Home SPECIAL COVERAGESIDEF 2019 Special Interview: Engin AYKOL, General Manager of Nurol Makina

Interview: Engin AYKOL, General Manager of Nurol Makina

by MSI
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“Nurol Makina is joining IDEF’19 as a company taking firm steps towards becoming a global brand.”

 

Nurol Makina joins IDEF’19 as a company that has become a global brand after carrying the success it has achieved in Turkey to international platforms. The vehicles developed by Nurol Makina, which have already generated significant business in the international markets, have started to receive orders from abroad even before entering serial production or being procured by users in Turkey. We had the opportunity to learn more about the company’s increasing export figures and the growing product family from Engin Aykol, General Manager of Nurol Makina.

 

MSI TDR: Mr. Aykol, IDEF serves as an important reference point for monitoring the level of progress attained by the Turkish defence and aerospace sector. What kind of development and evolution has Nurol Makina witnessed since IDEF’17?

Engin AYKOL: Between IDEF’17 and IDEF’19, Nurol Makina has taken firm steps towards becoming an international brand. Over the past two years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of our international users.  I should note that we have also signed contracts for a new vehicle that has yet to enter serial production. Given our current standing, it would be fair to say that Nurol Makina has gained international-level recognition, both as a brand and as a corporate entity, and that each of our vehicles has become recognised brands in their own right.

Another highlight at IDEF’19 will be the configuration diversity of the different payloads we integrate into our vehicles, which is an area that we applied a particular focus in first half of 2018. To this end, we assigned a considerable amount of our workforce to the design and roll-out of five different configurations of EJDER YALÇIN. We have now launched the serial production of these configurations, and have even made the first deliveries to our customers. At the exhibition, we will be showcasing the ambulance configuration of EJDER YALÇIN, which is one of the new designs I mentioned. Some of the configurations we have come up with put us head and shoulders above comparable vehicles found around the world. In fact, some of our users have even asked us not to showcase these vehicles at IDEF’19.

Considering all of these developments, I can say that Nurol Makina is joining IDEF’19 as a company taking firm steps towards becoming a global brand.

Nurol Makina has, especially in the first half of 2018, been working extensively on the integration of different payloads onto EJDER YALÇIN, which has resulted in five new and novel configurations.

Nurol Makina has, especially in the first half of 2018, been working extensively on the integration of different payloads onto EJDER YALÇIN, which has resulted in five new and novel configurations.

 

MSI TDR: What are the main factors behind your recent success in the foreign markets?

Engin AYKOL: We are all aware that the sustainability of the sector demands we provide services not only to users in Turkey, but also to the international market. At Nurol Makina, we design our indigenous solutions in line with global standards, and for the most challenging missions. This enables us to roll out vehicles that fully meet the requirements of domestic users such as the Turkish Armed Forces, the General Command of the Gendarmerie and the Turkish National Police, all of which actively use our systems and have the highest standards and expectations, as well as the requirements of friendly and allied nations.

Being successful abroad is only possible with products that have proven themselves.  Nobody makes a final purchasing decision without first testing the product. We put our vehicles through very rigorous tests, all the while competing with the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers. To illustrate how stringent and rigorous these tests are: There comes a point when the question of whether the vehicle you are selling figures in the inventory of your own country becomes not so relevant, as passing these tests already tells the user everything they need to know about the vehicle. We experienced this with NMS and ILGAZ II. Our vehicles have proven to be highly successfully during tests, and this in turn leads to new contracts for us. We have recently been inking a number of large-scale projects abroad, and the purchase orders we have received have reached considerable numbers. Our business volume has increased to the point where we can now consider investing in the relevant countries. Our production lines are constantly at maximum capacity, and we meet our deadlines through a busy work schedule.

The rapid rise in our number of orders stems from the sum of numerous factors, including the high performance demonstrated in the field by the vehicles we roll out, and the services we deliver in our projects in accordance with our corporate stance.

Another important factor that sets us apart from our competitors is that we design our vehicles, especially with respect to their mobility and survivability characteristics, by taking into account the requirements that we expect to emerge in the future. Thus, when these future forecasts do come to pass, we already have a ready-to-use solution that we can offer the user. This puts us always a few steps ahead of our rivals.

From our standpoint, another important indicator of our success, aside from the increase the number of users, is that whenever we work with a given user, there is always a follow-up and a continuation of business. This is a reflection of the high quality of our products, the satisfaction of our customers, and the effectiveness and competency of our after-sales services. The new orders I speak of are not the options stipulated in the original contract, but are rather entirely new orders that were not originally envisaged. All of these developments indicate that we are on the right track with regards to exports.

We have also observed that a when a country begins to use our products, their neighbouring countries are also impacted.  When you enter a country, you are actually making a foray into the broader region, and you can witness a sudden increase in the target users and audience in the region.

