Rapid prototyping success through an exceptional team
How passionate are you about your work team? Are they the reason you joined the company and what makes your work exceptional? In this episode of MindSET, we are talking with Trip Ferguson, Director of Manufacturing at Dynetics, a Leidos company.
“I want to be surrounded by the smartest people in the industry, and I believe Dynetics provides that, and I feel very confident that the resources will be available for me to succeed.”
Trip leads the team responsible for safety, quality supply and manufacturing operations at Dynetics, and he’s very vocal about his belief in their capabilities, in particular their unique process for design, rapid prototyping and manufacturing.
And this team is exceptional. They have perfected a collaborative approach to designing, prototyping, and manufacturing incredibly complex solutions like weapon systems to cables and harnesses. Working together at the Huntsville, AL, location, the team is able to take their customers’ requirements from design to prototype and get them up to rigid government standards and international standards in an accelerated timeline.
“Our technicians are highly qualified. If there's one thing that separates Dynetics from everyone else it’s we have the best people. We have frontline employees that have full ownership in what we do. And they're all trained to meet and exceed industry standards.”
On today’s podcast:
- How Dynetics uses rapid prototyping to solve complex problems
- Core capabilities of Dynetics and its manufacturing operations team
- What projects are best suited for rapid prototyping
- The biggest opportunities and challenges related to rapid prototyping
- What sets the Dynetics team apart from competitors
Trip Ferguson (00:00): I really believe that in order to be successful in one's professional career, they have to be surrounded by people that have a common thread that they believe in. And the culture of Dynetics is strong. I wanted to be surrounded by the smartest people in the industry, and I believe Dynetics provides that.
Bridget Bell (00:21): Welcome to MindSET, a Leidos podcast. I'm your host, Bridget Bell.
Meghan Good (00:26): And I'm your host, Meghan Good. Join us as we talk with pioneers in science, engineering, and technology, to understand their creative mindset and share their stories of innovation.
Bridget Bell (00:39): On today's episode of MindSET, we're speaking with Trip Ferguson, who's the director of manufacturing operations for Dynetics, a Leidos company. We really get into what Trip's team does, as far as safety, quality, supply, and operations specific to rapid prototyping.
Meghan Good (00:56): I think one of the key parts of our conversation was around their Huntsville campus. Could you imagine 20 buildings where people are doing all of this design and prototype and engineering? As he was describing it, for me, I just can't wait to go and visit and get that sensory feel of what's really happening within their walls.
Bridget Bell (01:17): And I really want to meet the team there because as he was talking, you heard how talented this team is, and how it's the best of the best, working to solve these really highly complex problems.
Meghan Good (01:30): And speaking of the problems, some of the programs he's discussing from weapons systems to cables and harnesses to printing on their own computer boards, they're very complex. And yet, they're able to take it from design to prototype and getting it up to really rigid government standards and international standards, for that matter, in a really quick timeline.
Meghan Good (01:51): And you even might've heard of Dynetics in the news recently with their win to be one of three companies, potentially landing somebody on the moon. It's really impressive.
Bridget Bell (02:02): What's also impressive is looking at what opportunities they have coming in the future. And you can hear Trip's passion when he talks about why the future is so bright for Dynetics, and also why he joined Dynetics just about 18 months ago, and what brought him in his career journey there. So with that, let's get started with our conversation with Trip.
Bridget Bell (02:30): Today, we're speaking with Trip Ferguson, Director of Manufacturing Operations for Dynetics, a Leidos company. Trip leads their team responsible for safety, quality, supply and operation. And we'll be asking him more about his team's unique process for design, rapid prototyping and manufacturing.
Bridget Bell (02:47): Welcome, Trip. So Trip, can you tell us a little bit about your background and role at Dynetics?
Trip Ferguson (02:52): Absolutely. First, thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet with you today. I joined Dynetics 18 months ago, and it has been the best decision I've ever made. I came to Dynetics with a pretty diverse background. I was fortunate to serve in the United States Marine Corps post-9/11 and experienced three combat deployments. So I had a rich appreciation for a lot of the products that we provide and the warriors that it supports and helps defend our country. I also had the opportunity to work in the energy sector of [inaudible 00:03:24] device firearms, and one of the best experiences was actually working in nonprofit.
Trip Ferguson (03:29): One of the great things about Dynetics is that we do get to help our country and the world and make a difference. And I'm just very grateful to be part of the Leidos team.
