Honeywell International (NYSE:HON) continues to steadily improve operations and returns for shareholders, primarily through margin expansion rather than growing revenue. Second-quarter earnings were up 9% to $1.2 billion, although revenue actually dropped 5% in the quarter.

After earnings were released, management held a conference call with investors, which is one of the best times for us to get a peek under the hood of a company like Honeywell. Here are five things to take away from the earnings call.

Repositioning Honeywell is paying off

We saw organic growth accelerate in both the short- and long-cycle businesses within Aerospace, continued growth in our commercial and industrial businesses within ACS, and higher volume across our Advanced Materials portfolio, particularly in Fluorine Products. -- David Cote, CEO

When you're the size of a company like Honeywell, it's important to be in the right businesses from a strategic standpoint. In the past year, Honeywell has sold off its friction materials business and focused on markets where it has a competitive advantage.

There was momentum last quarter in products like Aerospace, which has both a long-term segment and a short-term business like aftermarket parts, as well control solutions and materials. Honeywell offers services in these three businesses that only a few companies can effectively compete with, which should provide steady returns long term.

Investing in the future

While managing cost is critical, we're also seed planting, and that is investing in capacity expansion, new products and technologies and resources in high-growth regions to drive future growth. -- David Cote, CEO

Balancing cost cutting for margin expansion with investment in the future is tough, particularly for mature businesses. Honeywell is attempting to do that through capacity expansions and new technologies. A clear focus on fewer products will help those efforts as well.

Guidance is improving

As we look ahead, we're not counting on a significant uptick in the current macro environment. But we are confident in our ability to deliver continued sales growth and to leverage that growth to drive further margin expansion. As a result of our strong first-half performance, we are again raising the low end of our full-year 2015 earnings guidance range by a $0.05 to a new range of $6.05 to $6.15. -- David Cote, CEO

I took a couple of things from this quote from the earnings call. First, the macro environment isn't something Honeywell's management is very bullish on. That's not a big surprise, but companies on the ground can generally give investors a better feel for the economy than things like GDP numbers.

The other thing is the improved guidance, which shows confidence that management thinks results will actually be better than previously expected. Improving guidance is always a positive, and even though it's just raising the bottom end of earnings guidance, it should be a comfort to investors.

Aviation is strong

Commercial OE was up 6% on a core organic basis, driven by double-digit improvement in Business and General Aviation engine shipments. Engine demand continues to be robust, and we expect to see continued Commercial OE growth in the second half, particularly in BGA. -- Tom Szlosek, SVP and CFO

One of the strongest recoveries in the global economy over the last few years has been in aviation, and 6% organic growth is tremendous for such a mature market. Aviation also shows few signs of slowing down, with airlines around the world adding capacity this year.

To help matters, initial sales will also bring aftermarket sales as aircraft are maintained. So, improving demand in aviation creates a long tail of demand for Honeywell.

Vehicle sales growth

Transportation Systems sales increased 5% on a core organic basis due to new platform launches, strong volume growth in light vehicle gas applications globally and growth in diesel applications, particularly in North America. -- Tom Szlosek, SVP and CFO

Sales of autos large and small are improving, and they're relying more and more on controls from companies like Honeywell. This is one of those businesses where Honeywell makes the products we buy possible without having a brand name on the end product. But it's a growing business, and if the economy continues to do well, Honeywell should see more organic growth in transportation.

Can Honeywell kick growth into high gear?
The questions for investors is whether or not Honeywell will be able to turn its renewed focus and spending on growth initiatives into actual top-line growth. Last quarter saw 3% organic sales growth, which is OK, but it's not much ahead of economic growth at this point. If organic can exceed 5%, we'll know investments are paying off, and that could give investors reason to value this company even more highly.