Christopher McGovern: Watch Him Soar

Christopher McGovern: Watch Him Soar

Christopher McGovern is vice president, supply chain management at Aero Precision, a Greenwich AeroGroup company, headquartered in Livermore, Calif. He has held this position since 2014.

Responsibilities: Inventory management, sourcing, procurement, and OEM relationships.

Experience: Analyst, political/economic department, U.S. Embassy, Oslo, Norway; product researcher, OEM product research leader, program manager—U.S. government, OEM product manager—marketing, manager— distribution and alliance development, director of purchasing, director—material management, vice president—logistics sales division, Derco Aerospace, a Sikorsky Aerospace Services company; business development, Greenwich AeroGroup.

Education: B.A. international relations, Schiller International University, 1996.

In college, I studied international relations and diplomacy with the hope of joining the U.S. Foreign Service. After graduation, I went back to my hometown near Green Bay, Wis., and waited for the chance to take the Foreign Service Officer exam. Meanwhile, I looked for work. When I received a call from Derco Aerospace in Milwaukee, I couldn’t even remember sending a resume because I had sent so many.

In my first position at Derco, I sourced aircraft parts for European customers. Although I passed the written exam, I wasn’t chosen for the U.S. Foreign Service. But I liked the excitement of aerospace, and stayed with Derco for 16 years.

I currently work for Aero Precision, a distributor of spare parts for aircraft. We also work with partners to repair parts and do product upgrades for customers. Our customers are military organizations around the world, including the United States, plus their maintenance contractors.

One factor that complicates my work is the difficulty of forecasting demand. We quote on thousands of line items per month, so feedback from customers—what they’re buying, what they’re not buying, and what their flight conditions are—puts a vast volume of data at our fingertips. Our enterprise resource planning and business intelligence systems allow us to pull that data together for analysis. But we still need skilled people to interpret the data, so we can make sound decisions about which parts to stock.

I don’t believe any forecasting or demand planning system can truly predict demand in the military aftermarket. Most systems rely on historical data, then attempt to predict future demand based on seasonality or other trends.

Along with actual sales, I also like to capture request for quote (RFQ) activity. There could be multiple reasons why we didn’t sell a part—perhaps we just didn’t have it when the customer needed it. We like to collect information from our original equipment manufacturer suppliers on the mean time between failures, so we know when customers might need to repair their parts. We also get data from customers—flight hours they’re putting in, and when they’ll be sending aircraft in for scheduled maintenance.

We have an opportunity to make better use of all this data in our inventory management and procurement practices. That’s one of the top items on my agenda. Another is to provide more training to employees who source parts. Each customer has different priorities, and we need to train our people to do research in accordance with those needs so they’re responding to RFQs in ways that will help us win those orders.

Looking back on my career, I’m proud I’ve been able to bring energy and good communication to my supply chain teams. I make sure team members learn about customers, and understand how our work affects the company’s overall goals.

The Big Questions

Have you made a memorable work-related mistake that taught you an important lesson?

As I was getting ready to leave Derco Aerospace, I realized I hadn’t spent enough time talking with the people who reported to me, asking how they were doing, and listening to their problems. While I was an engaged leader, I realized that you can never spend enough time with the team.

What one characteristic should every leader possess?

The ability to assess people’s personality traits, then adapt your communications style to the one that’s most effective for each individual or situation.

Do you have a hidden talent?

I’m a triathlete. When I’m not working, I’m in the water, in my running shoes, or on a bike ride.

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