Northrop Grumman

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Grumman Aircraft Company was founded in 1930 by Leroy Grumman, Jake Swirbul, and three other men. Grumman developed a fighter plane with folding wings, which allowed aircraft carriers to bring significantly more fighters to the Pacific in World war II. The Grumman F6F Hellcat was especially effective against the Mitsubishi Zero. Grumman's two strengths were cutting-edge engineering design and effective management. When their naval contracts dried up, the company managed to produce the Gulfstream executive plane and the Lunar Module before being acquired by Northrop in 1994.

Swirbul devised a management style that was uncommonly successful in creating a profitable and smooth-running corporation. As competitors soon discovered, his style was easy to admire but very hard to emulate. His system wasn't hierarchical; questions did not have to go to the top of the executive pyramid to get answers. If someone saw something that had to be done, he or she did it. [1]
As World War II approached, Swirbul's contacts in the US Navy kept Grumman's production lines running, and his scalable management style is credited with Grumman's ability to ramp up production faster than any other company when war broke out and to maintain higher profit margins than any other aircraft company throughout the war. [2]

Grumman was the first company to produce a military aircraft with retractable landing gear, a feature which reduced air friction enough to enable the FF-I biplane to reach 198 MPH. [3]

Grumman's engineering genius and Swirbul's management expertise enabled Grumman's productivity to skyrocket during World War II:

  • In March, 1945, Grumman built a record 664 aircraft. Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal said, "In my opinion, Grumman saved Guadalcanal." F6F Hellcats once shot down 369 Japanese aircraft in a single day, and on a good day, Grumman could turn out 27 Hellcats. [4]