Interview: Furkan Katmerci, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors at Katmerciler
We have conducted an interview with Furkan Katmerci, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors at Katmerciler, in the 35th Issue of MSI Turkish Defence Review (TDR). You can read the full content of the interview under the interviews section, from MSI TDR’s website:
“Our goal is to become a voluntary R&D centre for the Turkish armed and security forces”
After transferring its 31 years of experience in the civilian industry to the security industry with its Anti-Riot Vehicle (TOMA), Katmerciler has made a rapid entry into the defence and security industry with its new products, including the HIZIR and KHAN vehicles and the NEFER armour system in particular. We listened to Furkan Katmerci, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors at Katmerciler, describe the goals, current activities and future plans of the company.
MSI TDR: Mr. Katmerci, may we begin by asking how Katmerciler was founded and how it reached its current standing?
Furkan KATMERCİ: My father, İsmail Katmerci, is an electrical engineer who graduated from Istanbul Technical University. While studying, he always dreamed about establishing his own business. To achieve his dream, he first started out with the metal sheet business he inherited from my grandfather, using it to establish Katmerciler Profil Inc. in 1982. He later entered the on vehicle equipment business. It’s very likely that we are actually the first company in the industry to have coined the term “on vehicle equipment.”
At first, Katmerciler produced relatively simple equipment and vehicles such as dampers, garbage trucks and tankers. Making progress by continually designing new products that can be installed on its existing equipment, Katmerciler is now able to produce 30 different types of products. There is no other company in Turkey, Europe or the world that manufactures so many products under the same roof. However, the fact that we can concurrently produce so many different products doesn’t mean that we are neglecting or not working adequately on some of them. We have been in the business for 31 years. There have been times we have taken a beating, but always emerged stronger as a result. We have repeatedly taken part in tenders, where, as you know, there is no room for error; you have to meet every requirement listed on the technical specification document, from A to Z, without exception. To date, we have manufactured thousands of each vehicle in our inventory. Every year, we produce on average 1,200 to 1,300 different types of equipment.
In 1993, my father bought a 17,000-square metre area located within the Atatürk Organised Industrial Zone. And later in 2015, we purchased the 15,000-square metre area immediately adjacent to it. We are currently a company of 380, operating from our 32,000-square metre facilities, which consist of 22,000 square metres of indoor areas.
MSI TDR: When did you accomplish your first export?
Furkan KATMERCİ: Over time, my elder brother, Mehmet Katmerci, began to assume a more active role in the company. Soon afterwards, we made our first export to Japan in 1998, which consisted of garbage disposal equipment. Maybe we didn’t sell any technology, but at least we put to use Turkey’s ability to produce quality products at low cost. Since 1998, we have exported to 51 countries. On average, 65 percent of our annual turnover is based on exports. We are a company the growth strategy of which emphasises exports, and that plans to follow an export-oriented growth model in the future. In other words, our corporate vision encompasses the entire globe.
If you were to ask what Turkey needs, the answer would be: activities that reduce the country’s current deficit, while promoting the industry, employment and investments. As Katmerciler, we are doing our part to ensure these. In this context, it’s not scale or specific numbers that matter; what’s more important is the intention. Every year we export, increase employment, innovate, while also continuing to invest. And that’s how we intend to keep moving forward.
MSI TDR: One aspect that sets Katmerciler apart is the fact that it is a publicly traded company. What would you like to say about this particular aspect?
Furkan KATMERCİ: One problem with family companies in Turkey is that there are only a few which keep going beyond the second or third generation. There is a general failure to viably transfer these companies to the next generation. But if you look at the economies of different countries, you’ll see that many major companies initially started out as family enterprises. I think that family companies have to focus more on planned growth, and also that these companies deserve greater attention. There is also something I would like to point out: We see Katmerciler not just as a family company, but also as an asset of our country. In our view, any success of this company also represents a gain for Turkey. Although we set out as a family company, this is how we look at this issue.
In this context, to diversify our activities we put forward a different vision in 2010 and, more importantly, did what we felt would accelerate the institutionalization of our company, while also providing leverage for our efforts to prepare our company for the future. This vision entailed going public, which we effectively did in 2010. Among the companies that became public, we were the first to implement a bonus incentive system. At the time we went public, we made the commitment that, should our share prices drop below their issue price, we would buy them back at their initial price. And to those who held onto their shares during the first three-month period, we offered them an additional five percent share to the only they already held, without any charges. Looking at the Istanbul Stock Exchange, you will see that Katmerciler is still smaller than the İMKB 30 companies. However, the new vision and approach we put forward is meant to be spark. After we did all this, many other companies that went public also implemented a similar incentive system. We can even say that Katmerciler played a pioneering role in promoting public offerings.
But once we went public, we didn’t just congratulate ourselves and say: “We are now institutionalised!” We instead used this process as a catalyst. For us, institutionalisation is a process that continues every day and all the time. In this industry, no sooner that you start saying “We have become sufficiently institutionalised”, you will start developing institutional blind spots. This kind of attitude actually indicates that certain things have started to go awry. We never would want to place ourselves in such a position. That is why we want to be a company which constantly renews itself, and which focuses and continually works on institutionalisation.
In Turkey, we are the first and only company in our industry that is publicly traded. We are also one of the few companies in our industry around the world to be publicly traded. There is another in Austria that only produces equipment for firefighters. Another one is Oshkosh in the US, which deals both with defence and civilian equipment. These are the companies we see as models – Oshkosh in particular.
From a financial standpoint, opening up to the stock market has enabled us to acquire internationally-recognized management and cost standards – such as the UFRS – and we are ready to engage in joint ventures with companies in any country, since we now all speak the same language. Our access to financial instruments has also become faster and easier. Public offerings create a source of capital; however, a company receives this source only once. So, in this respect, going public just to receive this source of capital is not a sufficient reason in itself. This shouldn’t be the motive. For example, we never thought about going public for the sake of getting two or three more liras just to reduce company debt. So we went public and said to ourselves “in the coming period, we want to use certain financial instruments.” We issued bonds, initially one valued at ₺20 million. We paid it back with our own capital, closing it the next year. Afterwards, we aimed even higher by issuing a ₺36 million bond, which we also paid back and completed successfully. Then two months later, we issued yet another bond at ₺12 million. It was another success. Right now, we have a standing bond loan of ₺48 million. These were all made possible by the fact that we were publicly traded; that we had proven ourselves as a company; and had demonstrated our financial performance. It’s possible you could obtain this same capital from a bank; however, for us, seeing and demonstrating the level of confidence the market has in you is also quite important. If you become a publicly traded company, these are the things you should do. When it comes to financial borrowing, going to the bank isn’t the only available means or system to raise money; it’s just happens to be the easiest method. In our view, as much as you use banks, you should also use bonds, and sukuks (Islamic bonds, which involve the securitisation and sale of a commercial asset through certificates). You should use all of them together, such that you can fully benefit from all the positives the system has to offer.
We Hold 75 Percent of the TOMA Market
MSI TDR: Could you tell us a little about how you entered the field of defence and security?
Furkan KATMERCİ: Katmerciler used the public offering as a catalyst. By making its financial structure even stronger, it enabled the company to prove itself and move forward. This gave the company momentum for its venture into the defence industry.
We started producing TOMAs for the first time in 2010. As you may already know, there were other companies that already produced TOMAs before us; however, we presently hold about 75 percent of the market. How did we ensure this? By meeting the desired level of quality and logistic support, while offering reasonable prices. Maintenance services are very important for us. We supply soldiers and policemen on duty; so whenever there is a maintenance-related need, we must intervene in the shortest time possible. Right now, we have a service network ready for action in all 81 provinces of Turkey. We can provide services for any one of our vehicles within an average response time of 48 hours. This is an essential service requirement, and something we speak about with pride.
Had we said six or seven years ago that we planned to become a market leader, we wouldn’t have sounded very convincing. But it sounds a whole lot different when we say that we have become the market leader. We say this based on the data at hand. It’s always nice to say “we will do so and so”; but it’s even better to say “we have done this.” So we use this to our advantage.
