Intelligent work methods gives efficient production

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 16 May 2008



(2008), "Intelligent work methods gives efficient production", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 80 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Intelligent work methods gives efficient production

Article Type: Aerospace technology From: Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal, Volume 80, Issue 3.

Lean production is familiar to many, perhaps primarily from the automotive industry. This manufacturing method has now reached the aircraft industry and Saab Aerostructures.

Just over two years ago, Saab Aerostructures was awarded the task of developing and manufacturing seven different doors for Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner. From the beginning it was decided that production, primarily of the Large Cargo Doors, would be automated in some form. Magnus Engström, who has worked at Saab for 17 years developing new production technologies, tells us that they soon realised that lean production with a pulsed line was the way to go. “This way of working is still quite new within the aircraft industry. It required major investments but it means that Saab Aerostructures is now at the cutting edge in this area” he says.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner has a large order book, and the production line at Saab Aerostructures is designed to meet the large demand of the aircraft. The line took a little over a year to build up and the first door was delivered to Boeing on schedule in the second quarter of 2007.

Pulsed line

The Large Cargo Doors are manufactured in the pulsed line. The doors are built in a jig; a large fixture which holds everything in place during assembly. A conveyor belt guides the jig's path between the nine stations where the different work procedures are carried out to complete the door. The work at all stations is designed to take equally long periods to complete, and it means that the jigs can pulse forward on the line in sync. It moves from station one where a skeleton is built, to station nine where a final check and function test is carried out before the door is sent to Boeing.

More efficient production

Lean production is about working more intelligently and having routines and standards to make the production more efficient. The pulsed line is one of the methods used to create conditions to apply lean production. Lean production differs from traditional aircraft manufacture in many more ways. In addition to the purely technical aspects, there are also a number of “soft” values. Among other things, there are standardised installation instructions which make work more efficient, support resources close to production, visual daily guides that minimise error frequency and more.

“The great benefit with this way of working is that it removes a lot of the waste that otherwise occurs, for example searching for information, searching for materials and tools, problem solving, and so on,” says Magnus Engström.

Total make over

Things are really happening at Denel Saab Aerostrucutres. An extensive facility upgrade is going on meaning major investments in new technology.

Denel Saab Aerostructures is a newly established company on the aerospace market, formed in the beginning of 2007. The South African company, which is 80 per cent owned by Denel and 20 per cent owned by Saab, has customers such as Airbus, Boeing, BAE Systems, Agusta Westland, IAI and Saab.

During the second half of 2007, Denel Saab Aerostructures have completed the implementation of new equipment that forms part of a total facility upgrade.

We do this to enhance our competitiveness on the market and to prepare ourselves for currently acquired and future business opportunities. In this business it is important to be in the forefront of technology, says Kjell Johnsson, CEO at Denel Saab Aerostructures.

Investments in high-speed machining

One of the biggest investments made in the plant in Kempton Park, Johannesburg, are two new high-speed machines (HSM). The company's investment in HSM is an initiative aimed at making the operation more cost efficient and competitive. The machines are 4.5 and 6.5m five- axis HSM Zimmermann. With completion due in the first quarter of 2008, the final stages of the high-speed machining facility have been initiated.

New Fluid Cell Press is ready for production

Denel Saab Aerostructures has also invested in a new Fluid Cell Press in the Sheet Metal Shop. Recently, the Fluid Cell Press completed the final acceptance which means that production now can start. The machine will be used to produce parts for the Wing Fuselage Fairings for the Airbus military transport aircraft, A400M.

Further upgrades in 2008

An upgrade will also be carried out in the Surface Treatment Plant. The first steps towards optimising and automate the complete surface treatment has been taken, but more improvements will be carried out during 2008.

The facility upgrades will continue this year with focus on consolidating and optimising the workflow. Besides, that some new projects will be launched. These include the second phase and automation upgrade of the surface treatment line together with a new paint shop.

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