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Lindbergh bought his airplane from Ryan in San Diego. Among the Ryan workers was Fred Rohr who would come up with great solutions to smashing aluminum and steel sheets into compound irregular shapes. He created Rohr Industries and built a huge factory in Chula Vista, a few miles south of San Diego. From before the war to the mid 60’s Rohr enjoyed a reputation for being the leaders in smashing thin metals into impossible configurations. They invented a method for exploding charges underwater to force metal skins into molds. They developed a process to use a huge capacitor charge in a spark plug like affair to convert water into pure oxygen and hydrogen and a millionth of a second later explode that concoction to make a water hammer with thousands of tons of pressure to form a part. Rohr, himself, had invented a capstan driven drop hammer to smash parts into shape.
In 1986 Rohr was a billion dollar a year company selling over $600,000.00 worth of nacelles and parts to Boeing in Seattle. They even had a sub-assembly plant next to Boeing for better service.
Then came Robert Daly recently fired from General Dynamics. A short stature, height challenged egomaniac, that to this day defies explanation as to how or why he ever reached management; concocted a cost saving process that excited then CEO Todd and later Goldsmith. Rubbing their hands in mahogany row they contemplated the millions in savings by not spending money on more tooling or systems. Let those who proposed improvements go through this new purchasing system, a dream come true, the Facilities Request process. Anybody wanting a new tool or system must justify it with uncanny and perfect calculations. There will be no guessing here, nothing new, nothing innovative… only the tired and true will ever pass the test!
Twenty two senior manufacturing research engineers, including Gil Cadwell (inventor of explosive fabrication, hydro forming, superplastic forming…. Etc…. etc… etc…) were to be ignored. After all, they only come up with ridiculously new and innovative crap!
I was one of them.
We identified opportunity after opportunity to make more parts with less effort and of better quality every day. Our hands were tied. I personally was reprimanded three times for bypassing the chain of
command to try to reach Mr. Goldsmith with the crazy idea that he, the CEO, really cared about the stockholders, customers and employees of the company.
Let’s end this quick because I’m getting sick.
Boeing tells us that they want the new tube endings to be welded using the newly developed orbital welding techniques. Mantech, our 22 research engineers get the word through the grapevine – not through official channels. We go to bat, find the suppliers, make test runs, come up with quotations from the potential suppliers of machines, supplies, training and implementation. We submit our first Facilities Request form which, in fact, required us to consult with legal. The paper did not move from in basket to action. So we developed a system that one of us would go to the facilities department every morning and see where the request happened to be, and possibly encourage the person holding the request to move it to the next cubby hole. All the while the Boeing representative, parking his car under the only shade tree in the parking lot, would make his appearance at the project manager’s office, only to be told the welding thing was making progress.
Time sometimes has wings and sometimes there is no memory of just how much time went by. But one day we all heard the news: Boeing has taken Rohr off their bid list and will only hold to existing contracts. From one day to the next, Rohr lost 60% of its business because of Robert Daly and his fabulous FR process which was loved, adored and admired by Todd and Goldsmith. May they live to regret it as Rohr was a 12,000 employee company and only months later a meager 1,000 employee company sold almost at auction to BF Goodrich. In disgust, Boeing bought their own facility in Wichita, Kansas. All because of a $60,000 orbital welder that could have been working in days.
Submitted by Wayne Lundberg, 10/27/2012