Gulfstream Turns Outdated Equipment into Advantage / Successful in Midst of Modernization Program

By May, Bill | THE JOURNAL RECORD, April 23, 1988 | Go to article overview

Gulfstream Turns Outdated Equipment into Advantage / Successful in Midst of Modernization Program


May, Bill, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Turning a business disadvantage into an advantage is one way to make a company grow, but it's a lot easier to talk about it than to do it.

Just ask Robert N. Buckley. He can speak from experience.

Buckley learned how hard it is as president of Gulfstream Aerospace Technologies at 7400 NW 54th St., a division of Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. of Savannah, Ga.

The Wiley Post Airport operation primarily produced avionics systems, wiring harnesses and sheet metal components for its parent company when he took over 18 months ago.

Today, it manufactures thousands of components for three airplane builders. This business expansion has come despite outdated equipment which was on hand when he became president of the division during a reorganization in February 1987.

Turning that outdated equipment into an advantage was the accomplishment of Buckley.

When he assumed leadership of the division, most of the equipment was 20 and 30 years old. Even though the Oklahoma City Council had approved a $12.9 million bond issue deal, which would provide an influx of cash to upgrade the plant, production had to be maintained until the deal was finalized.

In addition, production had to continue until new equipment was purchased, installed and workers were trained to use it.

That deal was completed and agreements signed Feb. 11. The city issued the bonds which were sold to Chrysler Corp., parent company of Gulfstream.

Proceeds of the bonds were used to buy the land and buildings from Gulfstream, which in turn leased the property for 20 years. Other funds from the bonds are being used to refurbish existing buildings. With its share of the money, Gulfstream is buying new equipment to modernize the plant and increase production.

However, though some of the equipment has been ordered and some already in use, the plant continues to meet production schedules utilizing the outdated technology in a modern industry.

Gulfstream has set aside $16 million to use over the next few years on the modernization program.

"When I got here," Buckley said, "I wondered what I had gotten into. The equipment was old and outdated. Production was down and we only had 430 employees.

"We wondered what we could do with that old equipment. High technology aircraft, like those being made today, don't lend themselves to taking a backward technology step.

"The more we worked on it, the more we figured that older airplanes, those designed and built in the 1950s and 1960s needed this type of equipment.

"After all, they were of this same technology."

Once company officials had reached this conclusion, an aggressive sales campaign was launched and the company began courting business from numerous commercial accounts. …

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