Increasing Awareness of the Defense Industrial Base/Enhancing Force Multipliers to Support the Defense Industrial Base
NCDIDI spread awareness of the defense industrial base among service providers and various defense contractors through its communications plan, advisory board, and supply chain mapping and economic impact analysis. Through a concerted communications effort, North Carolina built a presence at defense-related events across the state to build awareness of NCDIDI. NCDIDI used a website and social media to stay in contact with stakeholders including businesses and local service providers. NCDIDI built new lasting partnerships among defense-related organizations, businesses, and local service providers that will support the local defense industry for years to come.
Commercial Diversification of Defense Companies to Sustain the Industrial Base
In response to significant revenue losses of up to 75% due to the withdrawal from Afghanistan, K2 Solutions applied to the Strategic Growth Pilot Project to diversify their product offerings. K2 specializes in canine security screening services with a focus on explosives detection in support of critical cargo, high profile events and facilities, and overseas facilities in areas of high risk. A family business from Southern Pines that had once experienced 100% annual growth in its first eight years, growing to a $42 million company, K2’s aforementioned revenue losses has it on the edge of bankruptcy.
North Carolina's Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) completed a canine services business diversification/opportunities class project with a team of graduating MBA students from Fayetteville State University. The major alternative revenue source the students identified involved likely Department of Homeland Security directives for privatizing canine screening, as the TSA can’t acquire sufficient numbers of dogs or dog handlers. Thus, while K2 Solutions would be working with private clients such as airlines, shippers, and freight forwarders, their operations require them to follow Homeland Security requirements. K2 Solutions is one of two companies best positioned across the country to capture this market space, but they need to survive long enough to capture the value of the NCDIDI program.
Cost Savings to DoD Through Business Diversification Efforts or New Products/Customers
Mills Manufacturing in Asheville produces highly engineered, technical sewn products such as parachutes for the military and came to NCDIDI in search of diversification opportunities to reduce reliance on military spending. The pilot program helped the company identify opportunities based on their technical and engineered sewing capabilities, narrowing to a few markets and companies that were most promising. Mills has completed a Technology Driven Market Intelligence (TDMI) project with RTI International, completed an ISO update from IES and completed Lean training from IES.
However, the timing wasn’t right for diversification activities, as once the benefits of the program were made clear regarding diversification, the military spending cycle once again ramped up and the company found itself struggling to meet increased demand. Where there were once five suppliers for the types of products Mills manufacturers, sequestration and other market pressures have reduced that number to two – and these two parachute suppliers now must accommodate the needs of the Department of Defense. Thus, the Lean training from IES has been particularly influential in ensuring that Mills can efficiently and profitably respond to increased demand, especially because Mills lost many Lean-trained employees during their years of declining sales.
Lethality Impacts through Defense Modernization
Innovation Through the Development of New Intellectual Property or New Technologies
Survival Innovations in Mills River provides aviation life support equipment featuring highly technical sewing capabilities for the Department of Defense. As a part of the pilot project, Survival Innovations underwent a TDMI project by RTI International, ISO gap analysis by IES, and a Lean training project by IES. The IES program also assisted Survival Innovations in becoming ISO 9001-2015 certified and they are now working toward achieving AS9100 certification, important because they perform 75% of the technical sewing for the Air Force’s ACE 5000 ejection seat. Moreover, AS9100 will create additional business opportunities because of documented high quality.
Survival Innovations continues to work with RTI to expand its DOD programs into the commercial market. One of the selected programs is integrating their DOD fully-qualified restraint harness with a quick release into the commercial/tourism helicopter industry. RTI is helping the company navigate new FAA requirements and qualify its quick release restraint harness. Their emergency release is the only product that will release under a 300lb load, with a 10-27-pound pull force, and can meet all the technical standard order (TSO) requirements.
