lot to do with the ability of a factory to produce a good airframe. The team at Aeroworks will first design an airplane and then take it to the factory for a prototype run to see if the factory can reproduce the plane as designed. If the factory can't make a plane perfect 99 times out of 100 then the team goes back to the R&D and find ways of changing the design so that the factory can produce it. This process goes back and forth many times until they can assure that what Aeroworks wants built in fact does get produced at the factory. As Rocco pointed out, the factory is going to produce exactly what they are asked to do. And when it comes to Aeroworks they strive to keep a factory that can produce what they want. Another factor that goes into this puzzle is keeping the factory busy. Since Aeroworks is still producing all the planes that they have ever designed it's a sure bet that their factory in China is kept busy constantly producing airplanes. This is a key factor to Aeroworks success.

          

    Aeroworks Airplanes

    50cc Extra 300LP ARF-QB
    50cc Edge 540 ARF-QB
    .60-.90 Extra 300 ARF-QB

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      Parts is part is parts. What may seem like a simple matter of parts is actually a huge part of the Aeroworks operation. Rocco readily admits that one sure way to turn off customers is to not have the parts that are needed. Let's face it, we all have dinged up a plane from time to time. It's a simple part of flying that none of us can avoid. And when that plane is damaged most of us need to get it repaired and back in the air quickly. And this usually leads to a call to Aeroworks asking for replacement parts. And when that happens you can make a pretty safe bet that Aeroworks is going to have that part on hand. When Rocco and the Aeroworks team sends to the factory to produce a run of planes they also order a number of replacement parts as. Rocco is fully aware that this is a gamble in that he is ordering parts that may very well never sell. But for him it's a bet he is willing to take because he would rather have parts on the shelf and not have a need for them than to have a customer call up needing a part and not having it on the shelf. This is a core value for Aeroworks that many of their customers think is a huge selling value for the company. I asked Rocco if they couldn't just take the part out of an existing kit if they didn't have the replacement on the shelf. He said that they could do that, but they try to avoid it if at all possible. One of the biggest reasons is that it's a slippery slope that leads to problems down the road and they would rather avoid it if they can. For instance, a call comes in for a part and since they don't have one in stock the shipping department simply opens up a kit and gets the part. Now he knows that later on down the road he needs to replace that part in the kit, but in the real world things get busy and for whatever reason that kit winds up back in inventory without the replacement in the box. And then it's a sure bet that the kit will be sold to a customer who is going to be very upset when he opens up his new plane box only to find a major component of that plane is missing. Now he's got to go back to Aeroworks to get the replacement, which is going to cost Aeroworks both money in shipping out a replacement part and also lost money in that they now have a possibly dissatisfied customer. And because of this Aeroworks tries to avoid robbing kits for parts. And in the end if they are robbing a part it costs them more because now they have an entire kit that they can't sell. For Aeroworks, they find it much easier to simply stock in enough parts to meet the demand that they might have. And with 20 years of experience under their belts they've got a pretty good feel for how many parts that they are going to need when they produce a plane.

    Spare parts line the shelves.

    More parts stock an entire isle of the warehouse.

    Parts and accessories are kept on hand for easy access in the shipping area.

    A larger view of the shipping area shows parts and accessories stored in the area.

      

    Aeroworks Airplanes

    50cc Checkmate ARF-QB
    Untitled-9.jpg" rel="thumbnail">
    100cc Carbon Cub SS ARF-QB
    150cc Extra 300 ARF-QB

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      With the talk of production of airplanes and stocking in parts this got me to thinking about the process of bringing a plane to market, and the costs involved. Most people simply aren't aware of what it actually costs to bring a plane from concept to sitting on the shelf ready to sell to the public. When I asked Rocco about this he stopped for a second to think about it and then looked me straight in the eyes and said that it can take anywhere between $150,000 - $300,000 to design, prototype, test, redesign, improve, document, and finally produce a plane for sale. At first I thought he was kidding about the cost, but after he explained it to me I can easily see just why it costs so much for a plane to be produced. The initial phase of course is the design and prototyping of the plane. After a plane goes from concept to being on paper they will first cut the parts by hand to build the first planes for testing. They will cut, build, and then fly the planes in their initial testing phase. From there they will  make changes they find are needed and start all over again in building and flying their test aircraft. Once they have a plane to where they think it's ready the plane then needs to be designed for production. At this phase they take the design to the factory to build prototypes of the design. These come back to Aeroworks where they will evaluate the construction, production, and then they build the plane. From there they make changes to the design, which of course require the design to go back to the factory for another prototype run. As we said earlier, they will often change a design to make it easier to produce if they find that the factory can't maintain quality throughout the production process. When they have the design ready for production they first bring it back to Aeroworks where they then build the plane in order to write the assembly manual for the plane, as well as take pictures and video for the manual and for promotional materials on the plane. They also need to design the box that the plane will ship in, which is done here as well. Once they have all this the plane can FINALLY go back for production. The improvement of a plane design is never ending for Aeroworks. In fact, when I saw Aeroworks in Toledo this year they had a prototype of a plane they are currently in the process of designing. Now just two months later Rocco told me that they have over 300 changes that they are making to that design before the plane goes to production. The process of designing a plane can take anywhere from 6-8 months up to 2 years to take a plane from design to full production. And even when a plane is in production the improvement of that plane doesn't stop. Many times Aeroworks will take feedback from the people flying the plane after they buy them and make improvements to the design of that plane, which they will often incorporate in future production runs of that plane. It's a never ending process of improvement that makes Aeroworks an industry leader producing quality airplanes that pilots love to fly.

