Garmin: Into the Layers – FLYING Magazine

For somebody accustomed to the sounds and vibrations of an plane manufacturing facility, the quiet hum feels almost imperceptible at first. The business surrounding you takes place in vignettes, the place one particular person sits in entrance of an autoclave, one other pirouettes fingers round {an electrical} board, and nonetheless one other checks the tiniest bits of solder as they line up in place.

And robots be part of human fingers. One twists round an meeting, articulating in Muppet-like motions. Another assessments the subsequent meeting by dunking it time and again into a shower—be it electrolyte or one other type of liquid: water. A 3rd traverses the ground taking one basket to a different level on the meeting line.

After all, it’s a manufacturing line—but it surely takes some time to mentally place all of these parts in your first stroll by. There are layers that unfold earlier than your eyes, when you observe how the items come collectively. And that’s simply on a single ground of a single constructing inside Garmin International’s increasing bodily plant.

More lies beneath. Much extra goes into these black containers we now observe into the clouds, into the evening, alongside the airways to a vacation spot. Arrows alongside the excessive ceiling substitute the magenta line—however just for a second—as you step into an atrium in the constructing on Garmin Way, inside the Garmin Aviation advanced in Olathe, Kansas.

Nearly 20 years in the past, Garmin launched the G1000 built-in flight deck to the market, with its first OEM set up in a 2003 Cessna 182—an each-pilot’s avionics suite into an each-pilot’s airplane. While not the first massive-format main multifunction flight shows to hit the licensed mild GA house—an honor that goes to Avidyne in the Cirrus SR20—Garmin turned that concept right into a foregone conclusion by placing its shopper electronics engineering drive behind it. Now, nearly each new airplane flies with glass up entrance.

The progress continues. Garmin’s newest manufacturing and distribution middle—accomplished in October 2018—added greater than 775,000 sq. ft to the firm’s footprint in Olathe. And it’s solely the first a part of a $200 million growth. Garmin’s plans for these further amenities—a conversion of warehouse house right into a 544,000-sq.-foot aviation customer’s middle, plus analysis and improvement areas and worker facilities—have been placed on maintain throughout 2020 however resumed in August 2021.

As we observe the path inside Garmin’s headquarters taking the G1000’s newest fashions from idea to distribution, the OEM’s engine reveals no indicators of letting up.

A robotic named Elmer joins its brethren on the manufacturing ‘line’ at Garmin’s headquarters in Olathe, Kansas. [Photo: Stephen Yeates]

Skunk Works

Like most OEMs, Garmin embodies its design improvement in a “skunk works” of kinds. For now, these are discovered on the foremost ground of the facility that Garmin people name Building 1. Coincidentally, Building 1 sits adjoining to the contemplative backyard exterior, the place co-founder Gary Burrell’s Kansas roots meet cofounder Dr. Min Kao’s Taiwanese-American heritage in the tall prairie grass and reflecting ponds.

Garmin’s R&D house opens up from a foyer stuffed with a handful of prototypes from throughout the firm’s verticals—the health and out of doors segments collectively account for almost 60 % of the firm’s income, $2.4 billion in 2020. About 10 tactile and attractive prototypes of a brand new design, molded in black casing, sit underneath a poster heralding the newest inReach satcom system, and there’s additionally a scooter with lower ting-edge tech for motorbikes throughout the room.

There’s a vaguely Italian really feel to the stage of excessive design on show. Form intersects with perform right here— and clearly, this a part of the crew is impressed to play throughout their working hours.

One of the most curiously compelling rooms is inside the Industrial Design space—and it isn’t the secret lair the place the actual ahead-assemble occurs (I get the sense that these machinations stay largely psychological, inside, and infrequently seen). It’s the room the place the firm builds and shops all of its kiosks for demo and commerce reveals. Because right here, lined up in row upon row, sit the Garmin Aviation product evolutions, the place you possibly can evaluate them aspect by aspect, and observe these strains of thought.

Stephen Waite, industrial design supervisor, lights up a kiosk for us, with a view to exhibit the effort that goes into these deceptively easy show stands. I recall the time when Cessna Aircraft Company was spec’ing out desktop kiosks housing the G1000 avionics suite to ship to flight faculties and sellers for product tutelage and flight coaching. Folks round these affiliate networks expressed shock {that a} kiosk would value $18,000—when the entire enchilada put in in the enterprise finish of an airplane value simply over twice as a lot, roughly $45,000.

Couldn’t they be made much less expensively? Just like an plane mockup prices as a lot—or extra—than producing a stay airframe, it’s tough to “dumb-down” a flight deck and nonetheless have it perform in a practical manner for coaching. The identical holds true for the advertising and marketing shows produced right here.

Main Lines

From repairs (at prime left) to a sensible robotic transferring components between areas, the plant brings collectively people and machines. [Photos: Stephen Yeates]

Our stroll by the foremost manufacturing space in the manufacturing middle begins with the donning of PPE—however on this case, we’re defending the manufacturing setting from international object particles, our stray fibers and different FOD that might insinuate themselves into the tiny nooks and crannies of the delicate avionics constructed on these flooring.