This success we have had in security market has given us greater confidence and courage on the defence market. As you already know, over the last decade, the government has been following a consistent policy with regards to the defence industry. The government encourages private sector companies, while also informing them of its requirements. We have paid heed to its messages. We thought about what we could do beyond the TOMA. If you look at the civilian and military vehicles we have delivered so far, you’ll see that we are really experienced in the area of chassis design. Part of our business is centred on the chassis; we design and produce the equipment mounted on them. So, we realised there were a couple things we could do with regards to chassis. The work we have done on the armour of the TOMAs has allowed us to make progress, up to certain point. And once we were there, we said: “we could also start working on 4×4 armoured personnel carriers”, and that’s indeed what we set out to do. We applied for facility security clearance documents and production licenses, completing all the necessary paperwork. We now receive calls for tenders. We sit around the table, and make our offers. We believe that, as these tenders are finalised in the coming period, we, as Katermerciler, will also receive a sizeable share.
There is something else I’d like to emphasise: When we started working in the field of defence, our goal was to “become a voluntary R&D centre for the Turkish armed and security forces”. So it’s with this goal in mind that we communicate with our interlocutors.
MSI TDR: Could you tell us how your vehicles and solutions in the fields of defence and security came about?
Furkan KATMERCİ: During the time we were going public, we received our R&D Centre approval from the Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology. While increasing our R&D capabilities, we also began to work with different companies in the defence industry, and with people who took part in the production of different products. We even made our defence industry team completely independent from our civilian R&D team. We have an R&D team of 80 persons, 20 of whom are engineers. Plus, we have 12 technical draftsmen.
We then examined 20 or 25 wheeled vehicles of various classes in Turkey and around the world. We drew comparisons, trying to keep the positives of each. We included the industry’s requirements in our assessments and, in the end, we came up with the KHAN and HIZIR.
Our work follows a tailor-made approach. On the civilian side, the requirements we have to meet vary from one tender to the other. Every fire truck we make is different in its own way. They have a different chassis, meet different requirements, and have different qualifications. You have to constantly work on different configurations and manage them. Katmerciler has the skill to do this, which we mirrored in the fields of defence and security. We told the armed and security forces: “Think of us as your R&D centre; whatever you need, we’ll put it on our vehicles.” For example, the HIZIR represents a new class of vehicles of its own. It is neither like the COBRA II or the EJDER YALÇIN. In recent times, there has been a growing demand for vehicles which, on the field of operation, offers greater resistance against improvised explosive devices and other types of explosives. To avert this threat, the underside of the vehicle is fully V-shaped, which helps disperse the kinetic energy of a blast more easily. We also worked on how we could upgrade this vehicle’s armour to the next level. From a strategic standpoint, we wondered what we could add to the vehicle that would place it a step ahead of those of our competitors. The result was a strong vehicle suitable for every requirement.
Meanwhile, we also developed the NEFER armour system. When we look at the requirements on the field, we generally see requests asking for “a higher level of ballistic protection; a vehicle that isn’t too large; the ability to retain manoeuvrability; and the ability to intervene rapidly.” To meet such requirements, you have to play around with material science and make use of metallurgy. So how do they manage this in other parts of the world? They blend armour ceramics and ceramic composites with normal armour plates. In other words, they achieve a higher level of protection by using fewer armour plates and more ceramics. They also ensure greater protection without causing a significant increase in weight. We applied our NEFER system to the JEEP Rubicon. The result was an armoured yet small vehicle with high mobility. It is more practical for use in narrow streets. The police can use it as a vehicle for a team of four, while commanders as well as military and political officials can use it as an official car. Protecting such a vehicle using armour plates alone is impossible, given the weight and dimension parameters that have to be met. That’s why you have to use ceramics.
We will integrate the NEFER to the HIZIR. This will allow us to enhance the vehicle’s armour level by several degrees, while keeping its weight under control. We plan to showcase this configuration of the HIZIR at IDEF 2017. The NEFER can be integrated to vehicles such as the Toyota Land Cruiser, Volkswagen Amarok, Fiat Doblo and Ford Tourneo.
You can also use armour ceramics in different industries. For example, they can be used as external coating materials, in buildings, in helmets, in steel jackets and in tank projects. In the future, we plan to manufacture this armour at our facilities in Ankara.
