Lockheed Martin MS2 Tactical Systems-Clearwater Operations, the 2009QualityPlant of the Year in the large plant division, makes quality and continuous improvement a priority.

Lockheed Martin MS2 Tactical Systems-Clearwater Operations (Oldsmar, FL) received nearly a perfect score from our judges on their winning Plant of the Year application. When told that the judges only deducted points from a few areas of the application, Materials Manager Matthew Spear quickly asked which areas-that is how serious they are about continuous improvement.

Clearwater Operations, the 2009 Quality Plant of the Year in the large plant division, makes quality and continuous improvement a priority.

In terms of quality, the electronics manufacturing plant had only one defect for every 10,000 opportunities last year. “Quality is not just a buzzword-it means everything to us,” says Spear, and improvements are obviously the norm. From its employee-friendly policies to new laser room technologies, the plant is constantly moving forward.

Lockheed Martin’s business areas include aeronautics, space systems, information systems and global services, and electronic systems. Source: Lockheed Martin


Headquartered in Bethesda, MD, Lockheed Martin’s business areas include aeronautics, space systems, information systems and global services, and electronic systems. The Maritime Systems and Sensors (MS2) operations fall in the electronic systems category, which is further divided into the Tactical Systems line of business. MS2 includes surface, air and undersea applications on more than 460 programs for U.S. military and international customers.

Clearwater, a low-volume, high-mix environment, produces ruggedized, high-reliability electronic data and signal processing equipment. This includes advanced processing equipment, mission computers, communications equipment and signal processors.

“When people think of Lockheed Martin, they usually tell me, ‘Oh, you’re the company that makes airplanes,’ but actually Lockheed Martin is a lot more than that,” says Bob Hewell, director of quality and mission success at MS2 Tactical Systems. “We have products that we build that go into space satellites, command and control systems and the computing systems that govern a lot of air traffic control and postal systems. A lot of those postal systems are built by Lockheed Martin, and then we also supply products to almost every single branch of the military.”

Clearwater’s manufactured products are used in locations from sea (surface and subsurface) to air, ground and space, by customers such as the Department of Defense (DoD)-including the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Coast Guard-along with the Department of Homeland Security and various international customers.

The challenge is producing these products for more than 30 different programs and more than 20 different customers as schedules fluctuate and demands constantly change.

Lockheed Martin MS2 Tactical Systems – Clearwater Operations delivers world-class quality performance. Source: Lockheed Martin


Craig Mackiewicz, senior manager of manufacturing for the Clearwater operation, knows the plant’s products well, whether it is a high-volume Air Force mission computer, which recently had its 200,000th delivery, or copper cable assemblies. Though so many different parts are produced-63% of manufacturing work orders are a quantity of one-the plant is well-equipped to handle them all.

Mackiewicz showcased a list of new technologies implemented since Quality Magazine’s first visit eight months before, including a clean, laser-safe LaserNet Fines manufacturing cell, improved cleaning of electronic assemblies and the development of an automated high-quality conformal coating system. In another eight months, it will no doubt have another list of improvements.

It would be unlikely that a visitor would spot a problem on the floor, as even external auditors are hard-pressed to locate problems at the plant. Lockheed does regular internal audits and external ones by certified AS9100 auditors from National Quality Assurance (NQA). Two auditors were at the plant for three days last year and found nothing. “It’s tough leaving an audit without finding anything,” staff pointed out, but Lockheed Martin sailed through their full AS9100 recertification audit last fall with zero nonconformances and a perfect score.

This success is possible because of the companywide dedication to quality. Though no one likes audits, the plant would rather have the quality department find a problem than the customer.

Everything is on the table when it comes to improvement-not just the products produced at the plant, but also the plant itself. Environmentally friendly lights, better for both the eyes and the environment, were recently installed at the plant, and non-slip flooring was added to an employee entrance. They also have added new hurricane-resistant windows as well as new equipment and processes for manufacturing their components, including more efficient air handlers and redesigned conveyors. Employee also are encouraged to suggest process improvements.

