The Value of Mentorship

May 19, 2020

If you ever get the chance to be part of the Mentor Protégé Program, take it. The Department of Defense (DoD) created this program to give smaller subcontractors extra help through the mentorship of large prime contractors. The goal: to help the little guys like us become even better DoD contract subcontractors and suppliers with additional growth opportunities.

King Aerospace was chosen by Boeing. This mentorship has not just benefited us as a company, but also our customers, including Boeing. For the past year, Boeing and King Aerospace have jointly participated in a variety of business improvement training sessions. We talked regularly, established goals, reviewed accomplishments, shared lessons learned and celebrated success stories.

Our efforts were guided by the kaizen continuous-improvement philosophy of “change for the better” now and into the future. Kaizen sets the stage for success in Lean transformation. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of our yearlong activities, but here are some highlights.

Mentor Protégé Program value stream mapping in paint

Process Improvement (PI) Lean training led to a half dozen organized King Aerospace teams that brought forward meaningful suggestions and ways to determine measurement and payback.

Our operations programs review included value stream mapping (VSM) of processes, including paint. Charting out a flow diagram of every step taken helps identify areas that could be streamlined and improved. After almost 30 years in business, you would have thought we had refined our process as much as we possibly could. Not so.

We found greater efficiencies and ways to reduce waste. Efficiency increases resulting in time savings in some areas let us focus more on actual production, quality review and paint staff training. It showed us, we can always do better. One value stream mapping exercise led us to add a water spider to our workforce, keeping work stations fully stocked for maximum workflow and productivity.

Any company is only as good as its communications. A simple but effective tactic has been to deploy electronic messaging boards in key areas – from break rooms to lobbies. They help everyone stay in the know and keep monthly metrics, quality alerts, culture reminders and customers comments top of mind. An overall infusion of a team-member-ownership mentality can be directly attributed to Boeing’s mentorship and our PI Lean teams.

Mentor Protégé Program participant King Aerospace at Boeing Global Suppliers Conference

The Mentor Protégé Program tackled our contract management activity. We worked through performance based payment (PBP) milestones, mapping projects through to final implementation and project reviews on avionics installs, strip and paint, and interior refurbishment.

Our executive team attended the Boeing Global Supplier Conference in Los Angles. Our nomination as a Supplier of the Year (SOY) served as our golden ticket for entry. The two-day event included business sessions with Boeing top leadership. Sessions about digital transformation and end-to-end supply chain progress generated robust conversations.

An online eight-hour cyber-security training workshop helped our IT department understand how to be compliant within DoD requirements and better protect our data and information.

A quality requirements review added a visitor-customer policy memorandum to comply with AS standard AS9146 contract requirements, providing better control and instructions to guests that visit our facilities.

A program management best practices (PMBP) workshop at the Boeing Leadership Center in St. Louis, MO, offered us an unrivaled training opportunity. The feedback Boeing’s team gave was exceptional. The closed-to-the-public center builds leadership skills and fosters networking. King Aerospace department managers from paint, interior, avionics and planning worked closely with Boeing personnel, who introduced us to some of the program management tools Boeing uses. Our team has since successfully used some of them. One was risk, issues and opportunities (RIO) for a key facilities decision. This pending investment for upgrading facilities and capabilities will help increase our support for Boeing.

Mentor Protégé Program training in St. Louis, MO

An accelerated improvement workshop (AIW) was rigorous, disciplined – and fantastic. An AIW requires detailed planning and a true commitment to action. The people who do the work make changes that dramatically reduce nonvalue-added activity. In this workshop, we focused on the paint masking process. We walked through how the aircraft gets taped and covered to prepare for chemical stripper that removes existing paint to prepare for applying a fresh coat. Then we brainstormed and established next steps to not only improve but to create a new standard work process. The AIW exercise also helped create actionable items for developing personnel so we have the skills and leadership the future will require.

While our participation in the Mentor Protégé Program formally ended in December 2019, it does not feel over. The relationships forged continue, and the lessons learned will grow more and more valuable as we move forward.