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Citadel's In house design center
By: Richard Roseman – Managing Director, Jet Cabin Freshbook
I think it's both fair and accurate to say, that almost every major VVIP completion center (current or former) was founded by someone that either had amassed experience with a previous center or otherwise had been peripherally involved in the operational side of large completions. I then would offer that almost NO centers have ever been founded by someone from the customer side - that is until 2018, when Citadel Completions LLC was formed, opening its doors in Lake Charles, LA. For all that may not know it, (probably very few by now), the founding and formation of Citadel originated with the late Sheldon G. Adelson, a Las Vegas based entrepreneur who among many others, had a passion for aviation.
Why is that significant? Well, a couple of reasons: 1) Sheldon Adelson just happens to have owned and operated more VVIP aircraft than any other single individual on the planet, and by good measure (in most cases exceeding the flight departments of foreign heads of state). And 2) because by virtue of this, he was arguably the most experienced owner on the planet; him and his organization having had the most direct customer experience in dealing with large completion centers, anywhere. Roll these two very unique facts together and one can quickly discern that it's an unprecedented foundation from which to launch a center.
It can be certainly argued that the operational side of a major completion center (e.g. process) is essential, and perhaps the most important component in achieving success. But it can just as easily be said that to understand the VVIP completion process from the customer perspective is also vastly important and not always well-understood by those from a purely operational background.
This, more than anything, (from this writer's perspective), is what sets Citadel apart from other centers. To BE a customer is to understand that experience (and the expectations) from a perspective that no CEO or COO from an operational background could ever fully grasp.
But there's something else now that may in fact raise Citadel further above the fray. Citadel's Director of Design, Jim Murphy has been quite enthusiastic to tell us (and the world) about it. We had a chance to sit down with Mr. Murphy a few days ago while he unveiled their new program, DESIGN CONNECT. Below is my interview with him.
JCF: Completion centers have long sought to reduce lead-times and improve delivery schedules. Some have yielded good results and gone on to become industry standards. Design Connect seems to be a fresh angle on an old problem. Can you help us understand a bit more about how the new program might prove effective in moving completion schedules to the left?
JM: Our process includes engaging the designer at the earliest point in the completions process. Typically, completion centers do not kick-off a project until rendering designs and elevation packages are complete. Through our Design Connect program, we engage engineering and planning as soon as the floor plan is frozen, which accelerates the build process and delivery.
JCF: Historically, Independent designers have often been reticent about aligning themselves with any particular completion center as it tends to dilute their perceived impartiality. How does Design Connect address this issue?
JM: To be clear, we are not asking for an exclusive alignment with the designer. Citadel's desire is to be afforded the opportunity to bid on the completion projects designers are working on. Any projects that designers bring to Citadel are their projects, and they maintain the relationship with the client. We strive to build a partnership that delivers the aircraft quicker. Our belief is when they experience extreme customer service and a quicker schedule it will set us apart. We, do however, maintain strict confidentiality agreements with our designers to ensure everyone's information is always protected.
JCF: Forging healthy relationships between the Designer and Completion Center indeed seems to have intrinsic benefits in terms of lending better understanding to the challenges each face. In your estimation, could such a closer relationship actually bridge the historical gap between left brain and right – and thereby streamline the completion process?
JM: Interesting question, and of course, this is what we ultimately desire to achieve. The Design Connect process provides aircraft constraints in a template that the designer can reference allowing the designers vision to be maintained through delivery. Providing this guidance allows creativity to define the intent, rather than be changed at a later date due to necessity and schedule limitations. Design Connect is part of the bigger picture of doing completions differently.
JCF: In your brief, you mention how Citadel will be able to provide many opportunities to impress the clients of participating Designers. Can you elaborate on this please and highlight some of the specific ways this might occur?
JM: From the beginning, the vision of our founder, Mr. Sheldon G. Adelson, was to create the best completions center in the world. Through this vision the design studio experience has been created to impress customers and establish a partnership with third-party designers. This includes the presentation of physical materials at two different locations, access to numerous V/VVIP aircraft, and state-of-the-art design studio in Lake Charles to present design packages.
JCF: Your brief also eluded to the designer and completion center's planning and engineering as a 'concurrent' process with in-house design support - thus reducing lead times even further. I myself have long believed in this concept as it tends to preempt build and cert problems before they occur. Can you please put a finer point on how Design Connect will leverage these efficiencies?
JM: Engineering and planning work concurrently with design by taking an aggressive stance on reducing lead time and down time. The design “building-blocks” are developed from a library of pre-vetted floor plans and components that cross-reference with our pre-engineered drawings, these are tied into our quoting database as well. The process provides a "guide" for designers to overlay their floor plans on the pre-engineered templates. The designers' styling is added over this framework, enabling the release of the engineering drawings faster. We get a head start on procurement and material sourcing through vendor partnerships that provide components quicker.
JCF: If I understand, I think you said Citadel will offer up a full 2-D design component library to participating studios - which of course can be helpful and expedient in creating 'buildable' concepts from the outset. Is there a specific reason why this component will not extend to 3-D, or is that simply an evolution that will come later?
