The Suncoast Technical College Class of 2017 – Precision and CNC Machining took a tour of the very large Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Manufacturing Center on Sand Lake Rd in Orlando. The plant was originally built in 1957 and has over 4000 employees working today. Lockheed Martin is one of the largest US defense contractors with over 100,000 employees. They have a commitment to excellence as many of our apprentice machinists witnessed today.
This facility has built many defense systems dating back to the Pershing missile to todays Hell Fire missile system. The other systems this facility is know for is Fire Control. That’s means targeting and hitting that target with pin point accuracy in all systems – whether it is the shoulder held Javelin to PAC-3 (Patriot) missile defense system. They work in the tightest tolerances in temperature controlled rooms with the absolute most accurate tooling and CNC equipment. This makes the difference between hitting or missing a target by 1 feet at 5 miles with a Hellfire. The Pac-3 is known as a defense device that is used like shooting a bullet and hitting the other bullet shot at us. They also make the EOTS targeting system for the new F-35 JSF Fighter plus many other systems.
We were welcomed by the manufacturing operations staff and they asked each student who they were and what their career path may be. We also have 3 Veterans as students and they were honored for service. The staff gave us a video presentation of the work they do. How they not only do machining with 5 axis CNC machines but Flexible manufacturing cells with Mazak CNC Machines with 100 pallets and jobs that can be called up as needed.
They have an ultra precision room in which the temperature and even the coolants are kept 68 deg. (20c) Plus or minus 1 deg. This is to ensure accuracy with Mitsui Seiki CNC Machines to less than .000050 – all day long. And they are expanding that room and bringing in more equipment, because they have more programs coming on line and will need more mechanical assemblers and machinists. They will also need more metrology quality control personnel that can operate Zeiss CMM measuring machines
Mitsui Seiki 5 Axis CNC Milling center – Zeiss CMM measuring system
Like many companies in the US there is a skills gap in many fields. As Lockheed Martin (LMCO) has retirements coming and more business coming on line they will need more trained personnel.
The HR staff talked about how they will be seeking more personnel and are welcoming Entry level trained machinist – especially from accredited Vocational Technical schools. The benefit packages are very good plus the pay rate is competitive with good raises. All represented by UAW Local 788 union. A great place to work plus they will pay for your engineering degree if you want to eventually move in another path. You can even transfer to another facility if you desire.
We also got to see the Fire control Factory where these targeting devices are assembled and tested. Very organized and clean
Optics CNC Center
Finally we ended the tour in the optics machining department. This is where lens are machined and CNC polished to crazy tolerances. They even produce the sapphire crystal glass panels that protect the targeting systems from debris on a fighter jet at Mach 2 and it must be perfectly clear or it will deflect the targeting image.
That’s why our skilled tradesmen of today can work with greatest engineers and design teams to come up with US national defense systems that will protect our warfighters and protect us. They need to work the first time and every time. No second chance. So the motto at LMCO is “We never forget who we work for”. I am a former employee of this great facility and saw many old friends and great machinists on this tour. I was involved in a running (2) large $950,000 Mazak Intergrex 1060 5 axis CNC Mill-Turn centers in the Sniper ATP Department. I teach what I learned over my 30 years of modern machining and that includes the 10 years I have worked at (2) Lockheed Martin Facilities.