Getting ready for smart manufacturing within the…

Getting ready for smart manufacturing within the…

Jul 25, 2016

“Getting ready for smart manufacturing within the aerospace industry”

By Paul Simon, Managing Director, ConsultEP

Airbus and Boeing are pushing their supply chain to heroic efforts by ramping up production rates, whilst driving cost down, on existing and new aircrafts. This huge industrial challenge already has caused delays due to the numerous backward-looking supply chain management approaches being used:

  • Wiring problems delayed the Airbus A380 supper-jumbo;
  • Outsourcing snared Boeing’s 787 long-haul aircraft;
  • Software bedevilled the Airbus A400M military transporter;
  • Software glitches and slow engine start associated with P&W engine set back the deliveries of A320neos;
  • Deliveries of A350 were impeded by late arrivals of lavatories and business seats from Zodiac Aerospace factories in the US.

As a consequence, the aerospace industry has began the race to achieve a dramatic improvement in cost efficiency and operational effectiveness by implementing Industrial 4.0 / Smart factories.

Since the Industrial Revolution, there have been five distinct waves of innovation, called Kondratieff waves, each of which began with disruptive new technologies and ended with global depression. The 4th and 5th waves, corresponding to the 3rd Industrial Revolution from 1970 to 2010, brought the explosion in machine technologies in our factories. In 1975, for the first time, we introduced computer technology on the shop floor in the form of Numerically Controlled (NC) equipment. Even before this technology was widespread, in 1980, we launched the next generation, Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) and Direct Numerically Controlled (DNC) equipments, which were interlinked and controlled from a single computer. By 1985, we started using Flexible Manufacturing Systems (FMS), which are capable of handling small lot production and rapidly changing product design. We are now on the cusp of the 4th Indutrial Revolution, which corresponds to the sixth Kondratieff wave.

Within the aerospace industry, innovations in new composite material technology, Additive Manufacturing technology, Cyber-Physical systems, Internet Of Things and Internet Systems are coalescing into a smart manufacturing platform that will deliver vast superior cost efficiencies and better operational effectiveness. These smart manufacturing platforms allow the visualisation of the entire production network and allow individual equipment to make decisions on its own. In the automotive industry, which was early adopters, they are capable of handling a lot size of one and achieving 100 per cent [on time and quality]. Obviously, we in the aerospace industry need to move fast to get to their level of performance in order to turn the huge challenge ahead of us to our advantage.

Our experience suggests that, in order to get ready for a smart manufacturing platform, there are three fundamental questions, which we must ask ourselves. First, at the strategic level, is the question, what will our future business look like operating a smart manufacturing platform, where value chains have become value networks? The second major question is how can manufacturing and our suppliers work together to realise this vision of the future and how can we overcome the barriers to achieving it? Thirdly, down on the shop floor, what will be the right blend of approaches, technologies and systems for the new business and how will the combine to create a high performing flexible operational network? We are seeking your views and experiences in the relation of introducing smart manufacturing platforms within the aerospace industry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *