Don’t let opportunities pass you by to improve your business and bounce back in 2021 stronger than your pre-COVID self.

Line up more customers, a diversified portfolio less susceptible to inexpected disruption, and a more efficient operation that is more profitable and able to on-board projects more rapidly.

In the first of our KickStage Studio Series, Angela presents the Top 3 Actions you should be doing this year to come out of the 2020 downturn stronger in 2021 and beyond.

Transcripts & Links Below




Action 1:  Reach New Customers

While somewhat obvious, we have some tips that we want to make sure you’re doing to be discovered by the industry.

Join industry groups listed below AND PRESENT

Present to your target audience and allow them to see your aptitude and capabilities, your enthusiasm and character, and simply discover you exist when you catch their attention with a topic that resonates with them.  Here are three industry groups we recommend you join, engage with, and present to.

Aerospace & Defense Forum
The A&D Forum is a industry community of genuine experts and fellow professionals that gather to share insights and help each other.  The presentations are interesting and value-laden – and yours could be too.

Advanced Manufacturing Partnership for Southern California (AMP SoCal) has been a source of discovery for us – for technologies, trends, and for talented and capable companies in the industry that we are glad to know.

If you’re in aerospace, you should also be in Unmanned Systems.  There are many applications for your capabilities in the drone industry and AUVSI is one of the best places to be discovered.

Advertise in these publications

Aerospace Manufacturing & Design at

Become a member and advertise with SME at

Register with supplier databases and brokers such as KickStage at



Action 2:  Improve Your Operations

Take advantage of downtime to implement waste-reducing systems and processes to make it faster and cheaper to launch production of your next new order, and be more profitable when you do. You also want to operate in a way that is agile and familiar to the new industries you would like to appeal to.

Implement Cost-saving Technologies

Start your Smart Manufacturing & Industry 4.0 journey or take it to the next level.  Implement our favorite solution for shop floor work instructions – VKS, available at KickStage, for faster and cheaper deployment of new products and processes to the shop floor. It’s low cost and pays for itself with the first operation that you deploy it on.

    • Reduce learning curve for operators
    • Reduce cycle time and waste on the shop floor
    • Gain productivity insights out of the box

Implement Agile Practices & Agile Project Management

Make operations management leaner and faster, and reduce distraction of low priority items with concepts like KanBan, Scrum, and Sprint Planning. Start small and continuously improve and implement your Agile practices across the organization.

Develop Your 5-Year Strategic Plan

It’s easy to slip in to the habit of neglecting strategic planning due to the daily tactical demands of your business. So exploit any downtime that you have to undertake strategic planning and plot a trajectory for your business in the coming years.

Develop a Robust and Agile Load & Capacity Management Plan

OEMs report this as the leading weakness plaguing their suppliers. Strategic Load & Capacity Management is about cash management for your investment fund, and intelligent trending of your operations that can discern where your bottlenecks are and smooth out the volatility that OEMs cause. 

Implement a Commercial-off-the-Shelf Virtual Team Collaboration Environment

We useAsanafor it’s ability to completely contain all of your team’s communication and collaboration cleanly and seamlessly without relying on email, tracking spreadsheets, or those dreaded Gantt charts.

A virtual digital platform also makes project management more efficient, less error prone, and easier to focus on what’s important. Especially now with the expansion of virtual teams, you gain a lot by moving your project management and team collaboration online.

Boost your organization’s breadth and capabilities with ‘Fractional Resources’

Depending on the size of your organization you can fulfill roles like:

  • Supply Chain Managers
  • Program Managers
  • Manufacturing Engineers
  • CFOs
  • HR managers

…all for less than the cost of a full-time employee.

Besides saving money this also has the advantage of:

  • Leveraging experts always in tune with the latest world-class strategies in their field
  • Flexibility with no-long term commitments to select and flex resources at will



Action 3:  Address a Parallel Industry

While it may not be obvious, your capabilities can always be applied to different industries.