MSI TDR: What is the latest situation in the development works for the HIZIR?
Furkan KATMERCİ: The HIZIR is a vehicle that is one segment, or step, below the KİRPİ. The KİRPİ is a 13-crew vehicle, while HIZIR is a 9-crew vehicle. And the KİRPİ weighs 19 tons, while the HIZIR weighs approximately 15 tons. But it is a step above the EJDER YALÇIN and the COBRA II in terms of height, internal volume and resistance to explosions. So in tenders where the EJDER YALÇIN and the COBRA are proposed, we’ll take part by offering the HIZIR. HIZIR is also the most powerful vehicle in its segment. It uses a 400 horsepower engine, which is actually a first. At the same time, as of May this year, it will become the first vehicle of its class to field composite ceramic armour.
The HIZIR’s tests are still ongoing. The blast tests of vehicles in this segment tend to be different and more difficult than those applied to vehicles of other companies. When you propose a vehicle in a tender, you have to allocate a certain period of time for the qualification tests. Even if you happen to win a tender today, you will have to perform its tests and submit the results to the relevant institution. We are continuing our tests, and will complete them very soon. There is one point I would like to underline here: our vehicle designs are 100 percent indigenous, and the product of Turkish engineers. We have not received any licenses or designs from abroad, nor have we used any external input.
Civilian Industry Critical for Ensuring Sustainability
MSI TDR: As an executive at a company that operates on both the defence and civilian side, how do you ensure the proper and concurrent conduct of activities in both of these areas? How do you maintain a balance between them?
Furkan KATMERCİ: We have a foothold on both the civilian side and the defence side. We think that having a presence on the civilian side is a big advantage for defence industry companies. That’s because having operations in a civilian area means you can support your cash flow and purchases with a line of business that always remains lively and active. On the other hand, in defence, there are only a few tenders every year, which you either win or lose. Your company needs to have a growth strategy and objectives; and to be able implement these, it should first be able to stand on its feet. That’s why I think the civilian side is also important.
Looking at the world in general, we especially consider Oshkosh as a model. Just like us, Oshkosh first started out with civilian vehicles, which they still continue to produce. Later on, they also added defence industry products to their portfolio. And presently, they are one of the US Armed Forces’ largest suppliers, with an annual turnover of $7 billion. About 35 percent of this turnover comes from the defence side, while 65 percent comes from the civilian side – in other words, from on vehicle equipment. We did have some contacts with Oshkosh. I remember them saying: “You are like a smaller version of Oshkosh!” Since their roots also stretch back to the civilian industry, we can understand each other quite easily.
Adjusting your civilian capabilities in order to use them on the defence side is fairly easy for us. On the other hand, adjusting your defence capabilities to use them on the civilian side is quite difficult. In defence, you might be required to produce three or five different types of products at most; on the civilian side, however, there may be different variations for over 30 different products. That’s why it is easier to move from civilian areas to defence areas, while in my opinion doing the opposite – that is, moving from defence to civilian areas – is not as easy. Besides, you won’t see any company moving from defence into the civilian area. It’s normally the opposite – from the civilian to defence.
Looking at companies that mainly work on equipment, there is, for example, the Austrian Rosenbauer company. It’s a publicly traded company that only produces equipment for firefighters. It’s a very large company with nearly 2,500 employees. Their annual turnover is in the region of €700 million. Rosenbauer only produces equipment, while Oshkosh produces both civilian and military products. The former has a turnover of €700 million, while the latter has a turnover of $7 billion. We produce 30 different products, which include firefighting products as well as military ones. We move forward by building on our existing products. We have a very clear idea about where we want to be heading: Our goal for the next 10-15 years is to become one of the world’s top 100 defence companies. We want to become capable of meeting most of Turkey’s requirements. Our priority here is to first offer our products to the service of our armed forces; to ensure their satisfaction; and to then sell our products in every part of the world. As a NATO member, Turkey has been combating terror for over 30 years, fighting an asymmetric war. The requirements arising from this war are continually changing. If you are able to satisfy the needs of the Turkish Armed Forces and security forces, as customers, then you will pretty much be able to sell products anywhere in the world.
MSI TDR: What can you say about the growth of your turnover, and about your goals for a balance between the civilian and defence sides?
