M. Can Aksoy, Production Director, provided us with details of the activities of Meteksan Defence in the production field.
M. Can AKSOY, Production Director at Meteksan Defence:
"As Meteksan Defence, we are keen offer our services to all stakeholders in the sector, with our production infrastructure, human resources and know-how."
Behind Meteksan Defence's ever-expanding indigenous product family are its production capabilities and infrastructure, playing a significant role. The company offers its capabilities and infrastructures in this field to the defence, aviation and space sectors, but also to other appropriate sectors. M. Can Aksoy, Production Director at Meteksan Defence, provided us with details of the activities of Meteksan Defence in the production field.
MSI TDR: What were the main motivations behind the establishment and development of Meteksan Defence's production infrastructure?
M. Can AKSOY: Meteksan Defence, which was established within Bilkent Holding in 2006, started out working on significant R&D projects, most notably the Millimetre-Wave Radar (MİLDAR). Looking back on its establishment and the period that followed, Meteksan Defence was mostly producing the products and systems it was developing in small quantities, up until 2013.
After 2013, national and original products such as the tactical and strategic missile data links, communication systems, radar systems and sonar systems developed by Meteksan Defence, started to appear on many platforms, and so mass production works were accelerated. For units, modules and antennas, we started to achieve annual production figures of over 1,000, and system-level products in the 100s.
Another factor affecting Meteksan Defence's production related activities were the stringent schedule and quality requirements, aside from the increase in quantities. Both Meteksan Defence’s systems, and the platforms and products on which they were being used, were being developed for the first time in Turkey. In this environment, the delivery of high-quality products according to schedule was of great importance.
Our Production Directorate was established within Meteksan Defence in the light of these developments, under which the device investments made since 2008 have been supported by experienced human resources. The production staff, who numbered around 10 in 2013, including engineers and technical staff, surpassed 50 people this year.
Production in the Meteksan Defence organisation was placed under the direct responsibility of the General Manager, in order to ensure all the needs of the company’s business areas were met. The Production Directorate is made up of the Production, Production Planning, Supply Chain and ILD (Integrated Logistics Support) directorates, as a result of which, the process from taking delivery of the necessary material to the delivery of the product to the end user is gathered under a single roof. Furthermore, our directorate also operates test infrastructures.
We carry out our production in a secure area measuring 1,200 square meters that is kept under strict control in all aspects, such as ESD, heat, humidity, security and privacy. Our directorate has various departments and units, such as product warehouses, blank printed circuit board production, printed circuit assembly, cabling, electromechanical assembly, acoustic production and testing, electronic testing and environmental conditions testing.
All products, semi-finished products and materials are stored under the control of Production Planning, in accordance with the required conditions. The assembly and test infrastructures have been designed and produced by Meteksan Defence engineers.
Meteksan Defence has been using an ERP system, which is common in the sector, for Enterprise Resource Planning, since 2015. Accordingly, the Production Directorate manages all processes, such as material sourcing, production planning and workmanship record keeping, and reports these activities through the ERP system.
MSI TDR: What certifications does Meteksan Defence possess related to its production infrastructure?
M. Can AKSOY: Meteksan Defence underwent an audit within the scope of the EYDEP (Industrial Competence Assessment and Support Program) in December 2019, and received a Class A rating, and notably a very high score in the Production, Design and System Engineering (ES-501) category.
More generally, the company Quality Management System has been granted TS EN ISO9001: 2015 certification, and the operations of the Production Directorate are included within the process infrastructure certification. For configuration management applications, the TS ISO 10007 Configuration Management Standard is used as a reference document. In addition, we operate in accordance with MIL-STD-973, which is a NATO standard, and meet also our customer’s requirements in many projects.
In our production and quality activities, we operate in accordance with the IPC-A-610, IPC / WHMA-A-620, IPC J-STD-001 and IPC-7711/7721 standards, and all of our technical personnel are subjected to the necessary certification trainings in their respective fields.
We have also been granted a Ministry of National Defence Production Permit and a Ministry of National Defence Facility Security Clearance Certificate, which is a must for conducting business in this sector.
MSI TDR: What is the status of human resources in Meteksan Defence’s production infrastructure?
