Gear from Ada plant protects Oklahoma City firefighters and their counterparts across the globe

Globe Manufacturing plant manager Jannette Orr shows off a firefighters jacket under construction for the Oklahoma City Fire Department

Editor’s note: I recently traveled to Ada with my friends at the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, where we had the opportunity to tour a plant that makes “turnout” gear for firefighters across the world.  This is my report:

By Jim Stafford

ADA – Jannette Orr stood on MSA’s Globe turnout gear manufacturing floor in Ada and held up a firefighter coat that was under construction at the plant.

Bright yellow letters on the back read “OKLA CITY.”

Globe’s Ada plant and its 48 employees are producing 510 sets of three-layer firefighter jackets and pants for the Oklahoma City Fire Department, said Roger Page, Operations Manager for Globe’s three production facilities in Ada, Okla., Pittsfield, N.H. and Auburn, Maine.

“Recently, we reacquired the Oklahoma City contract,” Page said as he led me and colleagues from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) on a tour of the Ada production plant.

“Oklahoma City had previously been in our gear, and we’re excited to have them back,” he said.

Globe was founded in 1887 as a family-owned producer of protective clothing for firefighters and headquartered in Pittsfield, N.H. It was acquired in July 2017 by MSA Safety Inc., a publicly traded corporation headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Globe opened the Ada plant almost 16 years ago.

“We were having a really hard time hiring enough workers in the Pittsfield area, and we learned that Wrangler was leaving this area and had a very similar weight of fabric to that which we use,” said Page, who has worked for Globe for 36 years. “We decided to explore this area, and the Ada Jobs Foundation did a great job, almost recruiting us.”

Coalgate native Orr was among the former Wrangler employees who migrated to Globe, starting on the production floor as a stitcher. Today she is the plant manager, and personally trains new hires on the complexities of running sophisticated machinery.”

“Our workforce here is doing great,” Orr said. “We try to start them off on the right track. They work hard and steady. We make sure they have good benefits, because the employees here are like family.”

Globe uses what is known as the Toyota Sewing System in Ada to assemble the firefighter suits. It’s a manufacturing philosophy that began in Japan and moves each garment from station to station.

“As you look around the facility here, everything is done in single piece flow, with standup operations and more machines than there are people because they bump their operations as they go through the cell,” Page said. “It makes the operations a lot more flexible, and the workers aren’t stuck in one spot doing the same thing all day.”

Globe produces two of its seven styles of “turnout gear” or “bunker gear” – insider speak for firefighter protective apparel – at the Ada plant. Each firefighter garment has three layers that consist of an outer shell, a thermal liner and a moisture barrier.

“We have a host of options that can go on those base garments,” Page said. “For example, we have over 400 different sizes of radio pockets alone.”

Globe’s operation has benefited by a relationship with the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, which is a partner with OCAST in the Oklahoma Innovation Model that provides assistance to small manufacturers and new ventures across the state.

“I’m just really impressed with the amount of effort that Oklahoma puts into supporting manufacturers, whether it’s the Ada Jobs Foundation, the Pontotoc Technology Center training center or the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance,” Page said. “All of that is phenomenal.”

In addition to Oklahoma City, Globe produces garments for firefighters in numerous other Oklahoma communities. Ada’s proximity to Oklahoma City afforded the city’s fire department an opportunity to eyeball their equipment under construction, Page said.

“It’s only fitting to be able to produce Oklahoma City’s firefighting gear an hour and a half away here in Ada,” he said. “They are excited to come down and watch their gear being built and meet the people building it.”

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

Don’t criticize me! Steve Jobs shows how to respond to criticism

 

I’ve never responded particularly well to criticism.  I tend to have an instant reaction and lash out at the person providing the critique with words that I regret.  It’s something that I’m aware of and have to guard against constantly.

But it seems that I never handle it as well as I should. Call it a character flaw (among many).

Anyway, I saw this clip of Steve Jobs responding to an insulting question from an audience member at a 1997 developers conference. The guy wanted to show that Jobs didn’t know what he was talking about as far as software programming, along with a second question on what he had been doing the past seven years.

Jobs’ response blows me away. Instead of becoming angry and hurling an insult back at the guy (as I almost certainly would have), he sat and thought for several seconds. You can see that the wheels are turning as he formulates his answer and responds initially with a cliche about pleasing some of the people some of the time.  His long answer actually provided insight into why Apple developed products as it did.

Finally, he responds directly to the insult by admitting that he sometimes doesn’t know what he’s talking about and that mistakes will be made. At least someone is making some decisions for the company, he told the audience.  

Jobs’ response seems heartfelt and honest. It’s something I hope I can emulate in the future.  

I invite you to click on the video and watch Jobs respond to the insult.  I hope you find it as inspiring as I do.

 

Oklahoma’s Saab story: a prophecy fulfilled

I hope you saw this story in Monday’s editions of The Oklahoman about the Saab Group, a Swedish Aerospace firm, reportedly passing on Oklahoma as the location to build a new military trainer jet because of workforce concerns.

If you didn’t read it, click this link to catch you up to date: 

The reporting by Oklahoman reporter Dale Denwalt made the words of Oklahoma City businessman Phil Busey seem almost prophetic. The story quoted State Sen. Adam Pugh, who said that the Saab Group decided it would not be able to find enough skilled workers to sustain its workforce at an Oklahoma location.

Saab reportedly wanted to know if it could find people to work at the plant. ‘In the end, they decided they couldn’t, and so they’re taking their business somewhere else,’ state Sen. Adam Pugh told members of Leadership Oklahoma at a recent aerospace forum.

Busey is founder and CEO of a company called Delaware Resource Group (DRG), minority-owned aerospace industry federal defense contractor. DRG employs upwards of 700 people, including software engineers, worldwide who support contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as major aerospace companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Mr. Busey along with Debbie Cox, my colleague from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). Our interview was the basis for an OCAST video and a column I wrote on behalf of the agency. You can read it and watch the video interview here. 

We were surprised by the urgency that Busey showed in advocating for an improvement in public education and workforce development across our state.

Phil Busey

“Our challenges really come back to the issues of workforce development,” Busey told us. “Public education is the No. 1 challenging issue we see here in Oklahoma.”

Thousands of aerospace positions in the state remain unfilled because there aren’t enough Oklahomans equipped with STEM skills – science, technology, education and mathematics, Busey said.

That means that we need to build a deeper pool of young Oklahomans equipped with STEM skills that are critical to the sustainability of the state’s aerospace industry.

But it goes beyond workforce development, he said. It’s also about the image of our state that is reflected in legislation like the recent open carry law that allows virtually anyone in Oklahoma to carry a gun without a license or shooter education.

“The challenge is that we are having to rebrand ourselves,” Busey said. “The social legislation issues, the open carry issues and the public education issues all have to be addressed. Because people really don’t understand who we are … We have to talk to them about what our culture is really like, who we are, what kind of values we have, that we are inclusive, that we have all types of development going on with MAPS and the successes we have had downtown.”

The bottom line is that there are currently between 1,500 and 2,000 open positions here in Oklahoma in the high paying aerospace industry. We have to fill that pipeline.

Busey has organized his own working group of community, education and business leaders to brainstorm ways to enhance Oklahoma’s workforce development and improve our image.

“We’re trying to develop pipelines with our universities,” Busey said. “And then be able to talk with people who we need to recruit from outside Oklahoma that it is a good place to live. We all don’t walk around with 45s on our hips. Public education, we have to do something to improve that. It is a deal breaker.”

What is Blockchain for Business? OKC conference provides some context

Alan Dickman, IBM Blockchain Architect, delivers a primer on Blockchain for Business to an audience of OKC business leaders.