Meghan Good (03:40): And we're glad to have you as part of our team. And with that, just a question for you, since Dynetics is newer to our team, can you describe the type of team members that are joining us from Dynetics?
Trip Ferguson (03:53): Our team members are intelligent. They are technically competent. They are focused on their craft. I find them to be creative, committed, accountable to the projects that they support. But most importantly, what you'll find at Dynetics is an atmosphere family, and we treat one another with kindness. We have an emphasis on integrity, respect and dignity for all team members, and anyone that partners or works with us will feel that same respect and dignity. And that's one of the foundations that makes Dynetics special.
Bridget Bell (04:27): So you've talked about your team and it sounds really impressive. And I'm curious how you all work together at Dynetics.
Trip Ferguson (04:33): Well, at Dynetics we are mission-focused. And when I say that, we organize ourselves to meet customer requirements and mission. Therefore, we have a very flat hierarchy. We believe that we put the right people in the right place at the right time, and we're committed to our actions, and we're always willing to help one another, no matter how challenging the topic or situation.
Bridget Bell (04:58): So trip, can you describe some of the core capabilities of the manufacturing operations team at Dynetics?
Trip Ferguson (05:03): Yes. Dynetics takes great pride in the ability to design, prototype, and manufacture. We focus on electrical and mechanical assemblies. We also integrate and test. Our team has a true belief that we can develop hardware to meet customer challenges, but we focus on safety, quality, compliance, and agility first for our customers. We understand that we need to provide a rate production capability for programs of national importance. In order to meet these requirements, we have a capability of precision machining and fabrication. We really cherish our ability to have agile processes to meet our customer's needs. We have both mill and lathe capability for small and large products, and we machine the most challenging materials.
Trip Ferguson (05:58): Beyond machining, we provide aerospace welding, mil spec painting, composites for both mold and part fabrication. In addition, we have a deep heritage in inspection and nondestructive testing.
Trip Ferguson (06:14): One of the things that separates Dynetics from other primes is our ability to work at both the unclassified and the classified machining levels for our nation's priorities. Beyond machining, we have a great capability that we opened last year in electronics manufacturing. We focus on avionics, radar and defense. We have in-house capability with an automated surface mount technology to create printed circuit boards. And one of the important areas which we vertically integrated is the ability to actually hand load onto printed circuit boards in-house.
Trip Ferguson (06:50): This is a great capability that allows our design engineers to work side by side with technicians to solve some of the most challenging problems. We also have a cable and harness capability, which we primarily focus on low volume, high complexity products for the aerospace industry. In addition, we have a qualified weapons and systems integration capability, which we currently are producing products at the rate of thousands in this arena.
Trip Ferguson (07:21): Of note, we recently have installed an electronic beam welding capability. It's the largest system in the Western hemisphere. If you can imagine driving a tractor trailer into a welder that can basically provide efficiency of what used to take 500 passes down to one pass, we have that capability at Dynetics now. From an R&D perspective, we support advanced materials, such things as high tech applications, micro electronics and sensors, and novel materials. Most recently, you've seen Dynetics on the news within the space industry. We produce satellites, human-rated spaceflight hardware, and advanced life support systems. And as you can see from our capabilities, we work to the most highest complex down to commercial unclassified programs, and we're excited to have all these capabilities in-house.
Bridget Bell (08:12): Okay. So you mentioned that Dynetics started as an engineering company, but it's obviously evolved to have much more broad capabilities. Can you talk us through that journey?
Trip Ferguson (08:22): Absolutely. Dynetics takes a lot of pride in the growth over the past four decades. And beginning within the expertise in engineering, Dynetics saw an opportunity to provide robust prototyping for their customers. And as we move into the past decade, we've seen Dynetics specifically invest in capabilities on campus, both mechanical, electrical platforms, so that we could provide services to build large prototypes for weapons systems, as well as small prototypes for box build capabilities and electronics.
Trip Ferguson (08:57): And kind of ask, why would Dynetics do this? And we heard from our customers that it was a need, and our leadership was willing to invest and willing to resource our engineers. And they were very excited to tackle challenging work. And that's what's led us to today, where now we have over 20 buildings in Huntsville, providing premier services for both commercial and government customers. And now we can fully design, we can prototype, and we can provide production support for any of our customers.
Bridget Bell (09:31): I'm always impressed by that laundry list of everything that Dynetics can do. And I'm really curious, with all of your capabilities, how do you work with partners, suppliers, customers, everyone in the industry?
