Matthew Pritchard is general manager and site director for aftermarket support company Ontic with responsibility for spearheading the company's UK and Singapore business units
What sparked your interest in aerospace and aviation?
My parents took me to an air show at RAF Church Fenton when I was nine years old, and from that moment I was hooked. I spent several years as a teenager in the air training corps where I learned everything from the principles of flight to air navigation. I also had regular opportunities to fly the De Havilland Chipmunk, amongst other types. I spent many of my summer holidays at a variety of RAF camps, where I became fascinated by every aspect of their operation, from flying to airspace management and maintenance. I initially studied History at University and then elected to follow it up with an MA in Defense Analysis at Lancaster in 1999. During that time I used my dissertation to assess the export potential of the Eurofighter with a view to pursuing a career in the aerospace industry.
How has your career progressed?
I went straight from University in BAE Systems where I joined their direct entry graduate programme. During my first two years I was assigned to their commercial aircraft division and given the opportunity to work in a variety of procurement and commercial roles across the Airbus group. I stayed with Airbus after BAE divested their share and worked in a number of full-time roles where I was a member of the Airbus e-business project team and then the A400M wing design and development group. I had a brief spell at Hamilton Sundstrand where I worked in a procurement role. This exposed me to some of the real nitty-gritty of daily supply chain management and politically sensitive workshare arrangements. I made the big switch from suppliers to customers in 2007 when I joined Smiths Aerospace (soon to become GE Aviation Systems) as a commercial manager in their aftermarket services division. I joined Ontic in 2013, where I established a new commercial function and ultimately became the site director in 2016 with general management responsibility for the UK and Singapore business.
What have been the highlights?
This industry has given me some great opportunities to work internationally. From my first Paris air show as a junior member of the A400M marketing team to my time in Shanghai representing GE as we negotiated the deal to supply avionics to the Comac C919 programme, I have always enjoyed experiencing business from different cultural perspectives. My time with BBA Aviation, and Ontic in particular, has been incredibly rewarding. The business has invested heavily in developing its executive leadership capabilities, and I have been fortunate enough to attend some really interesting courses at Duke University in North Carolina. The programme centred around the use of experiential learning in a number of challenging scenarios which encouraged better decision making under pressure and exhibiting greater leadership presence. These skills have been put to use recently and we completed the 2016 acquisition of GE Aviation’s legacy avionics business. As well as playing a key role in the deal team, I am now accountable for ensuring the orderly integration of the business, including the transfer of a large number of employees and a significant investment in our facility as we establish new capabilities and a major expansion in our capacity. We’ve recently secured our 13th licence or acquisition in the six years since the establishment of the Ontic UK business.
What does your job entail?
I have general management responsibility for the Ontic business outside the USA. We have a facility near Cheltenham, that employs approximately 250 people, and a small MRO organisation in Singapore. I lead an extremely capable management team, and spend much of my time ensuring that they have everything they need to perform to their highest potential. As well as my daily focus on executing our profit and loss deliverables, I also spend much of my time engaging with our customers to discuss new ways to support their legacy in-service aircraft. Having formed a close partnership with the US Navy, we recently hosted the McDonnell Douglas AV8B UK supplier summit. Ontic supplies the Harrier gas turbine starter unit and has recently helped the end user achieve target readiness levels by dramatically improving parts availability. Beyond my responsibilities at the site, I am also a member of the Ontic senior leadership team. As a group, we are increasingly focused executing our strategic plan and the intelligent deployment of capital.
What challenges do you face?
By its very nature, the Ontic business model is fundamentally challenging. Our organisation acquires or licences non-core, and often legacy, products from our OEM partners. Whilst this allows them to free up resources and liberate stranded capital so they can focus on new programmes and developments, it means Ontic is often trying to solve significant problems for our mutual customers. Products are typically hindered by obsolescence, cold supply chains, aged tooling, poor documentation and outdated manufacturing procedures. Ontic makes this its core business and ultimately extends and increases parts availability to allow customer to keep flying their aircraft long past their original expectations. This means that our business is constantly growing and then changing to accommodate new products and capabilities. As leaders in the organisation, we are all very mindful of the significance of providing absolute clarity to our teams and regular communication. By doing this we’ve managed to consistently maintain industry leading levels of employee engagement across the company. Not easy when we are constantly evolving!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love having the opportunity to work with so many great people. Our staff are very highly skilled, dedicated and very flexible. We go out of our way to promote people internally wherever we can and I love doing what I can to help our most talented people develop their careers at Ontic. Our business is typically characterised by low volume and a high level mix of different product services and markets. The sheer variety of challenges means that I can spend my time focusing on everything from supporting our annual supply chain conference to ensuring our ability to meet Boeing’s increasing 737 production rates. Ontic has grown very successfully over the past decade and it’s been a privilege to be a part of this success and then share that with the team in the UK.
What is the strategy for Ontic going forward?
Ontic is continuing to focus on its core business by deploying capital and investing in relieving OEMs of their non-core and legacy product lines. To be successful, we have to continue to demonstrate our expertise in transitioning and integrating challenging businesses then focus on delivering parts and services to our customers. We need to be the best at managing cold start supply chains and being competent and pragmatic when it comes to product sustainment engineering. Attracting and developing talent in these two key areas is essential for our success and maintaining a heavy focus on continuous improvement will allow us to ensure that customers continue to receive the support they need and that our investors see a positive return.