Consider the example of one of our clients, Neopenda, who saw an emerging need to rapidly expand the health monitoring of COVID patients and with a simple adaptation of their neonatal health monitoring technology were able to pivot to a whole new customer base.

In aerospace, as previously mentioned, the Industrial drone industry and space industry are emerging rapidly and they don’t operate in the same industry groups and forums as most of the legacy aerospace OEMs and suppliers – despite needing very similar competencies and services from their supply chains. The drone services market size is expected to grow to over $60 billion by 2025.

Show off your capabilities at the most relevant drone industrial trade show, Xponential organized by AUVSI.  There are also the Commercial UAV Expo, this year in Las Vegas in September, andInterdronein Dallas in August.

Attend the annual SpaceTech Expo in Long Beach, California in October to break into the Space industry, and the WesTec event in Long Beach in November which appeals to a wide range of manufacturing industries.

Register with Supply Chain Brokers and Received Suggested Customers to Target

Register with supply chain brokers and receive listings of prospective customers based on suggested applicability of your capabilities to alternative markets, a free service KickStage happily offers.


The past few years have seen rapid advancements in quality management technologies and innovation for the manufacturing sector. However, the challenge of achieving managerial buy-off for investment in manufacturing quality tools is a common one faced by manufacturing project leaders in clients large and small alike.

The reasons for the hesitancy in investment are usually centered around 3 main points:

  • Quality tools are frequently viewed as ‘non-critical‘ equipment to a manufacturing process as they don’t directly add value/progression to the production sequence
  • Decision makers, particularly those sitting in the financial function, lack the technical appreciation of the tools and their power 
  • Often, the addition of quality verification equipment into a production sequence adds additional manpower and production time to operate and utilize

The combination of these factors can often lead to investments looking unfavorable – even in some traditional Net Present Value (NPV) justifications.

But why?

Because the perceived costs of poor quality only typically include the direct value added to a product up until the point of scrap or failure – i.e. materials and direct labor & machine time. However, these are only ‘the tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to the TRUE cost of poor quality. Indirect costs, which are significant yet often overlooked, include:

  • Material reorder costs – overhead, loss of economic-lot-sizes and expedition costs associated with remaking orders that have been scrapped or require rework
  • OEE and manpower efficiency losses – unexpected machine utilization disrupts efficient and lean scheduling of resources
  • Greater capital costs – the additional machines and equipment needed to sustain the suboptimal throughput
  • Greater inventory holding costs – the uncertainty of quality issues results in a higher level of inventory through a factory – both WIP and finished product and raw material buffers

….not to mention the external customer cost of low quality due to escapes and/or later deliveries, which could include late fines, expedited shipping or even losing the business altogether.

A comparative NPV analysis that KickStage completed for a client looking to invest in new on-board laser probing for a turbine blade grinder showed a NPV of -$27k when direct scrap alone was factored, but +$550k when capital, overhead and expedition costs were factored in, completely revolutionizing the business case.

In order to accurately measure all of these costs and create a solid justification business case, download the FREE KickStage Business Case Justification template! This NPV analysis tool offers an inclusive assessment of all expenses and savings associated with a new capability investment, and includes a step-by-step guide to using the tool in addition to an example case.

We’d love to learn about the quality challenges you have and discuss some of the tools and resources available to you!  

The unprecedented impact of COVID-19 has been felt in some way by all industries around the world. Supply chains are disrupted, consumer behaviors are changing, and the ongoing volatility both in the direct virus impact and the political response does not look to end any time soon.

How your business responds, however, is something you are in full control of. Leaning and optimizing your business processes is always a fundamental element of long-term success, but it is more critical than ever during the pandemic. Why?

Because the impact of non-value added wastes in a process are magnified by instability. For example, if you have waste due to excess inventory, then that waste will further grow in times of demand instability and disrupted logistics. If you have waste due to non-utilized talent or ineffective resource deployment, that waste will further escalate due to personnel movement restrictions and health and safety conformance.

