Time for Indian Aerospace Companies to increase 'Technical Competency'

By: Ashok Sanmani
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As mentioned in the previously shared article, the requirements of aerospace industry are changing from last few years. To meet the future stringent and challenging technical requirements I feel Indian aerospace companies should think to produce more good ‘engineers' and ‘translators' compared to managers and the PMPs. These companies can also play a potential role in case if Indian government takes up new program in transport category.

Engineers, should have a sound knowledge on product & its interfaces; loads, load paths, case correlation & critical load case selection; advanced materials (metallic, composite, sandwich); understand and anticipate all possible failure modes that could occur in service; best methods, procedures & standards. They also should have an ability to make right assumptions & validation of the same; advanced manufacturing engineering with easy assembly techniques, which are very essential to provide solution to today's engineering problems. One more important area is certification i.e. producing certification calculations and certification reports as all the new aircrafts including the derivatives will have to undergo certification either type certificate (TC) or supplemental type certificate (STC).

Translators/Leads, who convert an expert's language into an engineer's language, shall interpret in a simple way to make the engineers to understand problems with proper visualization, which is very essential & important in aerospace engineering. Unfortunately, the aerospace industry in India is suffering with lack of sufficient translators/leads. In the present situation, after some level there is no road map for the technical people for their career growth they are forced to choose the managerial path. Probably, at present the strength of translators/leads is not even 30-35% percent of managers but it should have been in other way.

Today's biggest concern is, very few engineers would be coming forward to take-up the ownership for the problem as this community is not being properly respected & being used on need basis. In last two decades the industry has produced quite good amount of population who takes ownership for the people (managers) but unfortunately has not developed sufficient people to own the problems (translators/leads). Unless ownership is taken for the problem understanding will not come....if the understating is not there experience will not come...if the experience is not there projects will not come.....if projects are not there revenue will not come. Even to increase the revenue the engineering companies should produce more good engineers & leads and by which competency shall be developed which helps to provide more confidence to customers. Ninety plus percent of the engineers who have gone abroad in search of opportunities are technical people.

Subject Matter Expert (SME), for the high technical matters currently aerospace industry is depending on the people who are retiring from the government organizations, who will have experience on the domestic military programs. But, all the private players who would be depending on these experts are working on the international programs mostly on commercial aircrafts. Couple of things to be considered in this area are; 1. The companies have to set their expectations and have to provide fairly good time for them to work on international commercial programs to understand the requirements better. 2. Companies should identify the leads/translators, who shall interact with these experts and utilize their experience. The industry should treat them with respect and utilize them for reviews, trainings, guidance, mentoring etc. rather using them or making them to work.

At present Indian aerospace industry has very few senior technical experts (aged 65+yrs), who have good experience in different phases of aircraft design and development with 30-35 years of experience in domestic programs and around 5+ years of experience on international programs. Since very few good SMEs are available, the companies should plan to utilize their strength & capabilities in next 2-3 years and transfer the knowledge to young engineers through leads/ translators.

About Recent Articles: Yes. It is quite true and agrees with some of the recent articles which say the opportunities in engineering field have come down and quality of the engineer has also come down. In my opinion along with the industry, the universities & colleges also have the responsibility to work more in this direction to minimize the gap between industry and academia. The universities & colleges have to carry out more research work on some of the industry problems to provide solutions.

About Current Practices: I am aware that, when a company works with any particular customer on specific program, the companies will be asked to follow the specific methods, guidelines, standards etc. Many times these methods, guidelines, standards will vary from program to program within OEM (original equipment manufacturer). Each time you may notice new tools/software with lot of customization, modified methods, improvements from past learning's but based on same engineering philosophies, fundamentals and techniques with more practicality (valid assumptions & experimental results) and will be moving more close towards the truth which I feel missing in the companies within our country.

Probable way forward:

  • Serious thought process is required to create good working environment. By doing we shall also think to call back the Indian engineers/leads who are currently working in abroad.
  • Rigorous commitment from all the players to produce more good engineers and leads/translators. Provide meaningful designations; make them proud and responsible for their work.
  • Time to provide road map for the engineers to choose their career path. Let us promise to develop reasonably good number of translators/leads.
  • Identify/develop chief engineers or groom good translators/leads to next level. Provide necessary support and encouragement. 
  • Let all the stake holders (government, government organizations, private companies, universities and colleges) within our country should focus to provide knowledge on domain and technology in line with international standards.
  • Check. Is it possible to have collaboration/partnership among private companies at least on project basis..? This probably helps to win more projects, leverage competency level, will provide an opportunity for engineers to improve their skills.
  • Young engineers also should improve their attitude towards learning. Suggest considering engineering as domain not just tool based knowledge/experience. Till you become good and confident in your domain/area request all the engineers to manage and spend your time carefully (spend less time on twitter, face book, whats-up etc).

The future requirement smells like "Don't Do What I Say, Do What Needs to Be Done."

(The writer of this article, Ashok Sanmani is an Aerospace Engineer.)

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