Furkan KATMERCİ: Last year, partly due to the impact of our defence industry product sales, the defence and security share of our turnover exceeded 50 percent. Our strategic goal is to obtain 40 percent of the turnover from defence and security, and 60 percent from activities in the civilian area. In the upcoming period, we aim for an average annual turnover increase of 25 percent. Our 2017 target is to have a turnover of between ₺400-450 million.
Over the past two years, we have been investing heavily on the defence side. We completed the 5,400 square metre portion of our investment in Ankara, and started working on the 21,600 square metre portion. The first half of this larger portion will be completed in 11 months, while its second half of 10,800 square metres will take another 11 months to complete. Within two-and-a-half years, the total size of this investment will reach ₺20 million. After completing these investments and reaching a certain point in the next three or four years, we plan to increase our investments on the equipment side. In fact, we never want to lose the foothold we already have in this area, because it will later prove useful for the area of defence. For example, we might consider studies on air defence systems. Investment on the equipment or civilian side will not only have a positive effect on our profitability, but also reduce our costs on the defence side.
As I mentioned earlier, about 65 percent of our revenues are from exports. Our goal is to keep this figure above the 50 percent mark. We also want at least 20 percent of our turnover to be related to defence and security exports. After the first five years, we want to take this figure even higher.
One of our goals for 2017 is to definitely receive purchase orders from the defence industry. We want to say: “We are now producing for the defence industry.”
MSI TDR: Once your facilities in Ankara are completed, what kind of a division of labour do you envision with the facilities in Izmir?
Furkan KATMERCİ: In the first stage, only part of the design team will be in Ankara. This team is completely separate from the others. The armour plates will be cut and processed in Izmir, after which they will be sent to Ankara. This will eliminate the need to invest twice, at different locations, for the same machines. In Ankara, we will perform final processes such as welding, assembly and painting, and then deliver the completed products to our customers. So how will this new facility benefit us? It will enable us to concurrently conduct operations in both the civilian and defence areas. On the civilian side, delivery times for sub-systems are on average six to seven months; whereas for defence sub-systems, delivery times can be on average 17 to 18 months. This difference in delivery times can disrupt your work rhythm. However, separating our business lines in this way will help us to avoid this problem.
In the first stage, there will be a design team of about 20 to 25. Depending on the developments we see with certain ongoing tenders, we envisage that the number of workers within the 5,400 square metres will be 90-95 at most. Once the 21,600 square metres area becomes operational in two-and-a-half or three years’ time, we will start employing about 300 workers. We are not thinking about working on the civilian area in Ankara for the time being.
Right now, we are receiving external, or outsourced, services for the testing of the vehicles. But our Ankara facility will, once completed, have its own firing range. When this firing range is established, we’ll be able to perform all our ballistic tests internally. The blast tests, on the other hand, will most likely be carried out at ROKETSAN, using indigenous capabilities.
We will have our own accredited ballistic testing centre. We’ll also be able to provide services to other parties, if desired.
MSI TDR: On this course you’ve set for yourselves, it appears that R&D activities will gradually become more important. What can you tell us about the latest situation with your R&D-related activities?
Furkan KATMERCİ: In 2016, we spent a total of ₺5.8 million on R&D, which corresponds roughly to four percent of our company turnover, while the average for Turkey is about one percent. Our goal is, as always, to be above Turkey’s average. In the past three years, we have been around the two percent level. But we can say that our R&D expenditure was higher this year because we rolled out so many products.
We see R&D expenditure as a kind of piggy-bank, so to speak. Right now, we are putting money in it; so this year, we have put in ₺5.8 million. If not tomorrow, we will definitely see the return of all this investment eventually. If you want to see your company handed to future generations, you shouldn’t expect these R&D investments to rapidly turn into a gain in the short-term. And we are fully aware of this.
MSI TDR: When we look at defence and security, we see certain platform manufacturers say “I manufacture platforms, so I can’t be bothered with subsystems.” On the other hand, you may sometimes find yourself unable to make exports when certain critical subsystems are not indigenous. So what is your approach towards the subject of developing subsystems?
