GE Aviation GM discusses innovation, awards and the Internet of Things

Posted on 3 Jul 2014 by The Manufacturer

Mike Patton, general manager at GE Aviation Wales, talks to TM about winning The Manufacturer of the Year 2013 and how it has since built on its success.

GE Aviation Wales won The Manufacturer of the Year at the 2013 awards. How has receiving this accolade helped the company in terms of wider recognition?

Mike Patton, general manager at GE Aviation Wales.
Mike Patton, general manager at GE Aviation Wales.

We were delighted to be awarded the prestigious title of The Manufacturer of the Year. It was an absolute pleasure to be able to be there in person to accept the award on behalf of the entire team at GE Aviation Wales. The award win helped us to further raise our profile in Wales and significantly raised our profile in the manufacturing industry across the UK, helping us to further enhance our reputation as a leading aviation business. We also enjoyed some really great PR on the back of the award win, which was great recognition for the whole team.

Did taking the top prize highlight the current strength of aerospace in the UK, at which GE Aviation Wales is at the forefront?

The UK aerospace sector is one of the largest in the world and many businesses contribute to this success. Winning the top prize further enhances our reputation in the aerospace sector in the UK and beyond. Award wins like these help to further cement the importance of the aviation sector in the UK and showcases how the UK is a major player in the global aviation industry.

What would your advice be to any company considering entering the 2014 awards?

I strongly encourage all manufacturing businesses to enter The Manufacturer Awards. My advice would be to make sure you take the time to gather plenty of evidence to demonstrate what you do and showcase why your business deserves to win. Make sure you stand out from your competitors and use data where possible to back up your application form. Focusing on key areas like people and skills, innovation and business growth will help you tell your business story. Even just entering the awards and being shortlisted can help enhance your business reputation and furthermore an award win recognises the efforts of your workforce and can really help boost employee morale. Finally, don’t shy away from really selling the great things your business does. Shout about it!

TM Awards 2014

The Manufacturer of the Year Awards is dedicated to recognising and celebrating industry achievement and highlighting the diversity and strength of UK manufacturing.

This year the event will take place at the ICC Birmingham on November 27th, 2014. Entry Deadline – 31st July 2014.

The awards aim to spread best practice, inspire others and show the important role UK manufacturing plays in today’s economy. This year’s awards was launched at the House of Commons on March 3, 2014.

More than 200 senior business leaders turned out for the launch, sponsored by Margot James MP and attended by Business Minister Michael Fallon. Showcase your achievements and earn industry-wide recognition for you, your employees and your business.

Click here for more information and to download the entry information.

GE Aviation was also awarded the People and Skills prize. How have you continued to develop and engage with your workforce during the past six months?

It takes great people to get the ‘people and skills’ award and we have that at GE Aviation Wales. Our culture is all about providing everyone who works here with the opportunity to exercise their responsibility, integrity and creativity whilst growing themselves and their careers. Over the last six months we have continued to support the development of our workforce. Our middle management and leadership team are currently undertaking ILM qualifications and a number of employees from across various parts of the business have studied additional accreditations and ILM qualifications with local training provider, Chawarae Teg.  We continue to invest heavily in training to develop our employees’ capabilities and we realise the benefit of having a multi-skilled workforce.

With skills a pressing issue for UK manufacturing, how do you feel attracting young talent into aerospace can be achieved?

If we look around today at the types of companies we have on our doorstep, I believe the UK has something positive to shout about. We have a wealth of technical skills and knowledge, as well as a strong history of innovation. I believe talent development is key to the future of manufacturing. By harnessing UK employees’ technical abilities, and developing strong skill sets, I believe we can have a competitive position and further enhance the UK’s reputation as a key place to trade. Programmes like apprenticeships, internships and graduate traineeships are instrumental to help develop the workforce of the future. I believe that interacting with schools and engaging young people in STEM subjects from an early age is vital to ensure we stimulate a continued interest in STEM as they move up the education ladder. It turn, this encourages them to make subject choices that will put them in good stead to pursue a STEM related career in the UK engineering and science industries.

What are your thoughts on the Internet of Things in the aerospace industry? Is this something GE Aviation Wales is adopting and utilising at present?

The Industrial internet is changing the way GE works. The Industrial Internet encompasses traditional approaches with newer hybrid approaches that can leverage the power of both historic and real-time data with industry specific advanced analytics. In the aviation industry alone, the potential is tremendous. For example, the Industrial Internet has the potential to provide leading indicator data on engine performance which could help us to predict the engine maintenance required and further improve maintenance efficiency. The Industrial Internet has the potential to not only support how we overhaul engines in the future but also our capacity planning and operations at site level, ensuring we have the right processes and operations in place so we can adapt easily to meet market demands.

Having worked in operations across China and the USA, have you found any obvious differences in the workings of the UK aerospace sector?

I believe that the aerospace sector is more clustered in the UK. Take Wales for example, I believe that what defines the aerospace sector in Wales is the dynamic businesses we have here and what we can offer the global aviation sector. In turn, when you have a number of aviation businesses within close proximity to each other, I think it allows for more of a concentrated effort on developing talent, skills and technical capabilities, further building on the reputation that Wales is becoming a Centre of Excellence for aviation.  In the US, the aerospace sector is continuously evolving, with big focus on New Product Introduction (NPI), however, you tend to find that aviation businesses are more scattered across the country  which can sometimes make the skills needed in a particular area more difficult to find at times. China is still in its infancy stage as far as aerospace is concerned and is continuously growing and developing in this area. However, in the coming years, I think that the market will evolve primarily due to the huge growth in the aviation markets we are currently seeing in Asia and the Middle East.