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Sourcing & Procurement

Woodward Aims to Use its Supply Chain for Strategic Advantage

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Woodward designs, manufactures and services energy control and optimization solutions for the aerospace industry.

Woodward isn’t just trying to improve its supply chain. The aerospace company wants to make it so good that the supply chain becomes a point of differentiation.

Fort Collins, Colo.-based Woodward, an independent designer, manufacturer and service provider of energy control and optimization solutions for the aerospace industry, hired Matteo Pisciotta last August to help lead that effort. Pisciotta has almost 25 years of experience in procurement and supply chain management in the automotive industry, and has implemented a series of best practices to improve Woodward’s supply chain. 

According to Pisciotta, the supply chain’s role in the aerospace industry has been greatly underutilized when compared to other manufacturing segments. In fact, Pisciotta says the role of the supply chain is “a bit archaic” in the aerospace industry.

“That doesn’t mean I don’t think [the aerospace industry] doesn’t think the supply chain is important,” he adds. “It’s just that the aerospace industry hasn’t invested in the tools and capabilities to assure the supply chain is sound and tailored to the needs of the business.”

That’s where Woodward is breaking away from the norm and is committed to creating a robust supply chain. Pisciotta credits Woodward’s leadership team for putting the people in place to make that happen.

“The people here, and not just the leadership, are very receptive to new ideas,” he says. “They see the supply chain as a key strategic advantage,” he adds.

‘Significant Challenge’

Woodward is a growing company, Pisciotta says, and it needs to take advantage of its size and scale by driving common processes and practices throughout the organization. But before implementing measures to improve Woodward’s supply chain, Pisciotta had to embrace the nuances of his new industry.

“It’s outside my frame of reference with respect to the internal customer base, and the industry is completely different to what I’m accustomed to,” he says. “If I just carbon-copied everything I’ve learned from my past to this situation, there would be suboptimal results.”

Pisciotta dove in deep, and will be the first to tell you that he’s still learning. He “canvassed his internal customers” to discover their supply chain needs and requirements.

“I know it sounds cliché, but it really is about listening to the customer,” he says.

Pisciotta also sought to identify bad inputs in Woodward’s supply chain. “I can take a lot of variation out of a process, but if I don’t fix the bad inputs, it will be difficult to fix the bad outputs,” he says.

Striving for Consistency

After doing his due diligence and gaining knowledge, Pisciotta began implementing procedures to improve Woodward’s supply chain. “We do a lot of quality assurance by inspection,” he says. “We’re working on trying to make it more process dependent versus people dependent.”

Pisciotta follows lean practices and principles, which adhere to the goals of increasing production, reducing costs and waste, improving quality and increasing profits.

“The first rule of lean is if you want to create a better future state, you have to first learn and understand the current state to drive change in the right direction,” he says.

The goal is to create operational excellence around four pillars within Woodward’s global procurement and supply chain organization: supplier quality, on-time delivery, new product introduction and program management, and competitiveness.

“The four priorities are going to be highly tailored to Woodward so we can drive better capabilities and more satisfaction within our customer base,” Pisciotta explains. The end-result is achieving “a world-class organization” that drives a consistent process across the enterprise with no variations from business to business, he adds.

The pillars that Pisciotta has installed are in their infancy stages. “There are certain building blocks and fundamentals that exist, but they’re not fundamentally tied together such that the overall company performs better as a whole. But I think we’re getting there,” he says.

Pisciotta says the quest for supply chain improvement is a journey that never really ends. For him, it’s about constantly gaining knowledge.

“I do try to learn something every day, and I am learning something every day,” he says.

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