PABLO, Mont. - When the U.S. Air Force needs to repair a part on one of its aircraft anywhere in the world someone on the Flathead Reservation will come to the rescue.
S&K Technologies Inc. owned by the Salish and Kootenai Tribes landed an eight-year, $325 million contract to provide information technology that will track parts for owners of F-15 fighter aircraft to keep planes in good working order.
"We are not a manufacturing firm. We establish a network of sources of repair and negotiate all the details with them. Then we put a computer tracking system in place so wherever the technician may be located he will be able to track the status of that part online," said Greg DuMontier, president and general manager of S&K Technologies.
When the Air Force sells F-15 fighter aircraft or puts one into service anywhere in the world the price includes a service contract. S&K Technologies will be in charge of that contract.
DuMontier said $25 million of the contract will be used to develop and maintain the information technology needed to track the repair of parts and the other $300 million will be used to pay for the repairs. S&K Technologies will act as brokers in the repair process.
"There are a lot of very complex planes that have many electronic parts and also need spare tires. There are planes across the world, stationed in many different remote locations. Parts break down and the problem we are solving is to find the fastest, most economical source of repair for many thousands of parts so the aircraft is ready to go and not stuck on some tarmac," DuMontier said.
Air Force Gen. Dennis Haines said smaller companies get jobs done better, faster and cheaper than the Air Force or large private-sector defense contractors.
"We get parts faster and cheaper and our customers are very satisfied,'' said Haines, who is based at Robinson Air Force Base in Georgia.
The information technology that will locate repair sources will also track the repair progress and make sure the part is returned to the right aircraft.
"If we have 500 widgets from 200 different aircraft around the world all needing the same type of repair, those parts need to get back to the same aircraft. When you have hundreds and thousands of parts you need to make sure the same part gets back to the same plane," DuMontier said.
Information technology is not very prevalent on the Flathead reservation, but the business is booming worldwide. "If we were gong to participate, we needed to go where the work is, but the actual location of the worker is not critical. Most of the work can be done online. More work is moving toward the (World Wide) Web.
"We are seeing the marketing opportunities over the next few years, and most of the business done will use information technology. We have various locations across the country and will develop our own capabilities and manage our own information programs," DuMontier said.
S&K Technologies has offices in Houston, Texas to serve NASA and the space alliance; Warner Robbins, Georgia to serve Robinsin AFB; Dayton, Ohio and on the Flathead reservation.
The new contract will add 15 new employees to the payroll, but over the life of the contract as the business increases DuMontier said it would be would be difficult to say how many employees would be needed.
S&K Technologies plans to have 100 employees at five locations throughout the United States under existing contracts and work on the new Air Force contract beginning in the next month. About 20 of those workers will be tribal members working on the Flathead Indian Reservation.
"This is a new business model for us and one we decided to try. We wanted to participate in an economy that doesn't exist on the reservation by going out and bring it back to the reservation. We are well ahead of schedule.
"There is a vast array of opportunities and we chose carefully to do those that you do very well. We are not interested in mediocrity. We chose challenges we can excel in and we are now getting the reputation of excelling. The Air Force would not contract with us if we couldn't excel in this. When this came along we already had been convinced we were good at what we do," DuMontier said.