“We probably had 90 percent of the solution based on the gap analysis,” Shipman says, “and we went out and found the other 10 percent.”
While the company had plenty of advantages starting out, Shipman quickly determined that it was lacking the manpower with the technical expertise to go to work on diesel engines, generators and all the other mechanical and electronic components to reset the GSE.
Shipman spent quite a bit of time going through resumes, interviewing candidates and looking for the right mix of capable people that would continue Howell’s level of customer support and quality of work.
He estimates he sifted through 60 resumes to hire six mechanics.
“We just don’t hire a warm body because they can turn a wrench,” Brown adds. “We have a good deal of employee longevity and company history. Even though we appear to be much larger than we are, it’s still pretty much a small company.”
As the hiring process progressed, however, the company also needed to plan on where to physically locate the new hires inside the kind of space they would need to do their jobs. After review, the company converted 6,800 sq. ft. of existing factory space at its Ft. Worth facility into a dedicated shop space filled with specialized tools and equipment to do the work.
As all this progressed, it was moving day and time for the real work to begin.
As readers can readily tell from the photos that accompany this cover story, most of the equipment looks essentially the same as any other type of GSE stationed at a commercial airport ramp. Here’s a new acronym to explain why: COTS or “commercial off the shelf.”
The military is buying more and more commercially available products with much less specialized product designed to military specs that led to infamous $500 toilet seats in the past.
The Army, for example, primarily uses helicopters for much of its air power. But Brown and Shipman told us what most people don’t realize: The Army uses quite a diverse assortment of fixed-wing aircraft, too.
“Most of this aircraft are King Airs and Beechcraft, for example,” Brown adds. “These commercial aircraft have obviously always been serviced by commercial GSE. “And much of the Army’s fixed-wing operation have to be fairly flexible in order to go to many places in the world. As a result, the Army tries to build a mission profile around easily available commercial GSE.”
Howell’s marketing plans are to continue to promote this resetting expertise to other military branches of the for what stands to be a large market for fixing up used military GSE. Currently just a third of the way through the original contract, the Howell’s work has already been expanded and extended.
Engineers at Boeing Wichita are still awaiting news about their status with the company now that Boeing has agreed to sell its commercial aircraft business in Kansas and Oklahoma.