Lockheed Martin Missiles/Fire Control, Camden Operations: IW Best Plants Profile 2006

Lockheed Martin Missiles/Fire Control, Camden Operations: IW Best Plants Profile 2006

Where Lean Is On Target: Lockheed Martin's Camden operations, which produces complex weapons systems for the military, is itself a lean and mean machine.

Lockheed Martin Missiles/Fire Control, Camden, Ark.

Employees: 432, non-union

Total square footage: 1.5 million

Primary product: Military rockets, missiles and rocket launchers

Start-up: 1978

Achievements: ISO 9001; ISO 14001; National Environmental Performance Track Award; 10-time winner of Employee Involvement Association's Performance Excellence Award.


Normally, Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Missiles and Fire Control Operations in Camden, Ark., doesn't keep any finished goods inventory. The rockets, missiles and launch systems made at the 1.5-million- square-foot facility among southern Arkansas' pines become the property of its customers upon completion and formal acceptance.

IW's 2006 Best Plants

See the other winners of IW's 2006 Best Plants award and find out how they made the top ten.
However, the absence of finished-goods inventory is not the only surprise -- or even the major surprise -- among the facility's 532,679 square feet of manufacturing area. That distinction, which is a great source of pride to management and production people alike, is that Lockheed Martin's Camden Operations excels at lean manufacturing in the building of such complex systems as the Patriot advanced-capability interceptor missile for the U.S. Army.

For example, tools, parts and fixtures are shadowboxed so that workers can tell at a glance whether anything is missing. Materials are organized in convenient-to-use assembly kits -- again a glance is all that's needed to determine if something is missing. Also at work is 6S, Lockheed Martin's variation of 5S, which adds safety to sort, straighten, shine, systemize and sustain.

Among other achievements, implementing lean techniques has reduced production lead times for Patriot missile and launcher components by about six months, from 18 months down to approximately 12 months.

Six Sigma, a quality improvement program, is combined with lean manufacturing at Lockheed Martin's Camden Operations to improve production processes and reduce costs. Among Camden's 432 employees are half a dozen Six Sigma Black Belts, whose in-depth Lean Six Sigma knowledge allows them, among other things, to facilitate efforts that identify and remove production steps and processes that don't create value for customers.

Launcher final integration cells feature lean flow.
Camden also has 121 Six Sigma Green Belts trained in the basic tools of Lean Six Sigma. The Green Belts help implement and sustain Camden's process improvement initiatives. By the facility's calculations, 91 Lean Six Sigma activities have saved more than $23 million since 2001.

Lean Six Sigma and other process improvement efforts are designed to provide the best value to the customer, emphasizes Norman Anderson, general manager of the Camden Operations. They also belie the notion that a defense industry plant can't be a lean and mean manufacturing machine. Yes, specialized components, contract technical requirements and mandated product testing somewhat limit process improvement activities, acknowledges Anderson. But he speaks of a "moral and patriotic desire to improve product quality and reliability." Process improvement, he asserts, is "a life and death matter."

Strategic planning, which links the facility's goals and objectives to Lockheed Martin corporate objectives, an aggressive Lean Six Sigma program, state-of-the-art technology, and manufacturing flexibility and agility help set Camden Operations apart from other manufacturing plants that practice continuous improvement, says Anderson. But the "bottom line" at Camden is the facility's "patriotic and proud employee culture."

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Bring In The Animals

An easy-to-implement lean manufacturing technique is to color code tools, fixtures and machines. Match the color of the tool or of the fixture to the color of the machine and neither should end up in the wrong place.

But what if some of your employees have trouble distinguishing between colors? Bring in the animals.

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At least that's what Lockheed Martin successfully did at its Critical Machining Center at its Camden, Ark., operations. Lockheed Martin builds military missiles, rockets and launchers at the facility, and the Critical Machining Center is where tooling, fixtures and machines come together to produce complex components. There's no room for error, specifically installing the wrong tooling or fixture on a precision machine.

To meet the needs of several skilled employees whose vision made it difficult to distinguish between colors, each machining center and corresponding piece of tooling now bears a unique and large animal picture to precisely identify the specific piece of tooling that can be used on a specific machine. This animal coding system also allows for an at-a-glance check of stored tooling that is available for use.

Streaming To Improve Product Flow

Military missiles, launchers and rockets are the products of the Camden, Ark., operations of Lockheed Martin Corp. And to analyze and improve product flow, the facility puts value stream analysis (VSA) to work. The facility uses a "door-to-door" analysis to identify places where production improvements are needed. Improvement events are planned and prioritized, with improvement actions falling into three different categories. There are the quick fixes, the "just-do its." There are the actions that come from a scheduled Kaizen, or problem-solving, event. And there are the actions that fall into the "project" category, because there are weeks or months of data gathering and analysis involved.

During 2003, as a result of value stream analysis of potential rocket launcher business for the following seven years, the launcher integration complex at Camden was completely rearranged. Final assembly cells in which components are received just-in-time replaced traditional rolling assembly stations. What's more, the cells are "agile," allowing material bins, equipment and tooling to be relocated quickly to support several launcher assembly processes.

Process improvements stemming from VSA allowed Camden to avoid five-year forecasted labor costs of $4.7 million.

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