Global Leaders Series

A conversation with Frederico Curado - President & CEO, Embraer

In 2007, Frederico Curado was appointed President and CEO of Embraer, the aerospace industry’s third largest aircraft manufacturer, after Boeing and Airbus. Curado stepped into his leadership role at a time when Embraer was in dire straits and struggling to adapt to an extremely tough business environment—emerging competitors, rapid technological changes, product cycles that were growing shorter, high oil prices that were hammering many of its customers, and a financial crisis that had its roots in the U.S. but had worldwide effects. In the following interview with Tony Velocci, former editor-in-chief of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Curado discusses parts of his management philosophy and how he has tried to change the company’s culture.


Embraer has been widely viewed as a disruptive force in the marketplace ever since the company became a player in the business aviation segment in 2000, with the introduction of the Legacy 600 jet. What differentiates Embraer from its competitors?

Boldness, one of our core values, has a lot to do with what you are talking about. We have a very good process for identifying market opportunities and developing products absolutely customized to meet a set of market requirements at an extremely competitive price point vis-a-vis our competition. Of course, it takes more than just knowing what to do. You also must have the ability to do it well. Examples include our Tucano military, trainer, KC390 military transport aircraft, and Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 jets. In recent years, in particular, we have evolved tremendously in terms of our quality, production efficiency and engineering prototyping.

What is Embraer doing to make sure that it maintains a tight focus on process and technology innovation?

First, we are investing for the long term—10, 15 years in the future. Second, our P3 program is comprised of 450 work cells made up of people from different functional areas, and their job is to drive creativity and continuous process improvement. Third, we make frequent use of what some people may refer to as ‘offsites’ where people get together to discuss new and innovative ideas to help direct our investments, whether it’s in R&D or startup companies that can be a great source of technology innovation. Think of it as harnessing communities of knowledge inside the company. The program is called Innova. I try to ground everything in processes, and innovation is nothing if not a process.

Looking ahead, what are your strategic priorities?

The first one is our people—keeping them engaged and highly motivated, focused on our agenda. Are we there? No, but realistically, that is a never-ending process for all companies. The second strategic priority is diversification. A decade ago, fundamentally we were a single-product company— regional jets. Defense was a little business on the side. We entered the business aviation market in 2000. Today, we serve customers in the business, commercial and defense aviation segments, and provide after sales services and support to customers worldwide, and we have very good brand awareness. We will continue to grow all three of these core businesses. The third strategic priority is [...]

The more that suppliers understand what their customers require, and the more that customers understand the risks that their suppliers are taking, the better.

Frederico Curado President & CEO, Embraer