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News | July 3, 2021

Fleet Readiness Center Southeast wins Florida Sterling Manufacturing Business Excellence Award

By Ashley Lombardo

FloridaMakes and the Florida Sterling Counsel issue the awards annually to recognize organizations that have achieved superior performance. A rigorous finalist list included 20 organizations out of 140 who competed from around the state, vying for recognition and SMBE Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards.

“We are truly honored to have been selected as an SMBE Gold award winner,” said FRCSE Commanding Officer Capt. Grady Duffey. “This recognition is a testament of the outstanding work that is accomplished at the depot every day by our unparalleled civilian workforce. They are the heart and soul of our command’s Level III element and the reason we can bring home such a prestigious award!”

Each year the SMBE awards set a new state-wide standard by distinguishing only Florida’s highest performing manufacturers, elevating the playing field for every company specializing in this sector throughout the Sunshine State.

“The SMBE award is where the Florida Sterling Council and FloridaMakes overlap,” said Phil Centonze, Sterling Council member and lead SMBE examiner. “The evaluation process is based on the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, which is a proven model that’s used for evaluation and identification of the practices of best-in-class organizations. Using this method, which has been around for about 30 years, allows us to collaborate and bring the SMBE award to manufacturers throughout Florida.”

Each competitor is judged based on seven categories: leadership, strategy, customers, measurement, analysis and knowledge management, workforce, operations and results. Once winners are selected, they are separated into three categories based on excellence, from Gold to Bronze.

After nomination, companies are notified and asked to submit an organizational profile questionnaire, a seven-page document that serves as the second step in the process.

“Each step of this award submission is time-consuming, but that’s a huge reason why it carries so much prestige,” said Holly Martinez, FRCSE’s Executive Director. “The examiners ask questions to get familiar with the ins and outs of the organization, and with one as large and complex as FRC Southeast, covering the gamut of our programs, structure and business takes a fair amount of time and resources to convey adequately.”

The questionnaire portion of the competition requires nominees to provide company basics like a mission statement, customer base and code of ethics. And still, there are dozens of more detailed questions covering a wide array of topics like strategy objectives, workforce performance, action plans and social responsibilities.

The first leg of step three is a two-hour presentation-style conference call covering a diverse range of topics in a Q&A format. The SMBE examination team ask questions throughout the presentation while forming a comprehensive understanding of the organization. After the conference call, the team determines whether the nominee is fit to move forward. 

At this point, an onsite facility tour and a second presentation-style Q&A would generally take place. However, things were complicated for competitors and judges alike this year, thanks to continued concerns over COVID-19, but that didn’t stop FRCSE from putting its best foot forward.

Instead of an onsite tour, the SMBE team opted for a virtual live or prerecorded facility tour to help fill in the missing pieces.

“Before the pandemic, a team of evaluators would visit our facility and walk our production areas to observe operations,” said Anthony Casullo, FRCSE’s Public Affairs Officer. “They would be able to talk with people and gain an understanding of who we are and what we do. The challenge this year was achieving this in a virtual setting, which led to the idea of a video tour of the depot.”

Understanding the complexity of creating a virtual tour of a facility that spans more than 70 buildings and is home to over 5,000 personnel was left to Casullo and his team. 

“With the video tour limited to 30 minutes, I knew we would need to make every second count,” Casullo said. “The public affairs team worked hard at producing something that would give the evaluators a fundamental understanding of our mission, products and people. Fortunately, we have an exceptional workforce and it wasn’t hard to find people to step up and tell our story, highlighting the great work that happens throughout FRCSE.”

The Q&A and presentation were the final feathers in the cap. Judges use this material and a rubric of information within each criterion to make final deliberations.

“The site visit, which was completed virtually this year, was composed of two separate but equally vital parts - the virtual tour, and the presentation and Q&A,” said Martinez. “The presentation and Q&A provided the examination team with a thorough explanation of who we are and how we conduct business. Several key members of the command leadership team participated in this step, with each presenting a topic area based on the award criteria. We were able to achieve great success with this process due to the seamless collaboration among all the people involved.”

From beginning to end, the process for FRCSE took about seven months. Now, all that’s left for the pros at the depot is acceptance of their trophy.

Due to the pandemic and concerns over large in-person gatherings, the award winners were announced in a virtual ceremony during the MakeMore Manufacturing Summit on June 22.

About Fleet Readiness Center Southeast

Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) is Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia's largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, employing more than 5,000 civilian, military and contract workers. With annual revenue exceeding $1 billion, the organization serves as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy, Naval Air Systems Command, and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers by maintaining the combat airpower for America's military forces.