We placed on smocks and particular footwear, or booties, that maintain in the detritus we’d redistribute as we stroll round. With the masks nonetheless in place for COVID-19 protocols, together with security glasses acquainted to most manufacturing flooring, I really feel suited and booted for the tour.

My first impression? There are racks and racks of {hardware} lining a number of areas inside the house—and it’s tough to knit collectively the place anyone piece of avionics begins its journey from an assemblage of components. But it’s simpler to see the place they arrive to conclusion: close to the exit door the place they cross from high quality management into the distribution space of the constructing.

Jim Mazurek, vp of aviation operations and distribution, led us round, permitting us to roughly observe the line alongside which an built-in flight deck, or navigator, or digital instrument travels, winding by the organized pods of individuals and machines as they rework delicate components into avionics that may face up to the setting inside an airplane or helicopter. Where there are robots at work, they’ve names—like Art and Jack—and really feel virtually endearing as they go about their programmed effort.

The firm often tops shopper lists for product help, and one among our last stops on this space took us to the house Garmin makes use of for servicing repairs. The work requires testing, troubleshooting, and a focus to element another way than the different positions on the ground. I gained a brand new respect for the effort required to grasp the points resulting in a element failure—and the way that information might be introduced again into the manufacturing course of by its proximity.

A large assortment of parts undergoes EMC and interference testing for hours on finish in a sealed room. [Photo: Stephen Yeates]

Electrifying—and Radiating

Seeing the restore stations, for me, then begged the query: How does the firm guarantee its parts get up, as greatest they will, to the abuse we give them in flight? Well, as soon as a prototype—or a number of—have been constructed of a given mannequin, the enjoyable stuff begins: A collection of testing regimes guarantee the {hardware} (and the software program on board) can stand as much as the harsh environments that we put the parts by.

To add to its alluring and compelling nature, nearly all of this in-home testing takes place again in the basement of Building 1. We began our journey by this a part of the Garmin advanced in the space the place the firm conducts its electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and interference testing.

I’ve seen movies of airframes going by lightning check applications—however I hadn’t thought-about earlier than the complete laboratory wanted to deal with radio and different electromagnetic assessments, the place a critical assortment of Garmin devices endure repeated cycles of excessive, medium, and low frequency electromagnetic emissions and different invisible waves of strife.

Within a sealed room, a desk the measurement of a sandbox was stuffed with wire bundles powering and connecting varied avionics parts. Shadowing over it hovered an array composed of triangular reflectors that took up half the room’s airspace.

Inside one other sealed room, the engineers assigned right here carried out comparable assessments utilizing vibration and different sound waves, all in the curiosity of figuring out that these black containers may soldier on in the face of any potential onslaught as they journey by the environment.

Praf Patel, senior crew chief of EMC engineering, defined to us the assessments in progress, and we stood quietly for just a few moments, to understand their silent business.

The last testing regimes in the plant happen in the flight simulation rooms, the place pilots meet the merchandise. [Photo: Stephen Yeates]

Destructive Testing

The people having the most enjoyable? The damaging testing lab gurus present in the Agree/Reliability labs inside Garmin. We walked by the labs with Mitch Rausch, high quality supervisor, who actually regarded like the type of man who not so secretly enjoys his work.

Mazing by the corridors, round a nook from the EMC labs, you discover damaging testing labs, the place a critical quantity of harm is inflicted (or tried) upon samples of every piece of the tools Garmin ships. Dunking that’s harking back to a foul day at the carnival. Saline shocks worse than a foul day at the seaside. Hammer drops that make for only a dangerous day, interval. If you possibly can consider a manner Garmin ought to beat upon its {hardware} earlier than sending it into your instrument panel, they’ve doubtless already considered it, and a few fortunate engineer is overseeing that effort proper now.

The Human Factor

The final type of testing isn’t almost as “hey, watch this” worthy—it’s way more of a psychological recreation. That’s the human elements testing space, the place simulators reign, and the bodily examined avionics undergo motions which might be simply as important to secure flight.

Joe Komer, technical lead, aviation programs and human elements engineer, led us round the simulator room after which into the foremost sim bay, the place he had a selected set up arrange in the in depth fastened-base simulation platform. We strapped into the nominal flight deck of a Cessna Citation Longitude (my first go at the tremendous-midsized jet) and targeted in on the G5000 suite that makes up that airplane’s entrance workplace. The sim will be configured to match the big selection of plane that Garmin targets with its varied product strains, after which up to date as these parts evolve.

Bringing It Home

Fulfillment fascinates me as effectively. And in the present panorama, an organization comparable to Garmin has to carry its personal inside each the incoming provide chain and outgoing distribution—and join with the likes of Amazon whereas retaining its in-home capability for delivering its product to prospects.

Garmin’s on-web site warehouse and distribution space is split into a few sections—one to serve its aviation prospects and sellers straight, one other to service Amazon orders and different channels for the full line of Garmin merchandise.

Robots transfer some merchandise from the ceiling-excessive stacks, and other people on forklifts safe others. They monitor into tubs that move previous us on up-ramps, down ramps, and a close to curler coaster of chutes, transferring alongside at a measured but sprightly price.

