Adapting to changes in our industry
John van Oostende - Director Assembly (MIL) and R&O
We all know the value of having well-educated, experienced personnel. At Aeronamic – and thus also in my assembly department – we know how crucial education and experience are for performing at the highest level. It’s not just about hiring the right people. It’s also about recognizing the potential you already have at hand. Because we create an environment in which our people, given time, can grow, we can adapt to changes in our industry.
For me, assembly is exciting because of the dynamics. Our team of over 40 people must have a broad skillset and a high degree of flexibility. This has everything to do with our line of work, the extent of our activities – from developing, producing and assembling to testing and servicing – and the level at which we have to perform: the highest. Our strength lies in our ability to quickly adapt to any changes during assembly, so we can always get the work done. The people in our team can seamlessly switch stations to upscale productivity or manage issues to prevent delays.
The components we work on used to be exclusively air driven. However, there has been a strong shift towards electric driven components; the VCC (scroll compressor), for example, was the first component we made with electrical parts. Then we started building the even more electrical starter/generator for the F-35. The starter/generator is highly complex, which meant our expertise had to be on a par to deal with the extremely high unit output (power to weight ratio). Creating this high-tech component clearly shows the extent to which we are performing at the highest level. And, as time goes on, the shifts in our industry also require we adapt our skills from the solely mechanical to mechatronics. If you want to build components nowadays, you need a broader education.
LEAN approach: becoming agile
As people must adapt to the work rather than work adapting to people, we need to be flexible and agile. You constantly have to broaden your competences, so that you can perform a variety of tasks, getting rid of processing bottlenecks to ensure low and stable takt times. My team is trained to perform various tasks and has a white belt LEAN training – this is to enable them to understand and improve the LEAN techniques we apply in our assembly processes. My goal is to broaden and deepen the disciplines of our workforce, so that we can quickly adapt to (the required) changes in assembly. Learning never stops!
I’ve had firsthand experience of how our industry has shifted and changed. I started as a machine operator at Aeronamic over 24 years ago. I went from production to preparation and, in 2006, I became a team leader. Then things went even further in 2010 when I moved to Romania with my family and worked for 4 years setting up Aeronamic’s production facility there. It was a beautiful experience in many ways, both personally and professionally. Since 2014, I’ve been back in the Netherlands running the assembly and R&O department, using everything I’ve learned up to now. During my whole time with Aeronamic, I took training programs and gained more experience through a combination of my own drive and the opportunities the company gave me.
We continue adapting
I have the same approach with my team members. We talk about plans for future personal development – where does someone want to be in 2 years? We encourage one another in our own personal progress. And we even have colleagues in their fifties who still decide to embark on a new educational track. This shows that you are never too old to learn. In fact, learning is mandatory, both in life and in our business.