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Innovation and evolution characterize PT T&E Simulation

Interview - December 18, 2013
United World meets with Muhammad Mulia Tirtosudiro, President Director of PT T&E Simulation, a hugely important backstage player in the energy, water desalination and electronics industries
Please give us a brief introduction to your professional background, and how you came to be the President Director of T&E Simulation.

I have a background in engineering and for 22 years I worked at PT DI (formerly PT IPTN). During the government of President Habibie, we gained a lot of experience in technology know-how, because the President forced us to look abroad. He even sent people to the Technical University in Delft, the Netherlands, to study technology. 
Following the financial crisis in 1997-1998, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) demanded suspension of aid, as well as programs for Indonesia’s aeronautic and maritime technological development. PT IPTN had no more funds to sustain their activities and the management had to let thousands of workers go. They started a diversification program for the 3,500 engineers working for the company at that time. Back in those days, I was one of the people in charge of finding jobs for the engineers outside of the corporate projects. That is where I learned how to conduct business and got the expertise, especially in the field of aircraft projects. 
Over time, PT IPTN had to reconsider what business they should focus on. During the start of the first diversification program, the top management gave us the freedom to process our legal contracts for procurement, marketing and finance. In 2003, the management changed and the company centralized all the activities again. This made it difficult for me to be committed to clients as I had limited capability. That is why at the end of 2003, I decided to leave PT IPTN after 22 years of service.
In 2004, I set up a private company focusing only on non-aircraft projects, and leaving the aircraft projects to be done by PT IPTN.
What was the basis behind your new company?

We set up PT Technology & Engineering System and our main line of business was in the maintenance of radars. We were doing upgrades, repairs and modifications of the early warning system on the radar for the Air Force. We also checked the CGI-configuration for ground control and interception, meaning that the radar will inform the pilot when they intercept an intruder entering our air space. Business went very well. 
Today our company focuses on the area of Technology Engineering (T&E) Systems and in the field of T&E-Simulations. PT DI does not support the non-aircraft business anymore. In fact, most of the people who worked at PT DI came to work with us, bringing us the expertise. 
During the crisis the government did not have enough funds to operate the entire radar system. At that time we upgraded the radar and its early warning systems from the old analogue version to a new digital version. In the beginning, we had to be very innovative. Most of the radar systems in Indonesia, especially in central and west Indonesia, have already been repaired and upgraded by us. If you look at our radar systems today, you will see that from the outside they look as if they came from the European radar producers, but inside you will see they are fully digital, with new ergonomics and interface. It is worth mentioning that we did everything without the availability of any documentation or support by the radar principal.
Competition in the radar business in Indonesia over the last two to three years has been very strong, so eventually we decided to leave the radar business and focus on other areas. 
What business did you turn to once you decided to leave the radar business?

In 2006/07 we turned to the developments in the energy sector. We started working with PLN – the electricity generation company owned by the government. In the energy sector, we mainly do repairs, modifications, upgrades and modernization. 
We started the business from scratch and initially we focused on repair and maintenance services. Everybody needs to have their operations working well; therefore the easiest way to get into a market is through repair and maintenance. Our goal was to give alternatives in the maintenance of the systems and have them working properly without having to spend too much effort in doing so. 
We started with water desalination plants and now we are getting involved in turbine controls. But of course, in order to work on these kinds of projects, we needed partners. Two years ago, we started a successful turbine control project with an American company – Emerson – and at the moment we are in the commissioning phase. We are also in the process of preparing a tender for another project and hope to be awarded the contract before the end of the year. 
What are the main projects that you are currently working on?

