“This is a full-steam ahead transition, not a course correction. There is no change in direction,” says Kelly Ortberg, president of and the successor to CEO Clay Jones when he retires at the end of next month after 34 years.
Jones was named president in 1999, and became CEO in 2001 after leading Rockwell through its initial public offering.
As president—at different times—of Rockwell Collins’ government and commercial businesses, and chief operating officer, Ortberg helped shape the company’s current strategy. In his 26 years at Rockwell Collins, Ortberg has seen the good and the bad times. “We’ve been able to shift resources across the company as needed,” particularly from commercial technology to the military sector, he says.
Rockwell Collins’ response to shifts in market dynamics is now both versatile and nimble, he notes. It was not always that way: Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Rockwell Collins lost 25% of its commercial business over two years, when 60% of its total business was commercial. Increased defense spending after 9/11 helped Rockwell Collins weather the storm, but looking ahead it aims to manage the cycles rather than react to them.
Now, draconian defense cuts threaten the military sector. “But we’re offsetting some of the decline with international growth,” says Ortberg. “International opportunities are increasing. We plan to grow international to 35% of our government and defense business over the next five years, from 28% now.” A good example: Rockwell Collins will supply its Pro Line Fusion flight deck for’s transport aircraft.
Despite the sequestration cuts in the U.S., Ortberg says there is a silver lining: The military cannot fund all its own developments, and will increasingly rely on commercial solutions. “Thetanker is a good case. It allows us to bring our commercial products, developed on our own spend, to the on commercial terms,” which are often cheaper than military products. The KC-46A will utilize Rockwell Collins’ cockpit displays from the , but with modifications such as compatibility with night-vision goggles.
In the commercial sector, Rockwell Collins is a major supplier on the787, , and MAX. Its Pro Line Fusion cockpit has won 15 applications—four still unannounced—on regional airliners and business jets, and its new generation of cabin equipment will offer on-demand HDTV for narrowbody airliners. With record backlogs for commercial aircraft “this gives us a very strong annuity going forward,” Ortberg says. “We’re gaining share in the commercial arena, and we feel really good about that market.”