Furkan KATMERCİ: This approach towards subsystems was once also shown towards R&D. The issue of subsystems is a critical one. You may ask “Why?” If you build everything in a vehicle apart from the engine, it simply won’t move. It also won’t budge if it lacks an axle, gearbox or transfer box.
We are an industrialist company, so we tend to have this kind of impulse: Let’s say, for example, that there is a glass which catches your attention. You then become focused on it, thinking: “This part wasn’t made properly, but we could remake in such and such way.” When we first ventured into the field of defence, we set out by saying “we can do this!” to ourselves. In this context, we have a similar vision for subsystems. Of course, when it comes to subsystem, we should again keep the civilian side at the forefront. Because if you design an engine and sell it exclusively to the defence industry, you won’t be able to compete with anyone. Manufacturing an engine that will only sell 400-500 units a year isn’t very sustainable. For this reason, when it comes to subsystems, we need to combine the civilian and military sides. For example, we can make hybrid engines. We can make electric engines. These can be used in indigenous car projects as well. But these are all long-term considerations.
We’ll Repeat our Success with the TOMA
MSI TDR: There is criticism that Katmerciler is trying to enter an already saturated market. What is your approach towards this subject?
Furkan KATMERCİ: One of the Gulf Countries has more than 30 companies working on armouring and armoured personnel carriers. These companies conduct sales all around the world. We’ve actually visited most of them. Their facilities are very different from those in Turkey, and they are also quite different from each other. There are maybe three companies over there whose standards are relatively close to our own. Given that there is already such an infrastructure over there, and that Turkey is in possession of so many capabilities, we believe that our country should distinguish itself more as a production centre. So we set out with this idea in mind. We looked at the needs over there, and noticed that the number of players which actually resemble us is quite low. Competition on a product basis also helps a country develop and make progress. The public also benefits from this competition. When two companies compete, it creates a certain price balance between them; and when you add a third company, this creates yet another price balance.
We certainly don’t underestimate the activities or size of other companies in the industry; but we see ourselves in an entirely different position. We actually have to compare ourselves with companies like Oshkosh or Rosenbauer.
Our competitors already have introduced some of their vehicles into the inventory of customers. The fact that these vehicles are in use seems to present a disadvantage for us. We are trying to remove this disadvantage through our own technical capability and cost effectiveness. What we saw with the TOMAs is that we actually managed to reduce the expenses of public institutions. We could repeat the same scenario with the 4×4 armoured vehicles. Most players in the industry already have known prices they use on the market. They also each have their own deals, and then there are the invoices they have already issued. But, as Katmerciler, we haven’t yet issued any invoice for this product of ours, nor have we made any deals as yet. Whoever wishes to make a competitive bid is free to do so; but I am certain that we will manage to offer an even more competitive price, and that we will repeat the same success we had with the TOMAs.
MSI TDR: What can you tell us about your approach towards the serial production of the ALTAY tank, which is one of the current topics on the industry’s agenda?
Furkan KATMERCİ: The ALTAY is something our country needs, and we hope that its production will begin as soon as possible. We are not the kind of company that tries to run before even learning how to walk properly. We first want to prove ourselves by carrying out the activities I described earlier. In the coming period, we would of course like to be involved in activities such the serial production of the ALTAY. But there is this situation: Current negotiations discuss around 250 tanks produced over a five-year period. But our country doesn’t have five years to wait, and 250 tanks are far from sufficient. There is need for a far greater number of tanks. And requirements are constantly increasing as well. But then, you have companies like ours which can contribute. We might help increase the number of tanks produced, or reduce the costs involved. Maybe we could produce certain parts of the tank. Or we may become directly involved in the project. Right now, we are confident about the product range we offer. First and foremost, we should try to cover the industry’s needs; the steps to follow after that will become self-evident.
MSI TDR: How are you conducting your export activities?
Furkan KATMERCİ: First of all, the fact that we have 30 different products is a great advantage. If a public institution or private sector company in another country expresses a need for garbage disposal equipment, we can simply go there and establish contact with one of the leading companies or the relevant institutions in that country. Today you might sell them garbage disposal equipment. But then, they might ask for a tanker the next day or for a sewage truck or firefighting vehicle on another day. These products are actually essential and necessary in every part of life. You can’t just say: “I already bought a sewage truck, so I can do without garbage disposal equipment.” So, it’s through such necessities that we are developing our relationships. We have exported to 51 countries so far, establishing relations with each of them. That’s why we can go to their doors anytime and ring their bells to sell our defence and security products.
