Quest For Perfection
In an industry that is continuing to evolve with new processes and the advent of robotic welding, first-generation Marquis Brooks, understands that it is necessary to adapt or get left behind in the welding industry. He welcomes these industry changes with the simple goal of continuous improvement of his welding skills and trade knowledge. After graduating from a 7-month welding school nearly three years ago, Brooks started his welding career. He is now working at Muskogee Technology (MT) as a level 1 welder. Already certified in a variety of metals, materials and processes, including stick, 70/18, 60/11, 309, stainless, Mig, flux core and Tig, he seeks to grow professionally by perfecting his technique and continuing to expand his experience with new metals and processes.
“I really enjoy welding. My welding teacher said I was a natural,” Brooks stated. Brooks also stressed the importance of making a good weld. “Folks don’t understand how important it is to have a solid and clean weld. I see poor quality welds everywhere, and it really scares me. A loose or cracked weld can jeopardize the strength of something like a carnival ride or piece of machinery. If that weld were to break, it could mean serious injury to someone,” Brooks explained.
MT is Brooks’ second welding job, one he much prefers to the first. He expressed that it was a welcome change to be working in MT’s Small Fabrication Department. Often welding takes place outdoors where the welder is subject to weather conditions of extreme heat or cold. “I definitely prefer the climate-controlled environment of MT,” Brooks stated. MT’s Small Fabrication Department was created by the new President/CEO-Westly L. Woodruff to strategically transition into a new market in July 2017 and to establish diversity from Heavy Fabrication. Since then, they have been bidding on more jobs than ever before and secured one such new commercial client, Lane Shark, to manufacture its Brush Cutter. Due to an increase in manufacturing analysis of their workcenter, the Small Fabrication Department has been able to lower their department’s burden rate. A burden rate is the overhead costs associated with the hourly rate and capital cost for the work center. Better managing their costs and delivering more finished goods has made this work center increasingly more profitable and brought in a new customer base.
“There is a science behind manufacturing,” said Westly L. Woodruff, President/ CEO. “We are actively analyzing our processes to more effectively manage costs, efficiently produce quality goods and services, and maximize profitability of production. This approach is how we are strategically advancing MT into a world-class manufacturing facility. We will continue to move forward!”
By Jen Chism CIEDA Marketing Manager
Q & A with Billy Lane
How many years have you been in manufacturing?
I have been at MT for 10 years. I started by just putting screws in a bag (kitting), and now I am second shift lead in the Composites Department's clean room, where composite materials are processed.
What jobs have you performed at MT over the years?
I have worked in just about every area at MT. I started out in the Kitting Department, but I also spent time welding and have run many of the machines. I have operated the saws, CNC machines and the waterjet cutter. I have been in the Composites Department for the last three years, since its inception.
Tell me about the Clean Room and what you do in there.
The Clean Room is where we cut and kit composite materials for use in building the Honda Jet for GKN Aerospace. For safety and compliance, we are required to wear necessary PPE such as a lab coat, hair net, gloves and if necessary a face net for anyone with a beard. It is critically important that we keep the Clean Room free of dust, hair or foreign debris.
What is a common misnomer of working in the Clean Room?
From the outside, people think it's an easy job. However, we know that our efforts keep the Honda Jet passengers and general public safe. We understand that a wrong cut or even something as simple as a hair getting into the product could result in a defective product. Our compliance standards require that we have to adhere to the proper safety measures at all times because we know that lives are on the line. We take that responsibility very seriously.
What is your favorite part of working in composites?
I enjoy building things. We cut and kit the composite material for the Honda Jet Program and specifically the fuselage. In the past, the team had the opportunity to travel to Tallassee to see where the Honda Jet is manufactured. That trip allowed us to be able to see the finished product, and that was powerful because we got to see where our work efforts culminate. I also get an overwhelming sense of accomplishment when we meet our goals and complete the project and get it to the customer on time.
How did you find out about Muskogee Technology?
