Home INTERVIEWS Öner Tekin, General Manager of AYESAŞ: “AYESAŞ is an export-oriented company that works on advanced technologies that can quickly adapt to new technologies when necessary and with solutions meeting international standards.”

Öner Tekin, General Manager of AYESAŞ: “AYESAŞ is an export-oriented company that works on advanced technologies that can quickly adapt to new technologies when necessary and with solutions meeting international standards.”

by MSI

Ümit BAYRAKTAR / ubayraktar@milscint.com
K. Burak CODUR / b.codur@milscint.com

Founded in 1990 to meet the technology transfer requirements related to the procurement of a system needed by Turkey at the time, AYESAŞ is today a company that is providing critical systems both in Turkey and abroad. In its 30-year history, AYESAŞ has succeeded both building on the capabilities it gained at the time of its establishment, and in acquiring new capabilities and diversifying its areas of operation. Öner Tekin, General Manager of AYESAŞ, provided details to MSI TDR readers of AYESAŞ’s achievements over the past 30 years, its current status and its plans for the future.

MSI TDR: Mr. Tekin, AYESAŞ celebrated the 30th anniversary of its establishment in 2020. As a company that was founded to undertake a project for the Presidency of Defence Industries -or the Undersecretariat of Defence Industries, as it was known at the time-, how do you evaluate such a company reaching its 30th anniversary?

Öner TEKİN: The project for which we were founded – the Turkish Mobile Radar Complexes (TMRC) project – was in fact a technology transfer program in which all work packages were to be undertaken in Turkey where possible, and by Turkish engineers provided with the necessary training with the intention of these engineers to go on to undertake new works in their areas of expertise. AYESAŞ is the output of this vision, and if you consider what has been achieved since then, it can be said that it has indeed been very successful. The fact that we are right now talking about the 30th anniversary of our establishment is the most concrete indicator of this. Not only did AYESAŞ successfully implement all of the goals of the establishment project, it has since initiated significant added value in terms of import substitution. Elaborating on the details of the TMRC project and listening to the employees who were involved at the time allows us to draw the following conclusion: The project applied in this model resulted in 50 percent savings in costs to Turkey, as well as the development of technological infrastructure.

Building on the knowledge attained during the TMRC project, Turkey has gained the capability to develop solutions for radar systems through its qualified workforce. AYESAŞ went on to undertake and successfully completed the RADNET project, which is still in active use, and we are today successfully undertaking the NATO ATM (Air Traffic Management) Gateway project. The above projects, and the vision applied in their execution, indicates the presence of a solid foundation. That said, AYESAŞ has not limited itself to these projects and capabilities, having also developed know-how of how to conduct business in the international arena, in the development of technologies, and in ensuring the continuity of technology through the new projects it undertakes. It has developed a firm grasp of international standards in areas such as software and avionics, thus strengthening its already solid foundation with new capabilities. Within this process, the immense value of human capital and the importance of its development have always been guiding principles, and the result is a company that can develop advanced technologies in different fields, that acts as a direct solution partner to the world’s leading defence and aerospace companies, and that exports a significant proportion of its output. With all these achievements, AYESAŞ can today be considered as a successful example to the sector.

The Turkish Mobile Radar Complexes (TMRC) project – the founding project of AYESAŞ – enabled the transfer of vital technologies to Turkey.

MSI TDR: How has the continued development of the defence and aerospace sector in Turkey, and the special importance given to it, supported AYESAŞ on its journey?

Öner TEKİN: There is no doubt that the dynamics in Turkey have played a very important role. Our establishment project itself is a product of the willpower for the development of the sector, although at some point in its development, AYESAŞ started to do business with defence and aerospace companies abroad while continuing to address domestic needs. AYESAŞ’s exemplary performance in this area has brought it to a point to possess the ability to design and produce critical systems as a sole source. Companies abroad have thus started to entrust AYESAŞ with the provision of critical components for their systems, right from the development stage, and AYESAŞ has never breached that trust.

AYESAŞ has thus become an export-oriented company that is engaged in value added projects for foreign customers. Today, the value of AYESAŞ’s exports per kg is over $10,000.

