by: Mike Pentecoste
There’s no question this past year has put a strain on manufacturing and production across all industries. But when you are a manufacturer of highly complex parts for the aerospace, defense, and medical industries, those challenges are underscored by the critical need and mission of your orders. To offset these challenges, RS Precision has established a number of proactive processes to keep production running smoothly.
Staffing. Finding talent with the right skillset before the pandemic was already pervasive problem, and that challenge has since increased exponentially. A generation of skilled machinists is entering retirement, leaving behind a vast dearth of proficient workers. At RS Precision, we’re always looking for bright, skilled talent to join our company. But to ensure that production on orders is never stalled by staff shortages, we’ve been providing 120 hours of cross-training for our machinists to teach them how to operate multiple machinery across various departments. That way if someone is out sick or a position is vacated, we can move people around the floor to ensure that orders continue to be fulfilled.
The supply chain. If we learned one thing from this past year, it is that we need to be prepared for the unexpected. While we’ve always added extra lead time into our schedules, we now add an extra month to production and house each finished order in our inventory until its ship date. This added measure of security ensures that critical orders are always received on time.
In our last blog installment, “Agile Project Management: How to address supply chain challenges created by Covid,” we discussed the expected and unexpected variables that can affect the supply chain. In addition to the many steps we laid out to anticipate and address shortages in the supply chain, RS Precision has been actively vetting more qualified vendors to expand our pool, so we always have at least three vendors for each outside source. This way, if one of our vendors is unable to complete an order for any number of reasons—material shortage, staffing, or still recovering from the lockdown—we have other sources to ensure our projects remain on schedule.
Cybersecurity. Recent reports indicate that defense contractors are highly vulnerable to ransomware and cyberattacks. As part of a supply chain that leads straight up to the DoD, it is our responsibility to ensure that our systems are secure. RS Precision recently made key investments that will exceed $100K to harden our network infrastructure. In addition, we have been working steadily to achieving NIST 800-171 compliance and Level 3 Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC). We also provide our employees with weekly cybersecurity training to teach them how to identify phishing scams, possible threats, and risky behaviors to avoid.
Relationship with buyers. There will always be unexpected challenges in our industry, but one key way to offset them is through open communication. Our management team is always available to discuss engineering requirements and provide solutions. For example, one of our customers requested that we purchase an aluminum cast mold to create a part. The aluminum cast mold cost $93 per piece. We explained that we could make a solid part at $37 a piece that would not only be a dramatic cost savings for them, but it would also be structurally stronger. Casting is brittle; by making a solid piece, we eliminated the cracking problems they were having.
Sometimes with challenges you also find unexpected opportunities. Each challenge we’ve faced has opened new ways of strengthening our processes. It’s the ability to meet these challenges head on that ensures that we thrive in our industry.
Vice President, Business Development
Mike brings more than 40 years of machining excellence, innovation, and business savvy to RS Precision, which he joined in 2015. He built his reputation by running his own company, Monolith Manufacturing Corporation, where for 25 years Mike specialized in mold making and CNC machining for the aerospace and defense industry. Today, as Vice President, Business Development, Mike leads RS Precision’s aerospace and defense initiatives, producing a multitude of complex parts that demand precision CNC capabilities.