     

    Aeroworks Airplanes

    50cc Extra 300 ARF-QB
    .60-.90 Extra 260 ARF-QB
    30cc Freestyle Extra 260ARF-QBL

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    As we were in the main office part of Aeroworks I noticed that Rocco's office wasn't there. When I asked him where his office was, his answer was a simple "It's out back." Now I'm going to date myself with this next statement, but when I was growing up one of my favorite TV shows was "WKRP In Cincinnati." One of the characters on the show was Les Nessman, who was the news reporter for the WKRP radio station. Les didn't have an office, but rather had a desk out it the "bull pen" with everybody else. But Les felt that he should have an office. So what he did was put down tape on the floor around his desk representing what should be his walls, and he asked everybody at the station to "act" like there were actually walls in place. When I walked out to see Rocco's office the image of Les Nessman and his "walls" was the first thing that came to mind. Rocco's desk is located out in the warehouse next to the area that they do their R&D. When I asked Rocco why he had his desk out in the warehouse his answer was simple, "I like to be out here so that I have a better connection to what we are doing in our development of new planes." He explained that this is one of the most important parts of what they do in developing new planes, and improving existing planes, so he felt that having his desk out in the R&D area keeps him more connected to what's going on. After spending some time with Rocco it's clear to see that he is deeply committed to providing his customers with high quality planes, parts, and accessories. This is easily one of the biggest reasons why Aeroworks is such a success and is an industry leader.

    Are those "tape lines" around your desk Rocco?

    The Aeroworks R&D area.

    A plane on the development table in the R&D area.

      

    Aeroworks Airplanes

    .46-.60 ProX 260 ARF-QB
    .90-1.20 Yak 54 ARF-QB
    50cc Sport Cub S2 ARF-QB

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    When I sat down with Rocco at Aeroworks it was far from the first time I had met him. Having spent the last few years covering events for RCU I have met Rocco at events such as the Toledo RC Expo and Warbirds Over the Rockies many times in the past. I asked Rocco how important attending these events are for him, and his answer that it is very important for him and the Team at Aeroworks. Besides just getting out of the warehouse occasionally he indicated to me that going to these events was important because it gives him a chance to spend time with the people that are flying Aeroworks planes. And this is heart and soul of what is important to Aeroworks. They are here to serve the pilots of this hobby, so getting to talk to them and see what they are looking for in airplanes gives Rocco and his staff a good feel for where the hobby is, and where it's going. At these events I've seen Rocco spend 20-30 minutes talking to just one customer, and you can tell by watching him that he truly enjoys the time that he spent with that customer. With 20 years under his belt it's a pretty safe bet that Rocco has hit on a recipe for success and for giving the customer what they want, and face to face time with his customers is a big part of this. If you have a chance to get to any of these events get on over t0 the Aeroworks booth and spend some time with Rocco or his staff and you'll see just how serious they about taking care of their customers.
     

    Aeroworks Airplanes

    30cc Cessna LC-126 ARF-QB

     
    30cc Bravata ARF-QB

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      I can take up a lot of space here typing up what I learned from visiting with Rocco and his Aeroworks staff, but they say a picture is worth a thousand words. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, then video must be worth at least 10,000 words. So I won't take up more space here typing all this up, but rather let you spend some time getting the info straight from the source. Please check out the video of my visit with Aeroworks, and I hope that you enjoy the interview.
     
     

    RCU Industry Profile - Interview With Aeroworks

    Aeroworks Interview - Part 1
    Aeroworks Interview - Part 2

    Aeroworks Interview - Part 3
    Comments on RCU Review: An RCU Industry Profile Aero Works

    Posted by: phakur on 07/21/2013
    Well- RCKen- you should check out the thread on the forum about the Bravata and the lack of response by AW. I will never buy another of their planes.
    Posted by: farmerric on 08/07/2013
    You said that they still produce and support all kits once produced by Aeroworks. Except for the Stearman???
    Posted by: lomcevac540T on 08/13/2013
    Aeroworks is truly a great company to deal with. I have bought six aircraft from them over the years and I have always had great service. The kits are superb to begin with, but if by chance you do have an issue, they are always there to help resolve the problem. First class company and aircraft to match! Keep up the good work!
    Posted by: bikerbc on 08/29/2013
    From what I have seen there customer service sucks...What about the customers that are unhappy with the Bravata..
    Page: 1

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