Cutting Composites and Waste at GKN Aerospace
The lean initiative at the company’s Cowes (UK) facility changes how they ply their trade.
A leading Tier One supplier of aircraft components across the globe, GKN Aerospace is proactively developing lean manufacturing technology for its clients while working to increase sustainability and efficiency in its own business.
Lectra’s (Paris, France) previous experience with GKN Aerospace’s business and processes, combined with its 20-year history as a leader in the aeronautics industry and its expertise in industrial best practices (stemming primarily from the auto industry), positioned Lectra as an ideal choice to work with the GKN Aerospace facility at Cowes on the Isle of Wight, UK, as it moves toward a goal of leaner technology and optimized production processes through a lean manufacturing program.
As composites have become an in-demand solution for better performance and lower emissions, GKN Aerospace at Cowes needed to meet increasing demand and control costs without compromising on quality. With some composite material cutting done by hand and some using ultrasonic technology, the processes at GKN Aerospace’s Cowes site had been largely labor-intensive. To maintain pace with customer demand while extending the application of lean initiatives, GKN Aerospace recognized the need to move towards advanced automated manufacturing processes and technology-led design solutions.
As part of its lean program aimed at increasing sustainability and efficiency in all areas of the business—including reducing energy consumption, process time, and material waste—GKN Aerospace - Cowes turned to Lectra to take advantage of their expertise in the field, as well as Lectra’s experience working with GKN Aerospace, having dealt with the over the past 15 years. Using Lectra’s state-of-the-art composite solutions, remarkable improvements have been achieved, increasing productivity, quality, and efficiency while reducing costs.
The use of composite materials in aviation has increased to represent 50% of the total airframe content in the latest aircraft designs. Some estimates suggest a further increase to as much as 80% for the next generation aircraft. Lectra has helped GKN Aerospace - Cowes keep up with increasing demand efficiently and cost effectively. “Through ongoing investment in the development of our employees, our technologies, and our customer programs, we are well positioned to continue the strong growth achieved in recent years,” said Adrian Sayce, Operations Program Manager for Composites at GKN Aerospace – Cowes.
Lectra has helped GKN Aerospace - Cowes efficiently meet changes in material types. Increasingly user-friendly Pilot Control Software dedicated to ply cutting allows faster changeover between jobs and simple fine-tuning of cutting parameters.
Peter Steen, Value Stream Manager composite logistics at GKN Aerospace - Cowes, in charge of scheduling all composite materials across four departments, explained: “Having been in the business 37 years, I have witnessed clear improvement with the new generation cutters. Each machine has evolved remarkably with technology. Our newest solution, created with Lectra’s support, is faster, more user-friendly, adapted to our specific needs, quieter, and more economic in cutting.”
Material savings are a real benefit for GKN Aerospace - Cowes, which currently has an annual budget of around £12 million (approximately $19 million) for composites materials.
“We use Lectra cutting machines for cutting single-stack woven materials and their marker-making for advanced nesting, which helps us lower material wastage,” said Peter Steen. “These solutions have met all our requirements for them.”
Beyond technically advanced solutions, Lectra offers companies such as GKN Aerospace knowledge of the aerospace industry and understanding of changes in the industry—helping each customer adapt its optimization strategy and solutions to real-world challenges. A comprehensive maintenance training program complements Lectra’s remote service contracts. Delivered via a dedicated response center, Lectra’s service contract allows GKN Aerospace - Cowes to get immediate help without the need to wait for interventions by an onsite technical engineer, so they can work faster and smarter.
“GKN Aerospace - Cowes has worked with Lectra for 15 years, and we’ve always been satisfied with the service they offer. We see Lectra as an industry expert and value their advice,” said Sayce.
Edited by Senior Editor James D. Sawyer from information provided by Lectra.