A once-in-a-decade supply chain puzzle has been solved as ViaSat-3 Americas satellite readies for spaceflight
Acquiring materials that can withstand the rigors of space is complicated – add COVID-19 to the mix and you have an even larger challenge on your hands – one that Viasat’s Vice President of strategic sourcing, Amy Dobecki and her team were ready to take on.
A satellite is huge, heavy, and incredibly complex. Building one takes time, detailed planning, and specialized equipment — including miles of electrical wiring and coaxial cables, hundreds of electronic boxes, and thousands of fasteners and connectors. That is where Amy Dobecki and her team come in.
Dobecki is Viasat’s vice president of strategic sourcing, an essential role that manages material sourcing and purchasing for all the company’s products. That includes not only satellite components, but ground network equipment, residential and defense terminals, and the radomes for commercial and government jets that enable Viasat’s award-winning in-flight connectivity service.
“My team gets engaged in really everything we buy,” she said. “We work with the engineers to understand where our product road maps are going, and then we find affordable and capable partners and suppliers who can manufacture our designs. We lay the foundation to make sure we are successful by sourcing quality products in house, at a competitive price, at the right time.”
“Before ViaSat-3 even started early-stage development we had already started talking about the types of parts that were going to be used in the ViaSat-3 satellites,” she said. “That’s when we also began growing our partnerships with suppliers.”
While Dobecki has more than 20 years of supply chain experience, the innovation in the ViaSat-3 Americas satellite presented her with new challenges.
“Our engineers are the most brilliant I’ve ever worked with, and they design leading-edge technology,” she said. “It can be hard to find suppliers that can manufacture something so advanced.
“We supported procurements for the equipment used in our data centers, on our ground systems and fiber lines — anything and everything across the board that goes into the ViaSat-3 system. We had to go out and find suppliers that had the right space pedigree, and negotiate contract terms and conditions, including pricing so we’re on budget. We also must ensure the contract terms include penalties if they’re late, which can impact our ability to launch on time.”
As in many aspects of business, a vital part of Dobecki’s job is building good relationships with suppliers — that paid off during the pandemic.
“We all heard the news about supply chain issues stemming from the pandemic; we were not immune to that impact,” she said. “To get what we needed, we leaned on our relationships with our suppliers, asking them to prioritize our material shipments.”
If that didn’t pan out, Dobecki found other avenues.
“We did a lot of out-of-the-box thinking to make sure we got those parts in,” she said.
“It has been a labor of love for us in the sourcing world to make sure we get what we need to be successful with ViaSat-3.”
Dobecki, has worked in supply chain at Boeing Satellite Systems and other companies. She has always enjoyed the process of negotiating and building relationships, but none of that compares to the thrill of seeing a completed satellite.
“To see all the fruits of your labor come together in this huge payload is amazing,” she said. “It’s also very meaningful to be able to say we’re part of something that’s going to connect the world. We’re breaking new ground with our goals and ideas and it’s exciting to be part of that.”