Our current goal is to introduce our defence and security products into the inventories of Turkish authorities. Then, within the same year, we might even start exporting them. We really feel confident on this subject.
We have already exported our TOMA and Riot Control Shield products. We have sold the TOMA to Azerbaijan, Tunisia, Kosovo, Iraq and a number of other countries. Azerbaijan was the first customer for the Riot Control Shield.
MSI TDR: How will you give shape to your defence product family?
Furkan KATMERCİ: At IDEF 2017, we will exhibit a HIZIR with an integrated NEFER armour system, along with an armoured ambulance, the design for which we recently completed. In time, we plan to develop 6×6 and 8×8 wheeled vehicles, as well as tracked vehicles. We plan to have largely completed our product family within five-years.
Once the tests of the HIZIR are completed, the vehicle will be donated to the General Command of Gendarmerie.
With its large internal volume and manoeuvrability, the KHAN is higher and more comfortable than the other vehicles of its class. In addition, we use a side armour plate that is stronger from a ballistic point of view, owing to its integral structure rather than superficial attachment or addition.
We are also keeping track of developments with regard to unmanned land vehicles. There has been a demand for our remote-controlled excavators that can close trenches. We prepared these vehicles in three months, applied for patents, and made the deliveries. Although this may vary depending on conditions, they can be remote-controlled from a distance of two kilometres. We don’t want to be hasty about future activities. We sometimes receive questions such as: “When are you going to make unmanned 4×4 vehicles?” We will make such vehicles eventually; but all in due course. Our priority goal right now is modularity. We want to design a modular vehicle, so that, when the modules are changed, it can become either an ambulance or an armoured personnel carrier, depending on the different mission modules being used.
Coming to Ankara to Increase Collaborations
MSI TDR: How is your approach towards cooperating with companies in other areas of the industry?
Furkan KATMERCİ: One of the reasons we are now also in Ankara is to increase our collaborations. ASELSAN and ROKETSAN are companies that stand closer to the type of business we do. We are in contact with them. They sometimes have requests to which we respond. I am certain that over time, we will start doing business with them. We want to become their solution partner.
MSI TDR: Do you plan to open an office in the technology development zones in Ankara?
Furkan KATMERCİ: Maybe. But as Katmerciler, our foremost priority is training. We want every one of our workers to receive at least an average of eight hours of training every year. In parallel to this, if anyone of our workers wants to undertake postgraduate studies, we cover all of their educational expenses. So we basically encourage them to further their education. As Katmerciler, we want to see our name in scientific publications.
One of our biggest shortcomings is the lack of intermediate personnel. We envisage opening a vocational high school, maybe in seven or eight years’ time. Such a school will raise personnel both for the industry and our company, thus contributing to the country. We consider vocational high schools to be as important as universities. It might just be a dream at this stage, but if it were to happen, we would like to establish it in Izmir.
We are also planning to work on the development of a lighter armoured glass in our Ankara facilities. We have already applied to TÜBİTAK about this. Right now, we plan to reduce the weight of the glass by about 30 percent.
MSI TDR: For years, Katmerciler has sold on vehicle equipment both domestically and abroad. In addition to this, it has also formed a logistic infrastructure. How will this infrastructure contribute to your activities in the area of defence?
Furkan KATMERCİ: We have contracted services in all 81 province of Turkey. We can rapidly intervene anywhere in Turkey to provide services for our vehicles. On the civilian side, we work with all truck manufacturers, which means that we can utilize their own service network. We know which service operates where, and what functions they can fulfil. So we have established our own service network accordingly. We can provide services for our vehicles within an average response time of 48 hours. Our teams, whose members I cannot thank enough, are ready and willing to go anywhere to maintain and repair our vehicles.
On behalf of our readers, we would like to thank Furkan Katmerci, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Katmerciler, for taking the time to answer our questions and providing us with such valuable information.
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