While keeping a distance is important at the end of a missile’s life, it’s quite the opposite at the beginning of it. Before an air-to-ground missile is ever attached to an aircraft, it must go through extensive testing, and the teams that are responsible for making that happen must work closely together. Ideal Aerosmith was proud to put its teamwork into action on a project this past June.
Ideal Aerosmith designed and developed a mobile missile launch system (MMLS) for a major manufacturer of missile technology for use on a new missile development program. The 2422-MLS-1 uses a gantry (which includes an elevation gimbal) attached to a 27-foot trailer to provide a stable, consistent firing base to test fire air-to-ground missiles.
“The 2422-MLS-1 system provides a highly precise testing environment,” says Bruce Petty, senior business development manager at Ideal Aerosmith. “We fully understand how important accuracy is to our clients’ products and testing situations. Consequently, we take every measure to ensure that our testing technology is as accurate as possible. While this machine is somewhat unique in and of itself, the craftsmanship we put into it was consistent with everything we do here at Ideal Aerosmith.”
During development of the mobile missile launch system, the 2422-MLS-1 proved itself useful for more than just air-to-ground missiles. “It started out for a specific missile program, but it became clear right away that we could modify the specs and use a similar setup to test a wide variety of missiles,” says Petty. “It’s a product that is very flexible. It can be adapted to test many desired performance characteristics. It’s quite remarkable.”
If you would like to learn more about this or any of Ideal Aerosmith’s many innovative testing solutions, contact us today.
There’s an old sports cliché that says “There’s no ‘I’ in team.” While this is technically true, the sentiment is not entirely accurate. Teams have leaders, after all, and successful teams have successful leaders. This has been on my mind lately thanks to a book I read by Simon Sinek entitled Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. In it, he offers compelling evidence that great leaders aren’t just another part of the team (as the aforementioned cliché implies), but rather act as protectors of the team – or at least act as examples for their teams to follow in watching over one another.
Sinek’s premise revolves around a simple idea: people do better work when they feel safe. This is the result of millions of years of evolution in which effective teams have survived better than individuals. In what he calls the “circle of safety,” Sinek describes early humans banding together to survive outside threats (weather, predators, etc.) by looking out for one another. These primitive teams would put their backs together and their spears outward, protecting their teammates’ flanks while repelling invaders.
Modern business works almost the same way (except with fewer spears). Successful leaders avoid threats and intimidation – both from outside forces and from themselves – and instead focus on earning the trust of their teams. When the team feels comfortable that their leader is looking out for them, they are free to innovate, excel and concentrate on doing a good job.
There is a tremendous paradox in American business: management demands innovation but punishes failed attempts at innovation. Why would anybody take any chances in a system like that? Good leaders reward all innovation – even failed innovation. When our teams feel safe enough to take chances, amazing things can happen!
I understand that this is a pretty big paradigm shift for some companies. I haven’t perfected it myself, but I’m trying. I want the folks here at Ideal Aerosmith to feel like I have their backs. As a result, I feel like they have mine. I want them to trust me, and that starts with me trusting them instead of micromanaging, manipulating or intimidating them.
I really enjoyed Sinek’s book, and I think you will, too. It’s short, it’s easy to read and it contains some insights that were really helpful in my approach to the folks I work with (and for) here at Ideal Aerosmith. Give it a try and tell me what you think.
By analyzing the process of constructing an important cable assembly over the course of several years, lean-based changes have resulted in significant improvements.
In 2012, a group of employees from Ideal Aerosmith participated in an Impact Dakota training course. As part of the session, they held a Kaizen Event – a short-term project aimed at improving a specific part of an organization’s processes. For this test situation, the group chose to observe a technician putting together an electrical cable assembly that is often used in Ideal Aerosmith’s motion tables. As part of their observation, the working environment at Ideal Aerosmith was recreated, and the group diagrammed the technician’s actions, mapping out the time and distance of his every move.
“What we discovered was eye-opening,” says Todd Johnson, Ideal Aerosmith’s director of quality assurance and a participant in the training course. “We couldn’t believe how many times the assembler had to get up to get what he needed.”
Once the observation test was complete, the Ideal Aerosmith team brainstormed ideas to improve the process, including organizing tools so that they were easier to find and relocating materials closer to the assemblers to minimize the time spent walking back and forth. One of the more significant changes that Ideal Aerosmith put into effect was empowering assemblers to self-inspect crimps. “Typically, assemblers are required to have another assembler perform the in-process inspection,” says Johnson, “ but we thought that if someone is trained and certified to inspect someone else’s work, they should be able to look at their own.”
