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Lockheed's future in Greenville unclear after inspection

Lockheed Martin's manufacturing facility at Greenville in South Carolina has completed a key inspection that could determine the company's future on the site.

A team of auditors from the US Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) and Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) wrapped up a one-week site visit on 19 November in Greenville, where Lockheed operates a maintenance, repair and overhaul business and is delivering new wings for US Navy P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft.

The inspection came about six months after Lockheed self-disclosed a "quality escape" on the P-3C wings, site lead Bob Owenby says. The company realised that completed wings were delivered to operational navy units without fasteners attaching to corner wing fittings.

A Lockheed analysis determined the missing fasteners did not pose a safety of flight issue, but NAVAIR initiated a Level 3 corrective active review. Under the DCMA's procedures, this can lead to banning all deliveries from a site. The review also triggered a corporate auditing process by Lockheed, which also could close down the facility.

NAVAIR demanded that the facility earn an ISO 9001 certification for manufacturing quality standards. In response, Lockheed initiated at the site a 180-day effort dubbed Project Odyssey. This was intended to invoke NASA's desperate effort to rescue the malfunctioning Odyssey command module on the Apollo 13 lunar mission, Owenby says. "Any quality escape in our industry is unacceptable," he adds.

Lockheed's Greenville site must complete a series of steps through early 2011 to overcome the Level 3 corrective action process, and until that time the site remains vulnerable to closure. Such a customer-initiated process "gets the attention" of Lockheed's senior leadership, Owenby says.

But the company noted a positive sign with the outbrief on 19 November of the DCMA and NAVAIR auditing team, Owenby says. In a message to Greenville staff, Lockheed says the auditors praised the site's employees for a notably different culture after six months.

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