On November 1, 2021, OHB subsidiary OHB Digital Solutions in Graz, Austria, gained a new managing director: As the new CEO, Bernhard Czar will be leading the OHB Digital division company into the future. Aged 51, he looks back on 25 years of professional experience and management responsibility in the fields of business development and engineering. He wants to break new ground at the helm of OHB Digital Solutions. Born in Linz but a resident of Graz for many years, he talks in this interview about the company’s potential and his idea of a “customer-centric view of the world”.
Congratulations on your new position. You’re no stranger to OHB Digital Solutions, are you?
Bernhard Czar: Actually, the staff here in Graz as well as in Vienna have known me for several months. I started out as Chief Operating Officer in August and was subsequently promoted fairly quickly. It came as a surprise to me, but I am very much looking forward to the task of positioning the Digital Solutions products even more broadly in the market together with our 17-strong team. This company has developed substantially over the last few years. And that’s the way we want things to continue.
What products have the greatest potential?
First and foremost, I see two applications with which we can translate our know-how and expertise directly into customer benefits: These are GNSS quality assurance on the one hand and GNSS signal simulation/generation on the other. A GNSS signal can be disrupted relatively easily and more and more applications are relying on GNSS signals. And that’s where our GIDAS® steps in. The device can detect a GNSS disturbance, i.e. a disruption of the navigation signal. For example, it can be used at airports to provide greater security. Unfortunately, take-off and landing processes are repeatedly disrupted as a result of interference. Our GIDAS monitors the GNSS frequency bands and detects any intentional or unintentional interference. Because GIDAS can detect potential disturbances in real time, an application in the area of autonomous driving is also conceivable. In this way, systems could determine in real time how reliable the incoming GNSS signals are or whether the navigation system is exposed to any interference. The vehicle would automatically initiate measures such as, for example, reducing the speed and switching to manual operation. I see many possibilities in this area of autonomous driving in particular: We want to market not only the complete device but also the software as a stand-alone solution. Drones, critical infrastructure and systems that rely on satellite-based time information are also potential markets for GNSS quality assurance.
That sounds like a great vision for the future. Does OHB DS have anything else like this in the pipeline?
Of course! In the field of signal simulation/generation, we have another product with great potential - the GIPSIE-RTX. It is a fully fledged GNSS signal generator with real-time streaming functionality consisting of a high-quality signal simulator as a hardware platform and a flexible and powerful GNSS simulation environment. GNSS simulators are an important aid in the development of GNSS receivers. GIPSIE-RTX simulates any satellite orbit with a sophisticated orbit integrator and is able to model all error sources, delays and propagation effects. The simulators generate the same signals as those transmitted by genuine GNSS satellites. In this way, the receivers can be checked for their function under controlled laboratory conditions. Such simulations are also required for production testing of GNSS receivers. We want to sell not only the simulator but also the simulation. In this way, the customer will receive a simulation tailored to his product as a sample that he can import into his test system. We also want to offer simulations on a contracted basis. The aim is to give customers the solutions that they really need. Or in other words: If you could buy holes in the wall from the hardware store, the DIY market for drills would collapse.
Yes, that makes sense. So, the customer is king, right?
The customer forms the core of all our efforts. I’m committed to a customer-centric view of the world. Although our products and services are unique, we have to convince our target customers on a daily basis that it is worth buying the product in question and that our product is better than the competitor’s solution. It is important to know the customers and their requirements. We must ask ourselves regularly: “What benefits does our product or service offer the customer?” We also need a coherent answer to the question as to why the customer should buy from us.
This obviously calls for a strong team who also adopt this view of the world – does OHB Digital Solutions intend to expand?
That’s definitely what I’m working towards. I’m convinced that we need even more motivated employees in order to achieve our growth goals.
What is particularly important to you as a manager?
I attach particular importance to credibility both internally and externally. I want to be a role model. As a manager, you can only demand from others what you are willing to do yourself. In addition, I seek open and honest communications that also include a willingness to accept constructive criticism.
Do you have a motto in life?
Concentrate on the solution, not the problem. Be open to everything and go through life free of prejudice. And never stop being curious. There’s something new to discover every day. One must not lose an engineer’s natural curiosity.
And what does a new CEO do in his spare time?
Exactly what he did before his appointment. I like to work in the garden and love to build concrete paths and retaining walls. I have my own cement mixer - much to my neighbors’ delight (laughs). This is a nice balance to my intellectual work in the office. And I wouldn’t be an Austrian if I didn’t love to ski in the winter!