Sperry Marine Maintains Leading Position In Competitive Marine Electronics Market

Charlottesville, Va., is home to Sperry Marine Inc., a company which enjoys a world leadership position in an electronics market increasingly dominated by the Japanese.

Sperry Marine, which celebrated its 80th anniversary last year, traces its beginnings to the Sperry Gyroscope Company founded in Brooklyn, N.Y., by inventor Elmer A.

Sperry. Mr. Sperry created the company to manufacture his newest invention, the gyrocompass, for the U.S. and British Navies just in time to meet the demands of World War I. Over the next 40 years, the company grew into the giant $5 billion Sperry Corporation with business activities in computer technology, hydraulics, agricultural machinery and aerospace. The marine gyroscope business grew to include radar, Automatic Radar Plotting Aids (ARPAs), autopilots, speed logs, electronic navigation aids and ship fin stabilizers.

Following the takeover of Sperry Corporation, the parent of Sperry Marine, by Burroughs in 1987 and the ensuing formation of the two companies into UNISYS, Sperry Marine was purchased by Newport News Shipbuilding and Sperry Marine Inc. was formed.

To remain competitive in the marine market, Sperry had been forced to have a steadily increasing number of its products manufactured in Japan. Recently, however, the company decided to reverse this trend and bring its product manufacture back into the U.S. Sperry believes that an American manufacturer can no longer compete head to head in the manufacture of the basic "metoo" equipment. However, Sperry felt that by utilizing innovation and system engineering—talents in which many American companies excel—it could compete with foreign manufacturers. Sperry Marine believes new equipment has to have clear discriminators over its Far East competition and take advantage of their shortcomings in the fields of innovative software design and system engineering.

As a result of this strategy, Sperry Marine Inc. has weathered the storm and prospered and is now the only manufacturer of commercial deep-sea marine radar in the U.S.

In 1987 Sperry Marine spearheaded a joint venture with its Japanese affiliates. Sperrv developed and built a new radar/ARPA while the antenna and transceiver was built in Japan. The result of this joint venture was the RASCAR (Rasterscan Collision Avoidance Radar). RASCAR uses a "touchscreen" overlaid on the main display as the man/machine interface instead of knobs or switches. Controls are displayed on the screen either permanently or in a series of menu pages and are operated by touching the screen. This concept takes advantage of the natural instinct to point and the link between action and reaction is simpler and more natural.

Sperry Marine's RASCAR was awarded the "Good Design" award by the Japanese Ministry of Trade and Industry in 1988.

For a free color brochure on Sperry Marine's RASCAR or other navigation products, Circle 58 on Reader Service Card

Other stories from April 1991 issue


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