Clearwater Operations produces products for more than 30 different programs and more than 20 different customers. Source: Lockheed Martin

Evolving Improvements

The plant has been evolving since its start in 1974, from quality circles to the Crosby Quality College to the lean production processes in use today, which has paid off for the plant.

During the 1980s, its line of business had manufacturing sites in eight locations, but by the end of the 1990s, Clearwater was the only manufacturing site left in its division.

And people are the driving force. From Steven Hill, director and general manager, down to the touch labor workforce, Clearwater is staffed by good people. Though they take their responsibilities seriously, employees seem to be in a perpetually good mood. Either it is something in the water or Lockheed knows how to find and retain a quality staff.

Staff members take pride in the ever-changing plant, so much so that they want to ensure its success even after they leave. John Hartzel, quality assurance engineering manager of quality and mission success, says he has a succession plan in place for his department, but it is not just managers who want to keep things running smoothly. Even an assembler’s shop area is a personal thing and they want to know what will happen to “their shop” when they retire, Hartzel says.

“What’s really exciting at Lockheed is that we do drive a culture of continuous improvement,” says Hewell. “The beauty of this is that the entire senior management is engaged with this so it makes it a lot easier when I’m talking to the general manager all the way down to the operators on the floor. They talk the same culture; they understand the same culture of continuous improvement.”

The LM21 Operating Excellence program, started in 1998, is one of the factors driving improvements. It is a combination of the Toyota production system, lean and Six Sigma used on large-scale projects and in the facility’s daily operation, particularly on the production floor.

“Every person in this facility would be able to articulate what LM21 means to them and how they play a part of it,” Hewell says.

In addition, the organization aims for improvements with the annual Value Stream Analysis, Program Value Stream Analysis, Functional Excellence Plans, Program Excellence Plans, and the subsequent cost-saving projects, Kaizen and Just Do It events.

Lockheed Martin takes care to hire people that will be a good fit, and employees say there is an expectation of excellence. Source: Lockheed Martin

Quality Metrics

In some cases, success is measurable. Manufacturing process performance is measured using Six Sigma methods. The defect trend metrics are done in defect per million opportunities (DPMO) and sigma. Opportunities are calculated using the Motorola formula (Opportunities = Total Parts + Total Solder Connections) and all defects are included in the metric. The DPMO decreased 20.7% from 2004 to 2007 as a result of Lockheed’s structured continuous improvement program.

The plant is consistently performing more than 30 programs at any time for 20 different customers, but this does not slow them down. The plant has not only retained 100% of its existing customers, but has added 10 new customers during the past three to four years.

Clearwater Operations also achieved the Silver Supplier Certification award from the Boeing Preferred Supplier Certification Assessment Team. The plant had achieved a 99.8% delivered quality level and 100% on-time delivery level. They make it look easy, but less than 1.5% of Boeing’s electronic suppliers receive the silver or gold rating.

Clearwater’s manufactured products are used in locations from sea to air, ground and space. Source: Lockheed Martin


These successes do not happen by accident. Lockheed Martin knows exactly where it is headed. Its quality and mission success objectives for last year were to achieve balanced scorecard measures of overall site product quality at a sigma level of 4.85, 100% mission success milestones, 100% LM21 leadership participation, and 98% on-time delivery; as well as to maintain AS9100 Certification, Boeing Silver Certification Rating and Northrop Grumman Platinum Source Preferred Award status.

To facilitate these goals, the plant also has developed a Yellow Belt program, unique to Clearwater, which focuses on taking lean manufacturing principles to the manufacturing floor. As part of the program, a team of volunteer participants from each work cell completes four rotations-quality, continuous improvement, target zero (safety) and productivity-lasting six months each, where they learn more about lean manufacturing to make improvements in their cells.

Since its inception in 2005, the Yellow Belt program has been a huge success in the facility. In 2008, members submitted 324 improvement ideas, with 241 ideas implemented to date. The program now has moved beyond the manufacturing floor to include test technicians and incoming inspection technicians, and a total of 56 employees have been trained as part of this program.