I was sold on the company when I was 15 years old. I was involved in the summer youth program at Poarch. We did a tour of Muskogee Metalworks (MT's original business name) when it was located on Highway 21. Mal McGhee performed the tour and from the way he spoke about the company's manufacturing efforts, I knew that day that I wanted to be a part of it. Fast forward 20 years; now I am the 2nd shift lead in the Composites Department at MT. I take great pride in what we do here. It is satisfying to know that I am of service to the Tribe and my efforts in some part have helped in growing MT over the years. I love coming to work; there is just something about this place that makes me want to get up and come to work each day.
By Jen Chism CIEDA Marketing Manager
Welding is the process of joining metals by extreme heat. Its history can be traced back 2,000 years ago, the earliest being a Bronze Age example of small circular gold boxes made by pressure welding lap joints together. Today, welding is used extensively in light to heavy fabrication processes such as seen at Muskogee Technology (MT). There are many types of welding including SMAW, GTAW, FCAW, and GMAW. Gas Metal Arc Welding commonly referred to as “MIG”, and Gas Tungsten Arc Welding commonly referred to as “TIG”, are utilized daily in Muskogee Technology operations. This process is commonly used in MT’s light and heavy fabrication departments for products in industries such as wind energy, oil and gas, and shipbuilding. MIG welding is most suitable for fusing mild steel or common ferrous metals.
Another common process used at MT is TIG welding or Tungsten Arc Welding which requires a higher level of expertise from the operator. TIG welding is most commonly used for carrying out work where a superior standard of finish is desired without needing to use clean up processes like sanding or grinding with nonferrous metals.
Stick or ARC welding is the most basic of all welding types. It is best suited for heavy metal size four millimeters and upwards and applicable in all weld positions. Welding is a highly specialized area of expertise. At MT, welders fall into a classification scale that spans from a general Welder I up to Welder IV, the highest level of welding experience. Thomas Ardis works at MT North as a level IV welder with over 20 plus years of experience. He is currently the Shift Lead. He has been working with MT since 2002. When asked about what changes have been seen in the industry over the past few years, Thomas stated Muskogee Technology’s growth and expansion have better positioned the company to more effectively compete and to produce higher quality products.
Regarding what he likes best about welding, Thomas likes “getting under the hood,” and enjoys the solitude of welding. Welding represents a large portion of the manufacturing work done at Muskogee Technology, which is why dedicated welders are so important to the success and continued development of the organization.
By Jen Chism CIEDA Marketing Manager
CNC machining is a manufacturing process in which pre-programmed computer software dictates the movement of factory tools and machinery. CNC stands for "computer numerical control" and is the process by which Muskogee Technology (MT) fabricates many of its parts for customers in an array of industries.
CNC machine programs typically fall into two categories: CAM technology (CNC programming with use of CAM software) and conversational technology (CNC programming at the machine without use of CAD/CAM software). At MT's machines are capable of both technologies. Included in their arsenal of machinery you will find water jet, plasma and torch cutters, as well as lathes, milling, bending and forming machines.
To the onlooker, a CNC system might resemble a regular set of computer components, but the software programs and consoles employed in CNC machining distinguish it from all other forms of computation. The dimensions for a given part are set into place with computer-aided design (CAD) software and then converted into an actual finished product with computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software. CNC machining rapidly advances shop productivity by automating the highly technical and labor intensive processes. Additionally automated cuts dramatically improve both the speed and the accuracy of the parts being created.
RedStone Arsenal Ribbon Cutting
In January 2016, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians donated $1,000,000 to help relocate Gate 9 at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. The security access gate needed to be moved three quarters of a mile to alleviate traffic jams and improve unsafe driving conditions caused by the more than twenty thousand people using the gate daily.
Redstone Arsenal sits close to both PCI Aviation, a tribally-owned 8A company that provides services to the defense industry, and Townplace Suites at Redstone, a Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority (CIEDA) investment property.
On August 16th, an official ribbon cutting was held for the relocated Gate 9 at Redstone. In attendance was Governor Kay Ivey, many high-level state and local government and defense representatives, and a delegation from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Attending on behalf of the Tribe were Tribal Council Members Robert McGhee, Eddie L. Tullis, Dewitt Carter and Keith Martin. Also in attendance were James T. Martin, President/CEO, CIEDA; Mal McGhee, President, PCI Aviation; Westley L. Woodruff, President/CEO, Muskogee Technology and Billy Hunt, President, PCI Support Services.
"We are proud to have been part of a project that will benefit the State, especially the people in Madison County that moved and widened Gate 9 for travelers to have better access to the Army base. It was great to be at this event and to see the finished project, which will serve so many people," stated Robert McGhee, Vice Chair, Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
"We are pleased to have expanded the Tribe’s interest in Huntsville and the surrounding area and look forward to future opportunities," said CIEDA President/CEO James T. Martin.
"The exposure that the Tribe has gained from these types of partnerships has aided in the marketing of PCI Aviation. Everyone in the Huntsville area is quickly learning about the Poarch Creek Indians and their mission," stated Mal McGhee.
"This was a first-rate event and the result of many partnerships coming together. It is exciting to see the broadening of the Tribe’s endeavors around the State," said Billy Hunt.
Governor Ivey was among the speakers at the invitation only ribbon cutting. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians was recognized and thanked for their commitment to the effort to move Gate 9, and a monument is soon to be erected signifying the support Redstone Arsenal received from the Tribe. This event was just one stop on Governor Ivey’s Listen, Learn, Help and Lead Tour, where she is working to learn the needs of the community and its businesses by visiting citizens in their respective environments.
After the ribbon cutting ceremonies, Muskogee Technology President/CEO Westly L. Woodruff, CPP was among those who toured the facilities at Science and Engineering Services (SES). "Muskogee Technology is enthusiastically pursuing opportunities to advance relationships with industry leading defense manufacturing companies, and it is always beneficial to see the operations of a dynamic defense contractor like SES," stated Woodruff.
Muskogee Technology's New President/CEO
Sometimes to take an award winning team like Muskogee Technology to the next level you have to change the quarterback, and that's exactly what they did when they brought on Westly L. Woodruff as their new President/CEO.
"We are confident that his many years of manufacturing experience will prove an asset to Muskogee Technology's continued success," said James T. Martin, CIEDA President/CEO.
This is the second time Woodruff has worked for Muskogee Technology. He worked as a welder over 21 years ago when the company was called Muskogee Metalworks.
"I think we had about nine employees back then, and Westinghouse in Pensacola was our primary customer," said Woodruff. "It's truly a pleasure to return to CIEDA and pursue business opportunities for the advancement of Muskogee Technology. What we do here is great and I am confident that through teamwork we can develop Muskogee Technology into a world-class manufacturing facility and industry leader in minority supplies."
Woodruff has an extensive background working in manufacturing, having worked ten years at Huhtamaki Retail Business Unit Chinet Division and five years in the steel fabrication and manufacturing industry before returning home to work for the Tribe. He is no stranger to facilitating and developing cohesive and highly functioning teams.
He has previously served as the Procurement Officer, managing all facilities and internal construction needs for CIEDA operations. Most recently Woodruff served as the Facilities Division Director at Tribal Government, overseeing the departments of Facilities, Natural Resources, and Public Works.
2016 Boeing Excellence Award
Muskogee Technology has received the 2016 Boeing Silver Award. The Boeing Co. issues the award annually to recognize suppliers who have achieved superior performance. Muskogee Technology maintained a Silver composite performance rating for each month of the 12-month performance period, from Oct. 1, 2015, to Sept. 30, 2016. The awards are presented to companies the following year.
"Based on this outstanding achievement, Muskogee Technology also has earned recognition as a Boeing Performance Excellence Award recipient," a spokesman for Boeing said.
This year, Boeing recognized 480 suppliers who achieved either a Gold or Silver level Boeing Performance Excellence Award. Muskogee Technology is one of only 402 suppliers to receive the Silver level of recognition.
