Mario Lobato de Faria, vice-president operations of Portuguese MRO business OGMA, paints a picture of a mature organisation in a process of flux. The company was state owned for much of its 90-year history, and for much of that time it has been a provider of military MRO.

Recently it has had to adapt quickly to the challenges presented by its privatisation - it is now owned by external shareholders EADS and Embraer, as well as the Portuguese government. OGMA's mission is to rank within the top five independent MROs by 2010.

Lobato de Faria is convinced that no company will maintain its competitiveness and enjoy sustained growth without having an SMS as a key practice.

He defines an SMS as "the state of being certain that adverse effects will not be caused by an agent under defined conditions". Safety, de Faria believes, must be built into written business policies and practices: "It has to be really explicit, not just an idea or a principle that needs to be followed."

Early on, the independent MRO recognised that some managers' skills in safety management were questionable. This realisation led to a far-reaching appraisal and training programme to get everyone up to speed on some critical competencies.

"If you don't have good managers, bad practices just cascade down," de Faria says. "And being a military organisation for such a long time, management was often by decree, so even today people are still coming to us with problems they had up to a decade ago.

OGMA has also identified "opinion makers" in what remains a highly unionised organisation: people who it thinks can help it achieve a comprehensive buy-in on safety issues at all levels.

Another of OGMA's initiatives is for its chairman to invite, at random, 10 to 15 employees every Friday for coffee, and talk to them about the company's strategic direction. He listens to their concerns and will often feed back to senior management any improvements in practice which he thinks could be necessary.

"Already, we are seeing some payback and the start of a culture that encourages feedback," de Faria concludes.

Source: Flight International