Şebnem ASİL / firstname.lastname@example.org
Ümit BAYRAKTAR / email@example.com
The journey of Berkin Defence Engineering, which was started by a single person in 2014, continues today, having developed into a Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) that provides critical systems in a quick and cost-effective manner with a workforce of around 30 people. The company strives to come up with original designs rather than duplicating existing solutions, as can be understood from the patent applications to date. Yücel Atalay, Chairman of the Board and General Manager of Berkin Defence Engineering, spoke to us about the journey of the company to date and its future goals, as well as its unique position in the sector.
MSI TDR: Mr. Atalay, looking at the evolution of Berkin Defence Engineering based on the coverage in MSI TDR, we first see a company that imports the special systems needed by the end user to Turkey, and that provides system engineering services. Later, the company started to offer its own subsystems to platform projects, and then appeared at IDEF’19 with patented innovative products. Now we see that you are undergoing a new transformation. You are expanding your fields of activity, to take on works in which you develop when necessary a ready-to-use product from scratch using your own capabilities. Can you tell us about this transformation?
Yücel ATALAY: I founded Berkin Defence Engineering at the beginning of 2014 as a one-man company. My primary goal at that time was to conduct studies into system engineering and software with the competence brought by my own knowledge. In the first stage, we carried out these activities with off-the-shelf equipment, but as our work progressed, we saw a diversification of needs. We realised that to best address these diverse needs, we would have to switch to a mode of operation in which we designed both hardware and software, while also taking part in some production activities. In this process, we discovered that alongside the diversification of needs, cost-effectiveness had also become an important criterion. Additionally in most cases, the delivery deadlines were quite short. All of these requirements demanded extreme flexibility on our part in product development and product adaptation. Since 2017, we have been expanding our team to provide this flexibility, reaching a certain level of competence in hardware and software design and development. Subsequently, since the beginning of 2018, Berkin Defence Engineering has been both an R&D and a production company.
Of course, other companies are going down the same road, however there is one crucial area in which we stand out: We avoid repeating or constraining ourselves to existing products, aiming rather to create better ones or capabilities that do not yet exist. To achieve this, we blend my experience in having worked for an end-user authority in the past with the technologies provided by our technical staff. I can say this with complete confidence: We develop solutions that are unique in their classes, and we apply for patents to protect our intellectual property rights over these solutions and their innovative features. There are four patent applications currently being processed, and these patents are one of the most concrete indicators that we do not copy existing systems.
In addition to these, we also apply our own resources in areas where we observe a need or where there is as yet no indigenous solution. We have started nearly 10 R&D projects in this way, and as these projects advance to products, we’ll present them to the attention of the sector.
Looking back, we can see that we have doubled the size of our workforce every year since our establishment, and invested in our infrastructure and personnel as each project came along.
MSI TDR: Listening to you, it sounds like it was all smooth sailing, but there is no doubt that a great deal of effort and motivation lies behind what you have told us. What motivates you?
Yücel ATALAY: I think I can speak for the entire Berkin Defence Engineering family in saying that we work with an amateur “R&D spirit”, and every member of our team is on the same page in this regard. In all our efforts, we strive to create what doesn’t exist, to address needs based on our knowledge and accumulated experience, and to contribute to the national economy. In other words, we are trying to do the best we can without commercial concerns. Working with an amateur spirit, and without commercial concern – this is at the core of our success.
“Training” Solution to the Human Resources Problem
MSI TDR: You said that since your establishment you have doubled your workforce every year. Today you have a team of close to 30 people. At a time when the sector is dealing with a shortage of human resources, how has Berkin Defence Engineering achieved this level of growth?
Yücel ATALAY: Actually, this question has a very simple answer: We work with new graduates. This is a choice rather than a necessity for us.
We teach our new graduate recruits everything that is not or cannot be taught in school, and we train them in line with the requirements of the sector and Berkin Defence Engineering, passing on our knowledge and experience.
Looking at the sector in general, everyone wants to recruit experienced people. Employees with experience in the sector are inherently more scarce, and the “human resource shortage” you mentioned in your question actually stems from this.
