Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Lufkin Operations: IW Best Plants Profile 2011

Jan. 10, 2012
Lufkin Makes Sure Missile Systems Are on Target: Plant leaders, employees ensure quality products during major expansion.

Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control: Lufkin Operations
Lufkin, Texas

Employees: 208, nonunion

Total Square Footage: 102,000

Primary Product/Market: missile launcher electronics

Start-Up Date: 1995

Achievements: Reduced major end item deliverable cycle times by up to 38%; 1 lost-day work injury since October 1995; Superior security rating from Defense Security Service, won James S. Cogswell Security Award in 2008

Lining a corridor in the offices of Lockheed Martin's Lufkin plant are posters with photos showing employees and their relatives who served, or are serving, in the military forces of the United States. Among them is a picture of Site Director Keith Johnson's son, a Marine. The photos are a constant reminder that the missile system components being built at the facility are relied on in some of the most deadly areas in the world.

IW's 2011 Best Plants

See the other winners of IW's 2011 Best Plants award and find out how they made the top ten.

"There is a personal commitment to quality to make sure we get world-class, high-quality products to our war fighters," says Johnson. "This stuff has to work first time, every time, no exceptions, no cutting corners. Quality is number one."

Lockheed Martin's Lufkin Operations, part of the Missiles & Fire Control division, produces electronics and sub-assemblies for the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile, a hit-to-kill interceptor that is its primary product, as well as the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GLMRS) the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon system.

While the Department of Defense is planning to reduce expenditures, production of the PAC-3 and THAAD systems is ramping up. In fact, Johnson has had to maintain the facility's zeal for quality while overseeing a dramatic expansion. In 2010, manufacturing space was doubled to accommodate a large contract to build the PAC-3 missile systems. Increased production has resulted in a near tripling of the employee population. Every workstation and piece of equipment in the plant was moved.

"We did all that without sacrificing quality or schedule," Keith recalls. "We didn't miss any contract dates. Our defects per standard hour actually went down during that same timeframe."

A wall of posters honors service by Lockheed Martin Lufkin employees and family members in the U.S. military.

Keith emphasized communication during the transformation of the plant, hosting frequent all-employee meetings as well as small roundtable meetings where employees could provide their feedback on the changes. He held staff meetings every morning and afternoon for a year to coordinate the expansion.

To obtain the best new employees, Lufkin worked with a temp agency that screened applicants based on their educational abilities. They then went through hand/eye coordination tests (important for the assembly of intricate circuit boards and wiring) and then interviews and background checks. Several weeks of training followed, then job shadowing and finally several months of the on-the-job training where the new recruits were evaluated on their attendance, efficiency and quality of work.

The plant has three primary production areas: circuit card assembly, wire harness assembly and final assembly, integration and testing. The plant employs state-of-the-art machinery and processes to produce these sophisticated products and ensure that they will work reliably. For example, explains Jason Crager, the production operations manager and site deputy, the plant recently implemented an X-ray inspection machine that checks solder joints on circuit boards. The machine is set "high" so that it initially identifies more defects. Operators then check the joints to see if they are actually a defect or not. This information is fed back to the machine so that it refines its analysis of joints. The machine both speeds up and reduces variability in the inspection process.

To accommodate the increased production, Lufkin runs two 10-hour shifts four days a week. Lufkin also has developed a work-sharing program with Lockheed Martin's Ocala, Fla. facility (a 2007 Best Plants winner). Using identical equipment and processes, they will produce some of the circuit boards and wiring harnesses and then send them to Lufkin for final assembly.

About the Author

Steve Minter | Steve Minter, Executive Editor

Focus: Leadership, Global Economy, Energy

Call: 216-931-9281

Follow on Twitter: @SgMinterIW

An award-winning editor, Executive Editor Steve Minter covers leadership, global economic and trade issues and energy, tackling subject matter ranging from CEO profiles and leadership theories to economic trends and energy policy. As well, he supervises content development for editorial products including the magazine,, research and information products, and conferences.

Before joining the IW staff, Steve was publisher and editorial director of Penton Media’s EHS Today, where he was instrumental in the development of the Champions of Safety and America’s Safest Companies recognition programs.

Steve received his B.A. in English from Oberlin College. He is married and has two adult children.

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