We follow the exact same approach with our foreign users as we do with our domestic ones. We never had an approach that can be summed as “Here is the product, and here is its price tag”. We take customer requests fully into account, performing the necessary changes on our vehicles on a continual basis. We may even see customer requests for changes after our vehicles have entered the inventory, or while they are in use, and we respond to these requests without fail.

The integrated logistic support we provide for our vehicles is another highly important topic, and we underwent significant structural reorganisation in 2016 to better address this need. We foresee this type of activity becoming an important source of revenue, and that it will attain a share of 10–15 percent in our overall turnover. In addition to our centralised logistic practices, we also have local partners in foreign countries for logistic purposes, and there are also plans to carry out maintenance and repair activities remotely, taking advantage of the means that technology offers.

EJDER YALÇIN continues to gain popularity at an international level.

EJDER YALÇIN continues to gain popularity at an international level.

MSI TDR: In light of all that you have said, could you give us some numbers, such as the share within your turnover that your foreign sales have reached?

Engin AYKOL: The share of exports within our turnover has registered a substantial increase since 2014. Previously hovering at around 10–15 percent, it reached 75 percent last year, and this year we expect it to be above 90 percent.

 

MSI TDR: Which of your vehicles have received orders from abroad to date?

Engin AYKOL: I cannot list each and every one of them, due to privacy concerns and sensitivity of our users, although I can say that we have signed contracts for all members of our product family aside from one. But we expect to sign a contract for this vehicle very soon, with contractual negotiations reaching the final phase. To give you a few numbers, our vehicles have entered the inventories of 10 countries to date, and we expect to sign new contracts with several more countries by the end of 2019. As for Turkey, we have around 1,000 of our vehicles in the inventory.

The ambulance configuration of EJDER YALÇIN, one of the new configurations of the vehicle, will be showcased for the first time at IDEF’19.

The ambulance configuration of EJDER YALÇIN, one of the new configurations of the vehicle, will be showcased for the first time at IDEF’19.

 

Groundbreaking Moves in the Field of Exports

MSI TDR: When speaking of exports, people often highlight the cost advantage of Turkish suppliers. So where does Nurol Makina stand relative to the competition in terms of cost?

Engin AYKOL: This much I can clearly say with confidence: While our vehicles have a higher price tag than many of their competitors, they are all much more cost-effective. Our vehicles transport soldiers, gendarmes and policeman, and we are fully aware that the safety of their lives cannot be measured in monetary terms. This is why our vehicles possess every feature that their missions require. Let us look at NMS, for example. We designed this vehicle to serve in urban areas. Its robust level of protection, in addition to its low silhouette and high speed, are perfectly suited for this scenario of use. The level of protection that NMS offers against mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) is unmatched by other vehicles in its class. This is because the NMS was fashioned according to military standards, which naturally had the effect of increasing the vehicle’s initial purchase cost. We cannot lower ourselves to the costs of a vehicle that lacks military standards. However, a vehicle lacking military standards cannot offer the same high level of protection as NMS. Of course, it is up to the user to decide whether it needs this high level of protection. But we know for sure that most users around the world generally request this level of protection, and that those who currently do not will begin to do so in the near future. We have seen how users who are conscious of the importance of protection have already placed orders for NMS, even before the vehicle has completed its qualification procedures.

Just like EJDER YALÇIN, NMS is a vehicle with no equivalent within the sector. Through its add-on armour technology, its ballistic protection level can be augmented from Level 1 to Level 4, and the addition of armour can be carried out directly by the user in the field.

Just like EJDER YALÇIN, NMS is a vehicle with no equivalent within the sector. Through its add-on armour technology, its ballistic protection level can be augmented from Level 1 to Level 4, and the addition of armour can be carried out directly by the user in the field.

 

MSI TDR: There is a general perception that exporting to markets outside the Middle East, North Africa and Asia is categorically difficult for Turkish companies. On the other hand, we know that you are very close to signing a contract with a country in Europe. What is your take on this issue?

Engin AYKOL: We enter bids as a Turkish company, and there is a certain truth to the view that Turkish companies tend to be in a disadvantageous position in certain foreign markets, for various reasons. However, the vehicles we are speaking of are products of engineering, meaning that they have features that can be measured tangibly. The standards and technical specifications in question are also clear and well-defined. Given this environment, the higher the performance offered by your solution and product, the higher your chances.

For example, countries in Europe demand comprehensive tests in line with NATO standards. These are precisely the types of tenders in which we want to partake, since we have designed our vehicles specifically for the conditions that are tested – something which the results of the tests clearly reflect. These tests serve to demonstrate the difference and superiority of our vehicles, and we see this clearly during tenders in which we compete. We believe, with a measure of confidence, that as long as tenders remain open to all, we will be able to sell our vehicles even to countries that boast highly advanced and assertive land vehicle sectors.