We are working on four projects at the moment. First of all, we produce tank simulators for the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI). This is a very unique project as we will be able to change the configuration from one type of tank to another. So we can exchange information between different types of tanks. This is not only a cost effective training device, but it may as well be the only simulator in the world that has a multi-configuration concept. It is important to note that there are not many companies capable of producing this kind of simulators. 
The second project is the Hawk Simulator for the Indonesian Air Forces. The third project is for upgrading the CN-235 flight simulator for Malaysia. And the latest project is the Bell 412 – a full flight simulator for the Armed Forces of Indonesia.
Besides the energy business that I mentioned concerning the tender with Emerson, we also do electronic assessments. Our specialty in this field is electronics and electronics software applications. We have two types of activity in regards to assessment. First, there is the assessment where we check the health conditions of the electronic control systems. Secondly, the assessment for the remaining life span of the equipment using data analysis and statistics, in order to know how much longer the equipment will last. These assessments are not very common in the world. 
When did you start developing simulators for the Indonesian Army?

I started in the early 1990s with engineering flight simulations at PT IPTN, which is a process that helps engineers design the aircraft. 
In 2000 we were awarded the first contract from Malaysia for a full flight simulator for the Malaysian Air Force, the CN-235. This was a joint production of Malaysia (10%) and Indonesia (90%). The simulator has been in operation since 2005 and continues till today. In 2005, we were awarded the contract for the Super Puma Helicopter (Air Force). This was in cooperation with PT DI, but our company did most of the activities. 
As a private company we got contracts from the Armed Forces of Malaysia for tank simulators, and from the Air Force of Malaysia for a hawk simulator. We kept ourselves low-key for these projects. The contracts were actually held by Sapura Bhd, a Malaysian company, we were only a subcontractor, but most of the activities of the project were done by us. These projects were completed four years ago and the utilization of the simulators is reaching almost 95% every year.
Currently, T&E Simulations has plans to develop and build several simulators such as the FFS Bell412, the Anti Submarine Helicopter, and the BMP3F Battle Management Simulator for the Indonesian Navy. For the Indonesian Army, we are developing the Bolko FTD and the MBT Simulator. And for the Indonesian Air Force we have planned to develop the Sukhoi Full Mission Simulator.

What are the main strengths of PT TES’ human resources? How do you ensure they keep abreast with the latest developments in technology?

We have about 100 people working for our company, out of which 80% are engineers. Our line of business entails long-term operation and development; therefore our employees should have a long-term commitment to PT T&E Simulation. That is why it is very important to engage in regeneration and enhancement of the skills and knowledge of our young personnel who has all the eagerness to learn and keep up to date with the state-of-the-art technology. We motivate them to always try to be creative and innovative.
In the past, former President Habibie empowered us to be innovative and teach the young generation that they can live out of technology. If we want to improve our living standards, we have to learn about technology and be able to master it. Indonesia is growing rapidly. In the past, we have been very dependent on foreign countries. But if we want to reverse this trend and become more self-reliant, it is very important that we empower and strengthen our own human resources. Without technology, we will not be able to progress at the necessary pace. 
In October 2012, the House of Representatives endorsed the new groundbreaking Defense Industry Law, with the aim to revitalize and empower Indonesia’s defense industry. What impact did the law have on your operations? Have you noticed increased support from the government?

Yes, especially over the last two years we have felt increased support from the government. To be honest, it has always been my dream to have a company working in technology and to have the opportunity to get involved in government projects. For me, the most important thing is the development of industrial human resources, as well as the research and development (R&D). That is why the first thing I wanted to do was to find a good location to accommodate our activities. And here we are today, as you can see we are currently building and developing our new facilities.
In other countries, governments allocate funds for R&D to explore a specific area. But in Indonesia, we have to create a real product and then we have to be ready to deliver it. Given the current situation, the government is looking for companies that are really committed to bringing good products to the market and supporting the infrastructure.
What message would you like to convey to our readers about Indonesia today?

I would be happy if the world would know more about Indonesia. People always talk about Indonesia as a tourism destination, but we want people to know that Indonesia can also deliver state-of-the-art technology. Indonesia can improve lives through the implementation of the right technology and the right products in line with what the country needs. There are many skilled young people in Indonesia who did not have yet the opportunity to get involved in this promising job market.  
Technology will help the world become more efficient and self-sufficient. The government is really supporting us now, and I am very happy about it. I am going to stay in the simulator business, and I hope that the government will keep supporting our activities.