There is another point that should be emphasised: We compete for every job we undertake for our foreign customers, and if our quality, schedule and costs were not ahead of our competitors, we would not get these jobs. AYESAŞ has reached a point today where it is providing critical systems as a sole source and participating in the design phase of projects using state-of-the-art technologies, such as in the JSF programme.

Of course, we must constantly improve ourselves and keep up with the latest developments in our field if we are to maintain this position in the international arena, and our vigour allows us to meet the emerging needs of our nation, quickly, and cost-effectively, and to come up with the optimum solutions when presented with such tasks. For example, we can easily bring the experience and capabilities gained in the JSF programme to the TF-X National Combat Aircraft project, and we are still in discussions on this issue.

AYESAŞ has participated in the design of such large scale projects as the JSF programme, and provides critical systems as a sole source.

Sustainable Growth through a Corporate Structure

MSI TDR: What have the last 30 years brought AYESAŞ as a corporate entity? In other words, what difference does 30 years of experience and know-how make in the corporate field?

Öner TEKİN: A strong corporate structure is indispensable for a company if it is to ensure its survival and continued growth, and there are a number of conditions one must fulfil. First of all, all corporate processes should be well-defined, and relationships with suppliers and subcontractors should be managed within a corporate framework. Of course, the relationships maintained with customers are of primary importance, and should be managed within the corporate structure based on defined processes. All of the above contribute to sustainability.

If customers, solution partners, subcontractors or employees can all contribute to the existence and sustainability of the corporate structure, than the company can comfortably implement, manage and grow its business. The establishment of a strong corporate structure at the earliest opportunity and being open to continuous improvement is deeply rooted in our corporate identity. This has ensured sustainability and has brought AYESAŞ to its current status, paving the way for the controlled and rapid growth we have achieved in recent years.

At some point in its development, AYESAŞ started to do business with defence and aerospace companies abroad while continuing to address domestic needs. AYESAŞ’s exemplary performance in this area has brought it to a point to possess the ability to design and produce critical systems as a sole source.

MSI TDR: What kind of corporate culture has AYESAŞ developed in its 30 years?

Öner TEKİN: AYESAŞ’s corporate culture is independent of individuals and that is compatible with international norms. Our corporate culture constantly keeps up with developments in the international arena.

International norms and standards have a considerable importance for us. We cannot carry out R&D and technology development efforts focusing only on domestic needs or with a “get it done fast, no matter what” attitude. By working at global level, we can come up with products that we can export, and the revenues from these exports can be invested into new R&D and technology development efforts. The R&D culture in AYESAŞ is founded on this understanding.

Working directly with the world’s leading defence and aerospace companies, AYESAŞ carried out the cabling of NATO AWACS E3-A aircraft as part of the mid-life upgrade and communication- navigation -surveillance-air traffic management (CNS-ATM) modernization programmes.

MSI TDR: Can you tell us about the social responsibility side of this corporate culture in AYESAŞ?

Öner TEKİN: I am happy to say that AYESAŞ is a pioneering and exemplary company in terms of its social responsibility efforts. As you know, the United Nations has sustainable development goals, and AYESAŞ, like the other companies in Zorlu Holding, has adopted these targets and put them into effect in all of its implementations.

Another issue we care about is gender equality. As a result of our efforts under our “Power of Women in Defence” initiative, we are today the company with the highest female employment rate in the sector with a ratio of approximately 29 percent. Furthermore, with 31.6 percent of senior objective positions being held by women, we have exceeded our target of 30 percent.

We also maintain an awareness that our colleagues are not just employees assigned to the fulfilment of certain tasks in projects, being rather environmentally aware and socially responsible individuals. Just like in our products and projects, we are seeking to make a difference with the social responsibility activities we carry out through “heVES Group”, which was established in 2018 as a voluntary organization to bring our employees together for involvement in various social responsibility activities. heVES Group will continue in its efforts to create a happier work environment and a happier society.

AYESAŞ has the highest ratio of female employees in the sector, accounting for approximately 29 percent, as a result of its efforts under the “Power of Women in Defence” initiative.

Competent and International Business Firm

MSI TDR: Where does AYESAŞ stand in Turkey and around the globe after 30 years?

