Interview: Menatek & MSI

Standing out with the numerous parts it has manufactured and tested for military land vehicles, Menatek positions itself as a bridge between the prime contractors and parts manufacturers. The company enhances the business potential of manufacturers, while also assuming supply chain management on behalf of prime contractors. We spoke with Kazım Ünal, General Manager of Menatek; Mehmet Ünal, Managing Partner of the company; and Naz Ünal, the company’s Director of Business Development and Strategy, about the past, present and future of Menatek, which, as part of its corporate development, has turned its attention to productisation in addition to manufacturing.

MSI TDR: Mr. Ünal, Menatek has undergone significant changes since its establishment, and today, thanks to its various features, is able to distinguish itself from the other subcontractors in the Turkish defence and aerospace sector. Can you tell us the story of how Menatek was founded?

Kazım ÜNAL: I am someone who loves his job very much, and who has a great sense of responsibility towards his work. I am very enthusiastic about what I do, and reflect this enthusiasm on my colleagues. There are many great things I aspire to accomplish through a team spirit. I worked in the maintenance facilities of the Turkish Land Forces for many years, during which I developed my engineering know-how and my know-how about subsystems aboard tracked and wheeled land vehicles. I gained this experience through continuous contact with foreign-based suppliers and working with different spare parts practically every day. This know-how and professional enthusiasm guided me to seek another career path, leading me to retire from the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and to found Menatek in 1997.

In the early days, we took part in various tenders as the Turkey representative of certain foreign defence companies. Then in the early 2000s, when Turkey shifted its defence policy by launching the production of national and indigenous systems rather than relying on off-the-shelf purchases, we started working together with various manufacturers in Turkey to provide spare parts for the TAF. A short while later, to make a difference in a sector where everyone else did roughly similar things, we decided to open up to foreign markets. While venturing abroad, we met with a US-based company, through which we started manufacturing various parts in Turkey for the United States Armed Forces. A little while later, we started selling numerous subsystems, again to the United States, but this time as a prime contractor. That is how Menatek’s current structure began to take shape.

Growth of 100 Percent in 2018

MSI TDR: What is the current position of Menatek in the sector? What kind of activities do you conduct?

Naz ÜNAL: While Menatek initially started out by manufacturing parts through its subcontractors and based only on already existing designs, the company is nowadays manufacturing indigenous products, and has developed the capability to manufacture bespoke workbenches. Menatek has thus become a company that designs products specifically based on customer requirements, and that can cooperate with subcontractors for the manufacture of any parts when needed. In all of these processes, we have never compromised on the principle of carrying out final assembly and testing activities at Menatek’s own facilities. We started this journey with a single person, but Menatek today employs 20 people. In 2013, when we were a small team of six, we started focusing also on productisation along with part manufacturing, and have witnessed constant growth since then. This was especially the case over the last three years, in which our annual turnover has been growing at a rate of 100 percent. In fact, with the latest contracts we have inked, we have already achieved by the month of February 70 percent of the turnover target we had set for ourselves for 2019. The share of exports in our turnover is around 75 percent.

A Vision of Productisation

MSI TDR: We will go into detail about other topics shortly, but first of all, can we talk about productisation, something that is not on the agenda for many defence sector companies? Can you tell us about how this vision of productisation came about for Menatek?

Mehmet ÜNAL: The process began in 2013 when we indigenised the brake systems of the POYRAZ ammunition transfer vehicles. As the relevant brake system used to be procured from abroad, the first thing we did was to develop a customised brake system for the vehicle, after which we indigenised its production. We deployed our engineering capabilities in this process and made all the necessary calculations ourselves. The project provided us with a unique experience, allowing us to see which issues require special attention to during the production of a subsystem, and also the approaches that need to be developed in case of problems. I admit that production based on already existing drawings is also not easy, but we changed the game completely in the case of POYRAZ’s brake systems. In fact, we took our first steps towards the development of indigenous products at IDEF’17, where we received a request from the PATRIA company to redesign an existing product and produce it with higher performance. We completed the testing of this product last November and adopted a production method that is being used only by a few companies in the world, and for the first time in Turkey.

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