Employees with industrial experience undoubtedly add value to their company, however, experience also shapes a person in a certain way, and there may be adaptation problems when the person and the company don’t quite “match”. Indeed, there is some effort involved in relaying experience and knowledge to newly graduated employees; but since you shape them, they do not have a problem with adaptation to your company. This is one of the reasons we prefer new graduates.
Here, I would like to emphasise the importance we attach to institutionalisation. We have been working to institutionalise since we were a one-man company. It is vital for us that everything is done within the framework of rules and written instructions. We did not apply for ISO 9001 or ISO 27001 certification just to have a certificate. We really want to abide by these standards. We tell every auditing firm visiting us to examine and guide us down to the finest detail. We believe in the quality system, and even today, we have records of what we have done since our foundation and can still track them retrospectively.
I think I can speak for the entire Berkin Defence Engineering family in saying that we work with an amateur “R&D spirit”, and every member of our team is on the same page in this regard. In all our efforts, we strive to create what doesn’t exist, to address needs based on our knowledge and accumulated experience, and to contribute to the national economy. In other words, we are trying to do the best we can without commercial concerns. Working with an amateur spirit, and without commercial concern – this is at the core of our success..
Land, Sea, Air and Space
MSI TDR: We have seen Berkin Defence Engineering involved mostly in naval projects to date, but you are planning to work more on land and air systems in the coming period. What are your aspirations in this regard?
Yücel ATALAY: It is natural for us to be seen to be more active in the naval field, as our first works were in such projects, and that’s what our sector has seen in the news about us. In fact, we are engaged in a broad range of studies. For example, we are working on the development of units for the cockpits of fighter jets. After completing our R&D studies in this area, we will be delivering our first prototypes in the near future.
We make no distinction between land, sea or air. We design and manufacture our products within the framework of the same basic rules and standards, making it possible to meet the needs in a fast and cost-effective manner. For example, an interface unit designed for a naval platform can quickly be adapted to a land platform.
As such, I can say with comfort that Berkin Defence Engineering is capable of performing R&D and design studies for a wide range of products, regardless of whether they will be used underwater or in space.
MSI TDR: Where does Berkin Defence Engineering stand in the sector?
Yücel ATALAY: We can define Berkin Defence Engineering as “a company that develops critical products” or “a solution partner for critical products”. We realise all of our works with the goal of generating the most cost and time efficient solutions to satisfy the need. Focusing on needs rather than simple commercial concerns allows us to deliver the best results.
As an example of our non-commercial perspective, indigenisation is very important to us. There are indicator units of relatively simple structures that see use in all kinds of civilian and military naval platforms. Each ship contains an average of 10 of them, yet there are no domestic producers of these, and importing them costs around €2,500 each. There are approximately 200 shipyards in the shipbuilding zone and the surrounding area. Let’s say they build 100 ships of various sizes every year, that’s 1,000 indicators that are needed. This means that €2.5 million is expatriated every year for a simple product that can easily be made in Turkey. As Berkin Defence Engineering, we have launched efforts to produce these in Turkey, and we are working today to indigenise other such products.
We can define Berkin Defence Engineering as “a company that develops critical products” or “a solution partner for critical products”. We realise all of our works with the goal of generating the most cost and time efficient solutions to satisfy the need. Focusing on needs rather than simple commercial concerns allow us to deliver the best results.
Direct Exports Next
MSI TDR: What is the present and future role of exports in your ongoing efforts?
Yücel ATALAY: The quality and technological superiority of our products are also attracting attention abroad. Up until today, we have always exported indirectly through the provision of various systems to integrator companies or shipyards. Our products have seen use with the systems and platforms delivered abroad by these companies, and all are working successfully.
Our objective now is to make direct exports. Berkin Defence Engineering has now matured enough to make direct exports as a result of its business development activities, for which we see Europe, the Middle East and Asia as our priority markets. Our products have already seen use in Asian and Middle Eastern countries through indirect exports.
MSI TDR: How was 2020 for Berkin Defence Engineering? What were the highlights?
Yücel ATALAY: We treated the challenges of 2020 as an opportunity to consolidate our structure, and we succeeded in doing that. Our workforce has doubled, our turnover and profitability have increased, we have started carrying out R&D in our own facilities, and we have prepared the necessary infrastructure and applied for Facility Security Clearance.
