DRS RUGGED SYSTEMS – BUILDING ON EXCELLENCE
By Julian Nettlefold
BATTLESPACE visits the DRS Tactical Systems rugged computer facility in Melbourne, Florida
The last time the Editor visited the DRS Tactical Systems’ facility in Palm Bay, Florida was in July 2002. At that time, the facility was still owned by Paravant Computers whose main product was the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) Appliqué vehicle computer for the U.S. Army under a contract won in 1999 which, at that time, was shared with Litton Data Systems. Parvant Computers began as a small design and manufacturing company with revenues of 9 million dollars and a staff of 30 people. During his initial visit to the company in 2002, the Editor saw the production plant producing approximately 120 computers a month.
In August 2002, Paravant Computers was awarded a contract from General Dynamics UK Limited to supply the BOWMAN Management Data Terminal (BMDT), with options to procure several thousand additional computer terminals, the total of which is now 13,000 fielded systems.
In November 2002, Paravant reported financial results for its year and quarter ended September 30, 2002. Revenues increased by 19.8% for the fiscal years ended September 30, 2001 and 2002, respectively. For the full year 2002, the Company had net income of $4,464,040, compared to $447,747 for the previous year. As of September 30, 2002 the Company’s overall backlog, which consisted of both funded purchase orders and IDIQ (indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity) contracts, increased 44.8%. In October 2002, DRS Technologies Inc. signed a definitive agreement to purchase Paravant Computers for approximately $4.75 a share, a 24.2% premium based on Paravant’s closing price. The total consideration for the deal was approximately $92M.
We wind the clock forward to our March 2009 visit to the new Melbourne facility to meet Vice President, General Manager Mike Sarrica and Vice President Programs & Strategy, Bill Guyan. Both Mike and Bill joined Paravant prior to the DRS acquisition.
“The change from a small-job computer design facility to this purpose-built rugged computer manufacturing plant is incredible.” The Editor said.
“I thought you would be impressed.” Mike Sarrica said. “We are now producing approximately 1,500 situational awareness systems a month giving a total of 70,000 to date and have already delivered 13,000 Bowman ScorpionTM systems. We also manufacture the new ARMOR line of fully-rugged computers we developed from the Walkabout business we acquired in 2005. We are now one of the largest suppliers of rugged computers to military forces around the world. We have produced over 150,000 systems from this facility since we moved here in 2006.”
“How did you evolve the Company from a single source contract to a multi-product, multi-customer business?”
“We work on the principal of excellent Customer Service; our motto is never lose existing customers whilst bringing in new ones. Our word is our bond and we bring in a large amount of new business via referrals from existing customers. We now produce a complete range of products from FBCB2 and BOWMAN computers to multi-function displays. We also produce a line of tablet computers for both the military markets, with our Military Rugged Tablet (MRT), and Industrial/Commercial markets with our ARMOR line resulting in the growth of non-military sales. In addition we are also competing to supply other DRS businesses with rugged computing and display systems where previously they had purchased from outside suppliers. In particular, we recently won the contract to supply the display for the DRS Driver’s Vision Enhancer (DVE) contract which we were producing 2,000 a month at the height of production.”
“To ensure we maintain seamless Service and Support to our customers, in March of this year we announced that our Customer Contact Center is now available 24/7. The in-house center provides a single point of