Outstanding features of NMS include its low silhouette and high speed.

Outstanding features of NMS include its low silhouette and high speed.

 

MSI TDR: As a platform manufacturer, to what extent does Nurol Makina include companies from the Turkish defence and aerospace sector in the projects it carries out overseas?

Engin AYKOL: Our platforms contain the systems and components produced by about 300 Turkish companies. Together with us, these companies engage in production for overseas customers.  Then there are the various subsystems on the vehicles that are responsible for carrying out specific tasks. Whenever we go to a foreign country, we not only offer them our vehicle, but also speak with them about the accompanying payload. As a payload, we tend to propose specifically the solutions of Turkish companies. We thus provide significant added value to these companies.

 

MSI TDR: What can you tell us about Nurol Makina’s development as a corporate entity?

Engin AYKOL: We have achieved notable growth in recent times, and currently rank as the fifth largest defence sector company in Ankara in terms of turnover and exports. Over the past two years, we have made it onto the list of the top 500 industrial companies in Turkey, but we have managed this growth in a very healthy manner. We have significant ongoing investments.  These are not just investments into buildings or equipment, as we are also addressing our digital infrastructure through a rigorous approach. We took two important decisions last year: To overhaul our Corporate Resource Management system, and to establish a Product Life Cycle Management system. Both are being implemented gradually, in a module by module fashion.  These are developments that enhance our productivity and quality. Last year, we spearheaded a new initiative in the defence sector that earned us the Kaizen award. All in all, these developments serve to increase both our productivity and efficiency, while also enhancing Nurol Makina’s brand value.

Sales per person figure has increased about 4 times in the last five years. Within this process, our personnel numbers have not increased at the same rate as our turnover. We tend to invest more on the engineering side, and this, in a way, reflects the fact that when we grow, we do so together with our subsidiary industries. The volume of work we transfer to our subsidiary industries is increasing every year, and the efforts to increase the ratio of indigenousness in our solutions are playing an important role in this.

The difference of our approach is also visible in our human resources strategy. The new generation of young colleagues we are adding to our team is not the type that can be managed through old management approaches. Differently from the previous generations, you now have a generation that seeks meaning, and that wants to contribute actively. We want to take Nurol Makina even further by understanding the expectations of the new generation, by guiding them properly, and by keeping their motivation at the highest level. In this context, we are trying to make a difference through changes in both our management and leadership approaches. I believe that at Nurol Makina, we have succeeded in creating a highly loyal team that has the habit of constantly investigating and questioning. While our turnover has increased 12-fold over the past five years, our personnel numbers have only increased three-fold.

EJDER TOMA stands out as a vehicle that has reached full maturity in terms of design and development.

EJDER TOMA stands out as a vehicle that has reached full maturity in terms of design and development.

 

IDEF’19 to Showcase the Developments in Vehicles

MSI TDR: What kind of a stand can we expect from Nurol Makina at IDEF’19? What vehicles will be on display?

Engin AYKOL: This year, we have our space both in the enclosed and open areas of the exhibition. We will be showcasing EJDER TOMA and EJDER KUNTER in the open area, while our indoor stand will feature two EJDER YALÇINs, one NMS and one ILGAZ II. One of the EJDER YALÇINs will be integrated with a SARP remote-controlled weapon station, while the other will be in an ambulance configuration, which we will be showcasing for the very first time. NMS will be available for the scrutiny of visitors to our stand as a vehicle that has almost concluded its qualification tests, and that has already passed tests in three different countries. This vehicle will be integrated with a SARP ZAFER turret.

The systems of our business partners will be clearly visible on our vehicles, and in this way, we will also be demonstrating the positive synergy we are able to generate in the Turkish defence sector.

 

MSI TDR: What types of works have you conducted on the ambulance version of EJDER YALÇIN?

Engin AYKOL: First of all, I must stress that this is a very special type of vehicle. We did not just take a run-of-the-mill ambulance and slap armour on it. We instead adapted a vehicle that offers the highest survivability of its class to an ambulance role. All of the functions and equipment aboard the vehicle comply with the military standards for ambulances, and ensuring this conformity required us to adapt certain additional systems to our vehicle. There were some elements for which there were no ready-to-use solutions, or companies that could make such solutions, and so some of these adaptation works had to be done internally. The final result was a vehicle equipped with all the necessary equipment specified by military standards for ambulances that, at the same time, offers the necessary level of mobility and protection required in high-risk conflict areas.

As an internal security vehicle, and in line with the requirements of its potential scenarios of use, the ILGAZ II was developed around an off-the-shelf chassis.

As an internal security vehicle, and in line with the requirements of its potential scenarios of use, the ILGAZ II was developed around an off-the-shelf chassis.

 

MSI TDR: At the beginning of our conversation, you mentioned that you are currently working on numerous vehicles configurations. We see that the increase in the number of export destinations, along with the number of vehicles in the Nurol Makina family, is leading to a parallel increase in the number of configurations. How many different configurations are you working on in total?

Engin AYKOL: When it comes to configurations that are already bound by contracts, we are working on nine different set-ups, five of which are already serving in user inventories. On the other hand, while configuration is something that determines the intended task of a vehicle – for example whether it is an armoured personnel carrier or armoured combat vehicle – each user may still prefer to have different subsystems on a given configuration of a certain name. As such, I am actually not counting these subsystem-level variations in the number of different configurations I mentioned earlier.

EJDER KUNTER, seen during the EFES 2016 exercise in its ambulance configuration.

EJDER KUNTER, seen during the EFES 2016 exercise in its ambulance configuration.

 

MSI TDR: How do you manage the development and production of so many different configurations?

Engin AYKOL: This is an exciting area of development for us. We have already completed a substantial proportion of the necessary investments into our engineering infrastructure, and are continuing to make new, additional investments. In fact, the increase in the number of configurations is partly due to our business development efforts. As different configurations add more value to the vehicle, we come to recommend them to the end users. We explain them our design and product development capabilities, and introduce them, during their visits, to the configurations we roll out using products of the Turkish defence sector. We also do our best to encourage the user to opt for these products.

The underlying motive behind all of these works on configurations is to deliver turnkey platforms that single-handedly meet all of the user requirements.

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MSI TDR: What can you tell us about the NMS being featured at IDEF’19?

Engin AYKOL: At the exhibition, our visitors will see NMS as a vehicle that is likely to leave its mark in the upcoming period that has already received its first orders, that has nearly completed its qualification tests, and that will enter into serial production this year.

Just like EJDER YALÇIN, NMS is a vehicle with no equivalent within the sector. Through its add-on armour technology, its ballistic protection level can be augmented from Level 1 to Level 4, and the addition of armour can be carried out directly by the user in the field. There is no other vehicle in Turkey’s inventory with this feature. As this feature is something that is related directly to the vehicle’s initial design, it is not possible to turn an existing vehicle into one that is capable of accommodating add-on armour. With its low silhouette, low turning radius and high speed, NMS is a vehicle that will make a difference in urban warfare.

To date, all of the purchase orders we have received for NMS have been from abroad. Even though there is generally no offset or technology development obligation requested in domestic projects, we have still worked extensively with Turkish business partners while developing the NMS. We have always opted for domestic versions of a subsystem or part whenever we can find a cost-effective and reliable alternative within our own country.

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MSI TDR: ILGAZ II was showcased at IDEF’17 as a vehicle that had concluded its development process. Can you tell us about the latest works and activities pertaining to this vehicle?

Engin AYKOL: As an internal security vehicle, and in line with the requirements of its potential scenarios of use, we developed ILGAZ II around an off-the-shelf chassis. ILGAZ II has already entered into service with a foreign user, and we are continuing to hold talks with other prospective buyers abroad. We had indeed showcased ILGAZ II at IDEF’17 as a vehicle that had completed its qualification process, and since then, we have continued to work on the vehicle’s mission systems in line with a number of requests we have received.

 

MSI TDR: Is there any up-to-date information you can share with us concerning EJDER TOMA and EJDER KUNTER?

Engin AYKOL: EJDER TOMA is a vehicle that has reached full maturity in terms of design and development, and while we have many potential users visiting us to examine the vehicle, we have never heard them say, “Could you also add this component to this part of the vehicle?” In fact, the vehicle features a level of equipment and hardware that far exceeds the requirements of potential users. Since IDEF’17, we have exported EJDER TOMA to two more countries, and we are on the verge of signing new contracts with two more countries this year.

We have made some revisions to EJDER KUNTER to accommodate the requirements of a potential user, and there are other countries with which we are currently in discussions.

IMG_2411

 

MSI TDR: On the vehicle front, what novelties can we expect from Nurol Makina in the upcoming period?

Engin AYKOL: We are working on game-changing vehicles that will make a big difference, just as EJDER YALÇIN and NMS did before. Once we roll out these new vehicles, we expect to hear the sector exclaim: “Yes, Nurol Makina has once again shown its difference!” We will not remake what already exists; instead, we will once again appear before the sector with highly novel and hitherto unimagined vehicles.

 

On behalf of our readers, we would like to thank Engin Aykol, General Manager of Nurol Makina, for taking the time to answer our questions and for providing us with such valuable information.

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