Muskogee Technology is owned and operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority overseas the day-to-day operations of the Tribe's diversified portfolio.
"We are honored to once again be recognized by Boeing, and we are dedicated to providing quality service to each of our clients," Muskogee Technology President and CEO Westly L. Woodruff said.
Aerospace partnership celebrated
A crowd of more than 200 came out to Muskogee Technology’s open house Friday, April 24, to celebrate the partnership it has established with GKN Aerospace. City, state and local government officials, economic developers and educational institution leaders were given tours of the flagship manufacturing plant and the new heavy fabrication facility, Muskogee Technology North, both in Atmore, Ala.
“The reason we are gathered here today is to unveil to the general public the transformation that has happened here at Muskogee Technology,” said James T. Martin, CEO of Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority.
Many public figures spoke during a special presentation.
“Without companies like Muskogee Technology and GKN, we would not be able to do what we do in the state,” Deputy Secretary of Commerce Angela Till said. “We look at new industries … and everybody gets excited over those, but actually it’s our existing industries in the state that is the backbone of our economy.”
GKN’s top officials also spoke at the event.
“Muskogee Technology delivers quality parts to the very first private jet ever made of carbon fiber, and this is just the start of a journey,” President and CEO of GKN Aerostructures North America Daniele Cagnetel said.
“I was very excited to see the facilities here, and when … I was introduced to a member of staff, and the first thing she told me was, ‘You know, I love my job.’ That’s the true fiber that makes Alabama successful and makes this place successful and will keep them (MT) growing.”
Vice President and General Manager of GKN Aerospace North America Jeff Barger said he was impressed with Muskogee Technology from the beginning.
“The quality of the parts and the on-time delivery has been exceptional.”
Also on hand were members of the Tribal Council of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
“We know the importance of building relationships with companies, as shown in our partnership with GKN, and how opportunities for businesses creates jobs for the state of Alabama,” Tribal Chair Stephanie A. Bryan said.
Tribal Vice Chair Robert McGhee spoke of the history of the tribe and how the partnership with GKN is meaningful.
“I love the fact that GKN’s own facility in Tallassee, Ala., are on the lands that once was Creek Indian lands of Tukabatchee,” McGhee said.
“Poarch is a family; it is our family. So our business ventures, all of them, are deeply personal to us. These enterprises create jobs and economic security for us and for our neighbors, and that is critically important now and years to come.”
Muskogee Technology expands to accommodate new machines
What do you do when you have huge machines and equipment but do not have a facility large enough to house them? As the old adage goes, “build it and they will come.”
That is exactly what Muskogee Technology in Atmore, Ala., has done. In July 2014, the need for expansion was obvious when the Poarch Creek-owned company started receiving heavy fabrication contracts, which required a new brake press machine so big they are literally erecting a building around them. Thus, MT North was born.
“By having this machine in-house, it allows us to eliminate the cost of going outside the company and is a lot faster for us to do ourselves” instead of sending products off to be finished, said Accounting Manager Lou Roberts.
After purchasing the old Brantley’s Tires building on North Main Street, part of the building was torn down to make room for the machine in its 12,000-square-foot space. Roberts said the machine is on order and will be arriving within a few weeks. After arrival and placement on the recently poured foundation, it will take another couple of weeks to build the building.
“The brake press is AB 600-14, which allows for a 600-ton capacity and has a 14-foot bed,” said Procurement Officer Wes Woodruff.
According to Jeff Nelson, Muskogee Technology plant manager, the equipment forms sheet metal and will allow the company to better fabricate steel parts for its customers, which include Caterpillar, Gardner Denver, Siemens and others.
MT North also has a new plasma cutter. This machine will cut up to 6 inches of carbon steel and is more efficient than the water jets used at the south end facility.
The plasma cutter is an HPR 400 machine, which uses a special technology for cutting metal to create extreme and lasting results.
