Interview with Jonathan Robinson, Proudfoot VP MRO Americas

Interview With Jonathan Robinson, New VP Ops for MRO Americas

Dennis Santare: Good evening everyone, I'm here with Jonathan Robinson, Proudfoot's new V.P. of Operations for MRO. He Joins us with an extensive background in aerospace and defense and in MRO consulting. I wanted to get to Jonathan's thoughts about joining the firm and some of the trends he's seeing out there in the market and what he thinks he could bring to bear for us. We're extremely excited to have him! We've chased him for a long time, and we're beyond excited that he accepted his offer to join us in this MRO journey. Without further ado, Mr. Jonathan Robertson -- hi Jonathan, how are you?

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Jonathan Robinson: Thanks Dennis. Thanks for the introduction. And as we have discussed previously, I'm very happy to be a part of the Proudfoot team. And I know it was a long time coming, but I'm just looking forward to all the great challenges and the opportunities that I see within the firm so far.

Just to give everyone a little bit about my background, I graduated from Georgia Tech in aerospace engineering. I've been in the aerospace and defense/aviation industry for well over twenty-five years, and my background is evenly split between engineering and operations — and from that vantage point it's been on the OEM side as well as on the aftermarket services side. I believe, as I’ve made transitions throughout my career, some of the lessons that I've learned as I've implemented operational transformations boil down to a couple of things: I've always listened to the people on the floor that understand the processes and the way things work the best, and I always tell people, " trust what you see." What you actually see is a lot different, more times than not, from what people tell you.

And quite often I try and tell clients there are three things happening out on your factory floor or in your office, and those are...

  1. The process the way you think it is
  2. The process the way it really is on the floor
  3. The process the way it should be

And, a lot of times as we talk and converse with clients, they really don't understand what's actually happening on their factory floor or what their employees are doing. And it's always insightful when you go out, you map those processes, you do the voice of the employee, you look at the voice of the business, and you bring all that analytics back in and synthesize it, the client typically is like, "wow I did not know that those things were occurring within my organization." And that is a very powerful tool that I found out — when they see those things that create the burning platform, and that helps the organization get galvanized around a single objective: "This is what we need to go accomplish."

The other thing is, as I think about it and I look at what I've learned within the aviation, aerospace and defense industry is that all of the principles for operational transformation are pretty much readily transferable to any industry or sector, be it from the OEM side or from the MRO side. And one of the things that really excites me about joining Proudfoot is the fact that MRO is more than just aviation, aerospace, and defense, it's rail, it's sea — all of those things have common denominators across them. There are processes, there are people, there are customers involved. Those skill sets, while a lot of people say, "ehh, it's not readily transferable," the only difference in my mind is truly understanding what are the customer expectations, what are the company's expectations, and walking through mapping of the processes and looking at the data — that's going to be the same — you just need to understand the industry dynamics that may be a little bit different between rail, sea, and air. But the capabilities are the same. 

But let's switch gears. So, we talk about the aviation, aerospace, and defense business in particular. What do we see on the horizon for 2019 and beyond? And some of the things that I'm looking at and thinking about and working with clients to think about are, "well, what is going to be the impending labor shortage from a mechanic perspective at the airlines, and also from an engineering perspective at the OEMs." There is going to be a brain drain. So, how do we help clients work through those impending challenges? How do we help them keep their cost structure in place? And how do we help them manage that brain drain, that skill drain? So that's going to be a big thing that I see going forward.

The other item that I'm looking at is as OEMs try to gain greater control of the MRO space, what additional tactics will they bring to bear to control intellectual property? We've already seen a lot of the engine OEMs get into this "power by the hour." We've also seen them become more restrictive on how they maintain their service manuals and the type of technical data they give their customers. So, going forward, we have to think about what additional ploys will they make as they try and capture more and more of the MRO space. And that's going to be a challenge for the OEMs, as well as a challenge for the MRO service providers. How they find that happy medium to coexist — because as one airline executive once told me, "I need all of them in the market. I need the OEM to play against the MRO, I need the MRO to play against the OEM, I need other third party providers, I need all of them to create a competitive marketplace such that those airlines and aerospace and defense concerns can remain cost competitive, and provide the service level that their customers desire.” Any other questions or that you might want to ask me Dennis?

Dennis Santare: No, actually Jonathan, you pretty much hit all the highlights here. So I'm gonna go off script a little bit. I've got plans for you to be at two of our top clients, one in particular is one of the most engaged clients. Describe the perfect client. A lot gets written about the consultants and how to be a good consultant — but describe the perfect client in your experience, Jonathan.

Jonathan Robinson: I think in my mind, and I've had one or two perfect clients, and those sort of clients are willing to engage the consultant, willing to challenge the consultant, and also willing to take constructive criticism. And I think when you get all three of those items working hand in hand, both parties have the opportunity to deliver some fantastic results. And by that, I mean fantastic results for the business, as well as fantastic growth and career opportunities for the consultant. So, those are the things I've seen and the clients where I've seen those behaviors, they have achieved phenomenal results. But more importantly those results have been sustainable over the long term.

Dennis Santare: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. You know, once you can get past the commerciality of the relationship and into the meat and potatoes, "let's just go do good work together, client and consultant, and make great things happen."

I'm really looking forward to working with you Jonathan. Thank you for your time this evening, and we'll look forward to hearing great things.

Jonathan Robinson: Thank you Dennis. It was great talking to you!