AVIATION INTERVIEW WITH NAGUIB MOHD NOR
President of Malaysia Aerospace Industry Association (MAIA)
Naguib Mohd Nor is the founding member and President of MAIA since its inception in 2016. A visionary and passionate man for the civil aerospace industry, he is optimistic for Malaysia’s future as a Manufacturing, MRO hub and producer of world-class engineers. A man of refreshing candour, Naguib shares with AIRLINK Malaysia’s shining beacon of hope for the aerospace and aviation industry.
Please briefly explain the role that MAIA plays for its member.
Established in 2016, the MAIA is an association for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), manufacturing, and other services as well as products companies that focus on the civil aviation market. We represent our members (over 90 of them) to the government and the global industry. Our members range from the large companies to the SMEs as well as some of the peripheral players, such as consul and quality management companies.
Some of the larger companies that we represent are GE Engine Service Malaysia, Spirit Aerosystems, UMW Aerospace, Aero Composites Malaysia, Asia Aerotechnic, and Strand Aerospace. These are Tier-1 companies that supply parts and services to global original equipment manufacturers.
Most countries with a developed aerospace industry would have an association such as ourselves. And, it is reflective of the highly collaborative nature of the industry. Being part of the association means that collaborative efforts can easily be organised and it portrays overall capability for the country.
How has the civil MRO (maintenance, repair, and overhaul) industry in Malaysia been faring since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic?
All segments of the industry have been affected, overall 30-50% of capacity has been reduced as a result of the pandemic. Although aircraft parts manufacturing was ongoing, the airlines were not taking any deliveries. This caused a chain effect of companies recording a continual reduction in their bottom line and thus retrenchment and contract termination have been taking place.
The silver lining is that some OEM’s and Tier 1 companies are taking this opportunity to re-think how they want to run their businesses. Furthermore, the Malaysian export market may be a benefactor of the US-China trade war, thus there may be some opportunities to be capitalised.
Nevertheless, it remains to be said, that worse has yet to begin, and we may be on the verge of entering a deep recession. In which case, any form of certainty regarding the industry and the economy’s future outlook as a whole, is murky at best.
How much does the aerospace industry contribute to the economy?
Malaysia is the second largest aerospace market in Southeast Asia and the largest aero structures manufacturer in the region.
In 2018, the manufacturing and MRO industry contributed approximately RM14 billion, while an estimated RM16 – 17 billion was contributed in 2019. The aerospace industry also employs 26,000 Malaysians. The industry mainly employs Malaysians, as the local labour force already possesses the necessary skills to take on such a high-skill job.
An estimated RM603 million in tax income is raised via the sector’s supply chain, and another RM367 million through spending by employees of the aviation sector and its supply chain.
How will MAIA preserve & support the aerospace industry during these trying times?
As it is a platform for maturing industries, in the past, MAIA has been successful in bringing together companies where they are able to leverage MAIA for assistance in growth and access into new markets, networking within industry and championing the industry’s interest with focus on public policy development.
This factor is equally relevant during these trying times, because of the nature of MAIA in fostering active dialogue between the industry players. The association becomes a platform for collaborative efforts as well as a collective identity for our members to voice out their concerns to the government.
For example, during the MCO period, we were quick to communicate and work with the government so that the civil aerospace industry would be free to operate again. As a result, the government gave us the earliest restart in the industry. This greatly benefitted our members and the disruption to the supply chain of the industry was limited due to our quick action. MAIA collectively also aims for a recovery of the global industry to 2019 pre-COVID levels between 2022 – 2023.
How can MAIA work with Malaysia Airports to further develop the aerospace industry?
First of all, Malaysia Airports is an active member in MAIA. In the past, there has been many collaborative work between us. At the moment, I believe that the KLIA Aeropolis, which is going to be an integrated hub for the aerospace industry as well as the MICE and logistics industry, will be a catalyst to our industry. The MRO and manufacturing industry will be a great benefactor. This indicates that Malaysia Airports is fully committed on the vision that any investment in the aerospace industry will spill over to the aviation industry.