While this Kaizen Event took place nearly four years ago, the results are just now becoming clear. “When we look back at the average time it took to build the cable assemblies, the first five builds took about 6.7 hours each,” says Johnson. “The last five builds took an average of four hours per assembly. That’s a 40 percent reduction in labor hours.” Furthermore, when Johnson investigated how long the very first build took in July 2010, it was completed in 9.4 hours, versus the most recent build performed in March 2015, which took only 1.4 hours. The assemblies were all completed by employees with the same skill level.
“A small improvement by itself is nothing,” says Johnson, “but when we continuously make small improvements, they add up to something major. This analysis has shown that what we’re doing with lean matters. Our efforts are indeed producing results, and remarkable ones at that. We’re reducing our costs and our lead time, and the best part is that we are passing on those efficiencies to our customers.”
Senior Vice President – Operations
Barb Schultz has worked at Ideal Aerosmith for nearly 30 years. She joined the company as an intern while attending college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. After graduating with a degree in accounting, she continued to work at Ideal Aerosmith, serving in various roles throughout the company. She now heads up the service department in Grand Forks and oversees the operations departments in all of Ideal Aerosmith’s facilities.
Schultz’s focus in the last decade or so has been in continuous improvement for Ideal Aerosmith, specifically in lean efforts. She was instrumental in the company’s ISO 9000 certification and achieving Six Sigma Green Belt certification. Most recently, she helped several members of the Ideal Aerosmith team to attain lean certification. She also serves on the executive committee of Impact Dakota and has served on the board of the Highway 2 West Manufacturers’ Association since it was established in 2003 – two organizations that strive to improve the operations of manufacturing businesses.
“It’s a priority of mine to find ways to improve what we do here at Ideal Aerosmith, so we can ultimately help to improve what our customers are doing,” says Schultz. “My expertise comes from being a lifelong learner, a quality that also helps me to recognize the unique strengths of those around me. We have outstanding technicians and engineers here at Ideal Aerosmith. As someone who is not technical, I appreciate learning from them, just as they appreciate the insight I bring to a project because I think differently than they do.”
Meet Jonathan Straub
Integration & Field Service Technician
Jonathan Straub has worked for Ideal Aerosmith since 2011. As an integration and field service technician, he is responsible for integrating critical assemblies together to create the full assembly for many of Ideal Aerosmith’s high-end systems. In his service role, Straub handles the installation, calibration, repair and upgrades for these systems as well.
“Put simply, my job is to make sure everything is perfect, so that when the system leaves here, everything is ready to go and performs as we say it will,” says Straub. “We understand how important it is for the systems we develop to perform at or above their specifications, and our customers can trust that they will do just that.”
Straub’s background and experience lie in electronics, with a degree in industrial electronics from Northwest Technical College in East Grand Forks, Minnesota, and more than ten years of experience working with electrical products. In fact, his passion for electronics began in his youth. “I started experimenting with electronics when I was eight years old,” he says, “so it makes sense that I still get excited to be a part of the work we do here at Ideal Aerosmith. I get to learn what our customers need, then help to develop a technology-based solution. My love for electronics is the root of my expertise.”
Meet Brian Stonecipher
Senior Business Development Manager
Brian Stonecipher joined the Ideal Aerosmith team immediately after graduating from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks in 1992. He started as a product line manager working with a line of precision needle valves, then moved on to selling avionics test equipment and finally to promoting motion simulation systems, where his focus remains today. He was also the first export compliance manager for Ideal Aerosmith, a role that he has since passed on to others.
Ideal Aerosmith has been a great fit for Stonecipher, as he has always had an interest in the aerospace industry, majoring in airport administration and management in college and even pursuing a career as a pilot at one point (he currently has his pilot’s license). It’s an enthusiasm that he believes is an advantage for Ideal Aerosmith customers. “Many of our customers are working with inertial-sensitive equipment that I’ve actually used myself,” he says. “That background – combined with my 20 years of experience serving customers in this field – helps me to understand our customers’ needs and bring them solutions that fit their budgets, timelines and expectations.”
Aerospace is not the only industry that Stonecipher serves. He proudly works with Ideal Aerosmith customers in the defense industry as well. However, no matter who he’s helping or what product he’s selling, Stonecipher works hard to uphold Ideal Aerosmith’s commitment to excellence. “Quality has always been our focus,” he says. “A lot of companies say that, but don’t follow through on it. Ideal Aerosmith is different. For every action and path we take, we ensure that quality is at the forefront of our products and service.”