Partnering for the future
Electronic Systems receives more than 240 million parts yearly to support our aviation, transportation, and defense industry customers who rely on our technologies every day. Each product is built from materials and parts received from our supply partners.
Electronic Systems has long recognized the importance of the supply base and, in 2017, established Supplier Partnerships to move away from transactional and more toward partnership-based relationships. Today, that organization – which is aligned under Operations and led by senior Supplier Partnerships director Brandon Greene – has continued to mature the partnership model. It continues to work closely with suppliers to improve quality and delivery while also advocating for them within BAE Systems.
A two-way street to success
Greene describes the concept as a two-way street: on one side, Supplier Partnerships works internally with ES programs to gather forecasted needs and establish supplier-friendly standards. On the other, they work directly with suppliers, sharing those forecasts, consulting on design and manufacturability, and providing tools and training to improve product quality and delivery.
“We ask our suppliers to do difficult things and meet difficult quality requirements, so it’s important that we engage with them and help them meet those standards,” said Greene.
On the supplier-facing side of the organization is the Partner 2 Win program. Electronic Combat Solutions Director of Supplier Partnerships Tim Eubank has championed the initiative since 2016. He believes that Partner 2 Win is the recognition that, to truly achieve operational excellence, it needs to be extended through the supply chain.
Elements of the program include a quality and delivery score card, awards program, training, and quality improvement opportunities. The Supplier Symposium, cancelled this year due to COVID-19, recognizes the best among our supplier base.
“We chose the term ‘partner’ intentionally because we understand that it’s not just on our suppliers – it’s not just requirements or new initiatives we give them,” said Eubank. “I like to view Partner 2 Win as something we do with our supply base, not something we do to them.”
The supplier score card is an important aspect of Partner 2 Win and is issued to each supplier on a monthly basis. The score card rates suppliers who do $50,000 of business in a six-month period on product quality and on-time delivery. There are an average of 550 suppliers in the program in any given period and those with top marks for both quality and on-time delivery are recognized through the medalist program as Bronze, Silver, or Gold suppliers.
A quality-first mindset
TEMCO Tool Co., a long-time supplier based in Manchester, New Hampshire, is a Partner 2 Win participant that consistently ranks high on quality and delivery. They have twice received annual recognition as Supplier of the Year and Silver-medalists.
According to Dennis McElreavy, general manager at TEMCO Tool, that is because his company has a quality-first mindset and has heavily invested in working with Partner 2 Win. This includes implementing an effective Zero Defects program and maintaining their AS9100 certification. They have also taken advantage of Lean Six Sigma Green Belt training offered by ES, a collaborative methodology to improve performance by systematically removing waste and reducing variation.
McElreavy said the partnership between the two companies has also led to their involvement in many pre-production design reviews, as well as design for manufacture activities, which he considers true win-win scenarios. “BAE Systems is a very supportive customer and the assistance and resolution we receive from our representatives within the company is not commonly seen within the defense industry,” said McElreavy.
Embracing the Partner 2 Win philosophy
New Yorker Electronics, an electronic component distributor located in Northvale, New Jersey, is another supplier heavily involved in the Partner 2 Win program. According to Jon Gallmeyer, Controls & Avionics Solutions Supplier Partnerships director, suppliers like New Yorker Electronics are important to the business because they help consolidate demand and get the company into component manufacturers in ways BAE Systems could not achieve alone.
Barry Slivka, president of New Yorker Electronics, says that Partner 2 Win has expanded their possibilities and keeps his family-owned business focused on quality. “We’re constantly checking to make sure our on-time delivery is there, that our quality is top-notch, and that our rating stays as high as it possibly can,” said Slivka. He notes that New Yorker Electronics has truly embraced the Partner 2 Win philosophy, specifically through the scorecard performance, and that it significantly increased the performance level and more importantly, the communication and understanding of requirements.
An eye toward the future
Internally, Supplier Partnerships acts as an advocate for suppliers. According to Greene, the goal is to raise the level of engagement between internal functions and suppliers, everything from source selection to delivery. “Our suppliers want to be successful,” said Greene. “The question we ask is, ‘How can we help them do that?’”
As an example, Greene pointed to recent changes to how paperwork is handled. “Roughly forty percent of supplier defects were paperwork issues, so we changed the policy to allow a supplier three days to rectify a documentation issue before it would count against their quality score.” This simple change has resulted in a continued reduction in defects.
As the Supplier Partnerships function has continued to mature, its leadership turned their attention to the future and, in February, released a five-year mission and strategy. Andrew Tollner, who supports the program as a cable and connector commodities manager and was one of the authors of the strategy, said the plan was designed to identify where the organization needs to be in five years and lay out strategies to get there.
”We made the decision that we don’t just want to solve today’s issues. We want to look forward to tomorrow’s problems as well,” he said.
The new mission focuses on supporting the development of reliable and complex electronic systems throughout their lifecycles by emphasizing supplier partnerships, supply chain expertise, and predictive analytics; enabling processes; and implementing strategies for an adaptable supply chain.
Bringing everyone to the table
To realize its goals, Supplier Partnerships identified a balance of internal and external strategies and actions, including left-shifting to design and source materials correctly from the start, supporting talent management, and ensuring supply chain compliance sustainability. The group has already achieved several early wins along their journey.
They have made in-roads on revamping subcontract program management, gaining buy-in from internal stakeholders, and posting requisitions for positions. Work to left-shift is also underway, with Supply Chain capture leads being included on the capture team to support material strategy development for new initiatives.
“Going forward, our success will hinge on our ability to collaborate with other functions,” said Tollner, highlighting the need to left-shift internal processes to include suppliers earlier in the process.
According to Greene, in order to succeed long term, BAE Systems must bring supplier experts to the table earlier in the product development process – even prior to contract bid – to ensure the company is leveraging the full scale of its talented supply chain. Achieving this will take a long-term strategy focused on partnering, both internally and externally, and ensuring a symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship between BAE Systems and its supply base.
“Our ultimate goal,” said Greene, “is to support our customers by building a robust, responsive, and quality-focused supply chain. To do this, we must go hand-in-hand with them, partnering to identify efficiencies, fix issues, and collaborate from the earliest stages on new designs.”
Congratulations to the twelve suppliers who were recognized for best-in-class performance in achieving on-time delivery and quality standards in 2019.
Click here to view the winners.
By Timm Huffman, Communications, Nashua, New Hampshir