The Manufacturer Podcast: A visit to Leonardo Helicopters

Posted on 22 Apr 2022 by Tom St John

The editorial team are back with a new podcast series which will focus on the amazing technology manufacturers have available to them, how they're utilising this and how they can better harness its power. We start of with a trip to Leonardo Helicopters

Welcome back listener, in today’s episode of The Manufacturer Podcast we reflect on meticulous engineering, cutting edge technology and terrifying simulator experiences all picked up from our recent factory visit to Leonardo Helicopters down in Yeovil.

We also invite Kurt Dressel from Liferay to speak to us about how manufacturers can best harness the powers of technology and the trends that have emerged more recently within digital transformation projects.

We hope you enjoy this episode, which marks the start of our series on technology. 


Mike Overd, Chief Engineer for UK Military Aircraft on manufacturing helicopters:

Mike Overd, Leonrado

“Helicopters are an unbelievably complicated product with non-linear problems when it comes to structural dynamics, aero-dynamics and control systems – it’s a phenomenally difficult product to engineer. The needs for component design stretch our materials to the very limits of their capabilities. The difficulty is to maintain the structural integrity of all those components and the consistency of manufacture, so that the 100th part that we manufacture is just as good as the one that’s been tested.

“It’s also a fascinating product, and it’s that engineering fascination that has occupied some of us for our entire working lives and it still throws up challenges and difficulties and challenges on a daily basis. Nearly everything on helicopters is more difficult that it would be on any other product.”

Our reporter Lanna in the flight simulator at Leonardo
Our reporter Lanna in the flight simulator at Leonardo

“We have done a lot of work in the digital space for a number of years now. We have a world class capability for simulating the behaviour of rotorcraft. There is more that we can do though – at the moment we’ve got a top level flight simulation, but with levels of fidelity that we would like to see spreading back down into all of the subsystems. This will allow a true model based systems engineering basis for some of our future developments. We’ve recently won the divisional award for process innovation when it comes to the work we’ve done simulating the behaviour of our aircraft in the ship airwake environment – looking at how easy it is to land rotorcraft on ship decks and so on. So, that’s encouraging, but we’ve got more to do.”

Kurt Dressel, Commerce Lead at Liferay on digital transformation:

Kurt Dressel, Liferay

“The biggest change (in digital transformation projects) has probably been the transition, certainly over the last 10/15 years, from a product focused industry to a more customer focused one. That doesn’t mean businesses aren’t still focused on product – we’ve got 200 years plus of industrial history in Britain to attest to that. But there has definitely been a shift, not to denigrate the focus on product, but to expand it to be more customer focused than previously. Providing a good customer experience, whether it be to direct end users or channel partners, is becoming a competitive differentiator for many companies and it’s becoming more and more important.

“The other trend that I see happening is what a lot of people call  servitisation – the wrapping of services around products or actually selling products as a service. Apple is a great example of that transition. But even companies with industrial products are trying to become more service oriented by wrapping services around the products, or selling pure services in addition to the physical products that they sell.”

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Listen back to our previous podcast episode HERE