Three Ways to Build a Competitive Advantage through Innovation

G U E S T  A R T I C L E

[sm_smlts_dropcap type=”rounded-with-ring” color=”pink”]F[/sm_smlts_dropcap]or Curtiss-Wright, innovation is deeply rooted in the company’s history. Born from the merger of companies founded by naval aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss and the world-renowned Wright brothers, Curtiss-Wright was once the largest aircraft manufacturer in the United States. Today, Curtiss-Wright has evolved its focus from assembling finished aircraft toward manufacturing high-tech components for defence, power and commercial aerospace industries.

However, continuing the success of such prominent figures in the world of aviation takes more than relying on history. To stay on the cutting edge in a particularly challenging market, Curtiss-Wright’s global offices employ a workplace culture that encourages and thrives on innovation.

In its Ottawa facility, Curtiss-Wright designs, manufactures and brings to market single board computers, graphics cards, and networking and routing solutions for military and defence platforms, such as aircraft, ground vehicles, ships and submarines. Unlike similar computing products that are geared toward commercial markets, Curtiss-Wright’s modules must be designed to not just meet functional requirements, but also endure the tough environments in which military vehicles must thrive. Additionally, minimizing the size, weight and power required for a solution to carry out its functions is an ever-present priority for technology in the defence industry.

Meeting these requirements is one thing, but at Curtiss-Wright, innovation is the key to creating a competitive advantage. “Every company is concerned with its product margins,” explains Ivan Straznicky, CTO Advanced Packaging and Technical Fellow of Curtiss-Wright’s Defense Solutions division. “If your products don’t break the mold, they become commoditized and enter a vicious cycle of competing solely on price, which diminishes your margins. Designing products that solve industry challenges with unique, best-in-class solutions is what allows you to develop a unique value proposition and lead the market.”

This motivation for differentiation is a powerful driver in any industry, but what sets Curtiss-Wright apart from its competition in the world of defence technology is its approach to innovation. “It’s natural to associate innovation with the research and development phase,” says Jordan Freed, Business Unit Director for Curtiss-Wright’s Ottawa office. “But to stop there is short-sighted. Taking an innovative approach to actually building your product, working with potential customers, and providing exceptional support post-purchase brings a higher level of quality to your offering that lets you sustain a competitive edge well beyond the ideation stage.”

Here are some examples of how Curtiss-Wright brings this vision to life that any business can apply:

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Recognize that it takes a village

Curtiss-Wright starts with its human capital. With over 25 years’ experience in the defence industry, the company has hard-won wins – as well as evaluations of losses and failures – to draw from. Coupling this experience with top talent that can challenge the status quo and bring forward new approaches to solving industry problems is the main mission for Curtiss-Wright’s recruitment team. What’s more, employees are empowered to drive forward-thinking with an internal incentive program through which the company prepares problem statements that reflect customer and industry challenges. Employees in any role are encouraged to submit fresh ideas and outside-the-box solutions, the best of which are selected and rewarded by an awards committee. “The more difficult the problem, the more opportunities for innovation,” says Straznicky. “There are many different areas of a product you can play with in order to find an effective solution at a reasonable cost. We don’t shy away from difficult problems – we tackle them from every angle.”

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Invest in the proper tools (and rinse and repeat)

A principal priority for Curtiss-Wright is providing employees with the tools they need to be successful. Last year, the company allocated a significant portion of its annual investment in tools to new manufacturing technology. These types of continuous facility evaluations and improvements ensure leading-edge equipment is used to build products of the same calibre.

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Look beyond your main offering

Another example of innovation at Curtiss-Wright goes beyond the product offering. Military programs can have long timelines, and defence equipment is expected to offer a reliable lifespan; however, with the rapid rate at which technology is evolving, end customers need support in upgrading systems or ensuring the longevity of equipment. Enter Curtiss-Wright’s Total LifeCycle Management team. Curtiss-Wright is not the only company in its space to offer lifecycle management services, but saw its offering as new opportunity to revolutionize the customer experience. The company invested significant time and resources into a first-of-its-kind customer portal that gives clients unprecedented visibility into technology forecasts and other services to help them proactively manage their equipment and, ultimately, reduce their overall program risk.

“To be a world-class company, you can’t leave any stone unturned in your quest for innovation and quality,” says Freed. Throughout the lifecycle of a Curtiss-Wright product, innovation is a key driver in every role, and every process, every step of the way.


About the contributor:

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions, a division of Curtiss-Wright Corporation, is an industry-leading supplier of highly engineered technology for aerospace, defense and industrial applications. It is recognized around the world as one of the most innovative designers and manufacturers of rugged solutions, built from the ground up, that deliver optimal and reliable performance at sea, on the ground, in the air and in space.

Copyright information: The article has been published with permission from the contributor. Title picture is not associated with the original writing and property of our sponsor


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