M. Can AKSOY: When producing critical products, human resources are a highly significant and essential factor. The experience and skill of your human resources play an active role in all processes, from the selection of investments to their final installation, and from their operation to their efficiency, and are essential in the production of critical products with the desired features.
Our Directorate employs 40 people directly related to production. Production experience of our staff in the defence, aviation and space sectors are 13 years on average for our engineer, and 10 years for our technicians. The average experience of half of our engineers and technical staff operating within these areas is over 15 years. Our workforce includes engineers and technical personnel with 25 years or more of experience.
Our engineers have studied in the fields of electronics and mechanical engineering, and have Master's degrees in their fields. We select our technical staff from industrial vocational high schools and 2-year technical colleges.
The entire technical team possess IPC and J-STD certification, depending on their specific fields. In parallel with the increase in the number of technical staff, we have started to provide such training within the company through our IPC Trainer-certified personnel.
Aside from certification training, we also provide internal training to improve the competencies of our technical personnel and to track their progress.
Increase in Mass Production Quantities
MSI TDR: In order to understand the extent of Meteksan Defence’s endeavours in the field of production, we would like to ask about your production figures?
M. Can AKSOY: We have provided subsystem-level products to many projects in the sector. For example, we manufacture data links for HİSAR systems and UMTAS/OMTAS missiles. We also have an annual production capacity of 1,000 sets of data links of various types.
On the other hand, there are also products such as the Retinar Radar product family, that we have designed and produced using internal resources. Our PTR and PTR-X radars have been part of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) inventory for 4 years, and they have also been exported. Our current annual production capacity is 100 units of portable radars, used for Personnel Detection, Drone Detection and Environmental Surveillance, for example.
We produce 200 units on average per year of our family of altimeters, which can be used on various platforms and at different altitudes, and as a result of customer demand, this figure is expected to exceed 500 per annum in 2021.
We produce 400 units of UAV control computers, 200--500 units of Global Positioning System (GPS) antennas and 50 C-Band systems for communication with air platforms on an annual basis.
We will produce more than 1,000 units of Active GPS antennas of various types in 2020, after production started in 2019 with 100 units.
Between 2013 and 2018, we produced both the wet- and dry-end hull-mounted sonars of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th ships in the MİLGEM programme. YAKAMOS 2020 – the latest version of this sonar – will be used aboard Pakistan's MILGEM corvettes under a project signed in 2019. Between 2021 and 2023, two of these sonars will be produced at Meteksan, while the remaining two will be produced in Pakistan by Meteksan Defence. We will provide the materials and the necessary training, and production will be made in Pakistan.
We are currently carrying out the in-house production and testing of MST-01 type transducers, as the acoustic building blocks of these sonars, and will provide them as spare parts when requested. We also produce an average of 300 MSH-01 submarine hydrophones per annum, and produce approximately 400 units of various microwave modules on a yearly basis. We utilise these modules in our products, such as Retinar, MİLDAR and MİLSAR. In addition, we also meet the needs of the older model radars for which spare parts are not available, but that are still in active use by TAF.
Infrastructure Branches Out to Custom Production
MSI TDR: Could you tell us about your approach in making your production infrastructure available to other companies inside or outside the sector?
M. Can AKSOY: In the 2014–2015 period, our projects were not progressing at the desired pace, for reasons beyond our control. We turned this situation into an opportunity, and in 2015, we opened our production infrastructure up to the use of external companies. Due to confidentiality agreements, I cannot give you names, however I can tell you that both state institutions and private companies working in these sectors, as well as some large well-known companies in the defence, aviation and space sector, made use of our production infrastructure in such areas as the processing of RF circuits on custom-printed circuit base materials for antennas and filters; in an array of complex/integrated RF, digital and analog cards, and in the production of custom cabling. In addition, they also use our various testing infrastructures to test their systems under electronic, acoustic and environmental conditions.
