Founded on the age-old craftsmanship of Franz List’s 1950s’ carpentry business, F/LIST has expanded globally, adding facilities and staff, but never losing sight of the qualities and technologies that so appeal to its VVIP customers. Its recently opened Montreal, Canada site is generally typical of the company’s overseas ventures, but also represents the first fully operational production centre outside F/LIST’s Austrian headquarters. Other facilities, including that in Florida, offer product support and promote customer relationships, primarily offering repair and support services.
Sean Johnson, F/LIST Montreal CEO, says the company’s origins and traditional qualities are never forgotten, and Canada works very closely with the Austrian office. “We receive a lot of support from them in terms of expertise, process and quality management, sales support, procurement and so on. We’re one family and try to maintain the same operational excellence evident from our foundation in Austria.
“Designated as a veneer centre of excellence, Montreal is the first F/LIST location outside the home country to produce our high-quality veneers and is designed to serve the North American market, while Austria continues to produce veneers for the rest of the world; the business is growing, which is why the decision was made to create the facility in Montreal.”
Veneer of excellence
F/LIST is especially well respected for its veneer work and Johnson says the materials and processes involved are subject to constant technological innovation, especially in the areas of flame treatment, de-risking the process of certification, while preserving the colour and quality of the wood; in addition, there are continuous advances in varnishing and finishing techniques to keep up with commercial interior design.
Johnson also explains the extent of F/LIST’s Canadian offering beyond veneers. “It covers the entire value chain of aircraft interiors from the initial sales contact up to comprehensive refurbishment services. This includes the development, engineering and manufacturing of all aspects of the cabin interior, including floorings, linings and systems integration. Our product support teams are at the disposal of our major customers, to provide on-site assistance with touch-ups and repairs of delivered cabinetry, for example, and final polishing before approval by the principal.
“F/LIST has made a name for itself as a provider of high-quality flame retardant wood veneers thanks to its proprietary REACH [Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals] compliant flame retardant formula that avoids milky surfaces, greying and salt-crust stains. Besides a rich portfolio of available veneers, many of them available with live-log samples, F/LIST offers extensive consulting services, digital layout schemes of selected veneers to help customers visualise their cabin interior, and Microlumber, a unique multi-layered veneer that matches the look of solid wood.
“Naturally, we use our veneers ourselves in our floorings and cabinets, but a large part of our production is sold as custom multi-ply, non-flammable veneer. This is a focal point for F/LIST Canada’s work, we produce custom veneer projects for customers in the region. It shortens lead times and offers improved service compared to ordering veneer from Austria, providing our customers with a competitive advantage.”
Over the next few years, F/LIST plans to expand its Montreal presence to more than 100 employees, depending on how quickly the market responds to the new facility, which only opened in May this year. Speaking in August, Johnson confirmed: “But we’re already actively producing veneer shipsets and we’ll add varnishing and refurbishment in coming months.
“Meanwhile, F/LIST’s strong aftermarket division provides a broad range of refurbishment services, including touch-ups, repairs, re-varnishing and re-veneering of cabinetry, replacement of floors, re-upholstery of seats, divans and linings, and more. We also have mobile repair teams, agile groups of specialists available worldwide on short notice to conduct urgent touch-ups and repairs on board an aircraft.”
F/LIST’s choice of North American location was in part influenced by local industry, not least Bombardier Business Aircraft, and personnel resources. “In the Montreal cluster and surrounding region, we’re serving a great concentration of existing and potential F/LIST customers, and it’s also a great base for all of North America. And there’s a deep aerospace talent pool here, given that Montreal is quickly becoming an industry hub with close proximity to many major US cities and aerospace customers.”
Although the area is rich in talented people with the skills F/LIST requires, the company is obliged to compete for their services with a large number of potential employers. But Johnson feels F/LIST has an advantage: “Our hiring has been successful so far – the company’s reputation as a great place to work is definitely generating interest. Its culture, passion for finest craftsmanship and dedication to quality are convincing arguments for local talent seeking the ideal job.”
Johnson himself is an experienced aerospace leader, having worked in the industry, mostly for Bombardier, for more than 20 years. “I led customer-facing teams configuring Global Expresses for customers, and I led Global 7000 interior development for six years, developing a relationship with F/LIST as a consequence. I was always impressed with the quality, customer relationship and company culture they exhibited. When I had the opportunity to join them and help create this new facility I didn’t hesitate. It’s an opportunity to be part of a well-regarded company, offer my experience and leadership, and bring the next wave of growth for North America.”
Mining local talent is a good employment policy for the short term, but arguably short sighted over the longer term. As such, F/LIST has begun engaging local schools with a view to eventually participating in aspects of their training and development programmes. It’s a well-founded company ambition, Johnson explains: “F/LIST Austria has a long tradition of apprenticeships – its apprentice programme has been lauded with Austrian national honours, so we already know how valuable it is. We definitely intend to pursue the apprenticeship route to bring in the best people, and we’ll use the training know-how our Austrian colleagues have built up.”
Before F/LIST Montreal begins nurturing the next generation of high-tech craftsmen though, its primary attention is elsewhere. “Our main goals are to establish all the production capabilities and transfer the main on-going work for our North American customers to this facility,” Johnson says. “After that we hope to engage new customers, encouraging them into trying our innovative, well-crafted and reliable products.”