NASA’s Approach to Teamwork and the MRO Supply Chain

Published March 8, 2019

A contingent from Synovos recently participated in a supplier conference in Orlando. It was a well-attended event that included a keynote address from Mike Massimino, former NASA astronaut and current professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia University.

If you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory TV show, you probably know Massimino played himself in a recurring role a few years ago.

He’s a funny man and it came across in his address to the 10,000+ attendees. In discussing how he became an astronaut – it took him four tries before being accepted – he explained that as a kid growing up on Long Island he “didn’t like to go fast and was afraid of heights” so becoming an astronaut was a natural choice (sarcasm included). He also said he was afraid of the dark.

Then there was Massimino’s story about the swim test. As he explained, just a short time before his astronaut training was to begin, he was told he had to pass a rigorous swim test. One problem: he did not know how to swim.

At the beginning of his training session, Massimino and his entire class of astronauts, maybe 20 in all, reported to the pool. The instructor asked for the expert swimmers to step forward and for those with weak swimming skills to identify themselves, as Massimino and one or two others did. The instructor then dismissed those in the middle and gave instructions to the remaining group. Work together. Learn from each other, and, as Massimino shared “No one continues training until everyone passes this swim test.”

The story shows NASA’s commitment to teamwork, an extraordinarily important dynamic given the environment where these astronauts work. One mistake can endanger an entire crew and millions of dollars in equipment. While their work happens in extreme and sometimes heavenly environments, that approach to teamwork is relevant to integrated supply.

As an MRO supply chain management service provider, we deliver value to the MRO supply chain by standardizing processes, improving day-to-day management of inventory, work orders, data, etc. We see that teamwork in action every day, whether it’s program implementation, IT integration, sourcing solutions, vendor management, or something else.

Our success is not possible without contributions from our clients and vendors alike. And the reverse is also true, our clients’ success is our success.

Sometimes it’s difficult. One minute your flailing, seemingly helpless in a sea of MRO. The next, you’ve been rescued by a client, vendor rep or coworker, who recognized the issue and offered a solution.

It’s the way it’s supposed to work. It’s just a different pool.