In this regard, we have no intention or goal of competing with the companies with which we serve in the sector on a mass production basis with around 500–1,000 employees. Our preference is to work on complex projects, and in those with low production quantities, satisfying the demands of external companies. Generally, we provide prototype, pilot and mass production services related to workmanship and experience-intensive components in quantities ranging from 1 to 50. The type of products that we prefer to manufacture are those involving a large variety of processes, those containing expensive components and those requiring custom production techniques. For example, think of a 40x50 cm printed circuit board with 16 layers, including a total of 5,000 electronic components of various types, with just a single FPGA integrated circuit costing up to $8,000. I am talking about a very valuable product with an estimated sales price for the finished product of $15,000–20,000.
Our customers are also quite satisfied with the quality of the service we provide in these areas, our own designs and our competency in production.
At this juncture, I would like to state that our customers can send us the sub-materials of the unit to be produced, or we can develop a material requirement plan based on the received request. In the second option is preferred, the purchasing, quality control and all subsequent production processes are managed by Meteksan Defence, for which there are companies that we work with in "production including material supply" projects.
We make use of our Environmental Conditions testing infrastructures to carry out operating, storage, thermal shock, 11-day humidity resistance and 50,000-feet altitude tests on behalf of our customers, as described in MIL-STD-810.
The Performance Under Pressure Measurement Facility and the open water test and calibration facility at Bilkent Pond, both located within our campus, are also open to the use of the sector. These infrastructures are used by external companies by coordinating personnel and equipment needs.
Aside from the defence, aviation and space sectors, we also serve other companies, meeting meet the card, cable, module, unit production and test demands of especially universities, university organizations and technopolis companies that lack their own production and test infrastructures.
MSI TDR: One of the main dilemmas faced by companies when outsourcing their infrastructures are the conflicts of the firm's own commitments and those that are outsourced. How do you handle such situations?
M. Can AKSOY: Our current workload is quite heavy, and we work overtime during peak delivery periods. However, due to effective planning, we have not experienced any problems in meeting our goal of "not one day’s delay in production", which has become one of the performance indicators of our production within the last 5 years. We work with belief that "If there is material, production will keep up!"
We make our production plans on an annual basis, but revise it monthly, and can track it instantly on ERP.
After determining the volume of the infrastructure services that we can provide to external companies on an annual basis, we respond positively to requests to use our infrastructure as the need arises, taking into account our production plans. The business demands of external companies are added to our existing production plans, and then tracked and carried out.
MSI TDR: What kind of capacity are we talking about when it comes to opening your production infrastructure to the use of other companies?
M. Can AKSOY: For the last 4 years, in the printed circuit board line, of the 100 different types of cards produced, we produced a total of 5,000 units, and 200 units of the 20 different types of units/modules we produce. Looking at incoming demands, I can say that these numbers will increase in the coming years.
Various demands are also placed on our laser and mechanical card engraving infrastructure, with which we serve other companies for 2–3 days a month, whereas we are able to serve external companies for 3–4 days a month with our Environmental Conditions and Underwater Acoustic Test Infrastructures.
We are also planning to offer training to companies that need IPC and J-STD certification training, making use of the IPC Trainer certified personnel working in the Meteksan Defence facilities.
The service we provide to external companies corresponds to approximately 15 percent of our total capacity.
MSI TDR: What are your future plans regarding your production infrastructure?
M. Can AKSOY: The acquisition of new production infrastructures and capacity increases are planned within the scope of our contracted projects, or taking our feasibility studies into account. We regularly expand our infrastructure, so that when ongoing or final R&D and design projects turn into products, they can be produced within Meteksan Defence.
Besides our technical capabilities, we give great importance to perfection in our processes. Within our developing organization, we have developed data networks focused on digital transformation in production, and have launched various lean manufacturing applications, while also increasing the effectiveness of our quality control and testing processes.
MSI TDR: Is there anything you would like to add?
M. Can AKSOY: We have the necessary infrastructure for the complex electronic production of any kind demanded by the defence, aviation and space sector. We have an experienced team with a high level of know-how that can use our infrastructure to maximum effect, and that can be channelled to the installation of new infrastructures when needed.
As Meteksan Defence, we are keen offer our services to all stakeholders in the sector, with our production infrastructure, human resources and know-how. I would also like to say that we are willing to make innovative investments in this field.
On behalf of our readers, we would like to thank Can Aksoy, Meteksan Defence Production Director, for taking the time to answer our questions and for providing us with such valuable information.
