Lockheed Martin’s Anti-biofouling Customer Focus

Businesses exist to serve their customers, something Lockheed Martin says when talking about itself.

Lockheed Martin’s customer-first mentality is a big way the company stands out from its competitors. 

From https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/news/features/2020/how-lockheed-martin-anticipates-customer-needs.html

It’s nice to claim a “customer-first mentality,” but Lockheed Martin has provided an example of how it demonstrates customer focus.

The problem

Here’s how Lockheed Martin defined the problem that one of its customers was facing.

Barnacle on a boat propeller. By Foto: Jonn Leffmann, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23069484

Biofouling is the buildup of barnacles and microorganisms on ocean-going vessels such as ships and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). This buildup is a naturally occurring process which can increase drag and decrease ship fuel economy, ultimately costing customers hundreds of millions of dollars. The United States Navy needs to eliminate biofouling growth along the underside of its ships, which involves a cleaning process that requires a ship to be out of commission for up to 18 months and hundreds of hours of manual labor. 

From https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/news/features/2020/how-lockheed-martin-anticipates-customer-needs.html

Maybe your customers aren’t quite as big as the United States Navy, but your customers have problems also, and they’re relying on you to solve them.

A solution from nature

For aeronautical engineer Joseph Keegan, the solution to the Navy’s problem lay in the sea snake.

Because defense contractors think about sea snakes all the time. Or at least Keegan did.

Keegan decided to apply for funding for a project that mimicked how a sea snake mitigates biofouling growth. The sea snake has a clever way to mitigate growth by organically shedding its skin to rid itself of biofouling growth and disease when the growth begins to affect its movement. 

From https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/news/features/2020/how-lockheed-martin-anticipates-customer-needs.html

OK, an ocean vessel isn’t going to literally shed its hull. But that’s why Keegan needed research funding. And the researchers came up with a solution, and started to test it.

Ventura Harbor in the sunshine. By Platinummedia – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=110032114

A Lockheed Martin team took the idea from paper to prototype and went to Ventura Harbor, California to conduct static testing of a multilayer mylar skin on various surfaces including fiberglass, steel and aluminum. After leaving the prototype in the harbor for a little over a month, results confirmed that the films were effective in demonstrating that biofouling growth could be easily removed by peeling a layer of the film. The test was also successful in proving that the films did not allow for biofouling growth to occur between the multiple layers of film or underneath the four-layer prototype. No degradation to the films has been observed in the five months of testing.

From https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/news/features/2020/how-lockheed-martin-anticipates-customer-needs.html

Anticipated benefits

While Lockheed Martin’s write-up includes the common researcher statement “further efforts are needed to successfully implement this biofouling film technology,” it looks like the project is moving forward.

And Lockheed Martin has already identified the benefits of the completed project. Not the benefits to Lockheed Martin, but the benefits to its customer, the U.S. Navy.

With the potential to reduce the time a Navy ship remains out of commission for cleaning, this nature-inspired design idea could…save money and enable greater mission readiness…

From https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/news/features/2020/how-lockheed-martin-anticipates-customer-needs.html

Saving money and getting ships out to battle more quickly. Stuff that the Navy likes.

Of course this benefits Lockheed Martin also, but the company kept the focus on the Navy.

How does this apply to my company?

Even if your customers don’t battle biofouling barnacles, and even if your customers don’t face problems that put their equipment out of commission for 18 months or cost hundreds of hours in labor, there’s a lesson to be learned from Lockheed Martin’s customer focus.

  1. Keep your focus on your customer, not you.
  2. Describe the problem your customer faces.
  3. Define your solution to the problem.
  4. List the benefits your customer receives from your solution.

If your solutions benefit your customers, then you’ll receive benefits also.

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