IFS looking to add more value in the African aerospace and defence sector


Enterprise resource planning (ERP) specialist IFS is targeting the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), South African Police Service (SAPS), defence companies and other entities that need to work smarter and more efficiently, especially as the coronavirus pandemic impacts the economy.

Founded in 1983, IFS is a global enterprise software vendor providing solutions that help companies get better returns on investments. It supports more than 10 000 customers worldwide across a range of industries. The company develops and delivers enterprise software for customers who manufacture and distribute goods, maintain assets, and manage service-focused operations.

IFS focusses on a limited number of industry segments and this includes aerospace and defence – customers in this area include BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Saab, Babcock, Emirates, LATAM, China Airlines, Air France-KLM and Southwest Airlines. In the military sphere, the company analyses and looks at how it can optimise fleets and assets, especially from a maintenance perspective, said Andre de Meyer, Vice President for Asia-Pacific and Japan, Middle East and Africa for IFS looking after the Aerospace and Defence Business Unit.

IFS has aerospace and defence representation across the globe, including offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. De Meyer said that IFS is looking to grow its business in Africa and South Africa in particular, and may open premises in Kenya and Nigeria. In South Africa, IFS has existing clients such as Saab South Africa, but is targeting the SANDF, SAPS, prison services, the justice cluster as well as defence companies.

Denel, for example, is facing stiff competition and is suffering from a lack of financial liquidity. Companies like Denel are crucial for the country’s economy and their downfall could cause the collapse of the entire national defence industry, resulting in the loss of essential national defence capabilities. Denel, and other local defence companies, need to improve operational efficiency and streamline processes, IFS believes.

De Meyer cited Austal as an example of what it can achieve with a defence company. IFS optimised labour productivity and procurement processes, for example making sure the right material arrives at the right location at the right time, cutting storage costs. This streamlining results in savings of around 9-12%, which, for a multi-billion dollar company “is a substantial saving,” De Meyer said.

For the military, savings and improved efficiency are even more important than ever, De Meyer believes, as defence budgets are being heavily scrutinised amidst the financial pressure of the coronavirus pandemic. This means there is a greater need for enterprise resource planning, especially when it comes to maintenance and asset utilisation.

For the commercial aviation business, de Meyer said that before the coronavirus pandemic hit, African air passenger travel was predicted to increase dramatically, but now that aircraft are grounded, it is a good time to investigate streamlining maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) programmes. “Some African airlines…really need to focus on keeping their businesses safe,” de Meyer said. With enterprise resource planning, maintenance can be done safely and efficiently, and with traceability and therefore accountability.

Although the commercial aviation business has come to an almost complete standstill, de Meyer predicts it will recover in 12-18 months, although the cargo industry remains strong and this is keeping IFS’s MRO solutions running nicely. On the defence side, he sees budgets remaining fairly constant, although some procurement programmes are being scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic.