Moshe Binyamin, is MTI Instruments’ president. Binyamin oversees all of MTI Instruments and is responsible for overall strategic growth and operations. Binyamin joined MTI Instruments in August 2019, just before the pandemic set in, initially serving as the head of sales and marketing departments. Binyamin is a graduate of Vista Equity Partner’s exclusive High Potential Leadership Program (HPLP) with focus on Business Administration, Management and Operations and holds a Computer Analyst degree from the Israeli Defense Forces. We spoke with him to learn what it has been like to experience the ups and downs of taking the role of president just prior to the pandemic.
Q: Tell us how you ended up at MTI and about your progression into executive leadership.
A: My background comes from software. That’s really where I started. I was in the computer field in the Israeli military then basically stayed in the computer field when I was discharged. I came to the United States in early nineties and continued with software organizations. First, I was with a public company called MapInfo. I started as an engineer and then moved over to product management. That was the beginning of my transition from a technical role to more of a business/technical role. I learned about market positioning, addressable markets and obviously bringing new products to market. I also did one acquisition so got into due diligence processes and those types of activities. From there, I went to a startup called Autotask. Later, the company was acquired by a private equity firm called Vista Equity Partners. They’re very active in the enterprise software business. That is when I went through their high potential leadership program.
Q: And then you joined MTI Instruments.
A: Yes, I then joined MTI Instruments as the director of strategic growth where my primary responsibility was to analyze the market, the opportunity of the technology and where could the company go. Most of my 2019 was focused on the development of that plan, the opportunity around the market and, how to accelerate the growth of MTI.
Q: You released your earnings in March and the company did very well. To what do you attribute that success?
A: Primary growth was due to a very large order from the US Air Force. We received the order during the pandemic which forced us to rethink the way we work. I’m very proud of the team we have because we had to adjust quite a bit as an organization to learn to operate differently. Everybody stepped up — we had rotating shifts to ensure social distancing and people had to become flexible with their work hours. In addition, since we could no longer visit customers in person, we had to focus more on virtual content. So that’s something that we’ve evaluated and changed the way customers were engaging with us. A lot of us used to travel quite a bit. That was no longer an option during the pandemic. We had to adjust how we communicated our content, the applications that we built and the ways that we can help our customers. We had to deliver all that through virtual meetings. We created a video room and offered incentives to our engineers to go in and record “How to Use Our PBS System” and many other instructional videos. These videos helped customers know that they’re important to us and we’re going to find ways of connecting with them, even if we cannot be with them in person.
Q: What would you say is the greatest lesson you learned in the previous year about your business?
A: One is knowing the sub-segments of your business really well so you can identify opportunities very quickly and target customers with the right message can be really helpful to staying connected and remaining relevant. The second one would be to have a very diverse business. It’s much like an investment portfolio because being concentrated either in one geography or one vertical has advantages when things are good, but it leaves you exposed.
Q: When you became president of MTI, it was just before the pandemic hit. How are you revising the plan you initially set out to implement as a result of what’s occurred this past 15 months.
A: Innovation and customer engagement are the two things that I see as an opportunity from that perspective. The number one goal that was reinforced is to have really close customer engagement, meaning being close to the customer, not just at the product delivery level, but from an ongoing perspective. Are they getting the value from the products that they’ve purchased? What else can we do for the customer that would help them be more efficient and more effective with our product? Really the definitions around that. It is not necessarily just around engine maintenance or engine balancing, but how do I help my customer reduce downtime? Ultimately, that’s really what it comes down to. How to help them get the most value out of the assets they are maintaining and managing. That insight comes from a close customer relationship where you can meet the customer or have an ongoing dialogue with them because conditions change and the economy changes. Then an outcome of that insight is pipeline of product innovation. When you have a clear connection between the higher-level goal, which is to allow our customers to work more quickly and efficiently, that seamlessly translates into how do we simplify our software and hardware so technicians can operate our equipment more efficiently. That has a direct impact on how we innovate the product.
Q: Let’s talk about the military side of the business. Do you see more growth in that area?
A: We certainly do because the military is not under pressure to upgrade to newer planes. So, the service arm is something they plan to invest in for years to come. In addition, the technicians rotate lot more frequently, therefore there are training opportunities around that, giving them the support they need, and simplifying the software are opportunities for us. There are also additional opportunities in making the devices more rugged, safe from cyber security threats and accessible to wherever they may be in the field.
Q: MTI does training on setting up and using your products. Tell us more about the training that you do.
A: The training that we do on the PBS systems is offered as in-person training at the customer site. We offer two or three-day training options where the customer uses their own equipment. By the time we leave, not only do they understand the theoretical side, but they actually have the hands-on experience of connecting the cables, checking for errors, performing signal analysis, looking at the vibration levels and having the hands on experience to perform the balancing of the engine. Another benefit we added this year was that our courses are now FAA credit eligible. That was something our customers care about and can apply those training credit hours towards that accreditation.
Q: Talk about new product developments. Are there products that are coming soon?
A: Absolutely. We just announced our next generation PBS-4100+ Gen 4. We have number of exciting new enhancements to the product including battery operation, new supported engines and numerous software and usability improvements. We’re also making a number of innovations around other product lines , including our very popular signal and function generator. The signal generator helps technicians test the PBS system and calibrate it. That’s our 1510A Portable Signal Generator. Targeted for late 2021 release, we’ve totally redesigned it from an ergonomic perspective. There’s going to be a remote operating option where you can actually use a tablet or even a phone to control it.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the workforce that you need at MTI? Are you able to find the properly trained and qualified people that you need to do this specialized work?
A: I think you hit a very sensitive topic. It’s been plaguing the software industry as well as hardware engineering, electronics and other high-tech industries. We’ve been fortunate to have the recruiting team we have, but it is not a simple or quick process. We are continuously looking for the right people. We have a high standard, the job is highly technical and can be challenging, but it’s highly rewarding.
Q: Explain how your test products help operators maintain maximum fleet availability?
A: Aircraft technicians have to perform a balancing operation to make sure the vibration is below a specified level. The vibration level and balancing frequency is defined by the engine manufacturer and varies by engine type. Using our technology, they can perform that operation right on the wing, without going into the hanger or scheduling maintenance downtime. The inspection time can be cut significantly. We’re talking about sometimes a full day turned into two hours or less. When you take into account the number of times one has to run the engine and number of people that it takes to perform a traditional balancing operation versus what a technician is able to do with our equipment, the savings in time, people and costs are significant. We have a very simple and easy to use ROI calculator on our web page where users can plug in their data and can see the expected savings for themselves.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about?
A: MTI is customer-focused, first and foremost, especially now, when the industry is going through uncertain times. They have to reimagine the way they do work and the way they justify the services they provide. Our goal is to partner with our customers in that effort. We’re here to learn from them about how their needs have changed so we can adapt in the right way, as we have been for years. This is just another phase in that ongoing relationship.