Thursday, February 1, 2007
Rotorcraft Report: Sikorsky Tackling Production Woes That Unsettled Pentagon
Sikorsky Aircraft apparently has satisfied a Pentagon agency that it has an achievable plan for getting under control production problems that last year disrupted its H-60 lines, degraded quality of aircraft and parts and slowed provision of spare parts.
The Defense Contract Management Agency in mid-December said it had closed a formal complaint about quality-control problems at Sikorsky. The agency’s representative at Sikorsky’s Stratford, Conn. plant had warned the company’s president, Jeff Pino, in late November 2006 that the company did not appear to act to correct problems pointed out in mid-2006.
The officer, U.S. Navy Capt. Dorothy Freer, said in the Nov. 22 letter that "quality is deteriorating, schedule is not getting better in the short term, and the seriousness of the errors... [is] becoming untenable." She said the root cause of the quality problems is the rapidity of Sikorsky’s transfer of production to subcontractors "and its poor execution, along with the culture at Sikorsky."
Freer gave Pino until late December to come up with a plan for finally fixing those problems, issuing a Level 3 Corrective Action Request. The agency uses that warning to call attention to serious contractual non-compliance. It usually follows prior requests for corrective action that have been ineffective. It is said to be one step below the possible suspension of a contract.
The company plan that led the agency to close its complaint includes setting up a training program for employees at a Florida subcontractor, Crestview Aerospace, which assembles Black Hawks, to teach them Sikorsky’s production system. Sikorsky also is reviewing its use of subcontractors in military aircraft production, which has increased significantly in recent years.
The problems seem to have led to changes in Sikorsky management. An executive with a key role in its response to the Pentagon complaints left the helicopter maker late last year. Tom Hutton left his post as senior vice president for operations to become vice president for global parts repair services at Pratt & Whitney, another unit of United Technologies Corp.
The problems also got the attention of UTC CEO George David. In mid-December, he said Sikorsky’s production would not be back on schedule until at least mid-year. He said the problems stemmed from a 10-week strike in early 2006 that came as the company was trying to double production and rely more on subcontractors.