Lockheed Martin’s business strategy relies on diversity
Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company. But its supplier diversity leader points to
the big impact of small and diverse “strategic partners”
As a top defense contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp (Bethesda, MD) relies on the innovations and unique skills of its business partners to deliver effective, cost-saving solutions to the federal government. Subcontracting with minority and women-owned businesses is a critical component of the company’s business strategy, says Suzanne Raheb, corporate supplier diversity leader.
“Lockheed Martin has more than forty small business liaison officers who actively search the market for small businesses to partner with the company. Company representatives attend more than eighty outreach events each year,” says Raheb.
Supplier Wire connections
Another major outreach tool is Supplier Wire, a Lockheed Martin website through which vendors can access a wide range of resources, including webinars, videos, chat sessions and supplier profiles.
“It’s a way for us to educate diverse suppliers and empower them to engage with us without leaving their offices,” Raheb says. “Supplier Wire strengthens our outreach and helps us actively look for suppliers. And it helps suppliers interact with us through social media and web-based solutions.”
Online chat sessions, one of the most recent additions to the site, let suppliers communicate directly with Lockheed Martin procurement specialists, Raheb says. Webinar topics have included cybersecurity, Small Business Innovation Research partnerships and opportunities for veteran-owned businesses. Supplier Wire also includes a list of “What we buy” that details the business categories to which Lockheed Martin outsources, including information technology, manufacturing and technical services.
Supplier Wire is one of several corporate initiatives under Lockheed Martin’s Department of Defense (DoD) comprehensive contracting plan, which the company initiated in 2004. The DoD plan requires Lockheed Martin to establish specific procurement spending goals, negotiated through the DoD’s Defense Contract Management Agency, for small businesses, women-owned small business, small disadvantaged businesses, veteran-owned small businesses and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.
“Every September we negotiate new goals based on the business environment, active contracts and projections for orders,” notes Raheb. The company has exceeded its goals for the past three years, she adds proudly. “In fiscal year 2012, we did over $1.1 billion with small disadvantaged businesses. With women-owned small business, we did almost $1.3 billion.”
Cummings Aerospace provides niche engineering services
Cummings Aerospace (Huntsville, AL) supports Lockheed Martin’s Targets and Countermeasures program. The management, design and system engineering components of the program, which supplies unarmed targets designed to stand in for adversary missiles during tests of the Ballistic Missile Defense System, are based in Huntsville.
The company was founded in 2009 by Sheila Cummings. It specializes in systems engineering, modeling and simulation, software engineering, test engineering and quality, safety and mission assurance. Cummings Aerospace became a Lockheed Martin supplier in 2010.
Before starting her own company, Cummings spent sixteen years in the defense industry, where she got extensive experience supporting Missile Defense Agency programs. She has a BS in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland-College Park.
“During most of my career, I have been a lead systems engineer supporting modeling and simulation, and also test planning and execution, on major DoD programs,” Cummings says.
In addition to its main office in Huntsville, Cummings Aerospace has offices in Orlando and Niceville, FL, near Eglin Air Force Base.
Cummings Aerospace is certified as an economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business. Lockheed Martin does not require third-party certification by organizations of diverse suppliers, but participating minority businesses must register as small disadvantaged businesses in the Lockheed Martin system. The company’s main authority for supplier eligibility is the federal government.
“As a prime contractor, we’re under the government’s supplier regulations,” Raheb says. “Small business suppliers are required to self-certify their subcategory status in our own internal system.”
Lockheed Martin offers both formal and informal mentoring to vendors. Its formal mentor-protégé program currently has eleven active agreements underway. The company also offers additional special training, through its Protégé 101 courses, to longtime suppliers it has identified as strategic partners. Cummings, whose company has already made good use of the Supplier Wire site, says she’s also interested in being part of the mentor-protégé program and “looking for the right opportunity to formalize an agreement with Lockheed Martin.”
A win-win relationship
As a result of its relationship with Lockheed Martin, Cummings Aerospace has been able to extend its engineering capabilities and add twelve additional employees. “As a small business, it’s been critical to us to be able to strengthen our core competencies and build the performance record that’s essential for future growth and helps us capture new business,” Cummings says.
In September 2012, the Huntsville/ Madison County Chamber of Commerce named Cummings Aerospace the government contracting small business of the year.
Raheb says the involvement of Cummings Aerospace has been critical to the success of the company’s Targets and Countermeasures program, which boasts forty-five successful target missions out of forty-six attempts from 1996 through September 2013. She points out that few businesses have the engineering and operational skills that Cummings Aerospace brings to the table.
“It’s difficult to find small businesses that are qualified and have the unique engineering and launch operations skills associated with a target launch system. They know design, development and flight test,” Raheb notes. “Not only did they get their foot in the door by having that niche area and differentiating themselves, but they’re on track to become a long-term strategic partner.”
Beyond that, she says, the firm’s competitive rates help keep down the costs of the program, thus helping Lockheed Martin’s client, the Missile Defense Agency, stay under budget.
The relationship with Cummings Aerospace is the model of what Lockheed Martin looks for in a strategic partner, Raheb says. “Sheila and Cummings Aerospace are a good example of how, by working together, we can provide business value to the end customer.”
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