Thursday, September 13, 2007

Engineering in Armenia.

Yesterday I was watching the NASA channel. An astronaut was in a lab installing some equipment that would enable laptops in different outposts to communicate with each other (whatever that means). At one point he contacted the ground control asking where a particular 'thing' was and said that he had not read the notes for installation. The ground control told him it was in a foam box. When he found it, it was funny to see that the label had handwritten text on it.

Then it struck me. When I'm fixing something, sometimes it takes me a couple of visits to a store to get the right parts. When you are stuck a few hundred miles above the Earth, you can't really go to a store if a part you need is unavailable. When you add the complexity of the ISS equipment to this inconvenience, you have a logistics nightmare.That's when good management and engineering come in handy.

Since my thoughts usually revolve about Armenia, I then started to think about the engineering, operations and supply chain management in Armenia. I could think of two products - the Yeraz vans and the Aragatz refrigerators that were designed and manufactured in Armenia.

Yeraz was an engineering feat - how to build a vehicle with as few parts as possible. The thing always makes me think of a dude sitting in a sweatshop and hammering out the parts for it. The design was not quite as barbaric but was close.

The Aragatz fridges were a different story. They were nicely designed for their time (in the 70-s and 80s), were aesthetically pleasing and worked well. They were made in Armenia and some were actually exported to Russia meaning that they could compete with the fridges made in Russia itself.

What concerns me now is that engineering seems to be dead in the country. The main industries are agriculture and food processing. The only engineering involved in these industries is packaging. This is imported and there is no Armenian input in them.

Are there any fields where products are designed and profitably manufactured in Armenia? Using imported technologies doesn't count since they do not add value to the local manufacturing base.


tqe / adam said...

Strangely enough, I was wondering about what is made in Armenia the last time I was there; and what gets exported.

I don't have enough knowledge to answer your question--but I am curious to see what others come up with.

H said...

Unicomp used to make laptops 2 years ago. The parts are imported of course but isnt the same for major brand names like Dell?
Watch making is another area but I haven’t seen those watches for sales.
Military ammo is another thing that's is supposedly manufactured for local 'consumption'.
I cant think of anything else that's been manufactured in 21st centaury.
Manufacturing such goods need production lines, R&D, specialized workforce, long-term investment and commitment. I don’t think such things are in the interest or mental capacity of the oligarchs, they rather exploiting natural resources. On the other hand the transportation difficulties and small local market limits the type of goods that can be manufactured locally. I think Armenia can only manufacture expensive, lightweight and small goods such as medical and measurement goods. Luxury, hand crafted watch making is another good area to look at. I think Iran is a good market to target.