News Article

Safran’s Parfait: Growth, Innovation Are Linked

Wed, 11/09/2016 - 15:54

Innovation and progress are irremediably linked, Safran Mexico CEO Daniel Parfait told the 2016 Mexico Aerospace Forum 2016 on Wednesday in Mexico City.

While innovation seems to be a growth engine it poses an important challenge: it needs to happen fast, otherwise the moment is gone. Keeping up with innovation is hard, but for Parfait, keeping up with innovation in the aerospace industry is even harder. “In aeronautics the time needed for innovation is different. We need to guarantee that what we are developing today will still be relevant in 35 years. No other industry does that.”

“It used to take 70 years to double a machine’s capacity, not anymore,” he added. “Growth and innovation are always linked. The important thing is to find a balance between innovation that destroys and innovation that creates jobs.”

For Parfait, innovation can be understood from two different perspectives. The Brynjolfsson/McAfee perspective states that we are living in an era marked by progress. For Parfait, self-driving cars and 3-D printing are examples of the prior. On the other hand, the Vijg/Gordon/Piketty perspective states that innovation is not what it used to be. For Parfait, the latter seems to be a pessimistic viewpoint.

Parfait said the French company goes above and beyond to guarantee innovation in every product. R&D activities receive 12 percent of the company’s revenues and 21 percent of its workforce, yielding 900 initial patent filings in 2015. These statistics led Thomson Reuters to rank Safran among the top 100 global innovators.

According to Parfait, innovation is not restricted to Europe or the US. “Mexico is a country of innovation. In Chihuahua, we have 4,000 employees that contribute with more than 5,000 new ideas every year.” The confidence of the French group also translates into new production opportunities for the country. “Mexico will be manufacturing key components of an engine that will dominate aviation in the near future.”

Innovation requires vision. “In the 1970s, Safran and GE had a strategic vision and teamed up to develop the CFM56 engine, one of the most reliable engines in the industry.” To date, aircraft with the CFM56 have traveled the equivalent of 50 roundtrips to the moon daily. According to company data, aircraft with this engine move more than 3 million passengers punctually on a daily basis, accounting for 99.98 percent service reliability.

Constant innovation and technological advancements should not mean unemployment. “For Safran, innovation is a way of creating social cohesion and financial inclusion,” Parfait said. The company also strives to take care of its employees. “Sixty percent of Safran employees are shareholders and we are ranked second in the CAC40 stock market index of companies with the largest number of employee shareholders.”