Meteksan Defence's Special Production Infrastructures and Capabilities
Production of Complex/Integrated Dense Printed Circuit Boards
The assembly and testing of multi-layer (12 layers or more) digital printed circuits, dense copper RF printed circuits operating at high frequency, and digital / analog / RF integrated cards are among the production capabilities of Meteksan Defence.
The systems produced by Meteksan Defence are required to be small and light, but also to be multifunctional due to the platforms on which they are used. As a result of these requirements, Digital, Analog and RF cards, which are conventionally designed and produced separately, can be designed and produced within integrated structures at Meteksan Defence. When these three types of cards, each requiring individual material arrays, thermal profiles, cleaning requirement, manual labour, etc., become integrated, the production processes applied and the experience of the personnel in this field become important.
The production process requirements of such integrated cards must first be designed by production engineers, and then produced correctly by production technicians, as the smallest mistake during the implementation can lead to the entire product being scrapped.
Production of Complex Systems
The electronic systems used in the defence, aviation and space sector have shrunk in size and become very complex, especially over the last 20 years. Given the strict tolerances and demanding environmental requirements, the design and production of the products used in this area has become increasingly difficult. Meteksan Defence, delivering products and systems for platforms such as unmanned aerial vehicles, missile systems, submarines, etc., has also gained competencies in the production of complex systems.
Production of Blank Printed Circuits
High-frequency data links, the filters used in radars and altimeters, dividers, 50 ohm lines and similar circuits are all designed by Meteksan Defence. These circuits, some of which require also frequency confidentiality, are produced at Meteksan Defence using laser and mechanical systems and special RF base materials.
Near Field Measurement System
In the Near Field Antenna Measurement System, which was first established in 2010, the far-field radiation characterization of antennas operating in the 400 MHz–40 GHz range can be performed. The characterization operation is carried out in a non-reflective room, in which there is no influence from the outside world. In this way, controlled, reliable and confidential measurements can be conducted. This system can be configured to carry out planar, cylindrical and spherical measurements, as required by the type and dimensions of the antenna to be measured.
At Meteksan Defence, a second Near Field Antenna Measurement System investment with similar features was made in 2019 in order to meet future antenna measurement and phased-array antenna calibration needs – which are increasing in variety and number – and will enter into use very soon. In this area, in which the investment has been completed, EMI / EMC Compatibility tests can be made in addition to antenna measurements.
Microwave Module Production
Microwave modules are designed by Meteksan Defence and produced in a 30 square meter class 10,000 clean room. Operating in the 8–40 GHz band, these modules are units in which integrated bonds are bonded using custom epoxies to custom base materials, after which gold wires and ribbons are used for electrical connections. Meteksan Defence is also capable of producing Space-Qualified Microwave Modules.
Tests of Space-Qualified Hermetic Modules in a Vacuum Environment
Using the thermal vacuum chamber of Meteksan Defence, the electrical and performance tests of space-qualified modules can be carried out in a vacuum environment. The maximum dimensions of the products that can be tested are 40x40x30 cm.
Production of Underwater Acoustic Building Blocks
Meteksan Defence produces transducers and hydrophones, which are the acoustic building blocks used aboard various ship and submarine platforms. The production and testing of products in which custom-produced piezo ceramic materials are used, and special processes such as vacuum casting, bonding, etc. are applied, are carried out within the Meteksan Defence Production Directorate.
Underwater Acoustic Test Infrastructures
At Meteksan Defence – Turkey's Underwater Acoustics Defence Centre of Excellence – there are two test centres used for the underwater acoustic testing of hydrophones, transducers and sonar arrays.
Performance Under Pressure Measurement Facility
The cylindrical pressure tank (CPT) in the Performance Under Pressure Measurement Facility located in Bilkent Cyberpark region allows for the testing of hydrophones, transducers and sonar arrays under pressures of up to 50 bar, and at temperatures of 5–30oC.
Open Water Test and Calibration Facility at Bilkent Pond
The depth of the facility, located within Bilkent University and built on an irrigation pond measuring 300 m x 100 m, is around 15 meters. The products to be tested can be placed 5 meters below the surface of the pond.