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Friday, July 1, 2011

Editor's Note: Avionics Globalization

By Emily Feliz

It’s not news to anyone reading this publication that globalization is in full force and is not slowing down any time soon. Within companies, employees can communicate and collaborate on projects as easily as if they were sitting in the same office.

And beyond that, establishing a global network of partnerships between companies can yield significant operational, strategic and financial benefits for all the companies involved. I see it happening all the time international companies collaborate in avionics system design and engineering, specifically the interaction of information technology and engineering departments, in completing complex, end-to-end systems.

It is happening everywhere, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It can be difficult to establish and a challenge to maintain this type of supplier network, particularly in the area of avionics engineering, according to speakers of an Avionics Magazine Webinar, “Global Partnerships in Avionics Development Engineering.” The Webinar, recorded on June 8 and sponsored by Infotech Enterprises, based in Hyderabad, India, is free and available for on-demand viewing at www.aviationtoday.com/webinars.

The basis of a successful global partnership is to clearly establish your organization’s goals and objectives and identify your organization’s strengths and weaknesses.

The locations of the participants of the Webinar itself spoke to the increasing global nature of this business, with speakers from India, Germany, Puerto Rico and the United States, and listeners from all corners of the globe, including many from emerging markets. Panelists stressed that these types of global partnerships will be increasing for the avionics world, particularly in emerging markets such as China, India, Brazil and others. And cost pressures the main driver for many of these partnerships aren’t going away any time soon, the panelists said.

The basis of a successful global partnership, according to the panelists, is to clearly establish your organization’s goals and objectives and identify your organization’s strengths and weaknesses, and more specifically what value another company or companies could add.

“To really maximize your value in avionics, the key is to focus on your core competencies while expanding your existing portfolio and finding an engineering partner who complements you. A partner has to be capable of taking on complete subsystems,” said Sanjay Sharma, general manager and practice head for avionics at Infotech. “Today’s [avionics] business is perfectly suited as a global platform for global engineering.”

For example, Sharma said, a typical global avionics partnership could include product development, program management, manufacturing, system integration, maintenance and customer support all in different geographic locations. “The manner by which our flat world has evolved over a period of time, especially from a perspective of engineering services, has been phenomenal,” Sharma said.

Managing that global network, however, can be difficult, to say the least. One questioner during the Webinar asked how much “hand holding” was needed to ensure suppliers and subcontractors are all on the same page and progressing with the end goal. The question is valid how do you keep tabs on your partners when there are wide gaps in culture, language and geography? Where is the tipping point that the time and energy required to manage the vast network outweighs the time and energy it would take to simply do it yourself? Longer-term relationships can help; trust that is built during the course of a project can reduce the amount of “hand holding” necessary. Panelists said, however, that this is all part of the process.

“One of the things that can be done for this is to recognize that the type of ‘hand holding’ so to speak is a risk to success and treating it just like any other risk establishing a risk mitigation plan, understading the issues that might require more customer support than would be expected and then working to mitigate those risks as the program starts and is executed,” said Brett Lynch, chief engineer for systems and software at Infotech Aerospace Services in Isabela, Puerto Rico.

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