At the same time, the pandemic offers unexpected opportunities to innovate. Agile companies are refocusing their products and services to serve the post-pandemic planet. At a time when most businesses are hurting in some form, it is imperative to act now to eliminate waste so you can adapt and thrive in the new world.

A successful journey to waste identification and elimination begins with a Value Stream Mapping exercise of your business process. By mapping out the number of steps, rework loops and process metrics, you will be ready to holistically and inclusively analyze your process for all types of waste. There are many different approaches for waste identification itself – from simply walking the process as a team through to more formal simulation exercises that expose otherwise unnoticed bottlenecks, excess inventory and non-utilized resources.

Are you ready to tackle the wastes present in your business?

Our free and handy ‘8 Waste Assessment Template’ will walk you and your team through the identification and prioritization of all the types of waste inherent in your business process – whatever approach you take for analysis. This will facilitate a targeted and optimized platform for Leaning up your business today! The checklist includes examples from both manufacturing and service industries – the method and approach is the same regardless of business sector or size.


Good luck with your journey! For further support in optimizing and removing waste from your business, reach out to us!

Unexpected failures within a business process can destroy profitability and customer satisfaction. It is critical to proactively error-proof your business, and fortunately there are many off-the-shelf tools and frameworks that can efficiently guide this journey.


A FMEA (Failure Modes and Effects Analysis) is a very powerful process analysis tool, used for identifying all possible failures in a business process and determining focused actions to mitigate or eliminate the failure mode.


(To start your own assessment, download our free FMEA template at the end of this page!)

But many FMEA initiatives fail to make impactful change and improvements to a business. Here are the four most common errors that we frequently see companies make, and what you can do to avoid them:

(1) Insufficient Participation and Ownership

The FMEA will only yield success if the entire team is included in the assessment. Everyone who interacts with the process – from operator or server up through management, across all functions – has a unique perspective. The team should be empowered to speak out about their experiences and also to own and champion the identified improvements that fall under their responsibility

(2) Lack of Maintenance and Reassessment

Even after a successful FMEA assessment, always set a consistent schedule to revisit and readdress the residual risk present in the process in addition to any new Failure Modes that arise. Without this, process performance will undoubtedly stagnate. Take a Lean and Agile approach of continuous improvement and apply the Pareto principle to prioritize the most impactful failure modes each time.

(3) Missed Failures

To ensure that all potential failure modes are identified and discussed inclusively, a process mapping exercise and SIPOC analysis (Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs and Customers) should be undertaken. This helps to identify all relevant elements of a process improvement project before work begins. Freethinking failure modes without a methodological SIPOC approach will almost certainly lead to missed failure modes.

(4) Misidentification of the True Root Cause

It is critical to drill down to the true root cause of a failure to understand its origin. For example, if one recorded the causes of a manufacturing failure mode as ‘personnel error’ – is the issue with training? Competency? Supporting tools? Materials? Without really reaching the root cause, one cannot design an effective improvement strategy. Try using the ‘5 Why’ approach.

Ready to get started? Click below to receive a free copy of our tried-and-tested FMEA assessment template!

This template provides a solid framework for identifying and mitigating the failure points in your business processes that is easy to understand and walk through at your own pace. It also includes real-life examples of its application in diverse service and manufacturing settings.

As part of our support package helping businesses react and recover from COVID-19, the KickStage team were privileged to provide manufacturing and supply chain support to Neopenda.

Neopenda , founded in 2015 at Columbia University, is a medical technology startup that aims to develop innovative needs-based medical technologies for emerging markets.

Traditional medical equipment isn’t designed for the majority of the world’s population and frequently fails in resource-constrained health facilities due to unique design constraints like power instability, internet access, space limitations and unavailability of spare parts. Neopenda deploys user-centric design to create affordable solutions that benefit underserved populations and enable high-quality patient care.

