Being a competitive player in the aerospace and defense industry is no small feat. In an industry in which you need to be accountable for every piece of an assembly, meeting customer expectations and requirements can be daunting tasks.
Luckily, manufacturers can find solace in the smart manufacturing technologies appearing as part of Industry 4.0.
ATM, founded in 1996 and part of the PKC group, knows well the benefits of going paperless and adhering to smart manufacturing principles.
ATM was created to fill the requirements of the rail transit industry. Over time, this ISO 9001:2008-certified company expanded to deliver a range of components for aerospace, defense and mass transit.
To honor high standards on complex assemblies, the firm started implementing more documentation, highly detailed work instructions and thorough inspection checklists into projects.
Jim McInroy, ATM’s engineering manager, remembers the system that was first put in place. “Before VKS we used a ‘yellow folder’ system that was mainly Microsoft Word based. One folder would house the work order’s bill of materials, drawings, release forms, work instructions and checklists.”
Under that system, it was difficult to ensure work instructions and procedures were completed exactly as required.
It was also a challenge to manage all the separate documents that contained the data related to an assembly.
In 2015, VKS approached ATM with software that could not only help the firm optimise its work instructions but also enable it to store data and deliver the quality and traceability that its clients requested.
“The first big project we received after having installed VKS was a series of 8 or 10 different electromagnetic assemblies. The assemblies were highly complex and required the full photo-documentation of multiple unique items that would be used in the build,” McInroy said.
“We chose to use VKS since it allowed us to make each piece traceable,” he added. “We created guidebooks that showed our operator how to assemble the items and what photographs needed to be taken.
“Through the use of forms, operators could associate the part serial numbers to the photos by simply scanning them. We really appreciated that our data was in one place and that serial numbers could be used afterwards in the report search filter, allowing us to trace all our parts when needed.”
After that experience, ATM chose to go paperless for all of its assemblies.
“We moved on to the ‘yellow routing folder’ system,” McInroy said. “Each ‘folder’ contains barcodes to access all the guidebooks required for the work order. When a routing folder is sent to a cell, the operator opens it, scans the first guidebook and starts the production. So far, the process has been pretty seamless and has required little support.”
ATM is now preparing to integrate the VKS software into its inspection processes and test procedures, he said.
Going paperless for the inspection process can be just as seamless.
“The benefits of going paperless and having full traceability and accountability are no longer exclusive to the assembly processes,” said Simon Spencer, VKS’ data scientist. “Today a fully digital and mobile checklist can be created that will show inspectors exactly what to inspect, all the while recording their assessments and comments.”
As progressive companies like ATM increase the use of smart technology to secure their position as leading players in the manufacturing world, it is important that companies that have not started this process realize that times have changed.
Soon, going paperless will be an unavoidable requirement to stay relevant in this demanding market.
It is the ultimate case of “less is more” so much so that the adage might be changed to “none is best.”