Trip Ferguson (09:46): Well, first and foremost, we believe in respect and dignity for both our internal team members and our partners. We believe relationships are built on trust and integrity. And one of the things you'll find different with Dynetics, we truly have a willingness to listen to the challenges of our partners and be part of the problem solving process to ensure overall team success. Success for us is that all team members win. We like to do things better. We desire to partner with those who want to make us better as well. So we look for those who ensure that the product we provide is the best possible available.
Bridget Bell (10:26): So with all of that, what are the key reasons that Dynetics has been successful in meeting these customer needs, and so fast too?
Trip Ferguson (10:34): At Dynetics, we believe in it and a strong culture, how we treat one another. We also believe we have to have the smartest team members available. You'll see that our human resources team recruits the best. Period. And we also provide resources to our employees, both from a fiscal perspective and a human perspective. You'll find at Dynetics, our team members have passion for solving complex problems. That's why they want to be at Dynetics. We have an incredible willingness to adapt people, process, and system to meet our customer needs, with a focus really on problem solving and agility. We approach problems with a common sense attitude. And we always ask ourselves, how could we do that faster and more efficiently. We really lean forward with internal investments to help our customers succeed. We don't wait. We like to be successful, and we're committed to longterm relationships at Dynetics, and it's just the way... It's really the fabric of our DNA at Dynetics.
Bridget Bell (11:33): Okay. So I want to dig into the topic that we're going to be discussing in depth today, regarding Dynetics' rapid prototyping capabilities. So I'm curious, how is your process different than the typical design, prototype, and manufacturer process that you would normally see?
Trip Ferguson (11:51): Our employees are focused on mission, quality, compliance, and agility. We take pride in removing waste and red tape, and we tailor our processes and systems to meet customer needs. And we always ask the hard questions up front so that we can be as efficient as possible. We take great pride in our vertical integration, to reduce lead time and build a pathway, so design engineers can work directly with our manufacturing engineers and our technicians. And that's really a key point. We provide a lot of access, so that we have people talking to one another, collaborating, and solving problems. Our facilities, our platform is top tier for assembly, integration, and test. We have High Bay, Low Bay, lab capabilities that really provide us the ability to manufacture across our Huntsville campus, for any requirement of a customer.
Trip Ferguson (12:45): And in addition, we work well with our government partners. We have a transparent relationship with our onsite DCMA team, and we believe that is critical. And we treat all of our friends and the government with respect. We find that we need to meet all of the industry recognized workmanship standards, such as any of the Chase standards or IPC standards, as well as compliance to industry recognized program standards, AS9100, QMS systems, AS5553, counterfeit parts prevention programs, thought prevention programs, ESD production programs. Our technicians are highly qualified. If there's one thing that separates Dynetics from everyone else, it's we have the best people. We have frontline employees that have full ownership in what we do, and they're all trained to meet and exceed industry standards. And bottom line, we build it better because we believe in our mission, and we feel grateful for the opportunity to work on the most challenging projects.
Bridget Bell (13:44): And speaking of projects, can you give us a little insight into what types of customers and their projects that the rapid prototyping process works best for?
Trip Ferguson (13:54): Most of our customers have gone to other primes and haven't found solutions that really fit their needs. Commonly, we hear that others provide lead times that are beyond what our customers require, and also the collaboration that's needed. So most of our customers have highly complex problems that most others find too challenging. We enjoy that challenge. Most of our customers have solutions that require design engineering to be closely aligned to manufacturing operations, and complete transparency in how we move from design prototype into production. Fortunately and unfortunately, we have extremely critical timelines and cost pressures, so we have to be cost competitive, and agility and efficiency is paramount. And we see our customers have a desire to move forward, prior to design being perfect or being fully put in place. So we're able to lean forward to solve problems and shore up our design process in parallel. Our customers genuinely just working with our people because they treat them the right way.
Bridget Bell (15:03): So it sounds like what really sets Dynetics apart is your extremely talented team, the ability to address those highly complex problems, and then the campus and having the design, prototyping, and manufacturing capabilities all in one place. So can you talk more about what production programs are currently ongoing in Huntsville?
Trip Ferguson (15:26): Yes, at Dynetics, we find that we have been very successful in defense weapons systems production. Within a matter of years, we were able to move from initial design to small scale production, now into a large scale production into the thousands, supporting our customer requirements. I spoke earlier to Dynetics' willingness to lean in and fund to meet customer needs. And we do that often in this area. It's really impressive how our design engineers are able to listen to customers, to understand their need, and then for us to be able to move that into a production capability. And it's one of the things we definitely take pride in. We see similar short timelines within even weeks and months, within our printed circuit board capability.
