EB Seeking New Suppliers As Sub Workload Continues To Grow
By Julia Bergman
October 4, 2016
NORWICH — A summit held here Tuesday provided Electric Boat with an opportunity to connect with potential new suppliers that will be in high demand as the company's workload continues to grow.
About 50 manufacturers attended the summit at the Holiday Inn in Norwich, where they were able to meet face-to-face with Electric Boat supply chain executives and procurement managers to discuss the company's current needs and the process for becoming part of its supply chain.
The company currently has 454 suppliers in the state. That number is expected to grow as the company expands its industrial base to keep up with the pace of submarine construction, said Jim Cassidy, EB's director of materials acquisition.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, who hosted the event along with the Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Alliance and the U.S. Department of Commerce, said it was an opportunity for the manufacturers to understand the supply chain process and also "the horizon in terms of the Navy and the overall shipbuilding plan for the Navy over the next 30 years."
The procurement of two Virginia-class attack submarines a year, and work on the Virginia Payload Module, an 80- to 85-foot-long section addition to Virginia boats that will provide additional Tomahawk missile capacity, and a new fleet of ballistic missile submarines, called the Columbia-class program, have kept EB busy in recent years.
A handful of those in attendance Tuesday already work with EB, such as Bozrah-based Collins and Jewell, a metal-fabrication manufacturer that has worked with EB in various capacities for 35 years. The company has 75 employees.
"From my perspective, as an existing Electric Boat supplier, there's more work than any one business can handle. We all recognize that. We all see that over the long-term, and we need to work together with other manufacturers to get through the boundaries of entry in the EB supplier chain," said Chris Jewell, the company's chief financial officer.
Jewell offered some advice to potential EB suppliers, noting that the process is "not as difficult as people want to think."
"It's a matter of having your ducks in a row, filling out the paperwork and going through the process," he said, noting that it's a slow process and that companies must be patient.
He added that small businesses have to be willing to take a risk and put "that initial investment out there." He also advised them to seek out grant programs, which don't have as much red tape as one might think.
Suppliers must meet rigorous requirements to work with EB. A potential welding supplier, for example, would have to meet a series of qualifications for its equipment, processes and welders.
"With some time, some investment and some help from Electric Boat, we can get new suppliers qualified," Cassidy said.
Peter Obuchowski, president of Norwich-based XUARE, a fairly new company with a desire to get into more computer-based machining, said that it was "great to recognize the barriers of entry and how to overcome them."
"But it is possible to overcome them even as a small company," he said.