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David Bradley

Chairman

Axiscades Engineering Technologies

1 Rating

MANUFACTURING ENGINEERING The future won’t be one big revolution, it’ll be an incremental evolution

Mar 19, 2020

…mentions David Bradley, Chairman, Axiscades Engineering Technologies, in his conversation with Anvita Pillai. Spread across the diverse sectors of aerospace, defence, heavy engineering, automotive, energy & medical equipment, Axiscades offers innovative, sustainable and safer products worldwide and delivers business value across the entire engineering lifecycle. Giving a fresh perspective to the industry slowdown, Bradley speaks about the growing engineering capabilities in India, technological upscaling in the industry, collaborations in India and more. Excerpts…

You recently bagged a multi-million-dollar deal with Airbus. Can you tell us more about this deal and what is it that you bring to the table for Airbus in this association? Also, how according to you is it a testament to India’s growing engineering prowess?

The relationship between Axiscades and Airbus is now nine years old. We are supporting parts of the final assembly line where there are engineering problems, concessions & things are not quite made. We do root cause analysis to understand what’s going wrong with the manufacturing process and how can we make sure that the concession, as it’s called, doesn’t materialise again, because it delays production and delivery to the end customer.

I’ve been coming to India for not so long, but 2005 was my first time. I think, it’s true to say, back then it was a lower cost source. Now, it’s not about the lower cost, it’s a different technological approach, and it is the ideas & innovations that people are coming to India for. I feel it’s easier to transform mindsets in India to become a global player with a proximity to resources. So, it really is a testament to the capabilities.

Axiscades is widespread in heavy engineering, automotive, defence, energy, etc. Which of these industries, according to you, have a promising potential in adopting the technological step-up/digitalisation?

I think it’s across the piece. What we are looking at now in aerospace and what we are doing in heavy capital machinery for our American clients, they fit each other, and each client is interested in what the other is doing. It’s not because they are trying to steal the IPR, but they’re just interested in the application of new technologies, new approach and more agile methods of innovating and automating processes. So, I think all the sectors, whether it be energy, automotive, capital plant or aerospace, all can benefit from it. Some aspects of the defence sectors, because of the short production run, are more stymied for some of the innovations. But that’s not through a lack of will. Their innovation is more in the functionality of the product rather than the means of production.

How is Axiscades working towards strengthening its presence in India? Are you aiming at any collaborations/partnerships in India?

I think it’s across the piece. What we are looking at now in aerospace and what we are doing in heavy capital machinery for our American clients, they fit each other, and each client is interested in what the other is doing. It’s not because they are trying to steal the IPR, but they’re just interested in the application of new technologies, new approach and more agile methods of innovating and automating processes. So, I think all the sectors, whether it be energy, automotive, capital plant or aerospace, all can benefit from it. Some aspects of the defence sectors, because of the short production run, are more stymied for some of the innovations. But that’s not through a lack of will. Their innovation is more in the functionality of the product rather than the means of production.

How is Axiscades working towards strengthening its presence in India? Are you aiming at any collaborations/partnerships in India?

There are a lot of collaborations going on with small start-up companies. We are working with some small companies on Machine Learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence (AI), where we are looking to automate some of the processes and really change the business model. So, some of the mundane tasks, which may have attracted people to come to India, are getting automated by us faster than many other parts of the world. And that’s good, because it’s giving us the opportunity for much richer & value-added activities.

To take a leap to digital transformation, a supporting infrastructure has always been a major concern. What are the short-term and long-term challenges in this area and how can they be addressed?

One thing that we need to do is embrace a more agile approach, and we’ve got to think differently. In my time, we had this huge funnel of massive ideas and the job was how quickly can we get down to ‘the one’ and, that’s not the approach needed. The funnel needs to be opened because one doesn’t quite know, and the speed of innovation comes in fraction of the time than it used to before. So, I think the future won’t be a one big revolution, it’ll be an incremental evolution. If we can get all our engineers thinking about innovation using new technology, we’re going to get small improvements everywhere, which will move the mass forward. As the cycle for testing ideas are shorter, one doesn’t have to make very big investment decisions. So, if the infrastructure is about investment, this agile approach is reducing that.

How to take care of supply chain and security concerns as well as the knowledge enhancement & skill retention in the digital transformation journey?

Technological change is so rapid today that one does not have to worry about anybody getting to know any information, because as soon as it’s mature, it’s outdated. One must have the spirit of innovation and one has to change. Our business model is a very heavy B2B relationship. So, we need to understand the planning process and protect our client’s IPR because it’s their prodigies and data. I believe our IPR is our workforce. For me, our IPR can walk out any day, they can quit. To retain skills, my belief is that we need to pay towards the top of the industry norms. But more importantly, it’s about making sure that the work is interesting, exciting and challenging.

There has been a considerable slowdown in the manufacturing industry for the past year. How can one manage to cope well out of the present conditions? Any recommendations on dos and don’ts in this area?

To me, it’s about being good at what one does. One needs to make sure they don’t just manage the projects, but they manage the business. It is essential to have a portfolio of clients, sectors and geographical regions, that gives one the flexibility. There’s always going to be economic downturns that affect the whole industry. But if one is in a very narrow vertical, he is in a very dangerous position. I think, diversity of revenue sources and being constantly ambitious brings in more growth. For companies that are concentrated in one particular field, for example, metal cutters, they need to understand that they are not metal cutters for only the automotive industry, but they need to understand what their generic skills are and apply them to other relevant sectors as well. This way, they will find that there are other interests, and then, there is more cross fertilisation between industrial sectors.

What would be the next step in this direction for drawing up a roadmap by defining simple building blocks or a path forward for the success of digital transformation?

At present, we are trying to truly decouple revenue and resources so that we can deliver services that are not just people dependent but are a combination of technology dependent as well as people who can apply those. Our focus is to see how we can use various pieces of technology, whether it’s ML or AI, to undertake these tasks. Application and deployment of new technology is inherently bound to give us some flexibility. Also, there is a huge amount of potential and growth still needed. So, I think reskilling of jobs is where we are going to go.

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  • David Bradley occupies the position of Chairman at Axiscades Engineering Technologies and Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director at Inbis (Isle of Man). During his career, he has participated in various industry associations, including Society of British Aerospace Companies Engineering & Technical Board (SBAC) and Nuclear Industry Association (NIA). He was also elected as a fellow of Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and holds an MBA from the Warwick University.

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