Innoson Group recently signed an MoU with the Nigeria Air Force to manufacture some of the spare parts for the air force’s Alpha jets to sustain the war against the insurgency in the North-east. Kasie Abone, who went on a tour of the production facility run by Innonson, reports that the technological revolution taking place at its facility in Enugu is impressive
Looking at the building housing Innoson Technical and Industrial Company Limited, a subsidiary of Innoson Group, located at Plot W/L Industrial Layout Emene, Enugu, from the outside one cannot imagine the level of industrial and technological activities that take place within the expansive premises. But right within the bowel of this factory located along Abakaliki Road massive innovative engineering works happen every day. Thanks to our hugely experienced Nigerian engineers whose combined efforts have written the name of Innoson Group on the enviable history books by putting the company on the forefront of innovation and technological breakthroughs. Chaired by unassuming highly imaginative Dr. Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma, the company stunned not a few Nigerians when what was considered in some places almost impossible happened. Said Engr. Philips Ohanedu, the Chief Engineer of Innoson Group under whose supervision such tremendous achievement was recorded. “Except people with specialty in what we do you may not understand the type of spare parts we manufacture here and all of them are manufactured by Nigerian engineers. We have talented Nigerians who are capable of driving manufacturing sector of the Nigerian economy. What we lack is funding not expertise,” he told THISDAY recently.
While speaking to THISDAY in an exclusive interview at his office in Enugu, Chukwuma explained the journey through history. According to him, his company was recommended to Nigeria Air Force (NAF) by someone who knows the capacity of his company to deliver in the area of the manufacture of different types of spare parts. “When they (Nigeria Air Force) were in difficulties as to how to source the spare parts for their Alpha Fighter Jets to sustain their fight against insurgency which they couldn’t source from abroad due to high exchange rate, somebody suggested to them that if they come to me that I have some equipment to produce it and I did it and they are happy with it. It works perfectly well.”
With this recommendation, NAF met with Innoson Management, provided them with sample and commissioned Innoson to manufacture sample of the required parts. It was done within record time, delivered to NAF and it was put to test for three months. Ohanedu provided more insights “when the NAF brought the sample of the spare part, we dismantled it, took the diagram of the sample and we started production.”
Interestingly, the expertise deployed to achieve this feat was sourced locally. Ohanedu said the engineers who worked on the parts are local people with the right experience and expertise including mechanical, electrical and pneumatic systems engineers all of whom are Nigerians. He further explained that “when the first sample was produced it was taken to NAF for trial for a period of three months. The part was put to test by NAF for three months.
Satisfied that it worked perfectly well, they were convinced of Innoson ability to locally provide alternative spare part and save the force some needed scarce foreign exchange, NAF entered into an agreement with Innoson Group to manufacture the part as the need arises. It was at this time that the Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the two parties. Due to the nature of use, the spare is produced on request.”
Ohanedu took THISDAY correspondent on tour of the production processes while watching the engineers at work doing what they know how to do best, manufacture of different types of spare parts. The materials when fed into the machines pass through different stages (Machines) Universal Milling Machines which have the capacity to produce any type of spare, lathe machine that performs different functions including milling, shaping, boring and trading, Pressing Machine, Rivate, Power Press and so many others.
Besides the spares for NAF aircraft, Innoson Technical Company also manufacturers different types of spare parts for use in other vehicles and machines. Its spare parts store houses huge stock of different types of parts made in house for other types of machines. Assorted types of spares used in injection machine, spindles, nozzles, routers, bar huzzlers, assorted types of screws, shafts among many others are produced at that Enugu factory. THISDAY watched engineers and other staff as they go about their business.
Ohanedu further explained, “Most moulds used in the manufacture of components for our machines are manufactured by our engineers here in our factory. We have the expertise to do most of what we want to do here. Our problem in this country is not expertise. Nigeria is blessed with expertise to drive our economy the only problem is fund. It is availability of fund not expertise that is our problem.”
He has worked at the company long enough to say authoritatively what the company can produce. Having worked at Innoson Group for about 24 years, Ohanedu who has spent the greater part of his working life at the company says he was happy with where he works and would continue to oversee the engineering work till he retires.
How does the company source its raw materials? Chukwuma said the raw materials are sourced locally. Some of the raw materials are sourced from Onitsha, Aba and Port Harcourt. “We can get any type of iron and use milling machine to turn it into any form. That is the work of milling machine,” he explained.
With the way Innoson is breaking new grounds, THISDAY wanted to know if Innoson would be so adventurous to venture into the manufacture of airplane in the future. Chukwuma was optimistic that nothing is impossible for him to do when the time is ripe. “We cannot manufacture airplane now but one day we will reach there,” he said. Given the display of numerous awards won by the company in recognition of its industrial revolution, Chukwuma cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand.
Given Innoson contribution to the overall economic development and job creation in Nigeria one would have expected that the federal government would naturally support its huge efforts. But that is yet to happen in the real sense of it.
In his words, “The federal government has promised that they will support our company to diversify into so many other areas. We are looking forward to the fulfillment of that promise because I am confident that if we receive the expected support from government there is so much that Innoson can do towards economic development of the country especially in the areas of job creation because if you manufacture locally and Nigerians are encouraged to buy locally produced goods, our economy will become self reliant and more jobs will be created for the teeming Nigerian youths who leave school in large numbers every year.”