Aerospace programs are becoming more complex as is evident in the majority of high profile programs experiencing significant cost overruns and delays. These programs continue to underperform against their plan and commitments resulting in repeated announcements of delays throughout the development program. Pressure is on both aerospace OEMs and suppliers to provide dramatically more efficiency, reduce cost and increase production flexibility.
Therefore, in the race to submit competitive program bids, it requires reinventing the way a program is executed from concept development to detailed design through manufacturing planning, execution and customer delivery. The solution lies in increasing the collaboration and coordination at all stages of program execution.
At Siemens PLM Software, our perspective on driving program execution excellence in the aerospace industry requires shifting manufacturing decision-making process to the early stages of concept development and design. Bids are awarded to those who can demonstrate that product can meet the desired cost and schedule requirements.
In the aerospace industry, program profitability is heavily dependent on the manufacturing efficiency. For most in the industry, manufacturing capabilities drive competitive differentiation. Companies that are better in managing capital-intensive manufacturing resources and processes typically win.
Manufacturing challenges in the aerospace industry are growing. Use of advanced materials such as composites and advanced processes such as Additive Manufacturing are driving up manufacturing complexities. Automated processes are replacing labour-intensive applications on the shop floor and this is increasing the need for specialised tools. Focus on quality requires proper monitoring and traceability of tolerances and part allocation against customer requirements. Informed make vs buy decisions and subcontractor/supplier management is critical to program success.
Driving program execution excellence
To drive program execution excellence, aerospace companies must rethink their approach to manufacturing by adopting the following best practice strategies:
Establish a true concurrent product development and manufacturing environment: The idea here is to include manufacturing requirements and analysis as an integral part of the concept and design phases. This can drastically improve efficiency in the rapid evaluation of multiple product designs and manufacturing options and, thereby, generate a true design for manufacturability. The “Shift-Left” approach is the idea of moving critical product design and manufacturing decisions early in the lifecycle. This is not a new idea and has been an industry initiative for decades. Unfortunately, this initiative in the past has experienced real execution issues. The tools to manage product design and manufacturing processes in an integrated and seamless environment were lacking. Product design and manufacturing planning applications were unmanaged tools and designers and manufacturing engineers had to deal with isolated systems. Aerospace companies can gain greater efficiency by integrating the product design as well as manufacturing processes in a single environment.
The key to this concurrent approach is not only to assess virtually the design for manufacturability, but also to mature the manufacturing process, plans and tooling concurrent with the design, conducting concurrent product and manufacturing design and readiness reviews. Having a single environment for all product and manufacturing data is the cornerstone of this approach. This enables companies to verify during the design stage that manufacturing is capable of meeting the program requirements and performance characteristics.
Bridge the gap between engineering and production: A true bi-directional flow of information between design and manufacturing teams is key for successful program execution. Winning the bid and executing it profitably requires close collaboration and communication among the program team to maximise opportunities for design and manufacturing optimisation. Collaboration allows not only manufacturing to have access to latest design data, but also design teams to gain knowledge and experience from the shop floor. This enables a more informed decision-making. Use of 3D design and simulation technology can be used to predict manufacturing costs and timings more accurately. A closed-loop environment between design and manufacturing allows early assessment of manufacturability risks for new designs, materials and processes providing valuable feedback to design engineers so that they can optimise the design.
Common change management process: The likelihood of late-cycle change requests cannot be eliminated. If a late change happens, the key is to have the ability to react quickly and take necessary corrective steps. Efficient change management tools help in minimising shop floor disruptions and controlling cost buildup. Generally, the industry focuses on design changes, but it is equally important to manage changes to manufacturing processes and tooling. With a common change management tool, design issues can be quickly traced to the tooling, work-instructions and shop floor operations. Furthermore, changes to tooling and manufacturing processes can be managed effectively using the same change management process with different approval requirements. Furthermore, when design and manufacturing changes are performed in the same environment, it ensures that necessary product and process improvements are adopted as quickly and cost effectively as possible.
An integrated environment for part and assembly manufacturing: Aerospace companies must adopt tools that span all aspects of manufacturing. This involves managing part fabrication as well as assembly processes in a holistic approach. Part manufacturing processes such as NC programming, fibre placement for composites, Additive Manufacturing, automated inspection programming, resource libraries as well as part process planning should be managed in a database environment. The same data management technology used for part manufacturing should be extended to manage complex assembly processes. Specific assembly applications such as assembly line and plant layout design, throughput and timing analysis, automation planning, as well as ergonomics analysis of assembly workers should be all performed in a common enterprise environment. Such an integrated manufacturing environment provides aerospace companies a greater advantage when a program transitions from engineering and planning to physical production.
For aerospace companies, successfully delivering program cost and schedule requirements will improve company’s profits, reputation and the ability to invest in and win new programs. New production technologies and the growing number of variants continue to drive program complexities. A process-driven approach to shifting product and manufacturing decisions early in the lifecycle is necessary for program execution excellence. Product Realisation from Siemens PLM Software provides aerospace companies a process-driven solution to shift manufacturing decisions earlier in the lifecycle and integrate manufacturing considerations throughout each phase of the lifecycle.