Muskogee Technology North opened in August 2014 and already churns out tons of parts using the plasma cutting machine, straightening presses and heavy welding areas to make FRAC pumps and wind turbine tooling. The company prides itself on 100 percent on-time delivery and responsiveness in creating and manufacturing high-quality products and by implementing government-needed services with precision.
Capitalizing on its state-of-the-art software, Muskogee Technology demonstrates its professionalism and accuracy on doing things right the first time and every time. Muskogee Tech measures its success by making sure its customers are satisfied and get supreme products that are set to high standards.
Massive freezer creates big opportunities for Muskogee Technology
Business is booming at Muskogee Technology, and the reasons behind it are recent additions to the facilities in Atmore. Partnering with GKN Aerospace gave Muskogee Technology opportunities to work with quality customers and produce quality parts. The company utilized the space it has by expanding its abilities to manufacture at a higher level, building an industrial freezer and adding a cleanroom to produce parts.
Muskogee Technology began building the freezer in 2013 and started housing composite materials it purchased from GKN in May 2014. Since then, a cleanroom has been installed and four cutting machines were brought in to cut the material for GKN and its customers.
Those parts are made out of what is called prepreg composites, which made the freezer at Muskogee Technology necessary for complete operation. Prepreg is a temperature-sensitive material and must be stored at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or colder to prolong its shelf life. At Muskogee Technology, the freezer is kept between 0 and -5 degrees Fahrenheit, said Mal McGhee, director of marketing for Muskogee Tech. The shelf life of inventory kept in the freezer is about two years.
MT makes parts for various aircraft, engine inlets and other commercial components, such as rotor blades and assembly structures. Having a freezer in-house allows the company to work more efficiently and have better access to the material.
“When it’s thawed out, the material is in a roll of fabric, kind of like vinyl,” McGhee said. “It is then laid down on cutting machines and they cut the material using computerized knife cutting software.”
Muskogee Technology has been working with GKN for a couple of years, McGhee said. With the addition of the freezer and cleanroom cutting machines, the company now has the ability to mass produce products for its customers.
New cleanroom expands Muskogee Tech’s composite capabilities
Muskogee Technology has received the next certification in its steps to become a leading company in the aerospace industry. The company previously was certified on the industrial freezers it constructed to house composite fibers.
On Feb. 11, Muskogee Tech achieved its quality certification from GKN Aerospace on the new cleanroom MT has installed to produce parts for its GKN contract, including making parts for its customers. This certification allows Muskogee Tech to go into full production cutting composite material for GKN, a global engineering group.
Four new Eastman cutter machines have been installed in the cleanroom, which is an almost perfect environmental room consisting of the lowest levels of pollutants possible. By controlling the level of contamination, the cleanroom provides the most sterile of conditions for manufacturing excellence.
Muskogee Tech now will be able to perform at its highest level, making this certification a milestone for the company.
“This is the next step in our partnership agreement with GKN,” said Lou Roberts, accounting manager at Muskogee Technology. Roberts said the company first purchased inventory in a consignment agreement for production, then completed the industrial freezers to house the inventory internally. Now, with this certification in place, Muskogee Technology becomes a qualified vendor to perform the necessary tasks for even larger manufacturing work in the aerospace industry.
What that means for the GKN contract, Roberts said, is “to take a portion of that inventory, take it out for (GKN’s) customer, and cut it into kits to send back to GKN in Tallassee (Ala.), who will take those kits and put them into the form of a fuselage (the main body of an aircraft).”
The kits are designed in halves, the right side and the left side, and will be fitted into molds to make a complete fuselage, which will be baked in an autoclave oven, using the pre-fabricated materials from the freezer, until it becomes hard.
With this new endeavor comes the opportunity for more jobs. Roberts said about 10 new people will be employed to run the machines and about three or four others will further increase their responsibilities at Muskogee Tech.
“It’s a whole new operation we’ve never done (before) … it’s a whole new kind of quality function our quality team has not been exposed to,” Roberts said. “Although we are in the aerospace industry, we haven’t been into full-blown airplane construction” until now.