Improving ‘Force Overmatch’
Founded in 2006 and based in Wake Forest, Amidon Inc. is a provider of products and services including training facilities and ranges, construction, historic preservation, professional services, and ballistic concrete. At the firm’s peak, 85-90% of its business was from the Department of Defense and 100% was Federal government. While the firm initially specialized in residential construction, in 2008 it reinvented itself to move into Federal contracting, expanding into training and then its signature product, ballistic concrete that features several patents. Over time, Amidon has reinvested in research and development, and the company now holds three patents for Amidon Ballistic Concrete (ABC). The product uses a unique forming technology for concrete curing that provides superior ballistic performance to valuable hard targets (e.g., seismic applications, protective solar transformers, etc.) compared to established ballistic concrete products. The ABC catches bullets (no ricochet), cures in a fraction of the time of standard concrete and is 50% lighter than the competition.
Amidon was forced to restructure because of sharp downturns in defense spending in recent years. The pilot project enabled Amidon to evaluate the company objectively with expert guidance, looking at the firm’s competitiveness and deficiencies along with a clear look at competing firms in their market. While the timing was late to save the firm in its present incarnation, Amidon plans to re-open as a spinoff company focused on selling their patented ABC ballistic concrete and their patented repair process. RTI has performed a TDMI analysis to identify new applications both commercially and with the Department of Defense, exploring ways to license the concrete product to reach new customers and markets.
Amidon is exploring options to continuously update their patents, for example by integrating carbon fiber into their ballistic concrete. They are working with the Department of Defense to ensure that their products meet the specifications and certifications required while protecting their patent and improving their technology to ensure continued superiority in the field. Because of the technical superiority of ABC, survival of Amidon has implications for DOD’s ability to protect critical infrastructure.
Training and People Support
Mills Manufacturing is in the process of hiring technical sewers and training them to meet the increased demand of the Department of Defense. The Lean training for the business has equipped new employees with the skills to meet the Department’s needs efficiently. In addition, as part of their pilot project, K2 underwent ISO 9001:2015 training/certification, ISO 18788/PSC1 training and received certification as a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB). In addition, pending certification of approval to receive GI Bill funding for canine training courses, IES has completed a comprehensive update of the K2 canine training curriculum. The pilot program has helped K2 acquire the certifications required to conduct trainings for the Department of Defense.
Improved Capability and/or Production Adjustments
Babington Technology in Rocky Mount produces military field equipment including a world class disaster relief mobile kitchen trailer (DRMKT) that includes an airtronic/flexfire burner, a high-pressure burner that uses a unique liquid fuel combustion technology for atomizing liquids that modulates heat output better than competitors’ burners. DOD loves the product because it works off-grid, it tolerates different and dirty fuels, and can use biofuels. The military has been working to get high-pressure burners to work in a field environment, which is difficult because of fuel contamination by dirt, sand, and water.
In the pilot project, Babington sought diversification and process improvements through NCDIDI through a TDMI project with RTI International and lean manufacturing process improvements with IES. While this effort has led to new commercial opportunities with companies such as Chipotle and Trimark, these partnerships have not been satisfactorily profitable. However, there are opportunities to continue to identify new markets, and the company has undertaken efforts such as field tests in residences nationwide for home heating applications and the identification of new investors through the TDMI.
The Department of Defense has indicated that they view this burner as a critical component to military feeding solutions for several decades. But Babington needs to be able to survive military spending downturns. The project is helping them explore and test residential and commercial options as the heating industry is trying to adopt liquid biofuels blends. With assistance from the National Oilheat Research Alliance, Babington is undertaking trials in New York and Boston to introduce burners and have identified an investor. Commercial success will help DOD because it will ensure a reliable supply chain during downturns and will reduce unit costs through increased production volumes. And there are multiple additional military applications for the DRMKT including humanitarian applications for DOD assisting with relief efforts and addressing its humanitarian mission.
NCDIDI produced a Cybersecurity Toolkit for manufacturers and service providers to learn about the basics of cybersecurity preparedness and inform them about cybersecurity DFARS requirements and NIST standards. OEMs in the state have indicated that cybersecurity certifications will be a priority for their suppliers, and NCDIDI is connecting manufacturers with resources to meet these needs. In Phase II, NCDIDI plans to build the capabilities of the local technical workforce in cybersecurity and spread awareness among companies about their vulnerabilities. In addition, to leverage MEP TAC grants, NCDIDI is partnering with stakeholders to share information about Manufacturing 4.0 including a meeting in October 2018 that will focus on cybersecurity for manufacturers.