Finger on the pulse
For young kids wondering what to do at university, the marketplace for engineering is exploding right now, and there are hundreds of specialisations that organisations like ours need”
If Cobham is to fully exploit the opportunities presented by not only space, but all the other areas it harnesses expertise, then paying attention to internal processes is going to be critical.
“This is about keeping on top of our manufacturing processes, the technologies we use, some of which we’ll have inhouse and others we’ll use partners for,” Bagwell explains. “Data handling, for example, is another increasingly important area now, understanding the risks associated with loss of data and cyber threats.”
The conversation takes a natural turn to the importance of attracting, developing and retaining the necessary skills to futureproof the business.
From graduates out of university to seasoned engineers looking for a new challenge, ensuring that the brightest minds choose Cobham over rival organisations could be a defining factor of the firm’s future.
“One of our real advantages is our global reach, meaning we can look at every university around the world,” adds Bagwell. “For young kids wondering what to do at university, the marketplace for engineering is exploding right now, and there are hundreds of specialisations that organisations like ours need, and we are fishing in a relatively small pond at the moment.
“One thing Cobham is really championing is getting more women into engineering jobs. Half of the workforce are women, so it makes complete sense to train up and encourage this half of the population to pursue engineering as a career. We need people who are agile and ready to adapt as the times move.”
This philosophy is backed up in practice. Around seven percent of Cobham’s revenue is dedicated to research and development, a vital commitment if the company is to remain at the forefront of developments across its industries.
The power of partnership
Bagwell also readily admits that Cobham alone cannot innovate and invest in every leading-edge development.
The firm relies on an external network of partnerships to complement its in- house capabilities, and over the years has also acquired and absorbed a variety of companies, each with their own unique pedigree and story.
“We are also primarily a subcontractor, a part of the supply chain, so appreciate what it is like to be loved by an original equipment manufacturer,” adds Bagwell. “We absolutely feel what our suppliers feel.
“If the supply chain doesn’t work, the product, which ultimately has a Cobham stamp on it, doesn’t work either. I mentioned the need for us to find skills and capability, but at the same time we know we can’t do it all, so partners and suppliers are critical to us. It is about finding these smaller companies who are pioneering and giving them the opportunity to bring innovation to market.”
Utilising the pioneering spirit of smaller companies also helps larger players such as Cobham to manage risk.
“Our relationships are collaborative and our R&D investment isn’t all about spending money on things, rather investing in ideas and finding new partners,” continues Bagwell.
“Big companies by nature are more risk averse, so we must interact with the smaller players who may have that little spark we need to make the next step. We have so many engineers and people out there networking, and Cobham’s network of knowledge is something even we may underestimate.”
Collaboration, both with external partners and internally across geographies and business units, will ensure Cobham continues to serve its diverse portfolio of clients around the world.
For Bagwell, a key priority for the coming period is communicating an effective message about what the company is and what it is capable of. Cobham is rightly revered as a specialist in numerous technological applications in niches across aerospace and defence – now is the time for the dots to be joined and for the firm to be recognised as one major, multifaceted entity.
Bagwell concludes: “We have a lot more to offer, and I want us to exploit that. I think you will see the brand become increasingly well-known as we continue to do this – we are up there with the world’s largest and more is to come.
“If you are looking for a business that is representing Britain on a global platform, working in some of the most hi-tech environments in space and aerospace with an exporting outlook, that is Cobham. We represent the UK, and I am optimistic that we are going to remain and develop as a force to be reckoned with in markets worldwide.
“Our diversity is massive, and our operation is global.”
Adefining year in history during a period synonymous with both division and unity, 1945 is best known in global timelines as the end of the Second World War.
Alongside the global destruction, it was a year that marked concerted efforts to strengthen global ties and relations in the aim of preventing any future breakdowns of such scale ever again. These efforts applied to all nations, with one such example prevalent in the warming relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the United States.
King Abul Aziz ibn Saud, renowned as the founder of the modern Saudi State, presented then US President Franklin D. Roosevelt with brightly coloured camel’s hair robes, hand painted perfume bottles, a gold dagger set with diamonds, and other gifts to extend the Kingdom’s hand of friendship.
In return, Roosevelt provided the Middle Eastern country with a DC-3 passenger plane – an aircraft that marked the beginning of Saudi Arabia’s ventures into air travel.
Impressed by the DC-3, the king quickly purchased numerous additional aircraft that led to the formation of Saudi Arabia Airlines (Saudia) in September 1946, with the country’s first international flight taking off for Jerusalem in that same year.
Since this time, Saudia has expanded exponentially to become not only the national carrier of KSA, but equally the largest airline in the Middle East, aiding the transportation needs of more than 32 million passengers every year.
Crucial to the historic success of this expansion from 1959 onwards has been Saudia Aerospace Engineering Industries (SAEI), formerly known as Technical Services Division prior to the privatisation of Saudia in 2009.
A company that is wholly-owned by Saudia itself, SAEI stands as one of the world’s leading full-service