Alice Waugh, LGO Communications Director
Jeremy Lieberman won this year's LGO Best Thesis Award for his work on "Reducing Reworkable Discrepancies at Sikorsky Aircraft."
At the award announcement on June 8, "I was very happy and very surprised," Lieberman said. "I'd seen all nine nominees present their internship experience and had the pleasure of working with many of them. I can't emphasize how smart and capable these individuals are and I was sure they'd all written high-quality theses. With competitors of that caliber, I didn't think the odds of me winning were that good, and I was happy just to be nominated."
Lieberman did his internship at Sikorsky's facility in Stratford, CT, where Blackhawk helicopters are built. In building every aircraft, workers encounter and repair minor deviations from the design drawings, which are known as "reworkable discrepancies." Lieberman worked with his Sikorsky supervisor, Stephen Pavlik, to identify the most common reworkable discrepancies—for example, a wedged clamp, a chafing harness, or a loose connector—with the goal of saving money that's spent on rework and repairs.
In analyzing the available rework data, Lieberman found it wasn't easy to see the cause of each rework occurrence, because there were so many possible three-digit codes for causes that inspectors generally just used common numbers like 001 or 999 in their writeups. To get around this, he created a program to analyze written descriptions of rework issues and then sorted the data according to parts and types of defects. He and Pavlik then formed small teams to perform root-cause and corrective-action analysis for the biggest issues.
In his thesis, Lieberman outlined some systemic approaches for reducing rework. One solution was an automated tool he created to generate reports showing the history of rework for every single task in the facility and automatically aggregating the amount of rework for each position and line.
He produced his winning thesis despite some unexpected difficulties during his internship, including a project champion and manager who were both reassigned just before his arrival and a third supervisor who suffered a heart attack shortly after the internship started. But Lieberman forged ahead with new colleagues and a revamped project plan.
"With a broad project that would impact numerous areas of the company, I found myself working with a lot of different individuals and departments throughout the assembly process. I was amazed with how supportive, helpful and hardworking everyone at Sikorsky was," he said. "Once I'd gotten into the project, I got to work with some great people trying to make a real difference, and there was nothing more I could have asked for."
"Jeremy has taken a real-world problem that is experienced across the board in several industries and applied a very sensible and simple problem-solving approach," one of the thesis reviewers commented. "The work takes into account the stakeholders, organizational culture, vested interests, etc., in addition to the technical problem and proposes a methodology to leverage these as strengths rather than barriers. The presentation of the thesis is simple, honest, and eminently readable."
Pavlik also wrote that Lieberman's thesis was "extremely well written and helpful in continuing our efforts here at Sikorsky to reduce rework."
Lieberman is now employed at an Amazon distribution center in Cincinnati in the company's Pathways program. Three other LGO '12s—Jose Cavazos, Leonora Lanza and Limor Zehavi—are in the same program but in different cities, while two others, Bryan Drake and Elizabeth Katcoff, are working in Amazon's Seattle location.
Looking back on his two years in LGO, Lieberman said one of his key takeaways was learning the importance of teamwork. "Without the help and support of my classmates, I would never have made it through the program, and I'm still amazed how quickly the group bonds during the first summer," he said.