Smaller orders journey on one other monitor, picked up and held into place in slings that defy gravity considerably, to securely transfer a sealed field or a carton from the conveyor belts to one among a few dozen supply bays.

Mazurek identified these assembled shipments able to exit the door—”This one’s going to a vendor, this one’s going to an installer”—as we cruised by, hurrying alongside to soak up all of the motion. Garmin’s aviation merchandise persistently symbolize about 15 % of its general income (and did so in 2020 at $623 million, and once more by 2021)—however they require particular consideration, as they maintain lots of people’s lives in the stability.

The distribution space additionally marries know-how with the human workforce with a view to meet buyer expectations. [Photo: Stephen Yeates]


The embodiment of how important every layer is to Garmin’s success lies in two insights—one among which I derived throughout my go to, and the different on the event of the National Aeronautic Association’s Robert J. Collier Trophy gala in November 2021.

That night took on a honest and real shine for Bailey Scheel, senior aviation applications engineer, who led the undertaking crew answerable for bringing the multi-layered, enveloping security structure of Garmin’s Autoland to fruition. While Phil Straub, govt vp and supervisor of the aviation division, accepted the award from the NAA, he put Scheel and that crew entrance and middle—and emphasised that tons of of Garmin people had labored towards Autoland’s improvement and deployment.

Garmin is much from the solely avionics producer to embody the consideration to element wanted to innovate and succeed. The accomplishments of Aspen Avionics, Avidyne, and BendixKing (now inside Honeywell Aerospace) come to thoughts—however few aviation OEMs method the in depth vertical integration from idea to achievement, and retain all of this functionality underneath one roof—virtually actually. The significance of the bodily layers of the firm and the manner they join shaped my first perception.

The second perception was a bit extra delicate. After spending a full afternoon strolling by every of the layers of Garmin’s bodily plant, with detailed expositions from the people main inside every group, I had a way of that vertical integration, certainly.

At the shut of our tour, we stood in the simulation room with Komer, when Straub got here in to say good day in his genial and unassuming manner.

He’d let every space of the division he leads converse for itself, each in the phrases of the crew and the actions occurring throughout, and he simply wished to test in with us to ensure our questions have been answered. Straub is an energetic pilot, and he’s been main Garmin Aviation since 2011, after becoming a member of the firm in 1993 as a software program engineer.

But his phrases to us that day and once more at the Collier occasion mirrored the identical philosophy—the crew leads the manner. It’s not about him, or anyone particular person. You sense that he’s there as a supporter, an enabler, and a coach, main from inside the crew—amongst all of these human layers. And it’s working.

[Photo: Stephen Yeates]

Expanding the Safety Envelope

Garmin flight check engineers discover new methods to help pilots.

TWO RECENT RELEASES from Garmin, Smart Rudder Bias and Smart Glide, present the evolution of enhanced stability safety (ESP)—Garmin’s “telepathy” that kicks in to help pilots when the airplane strays exterior of regular-class operations.

In an interview with Garmin flight check engineer Joshua McKinney, I requested about how these latest security options match into the Autonomí suite’s philosophy. “The factor that helps folks perceive what is predicted of the machine and what’s anticipated of the pilot [is that] a variety of issues occur up entrance mechanically, however after that preliminary help, then nothing occurs mechanically,” McKinney mentioned.

Garmin’s lead demonstration pilot Jessica Koss and I flew with each Smart Glide and Smart Rudder Bias on again-to-again days so I may perceive how every performed a task in increasing the capabilities of its envelope safety. Both construct upon different aftermarket GTN Xi navigator options, and the GFC 500 or 600 digital autopilot, in a variety of airplanes. Smart Glide contains the GTN’s vary ring optimized for an engine-out scenario. “It aviates, it navigates, and it communicates for us—partially,” Koss mentioned. “It provides us the choice to squawk 7700, for instance.” If the autopilot is engaged, the sequence begins by pitching for greatest glide velocity(110 knots in the Beechcraft A36 Bonanza we flew from Garmin’s flight ops facility at the New Century Airpark in Olathe, Kansas).

An airport glide indicator helps the pilot decide which airport to go to, organising a direct-to course to the nearest, if one is in vary, and placing the CTAF or tower frequency in the standby—or the emergency frequency of 121.5 when you’re not inside gliding distance of something in the database. “It may also inform us if the vacation spot turns into unreachable,” mentioned Koss, in line with the knowledge. If the airplane is lower than 2 nm from the airport, the autopilot is not going to couple, anticipating the pilot’s immediate motion as an alternative.

With Smart Rudder Bias, the crew harmonized the ESP perform inside Autonomí to work with a rudder help perform in the occasion of an influence loss in a light-weight twin—comparable to the Beechcraft Baron we flew for the demonstration. Brandon Toby, preliminary flight check pilot, liked the problem of creating the software program. “This is the first time I’ve needed to quantify engine-out efficiency [in such a way] and get down deep inside these numbers,” he mentioned.

The features are there to help pilots—to not fly the airplane for them—and to strengthen the classes we’ve realized in coaching.

Recommended For You