MSI TDR: Could you tell us about your plans for 2021? What developments can we expect in terms of projects and products?
Yücel ATALAY: We expect 2021 to be a busy year for product development and project activities. At the moment, we are expecting to secure most of the projects for which we have entered negotiations. This will require restructuring, as well as careful planning, but we expect to see significant growth in 2021.
MSI TDR: Looking from a wider perspective, what kind of road map do you have?
Yücel ATALAY: We are going through a very active period in terms of projects and products, as well as corporate development. For our new facilities, we aim to obtain our facility security certificates and ISO 27001 information security certificate as soon as possible, although our facility expansions and improvements will not slow down afterwards. We are planning to open an R&D office in Technopark İstanbul or in the Informatics Valley in Gebze, where we will work on both defence projects, and in more general terms, industrial solutions. We will also be looking to obtain an R&D Centre certificate from the Ministry of Industry and Technology for this office.
In regards to our products and projects, we are working on various solutions that we expect to mature to reach the signature stage soon. In addition to these, our efforts for the products we have delivered to date do not come to an end if the subcomponents or software we have developed within other projects can contribute to previously delivered products. Then we will present these updates to the approval of our end users. Our corporate approach compels us to support the products we deliver in this way, and we do this even in the absence of any formal business arrangement, such as a support package – it is just part of our process. Another aspect of this approach is the 3-year warranty we provide with our products, rather than the industry standard of 1- or 2-year warranty.
Finally, we will crank up our efforts in the export markets, and will be looking to access new markets and to establish direct business connections. We aim to undertake projects that will address the needs in these markets, as well as to directly export our products to satisfy the said needs.
Berkin Defence Engineering Family Speaks At the end of our conversation, the board members and managers of Berkin Defence Engineering stepped in to share their evaluations. - Semra Bilinmez, Vice Chairman of the Board at Berkin Defence Engineering: “We have never lost sight of our amateur team spirit, which is at the core of our success. We want to preserve these features in the future. We thank MSI TDR for hosting us. MSI TDR works with the leading companies in the sector, and being on its pages certainly encourages and revitalises us." - Metin Sunan, Deputy General Manager (Engineering) at Berkin Defence Engineering: “We aim to produce locally various solutions needed for the defence of Turkey. Currently, all of our projects are aimed in this direction. We do not intend to let our commercial concerns get in the way. Embracing an amateur spirit, we seek originality in our approaches and try to use local products to the greatest extent possible.” - Ezgi Keleş, Deputy General Manager (Administrative) at Berkin Defence Engineering: “We do what we like doing, with peace of mind. We refer to ourselves as the Berkin Defence Engineering family, as we work like a family, but without compromise in our institutionalisation." - Burak Akça, Project Technical Manager at Berkin Defence Engineering: "We will successfully complete the projects mentioned by Mr. Atalay, and more will come in the future."
Larger Stand at IDEF’21
MSI TDR: What can we expect to see on the Berkin Defence Engineering stand at IDEF’21?
Yücel ATALAY: First off, I hope Turkey and the world will have made significant progress in the fight against the pandemic by the time IDEF’21 comes around. If everything goes well, we aim to attend IDEF’21 with a larger stand than we had in 2019, as we have a wider range of products that we want to present, including those at the prototype development stage as of now, to the attention of the participants. I can say that all visitors to our stand will find products that will pique their interest.
MSI TDR: Is there anything you would like to add?
Yücel ATALAY: MSI TDR has taken on a very important mission, and I think it fulfils this mission in the best possible way. It has contributed greatly to the press and media aspect of Berkin Defence Engineering’s journey from the very beginning.
MSI TDR is one of the most reliable media organisations in the sector, providing added value to its stakeholders through its proactive approach, including considerable contributions to Berkin Defence Engineering. In fact, when we look at the sector in general, it is apparent that MSI TDR makes significant contributions to all companies.
Once again, I would like to thank MSI TDR for the impetus it provides by bringing the word to the right people in the best way possible.
On behalf of our readers, we would like to thank Yücel ATALAY, Chairman of the Board and General Manager at Berkin Defence Engineering, for taking the time to answer our questions and for providing us with such valuable information.