Embracing the Challenge: Meet A Keystone Member of a Top Aircraft Manufacturing Team
“Everything that I do has a direct impact on our machine shop, so I spend quite a bit of time in the shop”.
Jon Polliard is a Manufacturing Team Leader with EulessAero, an Aereos Operating Company
Growing up in Southern Los Angeles, Jon Polliard grew up near the runways of LAX. His father would regale him with stories of flying B-24 bombers during World War II and his time in Europe while working in his garage. Northrop employed Jon’s father who had begun as a journeyman toolmaker but transitioned to the manufacturing workforce. “He and I would build things at home in his garage shop so it was natural that I would get into manufacturing.”
Straight out of high school, Jon did just that. He worked for Northrop. They trained him on every machining type in their Hawthorne, CA shop. “Mills, lathes, drills, CNC, burr, routers, grinders,” he recalls. But his learning didn’t stop there. He had a knack for computers and took up further training for CADAM and APT. By the mid-eighties the entirety of those experiences – from his father’s garage shop on – had created a very special skillset. Jon’s tenure at Northrop came to an end, and he became a contract programmer “for all the major aerospace companies working on a variety of aircraft. Northrop, Boeing, LTV, Rohr, B.F. Goodrich, Lockheed, and some smaller supplier companies that did work for the primes.”
This doesn’t mean that Jon has escaped from the shop floor, quite the contrary. “Everything that I do has a direct impact on our machine shop, so I spend quite a bit of time in the shop working with our machinists working out bugs in new programs and optimizing old ones.” Daily visits with the machinists in the shop allow the engineers to make continuous improvements on the jobs they are running. This promotes better work flow, reduces turnaround times, and ultimately saves money. Weekly status meetings as well keep everyone informed on what jobs are running and what are staged for production. Jon’s office is always looking at the bigger picture.
To be a good manufacturing engineer, “first and foremost you have to be an experienced machinist, [with a] broad knowledge of types of machine tools, cutters and holders, materials, tooling techniques and part geometries.” The programs and operator run books for the jobs on the floor all originate from Jon’s office. “When I arrived over 6 years ago we installed CATIA for programming which gave us greater programming capability.” That installation created a world-class manufacturing hub in Euless, Texas. As the capabilities grew, so did the demand for EulessAero’s experienced aerospace workforce. EulessAero began to assimilate partners in other areas of the aircraft manufacturing field. And through those acquisitions Jon’s teams gained ever more modern machines. Which, in turn, resulted in even greater demand and more customers for the shop’s workmanship.
Jon Polliard also works with management developing preliminary plans for new, incoming jobs. “Always there is the challenge to get the parts done in least amount of machine time – while still meeting our customer’s requirements.” He adds, “I started on manual milling machines and now we have 5-axis CNC milling machines. I started programming using IBM keypunch cards and now use a 3D solids CAD/CAM system to produce much more complex programs in far less time.”
How far away that workbench in that Los Angeles garage must feel sometimes, or even that first day of machine shop training in Hawthorne. But as Jon walks the shop floor, he is always ready to learn something, to find a new way to create a solution. When he is going over quotes for prospective clients, he is searching for the most elegant solution. He is always searching. “Each new job offers unique challenges and opportunities,” he notes. Challenges and opportunities, hand-in-hand. The next one could be the biggest yet.