“There will be a couple of thin years in defense through 2014” as the budget cuts are sorted out and stabilized, he says. But beyond then the commercial markets should have healthy renewed growth. With air transport growing faster than the world’s economies, demand will increase for the platforms featuring Rockwell products that will be ramping up production or being well on the way towards entering service, including the Boeing 787, Airbus A350, Bombardier CSeries, Mitsubishi Regional Jet and Chinese ARJ21 regional airliner.
Jones does not even view the defense sector too pessimistically. The company’s internal forecast sees the U.S. market going from the recent 5-7% annual growth to anywhere from flat sales to a 2% decline. But he expects that to be offset by 3% growth in defense spending outside the U.S., in Europe and in nations such as Brazil, India, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
“Most companies have survived well with just the U.S. military, but four years ago we saw the need to find export markets for defense products and began to re-craft our international businesses,” Jones says. “We put more people in country, to get to know the customer and customize solutions.”
Since then Rockwell has won roles in the F-15 sale to Saudi Arabia, and forward air controller products in several Middle East countries and Australia. It will also supply the glass cockpit and avionics in Embraer’s KC-390 military transport.
Jones notes that part of the transition to an agile company has been to get management to recognize reversals in cycles and act quickly to adjust. Asked whether this pressure might provoke knee-jerk reactions to short-term swings, he says every reversal is preceded by macro or economic events, for example, 9/11, or credit freezing up and banks being bailed out. “Now, massive budget deficits tell you something is turning again,” he notes. “These are volatile markets, and we must learn to live in them.”