Invest NI helps Datum land major deal with Airbus

Support from Invest Northern Ireland has helped Ballynahinch aerospace consultancy Datum Tool Design secure a major six-figure deal with European aircraft giant Airbus Industrie.

In partnership with Californian high-tech tool fabricator Coast Composites, Datum will supply bespoke tooling for the assembly of major structural components for Airbus’s new A350-XWB passenger aircraft. The contract includes tooling for composite wings and fuselage for Airbus Germany, and the composite centre wing box and fuselage intersection for Airbus France.

The deal follows investments by Datum totalling almost £250,000 in the last three years in developing the company’s Computer Aided Design (CAD) capability,  ramping up its export marketing activities and moving to dedicated new premises.

Invest NI has offered over £50,000 towards the investments, with the IT support element part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

These investments enabled Datum to increase turnover by around 50 percent year on year and create eight high value skilled jobs, following previous orders from big name global aerospace clients.

Ian Murphy, Invest NI’s Managing Director of Clients and Entrepreneurship, congratulated the company on its success: “Despite the current economic climate the local aerospace sector continues to perform well in extremely challenging international markets. Datum Tool Design is an excellent example of a small business that is building its reputation in the sector thanks to expertise in a particular niche area.

“This major deal with Airbus highlights the benefits of Datum’s strategic partnership with precision tooling fabricator Coast Composites. With capabilities that complement each other, the two companies are pooling their resources for mutual gain. This approach is paying dividends with both companies securing lucrative work with top aerospace clients.”

Michael Maguire, Joint Managing Director of Datum, said: “Ongoing support from Invest NI has helped us significantly develop our capability in the design of tools for the latest composite materials. This in turn enabled us to secure contracts with Bombardier under which we started working with Coast Composites – they were using our designs to make tools for Bombardier’s wing development programme for their CSeries aircraft.

“It soon became clear that by directly partnering our design capability with Coast’s fabrication skills, the companies together could present a proposal to Airbus that would be attractive both in terms of cost and the expertise available.

“The new A350-XWB from Airbus will set new standards for efficiency not only in operation but also in its manufacture. Airbus is seeking to reduce final assembly lead-in times by 30 per cent compared to other aircraft programmes. To achieve this it requires very high specification tooling and we are delighted to have been selected to supply it.”