Nearly two years ago, Embraer — manufacturer of the KC-390 military transport aircraft — approached Rockwell Collins with an opportunity: replace its current cargo handling system supplier.
Embraer was looking for a partner to meet tough specifications to provide this system. CHADCS, or Cargo Handling and Aerial Delivery Control System, is an integrated hardware and software solution that provides digital controls to plan, monitor and execute precision airdrops of cargo, vehicles and troops. Our previous performance as the avionics systems integrator for Embraer moved Rockwell Collins to the top of the list to provide CHADCS.
CHADCS in action. Video courtesy of Embraer. To view this video in full click here.
“We’d never developed a cargo handling system before, so we started to think about why they were asking us — Rockwell Collins — to provide this system,” explained Nelson Silveira, director of program management with Rockwell Collins in Brazil. “And the answer was trust.”
Rockwell Collins has a long history of working with Embraer stretching back to the 1970s. More recently, in 2007, Rockwell Collins was selected to develop integrated flight deck avionics for its Legacy 450/500 midsize business jet program. Then, in April of 2011, Embraer Defense and Security and the Brazilian Air Force selected Rockwell Collins to provide our Pro Line Fusion® integrated avionics system for the KC-390 tanker/transport aircraft. It was the first integration of Pro Line Fusion in the military market.
This foundation, built with our avionics systems, is what led Embraer to Rockwell Collins with the CHADCS opportunity.
“We examined our existing content on the KC-390 and started pulling pieces that we could incorporate into CHADCS. From there, we started putting the pieces of the new system together like a puzzle,” said Silveira.
Not only did the team need to design a completely new system, but they had only 30 days to prepare their initial program bid.
Our engineers knew from the very beginning that in order to meet a tight schedule and develop a new product, innovation was the key.
“We started with an extremely aggressive schedule, and we knew there was no way that we could deliver the software on time by following traditional development practices,” said Nick Paxton, senior displays engineering manager. “The team has to think big to come up with new ways to make the development process more efficient and provide a better product for our customer.”
For the software team, thinking big means shaking up the traditional approach to a workspace, including moving 11 team members in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to one shared space, as well as co-locating nine team members in the India Design Center in Hyderabad, India.
“Moving the team to one room allows us to make decisions in real time, which leads to greater opportunities for collaboration and innovation,” said Chris Madsen, principal program manager.
An international effort
Much of this collaboration not only takes place between Rockwell Collins hardware and software teams, but also with the customer, Embraer. As Art Silbernagel, principal electrical engineer explains, a joint development phase was absolutely crucial to providing a unique and positive experience and product.
“That ability to work so closely with our customer during the joint development phase gave us the opportunity to bring strengths from both sides of the project and develop a system that is not only cost and size effective, but one that is truly valuable to Embraer.”
“Working with the Rockwell Collins employees has been a very positive experience,” said Guilherme Dedecca Hernandez, an engineer with Embraer. “The Rockwell Collins team turned things around quickly and has been transparent in their communication. That leads to a trusting working relationship.”
This collaboration and cooperation is not limited to Embraer. CHADCS is international in scope, with employees from both companies located in the United States, India and Brazil, as well as suppliers located in France, Israel and Canada, all who need to coordinate and work together to complete the project.
“Having our development team geographically spread out really allows the development process to work 24 hours a day. From this we are able to maximize our commitment to the project and to Embraer,” added Madsen.
Providing the head and the heart
With such an incredible amount of teamwork and dedication involved, the CHADCS project is one that continues to build a legacy of trust with Embraer.
For Hernandez, this project makes a distinct impression in Rockwell Collins’ and Embraer’s shared history. “Rockwell Collins now supplies both the head and the heart for the KC-390,” said Hernandez. “The avionics system as the head, and CHADCS as the heart.”
“The joint passion that both Rockwell Collins and Embraer share for this project is seen in our teamwork, our dedication and our mutual trust,” said Glenn Schillinger, principal systems engineer. “It’s that joint commitment that will lead to success.”
As Ryan Bunge, capture team lead for CHADCS, sums up, the relationships that we continue to build creates meaningful experiences for both companies.
“I know that for everyone involved with the CHADCS pursuit, the opportunity to provide both the head and the heart of the KC-390 is validation that the trust we build with our customers is not based only in words or in promises, but in our actions and our ability to deliver.”
-By Emily Gries