Thales Canada: Best in Class Solutions
MARK HALINATY
© 2013 FrontLine Defence (Vol 10, No 3)

Many would agree that a company’s size and philosophy are key to staying competitive and maintaining the ability to offer best-in-class solutions to Canada’s defence and civil market industries. A case in point is Thales Canada Inc., where engineering skills are alive and well. A half-billion dollar company with an employee base of 1,300 in major centres across Canada, the company is a major player in systems engineering, with technologies and integration skills that cross industry sectors. Thales Canada’s diversified portfolio for both civil and defence industries allows us to balance out market sector strengths and weaknesses to maintain a strong financial picture as well as meet stringent IRB requirements.

The company have become a trusted Tier 1 prime contractor and premier systems integrator for the Canadian military, and our Optronics business unit provides the Army with cooled thermal night vision tools. We earned this position by combining a spirit of entrepreneurialism with our technology savvy.

But it’s more than that. Since our beginnings in 1981, we have learned that a winning formula for success for all of our business units has been the result of four ‘input enabling’ factors.

First, ideas and knowledge that under­pin innovation are of prime importance. A group like Thales needs to stay on the cutting edge of technology and innovation, so our solutions are always at the forefront of technology and pertinent to the operational requirements of not only today but the next decade. While technology is often critical to victory in many theatres, investment in innovation keeps businesses and forces on top.

To create the right conditions for creativity and innovation, Thales has a system whereby experts in various different domains can network easily to identify and discuss new ideas, and move them forward quickly. Beyond Thales, we access an even broader base of knowledge and skills and to leverage the power of collaboration. This revolves around partnerships with academic researchers, small businesses and other industry players. From the earliest stages of our research, we bring in partners with talents and expertise that complement our own. As well, we maintain in Quebec City the fifth Thales Research and Technology Centre in the world, and much of its activity is focused on the Defence & Securities market.

The second enabling component calls for talented, educated and entrepreneurial people whose imagination and energy drive the development and implementation of innovative business strategies. We take a variety of measures to ensure that everybody in the Group can develop their innovative potential.

And that hits on the third enabling input – networks, collaborations and linkages that enable innovation partners to pool staff and resources, and to share information, risks and costs.

Thales competes on defence work around the world and believes in transferring technology to members of the Group. Thales recognizes that there must be local industrial capability to support mature customers. We have a very mature customer and a talented local work force. Worldwide, Thales has a vast commercial and cross-domain knowledge base that we have the privilege of tapping into for the long term, and, if the technology fits Canada’s needs, we Canadianize it and support it throughout its life cycle.

For example, we took a Thales Group command and control (C2) application, improved it and Canadianized it. Now we are the prime contractor for the Canadian Army’s Land Command Support System, providing long-term embedded army command and control applications and system support.

We also draw upon skill sets from our other Canadian businesses. The engineers in our Transportation worldwide Centre of Excellence in Toronto are also command and control engineers, although focused on the civil sector. We built the first fully automated communication-based control system for urban trains, Vancouver’s SkyTrain. We pioneered this technology, which is now the defacto standard for metros worldwide, a market in which we are the world leader in applications. Our Defence & Security and Transportation business teams collaborated on producing a software-defined radio for next generation communications-based train control.

Our Aerospace business unit in Montreal includes leaders in the R&D and installation of Fly-By-Wire technology in the business jet market for ­customers such as Gulfstream and Bombardier. Our Defence Optronics unit is collaborating with the Aerospace unit to fully integrate night vision capability into the pilot’s arsenal of safety devices.

Thales values performance building as well through teaming with local business partners. We are committed to developing the Canadian industrial base and have partnered with almost every Canadian company whether it is a SME or another Tier 1 systems integrator. The fundamental decision on teaming is based on what’s best for the customer in both price and capability.

And the final input factor is capital and financing. Developing new concepts isn’t enough, of course. Thales also spends a lot of time and resources developing those concepts into real-life applications – investing the equivalent of 20% of our revenues into R&D. We have built a solid track record that has allowed us to finance our innovation. Thales is on the list of the top 100 companies in Canada investing significant amounts in research and development. Our successful record of winning contracts in Canada, and export projects abroad, allows us to re-invest in Canada.
 
Thales Canada’s winning formula is a magical mix of entrepreneurialism, great ideas, smart employees, access to a vast network of colleagues working on similar projects in other countries, a passion to win – and a willingness to invest in success.

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Mark Halinaty, VP and Managing Director, Thales Canada,Defence & Security
© FrontLine Defence 2013

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