JM: The first step is defining the floorplan, and being that most designers are familiar with 2D, it's easier to get the client to select what they want. There will be an evolution of the 2D information, and we have plans to add vendor-specific components to the library with additional cross-sections and side views. Regarding 3D models, we will be unveiling that plan as Design Connect matures, so stay tuned!
JCF: If a designer chooses to embark on a new potential project via Design Connect, does that actually mean he or she could invite the client(s) to your facility in Lake Charles and make the presentation there? And if so, what types of ancillary support would Citadel provide?
JM: Yes, we encourage designers to bring their clients to experience the Citadel Completions offerings and showcase not only our engaging design center, but also our incredible production facilities. Our design center boasts a wonderful display of aircraft approved materials, full-scale fuselage mockups, a digital display area, conference rooms, customer lounges and offices, and 3D printing resources – all of which are all available resources intended to be an extension of the designer's offerings. Additionally, our team of in-house material experts, CAD operators and support personnel are available to address any questions or concerns onsite to create a positive experience.
JCF: It will no doubt be impressive for a client to see his or her design renderings and materials presentation unfolded in your design center – and at the same time witness the processes and capabilities of a world-class completion facility simultaneously. How closely would these two elements be intertwined and would your developmental support of the designer during this phase carry any ownership of the design.
JM: The goal is to support the designer and create a quicker delivery of the client's aircraft. The designer is the owner of the design, with the entire Citadel team supporting from a technical perspective.
JCF: As an outgrowth of my prior question, do you ever foresee issues with having made a significant investment of time and resources, only to have the client ultimately decide on a competing facility over money or other factors? I mean I realize there is risk in any endeavor but have you addressed this concern?
JM: We have confidence that through our extreme customer service philosophy, vision of integrating design, engineering, and manufacturing, and our ultimate goal of quicker project span times, we will be the preferred center of choice.
JCF: To almost anybody in our industry, the origins of Citadel are well-known. The late Mr. Sheldon Adelson had one of the largest fleets of privately owned VVIP and Business Jet aircraft in the world. And so certainly the design / completion process was eminently familiar to him. It begs the question; was Design Connect another of his brainchild's or did it come about more organically in Lake Charles?
JM: Mr. Adelson's vision of doing it differently is the foundation for everything we do. The challenge he set for us as a business was to revolutionize the completions industry by completing aircraft interiors faster, without sacrificing quality. The Design Connect concept is a natural evolution of his vision, integrating those activities which typically occur in linear fashion, achieving the build in a shorter period of time. We believe adding this program furthers his vision, and is the starting point in streamlining the completion process.
JCF: Lastly Jim, I have to inquire...is the Cajun / Creole food as good as I hear in Lake Charles? This might be of interest to some of our more far-flung designers.
JM: So, I was not a Cajun fan when I arrived here over 2 years ago, but we have incredible restaurants in Lake Charles…and all of the food is amazing! Of course, Cajun cuisines are a specialty and we are humbled to be part of this community. We will be inviting designers to our showroom reopening in July, so come and can get a taste of Southern Louisiana!
End Interview. Read below for more details:
Calling all Aviation Interior Designers
More on the philosophy and details of Citadel's DESIGN CONNECT program.
Citadel is interested in delivering interiors quicker. To accomplish this our team took a look at the full scope of a completions project and analyzed it for opportunities to reduce lead times and down times. Design Connect is a program born from of this philosophy.
Design Connect is two-fold; offering Citadel a chance to engage with the design community and reduce project lead times. Design Connect is a program that offers designers tools and opportunities to create fantastic designs that are technically accurate from the start, connecting designers to the right suppliers and materials, and immerses them into the Citadel process earlier than typical completions centers.
The first step in a new project is the design process. Typically, in completions, this phase can take six months or more before design information gets to engineering. Citadel is taking a different approach. Planning and Engineering work concurrently with in-house design support to reduce lead time even further. Taking these steps requires a commitment to support the early development of a project, in some cases without a signed contract. We have done this and will continue to do so.
The Design Connect process is key is providing designers with the pre-vetted interior, technical data that provides the designer with realistic expectations for designing their aircraft's interior. We arm the designer with the tools they need to do this. As the project progresses, there are fewer questions or changes that need remediation, which otherwise could have led to delays; we've therefore reduced or eliminated these issues.
This technical data is provided free of charge to the designer. The files have been created and vetted by our team to accommodate our engineering and production methodologies. Setting these expectations early in the development process reduces changes and rework later on down the line. The files include 2D floor plans, vendor components, and component assemblies to help the designer construct an interior layout. If the designer does not have these tools, Citadel Design Support can help as needed, free of charge. Once the floor plan has been approved, the designer can move forward with renderings knowing that their design has a high level of confidence of not being changed later in the process. At the same time, Citadel Engineering and Planning teams address their respective areas, which further leads to reduced lead time and earlier engagement of suppliers.
Citadel Design Studio offers many opportunities for designers to impress their clients. We extend our resources to you. These resources include opening our facility for workspace or meetings, providing access to key personnel, materials library, vendor suppliers, multiple showrooms, and access to aircraft assets.
Calling all designers to register with Design Connect today and receive the quarterly newsletter, exclusive access to Citadel's 2D library, and invites to the corporate aviation industry's most significant events!
Freshbook invites you to visit Citadel's website at: citadelcompletions.com