Lockheed Martin Javelin missile body
A Lockheed Martin team member applies sealant to a Javelin missile body.

What Gets Measured Gets Accomplished at Lockheed Martin

The power of an engaged workforce drives performance excellence at Lockheed's missile plant.

Lockheed Martin's Pike County Operations, occupying more than 3,800 acres in Troy, Ala., is part of the company's Missiles and Fire Control business. Here a workforce of more than 300 assemble and test advanced missile systems, including the Javelin anti-tank missile and JASSM (joint air-to-surface standoff missile). Multiple tools and processes, in place to reduce electrostatic discharge and keep foreign matter from entering assembly areas, tell a tale of the sensitive technologies that comprise these weapons systems. 

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The site, which began operations in 1994 with an air-to-ground missile system (AGMS) that it continues to build, attributes its success in large part to an engaged workforce. "People make it happen here," says David Anderson, production operations lead. 

Even more, engaged teams make it happen. Fully 100% of the workforce participates in empowered or self-directed work teams, many as contributors on PMTs, or Performance Management Teams. PMTs develop performance goals in collaboration with leadership, and then are challenged to achieve and exceed those goals. Progress toward the goals, in cost and quality, for example, is reviewed on a regular, frequent basis, both weekly and monthly. 

"What gets measured gets accomplished," says Mark Hayes, site quality and mission success manager.

And what gets accomplished gets rewarded. Strong reward and recognition programs propel team thinking and provide an incentive to improve continuously. Recognition may be small but significant – of the verbal "thank you" variety, gift cards or a pat on the back. Team performance also delivers team rewards, such as the catered lunch served in December to the Javelin program team for stellar performance during the year. A sitewide Team of the Year program also provides for a bit of competition among high-performing Pike County PMTs, with a recognition banquet held to honor the winners. 

In addition, there is the recognition that comes from watching your product perform, says Jeremy Smith, Javelin production supervisor. He describes an invitation extended by the customer to bring Javelin team members to Huntsville, Ala., where flight tests are performed. Watching successful tests, he says, "goes a long way toward job satisfaction." 

The emphasis by Lockheed Martin's Pike County Operations on engagement, teams and measurement has translated to performance excellence. Site metrics include 100% on-time delivery with zero customer rejects. They include 99% first-pass yield and a 43% reduction in energy consumption per unit of production over the past three years. 

The emphasis also has contributed to a continuing flow of improvement ideas, such as a new safety feature for forklifts. Once the feature is implemented, an alarm will sound if an operator attempts to dismount a forklift without engaging the parking brake. A recent benchmarking trip by the safety committee to Hyundai's assembly plant in Alabama provided impetus for the improvement. In another example, standardized kitting trays for AGMS hardware were introduced last summer, replacing an inefficient process in which operators had to pull fasteners from a bag. Not only do the new kitting trays provide operators with an improved visual presentation of components, but they also reduce the potential for foreign object debris to get introduced into the process, explains Wenona Sublett, Lean Six Sigma coordinator. "They are also a very good training tool if you are training a new person," she adds.

The Pike County Operations' stellar performances have been achieved even as production and workforce numbers have ramped up. In the past three years, the number of production workers at this site has grown by more than 59%, while the production rate has climbed by 189% since 2009.  

Jill Jusko is senior editor of Material Handling & Logistics' sister publication, IndustryWeek, and coordinator of the IW Best Plants awards competition.

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