Trip Ferguson (16:17): Recently supporting a NASA program, within a matter of 18 months, we were able to move from prototype to finished product into production on a critical path item for NASA. And we were only able to do that through the collaboration for both our internal and external partners. We see similar needs in our production programs in cables and harnesses. We deal with very low volume, high complexity products, and oftentimes design prototype to production in this area will occur within a week's time.
Trip Ferguson (16:53): We also have production programs supporting commercial industries. We provide automotive test equipment into large automotive. We also provide commercial ground radar systems supporting critical infrastructure. We enjoy supporting numerous classified programs, which I can't get into today. But as you can see from the examples above, there are multiple different programs that we do support that are in production, that grew out of our prototyping heritage.
Bridget Bell (17:21): So within that list of your production programs there, the one word I didn't hear is hypersonics. And ever since Leidos started talking with Dynetics, that has been the key word that I've heard all the time in our technology strategy sessions, is that the future is hypersonics. Now I'm wondering with rapid prototyping, what are you seeing as some of the biggest opportunities and challenges that you'll be facing?
Trip Ferguson (17:48): As Dynetics has grown from a smaller organization into now a very large organization, fortunately, even larger with Leidos, We have to be very aware that our growth will enable us to continue to serve our customers how we have in the past. We have to be cautious, as we build process and build capability, that it remains agile and that our quality is top notch. Currently within hypersonics, we're able to leverage all of our learnings of the past, as we're building a state of the art facility to support that new program in and around hypersonics. Right now, we're focused on the design and prototyping aspects, and we'll be moving it into a production capability in the months and hopefully the years to come.
Bridget Bell (18:32): So looking at the months and years to come, it sounds like there's a lot of opportunities and areas of growth for Dynetics. And so I would characterize it as your future is very bright. I'm curious why you think you have these opportunities for the operations team?
Trip Ferguson (18:50): Well, first and foremost, our people are the best. Our customers' willingness to give us their most challenging problems and our business's alignment two critical programs within our government to have the ability to work within hypersonics, now human lander, to work within directed energy. These are just very exciting times, and employees want to work in Dynetics. And the way we treat our folks will enable us to continue to recruit the best and to cultivate a really positive environment for the future for our business.
Bridget Bell (19:26): Well, thanks for telling us so much about your team and the kinds of work that you guys are doing down in Huntsville, but I'm curious a little bit more about you, Trip. What led you to come to Dynetics? What about the mission and the work that you do really keeps you excited to be building these awesome prototypes?
Trip Ferguson (19:45): I came to Dynetics for several reasons. The first was culture. I really believe that in order to be successful in one's professional career, they have to be surrounded by people that have a common thread that they believe in. And the culture of Dynetics is strong. I wanted to be surrounded by the smartest people in the industry, and I believe Dynetics provides that. And I felt very confident that the resources would be available for me to succeed.
Trip Ferguson (20:12): I love Dynetics, and I love where I work, and I believe that we're the premier organization to be employed with within our region. One of the things you'll find in Dynetics is that all of our employees care for one another. We appreciate both the human aspect, as well as the professional aspect, but we all believe in our mission. And I had a prior experience where I served during the Battle of Fallujah 2004, and I saw firsthand the goodness of hard work that came out of industry. And for me, to have the opportunity to do that at a world class organization was just an opportunity I couldn't pass up.
Bridget Bell (20:52): You can even hear the passion in your voice when you talk about your role at Dynetics, and so it's obvious why you came here 18 months ago and joined the team. And we're so glad to get to talk to you about it. So as we wrap up our conversation, for our listeners who are interested in how this process, the rapid prototyping process, can apply to their products, any final guidance you want to give them?
Trip Ferguson (21:17): I would just recommend that they reach out to our points of contacts in the industry or visit dynetics.com. We love to build new partnerships and to face new challenges. So we're here to serve, we're here to build it better, and we're committed to excellence.
Bridget Bell (21:35): Well, thank you for joining us today, Trip.
Trip Ferguson (21:37): Yeah, it was a pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity. And I look forward to the exciting times we have in our future.
Bridget Bell (21:43): Thanks for listening to MindSET. If you enjoyed this episode, please share with your colleagues and visit leidos.com/mindset. And if you're specifically interested in Dynetics, visit dynetics.com. That's D-Y-N-E-T-I-C-S.com.