Click Bond, Inc. is recognized as an industry pioneer and a leading supplier of advanced assembly solutions to the aerospace industry. Today the company supports global leaders across the civil and military aircraft, unmanned systems and space vehicle manufacturing sectors. Click Bond’s adhesive bonded fastener products permit installation of systems and structural attachments without drilled holes, reducing customers’ manufacturing costs and improving the maintainability and longevity of their products.
General aviation users and passionate pilots from the start, Click Bond’s leaders have leveraged an increasingly capable succession of business aircraft to deliver the company’s signature responsiveness and support to an expanding customer base effectively. Click Bond President and CEO Karl Hutter talks with Member Focus to discuss how aviation works as a value-added business tool for his company and how it can work for others in the manufacturing sector.
Member Focus: Click Bond’s products are found in a multitude of industries. How do you stay connected to your different customer networks?
Hutter: Our customer base is located across the United States, and about 25 percent of our business is with international customers, predominantly in Europe, Asia and South America. Additionally, our growth has expanded our footprint; in addition to our headquarters in Carson City, Nev., we have a design and manufacturing presence in Watertown, Conn., and a small but growing adhesives facility in Saltney, Wales.
From Carson City, we access airline service through Reno, our closest commercial airport, although the number of nonstop destinations from there are limited. Reaching our primary company and customer sites typically requires one or even two stops with commercial travel. Our team, therefore, spends an unnecessary amount of time on the road away from home and at the mercy of connecting flights and delays.
This is a major driving factor in our continuing expansion of our corporate flight operations. Our customers value our commitment to responsiveness and support; it is a source of genuine competitive advantage. Agility is one of Click Bond’s core values, and business aviation is critical to our ability to deliver it.
Member Focus: As your business has grown and changed, how has your use of business aviation changed with it?
Hutter: My father, mother and I are pilots, and early on, we utilized piston propeller aircraft—a Cessna 185 and then an Aerostar twin—for many of the company’s business trips. In the beginning, we’d have two people on a trip and fly short legs along the West Coast, calling on our customers in Los Angeles and Seattle. However, the increasing need to travel to places like Wichita, Kan.; Fort Worth, Texas; and Washington, D.C., demanded longer legs than what the Aerostar could provide practically.
We acquired the Connecticut facility, and our customer footprint continued to expand. Additionally, as programs grew in complexity, new teams of engineers and specialists needed to be in more places while staying connected to our operations in Carson City. That’s when we made the move to a Cessna Citation business jet. Today we make use of a fleet of three aircraft, including a Citation CJ3 jet for those longer coast-to-coast trips from Carson City to Watertown.
What was usually a two-stop, all-day journey—provided everything went right with connections—is now a five-hour, 15-minute nonstop flight departing right from our own backdoor. This aircraft has been a game-changer from a mission profile and economic standpoint, and the reliability for our team—and customers—is unparalleled.
My father and I are both certified to fly the Citation, and we personally fly many of these trips, either solo or working as a crew with Jere Marble, our pilot and manager of flight operations and maintenance. He keeps the operation running smoothly and safely.
Member Focus: What has business aviation enabled your company to do?
Hutter: With our need to reach across the continent quickly and reliably, it fills the gaps commercial travel can’t, both in terms of efficiency and flexibility. The economics and payload capabilities of the larger Citation have allowed us to include an increasingly diverse group of teammates on board, representing many disciplines.
That means we can go beyond just having a limited group of senior people at a meeting or a plant visit. It allows me to expose more employees to their customers and their work. They’re not only communicating with customers over the phone or corresponding via email, but they’re also on-site, seeing the successes and the challenges firsthand. This valuable face time builds knowledge of the environments where our products are used and enhances the connection between our employees and the customers we serve.
As a company that puts customer support at the center of what we provide—from rapid turnaround of engineered solutions and prototypes to responsive on-site training and customer support—we view the capability that business aviation provides to our team as essential.
Right now we have the perfect aircraft for our mission, at least until our business drives a great need for intercontinental travel.
Member Focus: General aviation is still gaining traction in the manufacturing industry as a useful business tool. How do your customers view your use of aircraft?
Hutter: Many of our customers have roots in the aviation and aerospace industry, and they know and love that we are true aviation enthusiasts. Click Bond’s aircraft ownership and operation demonstrates that passion, but more importantly, puts us in our customers’ shoes. When we meet with Textron Aviation, for example, our contacts in engineering know we bring not only a supplier/partner perspective but also a customer perspective, and that we recognize the importance of the quality and reliability of their product to their customers, and that our own products must enable that.
Member Focus: What’s your advice for a manufacturer considering business aviation to expand its footprint?
Hutter: Definitely be thoughtful about where you are pounding in stakes—the investment in a plant, a workforce and a community is one of the strongest commitments that you will make. Ensure that the place in which you choose to land has the access to customers, material and other resources that you will need to be successful. Don’t rule out wonderful communities that may offer tremendous advantage but don’t have a robust commercial air service. That’s where business aviation proves to be a valuable asset.
A capable general aviation airport, coupled by your company’s use of business aviation, can make them not only practical places to base your operation but also unlock locations that might be the source of competitive advantage that others might never find.
L to R: Click Bond founders Charles Hutter and Collie Hutter and President and CEO Karl Hutter in front of the company’s Citation CJ3 business jet