Benjamin Tichane has a lifelong interest in aircraft. He started his career in aerostructures as a production manager of 787 doors, and now manages Gardner Aerospace's business unit in Mazeres, southwest France.
Have you always been interested in aviation?
Growing up I wanted to be a pilot, but I became more interested in the manufacturing side of the aviation industry when I started studying for my degree in engineering. I was drawn by the possibilities in the aerospace sector and how quickly things were moving forward – I just wanted to be a part of it.
What was your experience before the current job?
Before joining Gardner in 2014 I worked for one of our current customers, Latecoere, for nine years, starting as a production manager for Boeing 787 doors, then a procurement manager and finally a supply chain manager for all aero structures. Gardner hired me as a supply chain director for Gardner France, and six months later I took the position of core business unit director.
What does your job entail?
There are two business units in the Gardner Mazeres facility: one for the Airbus A350 and A330neo programmes, and one for the core programmes. I am in charge of this second business unit, so my day-to-day duty is to manage the operations across a business unit of nearly 200 people. Currently, we have core serial programmes running for five key customers, so most of my day is spent co-ordinating these across the different departments, from the sheet metal shop floor to the supply chain to quality checks. I try to take myself away from current projects for a few hours a day, so I can focus on the development of the site and make time to speak to our current customers and any potential new customers.
What are the most challenging aspects of your jobs?
The most challenging aspect of serial production is hitting your production targets month after month, when faced with situations that slow down or sometimes halt production. It can be quite stressful trying to find a solution quickly, but being able to adapt in this fast-moving sector is essential for business survival so I like to think we take these challenges in our stride and tackle them as a team. The silver lining is that these challenges definitely add variety to my job.
What do you enjoy most?
My job represents a lifelong interest in aircraft, so there is very little I don’t enjoy about it. It is great to work in an industry I am so passionate about and that is the main economic driver for my hometown, Toulouse. I enjoy working with my brilliant team every day, building the parts for a beautiful and technical product – a product that I have marvelled at from a very young age.
You operate in a competitive marketplace. How does Gardner stay ahead of the game?
I believe Gardner stays ahead of competitors by listening to customers and reinvesting income across the group to improve facilities and service. When Gardner recognised that customers want fewer but stronger and more global suppliers, we set about consolidating the fragmented detailed parts industry by expanding our offering and entering new locations. This expansion in low-cost locations meant lower overhead and production costs. Now we are competitively priced, while still offering group-wide consistency in quality and service. Also, each of our sites is an excellence centre for one or more technologies needed for aero structures.
What’s next for the company?
We have been building our relationship with Airbus for years, so the future as a first-class supplier looks promising. However, we cannot be too reliant on a single source of opportunities so we are also focusing on new business over the next five years. Following a successful expansion programme abroad in India and Poland, we are also focusing on developing our operations in the UK.
What’s next for you?
As I have only been at Gardner for 18 months I aim to keep hitting my targets, attracting new business and developing the Mazeres site.