98% of the 2.6 million babies that die annually in their first month live in the developing world. 80% of these deaths are preventable. The neoGuardTM, Neopenda’s first product, is a 4-in-1 vital signs monitoring solution that deploys a wireless, rechargeable and reusable design to continuously monitor pulse rate, respiratory rate, Sp02 and temperature.

Right as the neoGuardTM was gearing up for large-scale clinical trials, Neopenda’s supply chain was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. KickStage identified key cost drivers in the design to allow an inexpensive supply chain and tooling reconfiguration. In addition, in response to the global threat of medical supply shortages, the KickStage team utilized innovative rapid prototyping techniques to design and domestically source an extension strap to allow the neoGuardTM to be deployed for adult patients.

To learn more about Neopenda and how you can support their mission, visit their website here .

KickStage Consulting’s COVID-19 support program is still available to all eligible companies looking to rebound their business and supply chain from the pandemic. For more information,  click here.

Every year, tens of millions of students participate in science fairs around the globe but only about 1,800 earn the right to compete for nearly $5 million awards bestowed each May at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).

2020 will see the next generation of STEM leaders travel to Anaheim to compete. As with every science fair, there is always a great need for qualified judges and general volunteers. These individuals play a most crucial role in ensuring that the contestants have an enriched experience, providing a platform for them to convey their hard work and receive attention and critique from professionals working in the field.

I am honored to serve as a Grand Award Judge in the Behavioral and Social Sciences category. I warmly welcome all of my professional network and friends to join me in helping support global young scientific minds. Information on qualification and volunteer opportunities can be found here. 

Angela Whiteside – President KickStage Consulting

The pull of low international wage rates and the increased globalization and connectivity of global supply chains means that manufacturing companies of all sizes and commodities have access to international outsourcing as part of their strategic supply chain design. However, with aggregate outsourcing results lukewarm at best, it can be a daunting process for companies to undertake.

Why do some companies achieve great success and financial reward in low-cost countries, yet other industry colleagues crash and burn?

The reasons for this can all be traced back to the breadth and maturity of the supply chain function in approaching the task. The primary reason for outsourcing failure happens when procurement personnel have been blinded by an impressive ‘sticker price’ from a low-cost nation and have made an insular decision, solely on price, without undertaking a broader risk analysis of the opportunity.

To avoid falling down a similar rabbit hole, here are a few tips for your business to integrate at the front end of a sourcing initiative when considering low-cost country options:

  • Be product/service specific. The optimal sourcing choice is wholly dependent on the product or service that you are outsourcing. Do you have protected IP? Do your demands fluctuate or are they predictable? What is the country skill-endowment for your specific skill needs? All these questions determine the viability and appropriateness of a sourcing choice.
  • Engage a multi-disciplinary team. A buyer should never make sourcing choices in a vacuum, especially for complex parts. Engineering, manufacturing and quality professionals need to be around the table when sourcing choices are reviewed.
  • Put boots on the ground. In-person visits to a low cost supplier are critical in undertaking detailed capability and capacity assessments to validate the ability of the supplier to meet your company needs.

 Are you wanting to assess global options to optimize and augment your supply chain, but nervous of the risks present? Drop us an email for a free consultation and strategic planning session!

One of the most common questions our clients approach us with always sounds a bit like this:

“I need to double my throughput in the next 6 months to meet customer demand, but the faster I try to do it, the worse our quality issues and production disruptions seem to become”

These ‘growing pains’ are all too common in fast-moving manufacturing businesses. Trying to rapidly scale an operation prior to optimizing and ‘Leaning out’ your production processes and systems is often a recipe for disaster, magnifying inefficiencies and quality issues.

