Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control at Ocala: IW Best Plants Profile 2007

Dec. 14, 2007
Portrait of a Talent Pipeline: Exemplary employee education and engagement is the rule for Lockheed Ocala's feeder facility.

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control at Ocala, Ocala, Fla.

Employees: 641 (union: 251; non-union: 390)

Total Square Footage: 343,260

Primary Product/market: precision electro-optical/mechanical and electronic sub-systems

Start-up: 1970

Achievements: Million Work Hour Award from National Safety Council; U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration Recognition of Excellence Award; 98.2% takt time on primary product line

It's a common precept in relationships that you've got to give first in order to get. Visit Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control at Ocala, and you'll learn that this truism applies to entire facilities. As a regional cog in a global enterprise wheel of shifting human resources, the Ocala facility is constantly seeing employees that it has taken the time, energy and commitment to train in operational excellence "cherry picked" by other Lockheed facilities around the country. However, it is a testament to Ocala's management having the right attitude that not only are they not bitter, but in fact the management staff is especially -- and understandably -- proud of the training program it has put into place to prepare its managers for these leadership roles, whether at Ocala or elsewhere in the Lockheed Martin corporate whole.

IW's 2007 Best Plants

See the other winners of IW's 2007 Best Plants award and find out how they made the top ten."Being a feeder site gives us allies throughout the organization," says Billy Hamilton, director of human resources at Ocala Operations. "They then tell other people that this is a great place to come and work, and learn, and develop themselves as employees."

This program is designed for entry-level professionals who demonstrate both the drive and aptitude to learn lean, and who are then trained in lean at Lockheed Martin's internal lean academy. Once they attain this value-added skill set and way of thinking, they join the ranks of similarly empowered employees dedicated to bettering Ocala's operations (that is, until they're snapped up by another facility, and Ocala reloads its talent magazine once again).

This commitment to training isn't just a top-down affair. The company has a similar proactive workforce development program in place for filling the plant floor with responsive, responsible and technically proficient workers.

A kaizen event in the Arrowhead cable area resulted in a balanced, progressive line set up for one-piece flow.Brian O'Connor, director, says that there is too much at stake for Lockheed Martin to sit back and complain about the lack of qualified employees to fill out the operator ranks. In fact, in an opinion shared by the entire Ocala team, Lockheed Martin has a direct responsibility to the end user -- the soldier that uses its products -- to be proactive in procuring top-notch talent at all levels of the operation. To meet this challenge, Ocala Operations management has ramped up its efforts designed to target what O'Connor calls the "middle majority" of the United States: high school students, many of whom he sees falling through the gaping cracks in the U.S. educational system.

The company has worked in collaboration with the local school board and county officials over the past three years to develop programs for the industrial engineering program (among others) at the Marion Technical Institute, a nearby school that allows this middle majority to gain the type of workforce training that is valuable to both them, and to Lockheed Martin as well. O'Connor says that like any good business model, the program's successes are leading to even more investment.

"Right now we've got five programs, and we're expanding it to seven to grow the pipeline even further," O'Connor says, thereby improving the number of entry-level assembly and test personnel with what he calls an "improved aptitude and improved attitude" onto Ocala's plant floor.

Web Exclusive Best Practices

A Factory of Firsts

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control at Ocala uses process development to produce, validate technical gains.

In today's highly specialized, knowledge-based economy, one of the things that stands out on any company's list of accomplishments is patentable inventions. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control at Ocala has enough that they've developed a nickname -- the "Factory of Firsts" -- to describe their facility. Many of these innovations have come from real needs for developing production processes that can keep up with increased demand for, and increased sophistication of, their products.

2008 Nominations

IndustryWeek is now accepting nominations for the 2008 IW Best Plants Program.
For instance, the Ocala operations staff developed a laser solder process to meet a need for soldering large ceramic multichip modules that could not withstand the standard process. The process was developed in 1995, licensed in 2000 and patented in 2001.

An innovative automated liquid masking process in use in electronic component production at Ocala was developed to replace a time-intensive hand masking process, and allows for hands-off, fully repeatable masking and coating. Along the same lines, the latest innovation from the Factory of Firsts is an automated laser wire mark, strip, and cut process that is the first of its kind and will be tested by the end of 2007. This new technique will replace other, more time-and cost-intensive methods (such as hot stamp marking and mechanical cut and strip), will eliminate the high risk of damage associated with the other processes and will provide improved throughput potential -- an equally important variable in an environment of continually increasing demand.

Meet the Winners in Milwaukee

IndustryWeek is pleased to announce that representatives of the 2007 winners will be presenting their stories at the annual IW Best Plants conference, scheduled for April 1-3, 2008, in Milwaukee. Look for continuing informational updates on the IW Best Plants conference Web site.
When so much is riding on quality, advances in inspection are of utmost importance. To meet this need, the company has integrated both automated X-ray and automated optical inspection into their electronic circuit technology production processes, to inspect hidden solder joints on everything from LMCO's own products to current builds of NASA test vehicles. Similarly, Ocala's engineers have been credited within the industry for improving the algorithms used in optical scanning technology. The result of these algorithmic innovations is a marked reduction in defects and improvement in product quality for the soldiers whose lives depend on the end product -- something that is understood up and down the line at Ocala. "We have things tighter than they need to be," says technician Kenny Shepard of Ocala's rigorous, continuously improving component testing protocols. "But considering what this all is for, we want to minimize the chance of escapes."

Kaizen Blitz for Defense Contractors

Total revamp allows for ramping up of production to meet growing demand at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control at Ocala.

Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control at Ocala is dedicated to the spirit of kaizen, a manufacturing philosophy that stands for continuous, incremental waste reduction or improvement efforts. However, sometimes the more aggressive type of kaizen -- known as a kaizen event, or blitz -- is necessary to bring about a total reconfiguration of an entire manufacturing line or process. A kaizen event is a concentrated effort in which a team plans and implements a major process change or changes to quickly achieve a quantum improvement in performance. Participants generally represent various functions and perspectives and may include non-plant personnel.

It is this second definition that typifies one example of the total commitment to lean manufacturing present at Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control at Ocala. Due to increased global use, the defense contracting company was faced with a spike in customer demand for its Arrowhead Cable product (a wiring harness for a mounted targeting system). This increase was more than double its previous best efforts -- from 10 hardware builds per month to 22 per month -- and put the production staff up against the ceiling of what their operators could hope to accomplish without a similar increase in headcount.

However, such a solution was not an option, says production planning manager John Landi. "Space and budget limitations meant we had to come up with a different way," Landi says. "We had to figure out how to more than double the rate without adding people or floor space." To meet the demand while still meeting budget, Landi says they went from a product-centered to a process-centered approach.

"Instead of building product in batches we went to one piece flows and a balanced progressive line build, which decreased operator training time, shortened build span times, and increased performance," he says.

This reconfiguration got some internal recognition, winning the "Best in Class Lean Flow" internal award for lean events within the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control family and, most importantly, since the blitz the Arrowhead line is meeting customer demand for continuously-performing products in a quality-focused manner consistent with the more general spirit of kaizen.

About the Author

Brad Kenney | Chief Marketing Officer

Brad Kenney is the former Technology Editor of IndustryWeek and now serves as director of the mobile/social platforms practice at R/GA, a global marketing/advertising firm in New York City.

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