When striving for improvements, Lockheed Martin staff plan early and often. “Every year, we look at things in the quality arena, like supplier performance, lean Six Sigma manufacturing goals, test yields, customer acceptance, field performance, so really the whole value stream. We look at that and challenge ourselves each year over last year’s goals,” Hewell says. All of these factors are tracked by management and reviewed on a quarterly basis. “Year over year improvement is what we’re really looking for,” Hewell says.

It seems to be working. The plant is well-run and always aiming for more. And with today’s competitive manufacturing environment, this is not a luxury, but a necessity.

“The world’s flat now,” Hewell says. “We really do see people or other countries going after the type of businesses that were typically our businesses. So if we don’t keep that continuous improvement mindset, if we don’t keep a very competitive mindset and keep developing new product designs that are cutting edge, I think we run the risk of having a lot of the work taken away.”

The Quality Magazine Plant of the Year award will no doubt continue to push them toward other goals. Employees will no doubt enjoy the recognition but get back to the work at hand. And in the two months since Quality’s visit, no doubt they have determined yet another way to make the plant even better.

“I think that the facility here has done a really good job to drive a quality mindset so we’re really honored that we got that [award],” Hewell says. “But I think the proudest thing is truly that-it is the culture of quality that we have at Lockheed Martin. You have to realize that a lot of the products that we manufacture are used to protect human lives. They’re not just pieces of product that go out there and get consumed. So because of the fact that there’s human life tied to a lot of the products it’s imperative that our products always work the first time and every time.”Q

For more information, visitwww.lockheedmartin.com.

Editor's Note: To learn more about Lockheed Martin, listen to theQ-Cast podcast.

Lockheed Martin MS2 Tactical Systems - Clearwater Operations

Type of product manufactured:
  • Circuit Card Assemblies
  • Space Flight Circuit Card Assemblies
  • Electronics Cabinets, Racks and Chassis
  • Custom Cables and Harnesses
Clearwater by the numbers:
  • 32 Programs
  • 150 Accounts
  • 440 Employees
  • 500 Active Suppliers
  • 212,000-square-feet
  • 4,500 Assembly Part Numbers
  • 31% Cabinets, 42% Circuit Card Assemblies, 27% Cables

Continually Improving

The Clearwater operations made a number of improvements between May 2008 and January 2009.
  • Created a clean, laser-safe LaserNet Fines manufacturing cell
  • Improved lighting and energy efficiency
  • Improved cleaning of electronic assemblies
  • Developed an automated, high-quality conformal coating system
  • Upgraded facility with new windows and non-slip flooring

Lockheed Martin

  • Vision: Powered by innovation, guided by integrity, we help our customers achieve their most challenging goals.

  • Mission: Be the premier provider of innovative products and solutions that serve the vital defense, safety and security interests of our nation and allies.

  • Value Proposition: When our customers trust us to produce their challenging aerospace and defense electronics products, they will receive production solutions with the highest quality, on time and at an affordable price. We will achieve this through a long-term value-added partnership that emphasizes producibility, testability and flexibility.

  • Operational Strategy: Through exceptional quality, continuous improvement and empowered employees, we will leverage our success with existing customers to win new business from customers within MS2, Lockheed Martin and within the defense electronics industry who align with our value proposition.

  • Manual Testing Becomes Automated

    In 2007, the U.S. Navy requested that Clearwater Operations quickly produce 421 Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Jammer Systems within a four-month period. In order to accomplish this task, Clearwater Operations had to implement a new hardware baseline along with enhanced test equipment-all while expediting materials and increasing the production rate to more than double any previous builds. Clearwater Operations embraced the challenge and used lean processes to establish a four-station progressive line and a straight-line flow of hardware for testing and clean-up operations.

    In partnership with its MS2 Moorestown, NJ, facility, Clearwater Operations upgraded the manual testing stations to an automated process. The upgrade allowed a reduction in technician training time, improved technician efficiency and removed a human variability factor. Automating this testing resulted in a performance increase of 66% for the Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) of these systems. The cost to perform a FAT is now one-third of the original cost. Because of the plant’s flexibility and adaptability, it was able to meet the U.S. Navy’s challenging requirements.