  • Quality rejections escalate rapidly if the process is expanded prior to addressing the root cause of the rejection
  • Variability levels increase by an order of magnitude with volume, leading to increased inventory and inefficient resource utilization
  • Unachievable delivery goals lead to customer dissatisfaction, poor moral, and wasted expense expediting product

The KickStage approach to this dilemma is fast and firm – Lean first, scale next. We:

  • Deploy data-driven DMAIC problem solving to Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control the production processes
  • Engage the customer in the application of Lean tools across the product creation process – all functions, all operations, all people
  • Strategically define the systems and methodologies that align with customer vision, budget, and scaling plan  

With manufacturers experiencing strong growth across many sectors in 2019, we are helping our clients expand their operations effectively and efficiently!

Email me –  – for a free consultation and growth strategy!

2019 has been a exciting and fast-paced year for the KickStage team! As for 2020, we have a series of firm goals that we look forward to realizing.

 We started the year at full speed supporting one of our largest customers to date in the industrial gas turbine industry. 

This multi-year project will grow the client into a major player in their market segment, allowing them to exploit the significant growth in renewable energies to which they operate alongside. We are excited for the coming year and for the mutual learning opportunities presented by this project and the excellent customer team that we get the privilege to work alongside.

We’ve also dived much deeper into the local San Diego business markets, joining several economic development councils and chambers including San Diego South Country EDC, San Diego Regional EDC and the Smart Border Coalition to learn directly from our local networks what their operational pain points are in order to guide our service development projects. Our VP Zac Cole had a great opportunity to speak to a team of professionals from Tijuana and San Diego about Lean practices and how they can be applied to our national border to aid bi-national business.

Our President, Angela Whiteside, also marked the mid-point of her Doctoral thesis research in November. She is actively researching the enablers of successful international outsourcing projects across cultural divides, and is enjoying deploying these new insights in real-time to help customers navigate supply chain challenges.

2019 also saw the team of our partnership startup, Lift.Works, secure their first launch customers and undertake system testing for the PowerBlock Model LW3 hybrid power unit system, adaptable to a wide portfolio of single-rotor, multi-rotor and fixed-wing UAV applications. The solution unlocks unparalleled range and application for industrial drones, and 2019 marked a major milestone for the team as they completed full system integration and were a featured exhibitionist at the 2019 Miramar Air Show. They enter 2020 ready for flight testing and wide-scale commercialization.

Finally, we have been fortunate to grow even further our strong and diverse team of consultants this last year – both geographically and skill-based. We have specifically strengthened our competencies in Agile Project Management, Quality Management Systems and the Chinese and Mexican aerospace supply chains. With this diversification, we seek to confidently pursue customers looking for support in these areas.

Reach out to us to share your 2020 goals and how we can support them!

KickStage Consulting founders Angela and Zac both started their careers within large aerospace manufacturers. The impetus for starting their own business came from witnessing first-hand the changing nature of aerospace New Product Introduction (NPI) programs.

New products were being introduced faster and more frequently than ever before, and the resourcing of these programs was proving more and more problematic.

Companies needed adaptable and agile procurement and manufacturing resource skills that could be flexed and scaled rapidly to the tasks at hand. Traditional hiring was no longer the most effective and cost efficient way to support these programs, and thus the founders sought to create a consulting company that would help customers design world-class manufacturing and supply chain solutions in the most responsive and optimized way possible.
But how did the name ‘KickStage’ come about? Well, in considering different name options, Angela, originally an astrophysicist, and Zac, a major cosmology nerd, turned to the field of space exploration for inspiration.

The ‘Kick Stage’ of a rocket launch refers to the final stage of rocket boosters that push a spacecraft into its final orbiting velocity.

The name was cool and unique, and provides a good visual of what the KickStage Consulting team aims to do for all of our valued customers – boost them into orbit!

Exceeding Expectations

With proven results across a wide range of complex and modern technology projects, KickStage is your partner in realizing optimal quality and profit for your shareholders.

Developing world-class manufacturing and supply chain systems



 San Diego, California

 +1 (317) 442-3577