Operational Efficiency Paves the Way
Orv Dothage January 02, 2020
?The Saint Augustine Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence (SAAI CoE) met all of its operational efficiency commitments for 2019. And that significant feat was not without challenges. The team at SAAI CoE had to induct the first Aerial Refueling modification into the E-2D production line, deliver the first Japanese version of the E-2D — and deliver the first Aerial Refueling modification aircraft for the U.S. Navy, as well as F5 depot maintenance aircraft. That’s quite the list.
“These accomplishments were achieved by improving our customer confidence while dramatically reducing our defect rates, our rework, and improvements to our foreign object elimination program while maintaining one of the safest work places in our industry,” said Orv Dothage, manager, Process Improvement and Site Integration. “The employees at the SAAI CoE are focused not only on customer satisfaction but are a highly engaged workforce that contributes significantly to our community as well.”
As Dothage continued, “Not only are our employees focused on our military customers, they are committed, through greening, to being good stewards regarding preservation of natural resources that surround our location.” And those dedicated efforts have culminated with the site being recognized by the State of Florida for exceeding waste diversion goals for four years running.
Additionally, the site is engaged with local community colleges to “home grow” the next generation of exceptional aircraft assembly and test technicians. The SAAI CoE has an outstanding relationship with nearby First Coast Technical College. By teaming with the college, the CoE is able to keep training costs down while providing opportunities for local talent.
By providing essential skills necessary to enter a career in aerospace, the site’s collaborative Certification Training Program is a “win-win-win” for the community, the college and our company. All entry-level aircraft technicians must complete the Aircraft Fabrication Certification program prior to employment with Northrop Grumman.
Through this program, community residents receive the quality education necessary for high-skill, high-wage jobs with a premier aerospace company. And Northrop Grumman realizes considerable savings on the cost of required entry-level training. Our company further benefits by having a ready talent pool of well-trained mechanics in the local population to help fill current and future hiring needs.
Northrop Grumman leadership kept in mind two objectives to help them develop a plan for succeeding in this dynamic industry. “Number one, we’re looking to be as cost competitive as possible,” said Dothage. “Number two, with the recent growth in our industry — something we haven’t seen for years — we need qualified candidates for entry level positions to backfill retirements and cover our growth.”
The Aircraft Fabrication Certification program adds a stable pipeline to a quickly changing and challenging industry while enhancing our collaboration within the community. Previously, it proved challenging to find qualified candidates to fill structures mechanics positions. Now, because of this successful program, Northrop Grumman is able to hire enough skilled workers to meet our needs. The certification program has significantly reduced both internal training costs and the normal attrition rate for new employees. Most importantly, these workers bring all the basic skills — and professional approach and attitude — required to be successful on the job. As Dothage summarized, “This collaboration is exactly what our industry needs.”
From meeting commitments regarding production and delivery of the E-2D, to notable sustainability efforts, to coordinating an effective certification training program, the SAAI CoE has stepped up and demonstrated that operational efficiency is a cornerstone of success. “We look forward to building upon our achievements in 2020,” said Dothage. “We’ll make it a great year.”
For more information on the Aircraft Fabrication Certification program, please contact Orv Dothage.