Edmond Marchegay wears three hats: President of Intertechnique, president of the French equipment industry and commissaire general of the French industry group here at Asian Aerospace '98. He talked to Mike Martin about the revolution which has swept through the French aerospace equipment sector, the market situation in Asia-Pacific and how, as trouble-shooter for the French exhibitors, the buck stops at his desk.

Q:What message does the French equipment manufacturers group bring to the show at a time of economic uncertainty in Asia-Pacific?

A:Our presence here is important: We cannot be away from an area where probably 25% of the commercial aircraft being built will be operated in the next four or five years.

I don't believe the [economic] crisis here is a long-term crisis. It will be a two or three-year crisis. It may even be a good thing for any industry because it will help to steady production, to smooth things out.

From the equipment manufacturers' point of view, we should be aware that any crisis is usually worse for equipment people than for manufacturers. I get the same feeling talking to colleagues in the US and the UK.

Q:The French equipment industry has undergone radical transformation in the 1990s. Why, and what are the results?

A:The economic crisis of 1992 made companies change in terms of their efficiency and service. We had always been good at innovation, but the changes focused on product management systems, quality and marketing. Now, in today's market, you cannot afford to be anything but a worldwide company. You don't need to be a giant company but you need to be worldwide.

There is perhaps only room for three or four companies in each specialist area. You must show your skills and be able to deliver excellent service worldwide.

Today, French equipment manufacturers have a good reputation for service and skills around the world, a situation you cannot compare to ten years ago.

There has been a big change. One result is that the percentage of [French equipment] direct exports has increased from close to 30% in the early 1990s to about 45% today.

Q:Is the process of change complete?

A:If you feel the process of change is complete, you are dead, so I never say that. We can all still get better in terms of production quality and R&D. But compared with five years ago, the process is now slower.

Q:The French industry has formed many joint ventures in Asia-Pacific. Will this process continue?

A:I don't see any other way to do it. It is the natural way of doing business these days.

Q:The US and the UK aerospace industries have suffered from a shortage of engineering skills. Major US companies have recruited people from Europe. What is the picture in France?

A:I will answer in two ways. It is more difficult to recruit a Frenchman to the USA than a Briton because of things like the language. The second thing is that the French social laws make it difficult to fire people in bad times, and the result is that while this can be difficult in bad times, we have more people in busier times.

Q:How much of a threat to you is the emergence of new competitors in areas such as Asia-Pacific?

A:That could happen if we don't have the right joint ventures, so our intention is to create the right joint ventures. However, most of the countries are interested in manufacturing airframes.

Q:What are the industry's major challenges in the next three to five years ?

A:We must look at the next ten years when we might see our industry follow that of the automobile industry. There, it took six years to deliver a new model from design to production. In our industry, it is something like seven years or more now. This has to be reduced and it will be reduced. We will have to reduce R&D cycle times by 30-40%.

Q:As president of Intertechnique, what are your priorities ?

A:If survival depends on being first or second [in your markets], then you try to be first or second.

We come first in fuel systems and at the show we aim to demonstrate the wide range of our abilities in this area. We are not sure in oxygen systems, but we are close.

Five years ago in power management, we were unknown outside France but today we equip Boeing. Indeed, we are in much better shape than five years ago, with FF84 million ($13 million) net income on turnover of FF1.8 billion. That is after 42% taxes.

Q:You have an additional role at the show: Commissaire general of the French exhibitors delegation. How are you coping with that?

A:I am discovering the incredible number of services you must perform to do a show. You must be prepared to do so many things, helping people when they lose things, finding out about disabled access to chalets. There are so many problems to solve.

And you learn for the next time. We are planning to change the chalets for the next show and make better arrangements in areas like transportation.

Q:But are you enjoying the role?

A:Up to now, yes.

Source: Flight Daily News