On the other hand, I am pleased to highlight that MAIA recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Selangor Darul Ehsan Aerospace Industry Coordination Office (SDaico).
This also counts as a strategic partnership between us and Malaysia Airports as well, since MAHB’s key airports are located in Selangor. I would also like to highlight that the state of Selangor comprises 60% of the country’s aerospace industry.
Despite severe headwinds, do you see opportunities to advance certain avenues of the industry?
Prior to the pandemic, the industry was investing into technology development such as automation, skills-development, and Internet of Things systems (IoT). The industry sees this as an opportunity to boost workflow volumes, revenues as well as a high-skilled workforce and more jobs. Technological prowess will be a need to have, as there will be much innovation taking place in the industry in the near future.
In addition, some of the things that the aerospace industry has in store for the world includes autonomous flying, and thus large global players such as Airbus are in the process of building new infrastructure such as digital air traffic management. The future will be exciting indeed.
What has been your greatest achievement thus far as President of MAIA?
First of all, I’m still president! But jokes aside, our membership growth has been my biggest pride and joy- we have grown almost a tenfold. We started with only 10-15 members and now we have over 90 members. We hope to be home to 150 members by mid-2021. This is a testament to how much MAIA can do for its members.
I hope our strategic programs becomes more significant. By transforming the Malaysian industrial landscape, we can then build better prospects for the economy.
Malaysia Airports is embarking on the Subang Regeneration Initiative to position Malaysia as Asia-Pacific’s preferred MRO hub, what is your view on this?
Imagine walking into a place where on one side is a factory that builds parts of Airbus, an academy where the country’s finest pilots are being trained, and an airport where local airlines connect to the world. Like a little kid that walks into Disneyland for the first time, I believe that the Subang Regeneration Initiatives (SRI) has huge potential to turn Subang to more than what it is.
I hope that it will bring together the brains of the aerospace industry. Building planes is an extremely intricate task, and this reflects the level of intelligence that is possessed in the Malaysian aerospace industry. To me, this intelligence is a beacon of hope and as a benchmark for how Malaysians can build a high technology economy ground up. We are part of realising one of the most complicated export industries in the world!
Hence, I believe that SRI has the vision to become the embodiment of that vision. And by the way, the manoeuvrable parts of the wing of an Airbus A320 are mostly made in Malaysia! This means that without us, the plane can only fly in a straight line.
I believe that when Malaysians accept these things as a matter of fact, this is when the country has evolved. We need Malaysians to believe in Malaysia.
What is your educational background and how has this brought success to your role as president?
I did my Bachelors in Aerospace Engineering in Manchester University and then I completed my Masters in Aerospace Vehicle Design at Cranfield University.
However, things really became interesting for me when I got my first job at Stress Analysis and Design Engineering UK. During this time, the A380 was being developed, this was when I got to learn first-hand how the OEM worked, how Airbus designed and manufactured their planes. It is truly a remarkable process reliant on some of the most competent people I have ever met. This then became the foundation for my career moving forward.
I came back to Malaysia to start Strand as an aerospace engineering design and analysis company in 2006, specialising in offshoring work from Europe. During this time, the government supported our program to train engineers and so we were one of the first pure-play engineering services companies in Malaysia to develop civil aerospace design and analysis engineers capable of designing primary structural components for Airbus, Boeing and other OEM’s. Strand has since added to its portfolio turnkey technology consulting services supporting other organisations to enter into Aerospace.
That was my journey as an entrepreneur and techno-preneur. This experience was extremely important, as when the association was formed in 2016, I had an encompassing view of the industry while at the same time, I had built a network with government ministers to which MAIA and its members has leveraged on. To start the association I was invited to spend a week in Paris with the French Aerospace Industry Association (GIFAS) to benchmark best practices and to found MAIA’s first international alliance with no less than the oldest and most established space industry association.