Öner TEKİN: I can summarise the current position of AYESAŞ in its 30 year history with the following description: We are an export-oriented company that works on advanced technologies that can quickly adapt to new technologies when necessary and with solutions meeting international standards.

MSI TDR: Following up on our previous question, which qualities of the present day AYESAŞ are particularly noteworthy?

Öner TEKİN: There are many areas in which AYESAŞ has gained a high level of competence: from avionics software development to C4ISR systems, and from electromechanical systems to X-Ray technologies. Beyond these basic competencies, it has also built up sufficient muscle power to quickly gain new competencies. This contributes greatly to AYESAŞ’s controlled and rapid growth.

I would like to reiterate here AYESAŞ’s ability to conduct business internationally and its international reputation in delivering on the jobs without any failure to fulfilment.

In numerical terms, our added value far exceeds the turnover and export figures we have achieved. Based on our own estimates, our import substitution gains are more than double those made from our exports.

MSI TDR: What kind of added value has AYESAŞ provided to its business partners and to Turkey in its 30-year history?

Öner TEKİN: First of all, AYESAŞ meets the basic requirements of procurement authorities and business partners as a vendor of quality products and a reliable contractor in projects. We know that contracts in various areas in the sector require serious tracking if they are to be completed successfully. Faults appear, and corrective actions need to be taken over and over again. AYESAŞ has shown its customers that quality can be achieved, and has supported its suppliers in producing quality goods. Our suppliers see a highly trustworthy partner in AYESAŞ, as a company with transparent processes and detailed troubleshooting procedures, and this setting provides them also with significant added value.

AYESAŞ has brought over 2,500 highly qualified employees to our sector, in which sufficient qualified human resources are still lacking. Over time, a proportion of them have left AYESAŞ, and some have come to occupy critical positions in various sectoral companies, even at a general manager level.

AYESAŞ has acted as a pioneer in the sector in many areas, having broken new grounds in its works. As an example, it launched its approved supplier program exactly 20 years ago, through which it has provided considerable training and financial support to its suppliers, and the establishment of this program has provided the company with muscle on a whole different level. Today, we can organise our suppliers very quickly and reach considerable production capacity in a short period of time. Looking at this issue from a more general perspective, we look to share at least 30 percent of the work we undertake with our ecosystem, and we are today exceeding this target, thus making a significant contribution to the sector. We believe that a pyramid structure in the sector is important, and we are doing our best to maintain such a structure. The more advanced and well-grown ecosystem AYESAŞ has, the higher the customer satisfaction reached by AYESAŞ.

AYESAŞ can meet a wide range of requirements with its C4ISR, avionics and electro-mechanics solutions and harness design and production capabilities.

Added Value through Import Substitution

MSI TDR: Can you describe this added value in numbers?

Öner TEKİN: Our total exports since our establishment have reached approximately $250 million, although I would like to mention an even more important issue at this point: Import substitution, for which I return to our first project – TMRC. Had AYESAŞ not carried out that project, Turkey would not only have lost out on the technologies AYESAŞ holds today, but would have experienced also much higher costs in its efforts to meet its needs. As such, in numerical terms, our added value far exceeds the turnover and export figures we have achieved. Based on our own estimates, our import substitution gains are more than double those made from our exports.

Continuing to be a Pioneering and Exemplary Company

MSI TDR: How do you see the future of the sector from AYESAŞ’s point of view? In other words, in what kind of environment will AYESAŞ operate?

Öner TEKİN: The global defence and aerospace sector is always open to development, and it is constantly advancing. What matters is how we keep up with these developments. In general, data on the Turkish defence and aerospace sector indicate a very healthy state, although there are areas in which we need to improve. Still, the sector is moving forward with considerable momentum, and in such an environment AYESAŞ’s infrastructure is set to grow the fastest, ensuring its position as one of the leading and exemplary companies in the sector in the future. In the coming period, we will see AYESAŞ reach a point to develop even more advanced technologies in a variety of areas.

Looking from another perspective, of course, we cannot say that our sector is without its problems, and these problems can sometimes create unfavourable situations for companies of AYESAŞ’s scale. That said, I believe these situations can be resolved with stricter regulations by the procurement authorities, which are, in my opinion, very much needed.

AYESAŞ provides a range of solutions for naval platforms.

MSI TDR: On the technology front, which technologies will come to the fore for AYESAŞ in the future?

Öner TEKİN: We have carried out very successful projects with our currently-held technologies, and there will be more of these to come down the road. Other than these, we are currently working on systems requiring much more advanced technologies and are not currently produced domestically. As a concrete example of this, we have started working recently on X-Ray imaging systems, and are developing domestic and original alternative to systems that have to date been imported. Upon the completion of this project, Turkey will become one of the seven countries in the world with the ability to design and manufacture such systems.

One cannot keep doing the same work for 3–5 years in the field of technology, as diversification is vital. AYESAŞ may seem to be doing business mostly in the defence and aerospace, but it has recently increased its involvement in the civilian sector. We have started production in the health sector; an area requiring precision technologies and you can expect to see the fruits of our colleagues in this regard, and similar examples, in the future.

We attach great importance to the ecosystem, and as it develops, we pull out of certain areas where necessary to allow our ecosystem to meet our needs. We may witness similar developments in the future.

AYESAŞ has recently started working on X-Ray imaging systems.

MSI TDR: What kind of future do you foresee for AYESAŞ?

Öner TEKİN: Recently, we have achieved considerable success and have broken corporate records in terms of capacity, employment, turnover and orders received. We have discovered what we are capable of, and we are looking to the future with a motivation that is fuelled by these successes.

Our infrastructure investments also motivate us to hit our growth targets. We have recently completely renewed our machine and test infrastructure, and have acquired important capabilities, such as making our infrastructure efficient, cost-effective and responsive, and this will be reflected in both the orders and our turnover. Beyond this infrastructure, we have reached a point to utilise the resources of our ecosystem to the fullest extent. In fact, we have potential well above our own current capacity. For example, if we encounter an urgent need to produce high-capacity electronic cards, we are in a position to make use of Vestel’s annual production capacity of 100 million electronic cards, as provided for by our strategic agreement.

In line with our controlled development and growth policy, we will continue on our way with the established annual targets, and accordingly, we expect our growth in the upcoming period to mirror our growth average in recent years.

AYESAŞ’s infrastructure is set to grow the fastest, ensuring its position as one of the leading and exemplary companies in the sector in the future. In the coming period, we will see AYESAŞ reach a point to develop even more advanced technologies in many different areas.

MSI TDR: In this process, what developments and changes do you foresee for AYESAŞ’s corporate culture?

Öner TEKİN: One of my favourite aspects of AYESAŞ’s corporate culture is its ability to adapt to change, as this is what has allowed us to grow in the recent period. We had to make some changes in our approach to our business and our customers, and to get our products out faster, and we achieved this by realizing the necessary transformation in a short period of time. In short, change is within our DNA, and I am confident will be able to undergo further transformations in the future that will carry AYESAŞ even further.

MSI TDR: Is there any message you want to leave today for those celebrating the 40th anniversary of AYESAŞ in 10 years’ time?

AYESAŞ’s Next Generation Operator Console is an outcome of the company’s efforts to update its solutions with new generation technologies.

Öner TEKİN: Absolutely! We are looking forward to it! I can say with all confidence, on behalf of my country and our employees, that in our 40th year we will be having a much more cheerful conversation than today.

As AYESAŞ, as we celebrate our 30th anniversary with many milestone projects in our sector under our belt and our sights set on our 40th anniversary, I’d like to emphasise one thing – I am confident that we will continue along our path unabated, and will develop and change along the way, while continuing to make many important contributions to our country.

Both AYESAŞ and our beautiful country will see much better days with our beautiful people. I have complete faith in this.

MSI TDR: Is there anything you would like to add?

Öner TEKİN: As AYESAŞ now turns its eyes to 40 years in the sector, we look also toward the 300th issue of MSI TDR’s Turkish edition, which published its 200th issue last November. I wish you success on your own journey.

On behalf of our readers, we would like to thank Öner Tekin, General Manager of AYESAŞ, for taking the time to answer our questions and for providing us with such valuable information.

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