Editor’s note: I was invited by my friends at OCAST to attend the recent Blockchain for Business conference here in OKC. This is what I wrote about the experience and what I learned from the event about a subject that I know very little about.

By Jim Stafford

There is a huge gulf between the emerging blockchain-for-business technology and the cryptocurrency world, a group of 150 Oklahoma business leaders learned at the recent Blockchain for Business conference at the Baker Hughes/GE Energy Innovation Center.

The blockchain primer delivered to the Oklahoma audience by Alan Dickman, IBM Blockchain Architect, contrasted the two computing networks that are often confused for one another.

“Blockchain is really just a shared, distributed ledger that helps record transactions,” Dickman said in his keynote presentation. “Blockchain facilitates business processes that are shared among a network that is using the same ledger.”

What blockchain-for-business is not is a giant, worldwide computing network that requires every member of the network, or peer, to update their blockchain file with each transaction, Dickman said.

“That sounds like Bitcoin, where there are lots and lots of peers around the world, and what you are doing is updating each ledger,” he said. “Only a small number of blockchains have that infrastructure.”

Blockchain-for-business can limit the number of peers, and requires that each participant be identified and invited to the network. Transactions are recorded as an “immutable” record that can never be altered.

In contrast, Cryptocurrency networks are known as “permission-less,” which means that participation is unlimited. Participants can remain anonymous. The “permission-less” networks can grow unwieldy and consume large amounts of energy as each transaction is updated.

“You can have permission blockchains where you put up your own private networks,” Dickman said. “So, it depends on the use case and depends on the technology and whether you are using a permission or permission-less blockchain.”

The Blockchain for Business conference was presented by OG&E and IBM, with support from the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber; the Oklahoma Department of Commerce; the Oklahoma City Innovation District; the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST); the Tom Love Innovation Hub at the University of Oklahoma; Baker Hughes, a GE Company, the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance; Zilker Technology LLC.; and the Energy Web Foundation.

“From OG&E’s perspective, the business purpose of this conference was two-fold,” said Richard Cornelison, economic development manager for OG&E. “We wanted to bring a better understanding of technology, and ways to communicate to the communities we serve and into the companies we serve.”

The conference featured breakout sessions for energy industry users, government, health care and supply chain, and oil and gas.

“Blockchain is one of those emerging, potentially enabling technologies that has the capability of impacting our economy,” said Mark Ballard, programs officer with OCAST. “We’re interested in this technology because it can give businesses another opportunity to compete more effectively in the economy.”

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

A visit to OKC’s Apple Store, but the Promised Land still not open

apple-construction

Made a trip to the Apple store in Penn Square Mall today, and all I got was this lousy photo of a sign on the dark storefront promising me a brand new store.

Problem is the store has been closed for remodeling and expansion since April. That’s like six months and counting on a remodel.

So, I headed upstairs to visit the temporary location that sort of matches the look and feel of the original Apple location.

Compared with the times I’ve visited Penn Square in the past, the mall was a virtual ghost town today. Few people were out and about, and you could almost hear an echo as you walked down the mall.

That didn’t prepare me for the size of the crowd milling about the Apple store. I should have known.

Apple’s retail location in Penn Square is a virtual tourist attraction, with big crowds no matter the day of the week. Today was no exception with a store full of shoppers, or at least tire kickers like me.

I asked an Apple Genius – well, he had a beard, tattoos and wore a blue Apple T-shirt – when the new/old location would open. He said there was no specific date set, although he said that opening by the even busier Christmas shopping season would be nice.

Here’s a photo of the store at 4 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon as I entered.

apple-store-crowd

There’s a novel in here somewhere

OK, about three or four years ago I began a novel. I’ve written one chapter. It’s sort of an action-adventure-drama-mystery. I’m probably going to scrap it and pursue something different. But I thought I might post the chapter here to see if I can get any feedback. I still haven’t made up my mind, but check back in a day or two and see it is posted.

Jim