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Mobility’s Growing Need

John O'Kelly
By John O'Kelly Founder and CEO, Newcastle Systems

A&D manufacturing is one of the most highly regulated industries, and for good reason: The FAA handles over 43,000 flights a day. Add in private jets and defense aircrafts, and we’re talking about the safety of millions of people daily. When manufacturers don’t comply with regulations, fines can be massive.

But how can manufacturers meet regulations and remain efficient? A great place to start is by implementing lean tactics on the shop floor that help achieve mobility. Each step an employee makes on the floor, each piece of paper or part they touch is costing the company time and money. The key to achieving mobility is through reducing wasted motion.

Mobility is achieved through applying processes and devices that add value to the process and eliminate all non-value activity. Implementation tactics include software programs that track inventory, allow real time access to business-critical systems and mobile-powered workstations that allow labor to work on-the-go and value-stream mapping to track areas that are not performing. Measurement is also important in ensuring the process is constantly improving.

Mobility helps in these A&D manufacturing areas:

  • Real-time access to Production Systems: ERP, work instructions, drawings, specs, human resource files, regulations & compliance documents and related manufacturing systems all reside on computers. Having real time access to this data can be critical to productivity and ensure a more efficient workflow. Supervisors can work out on the shop floor instead of constant trips back to the office. Workers can see the most updated version of a drawing or any document. They can update business systems real time, no wasted trips to find computers. Holding team meetings on the shop floor is much more productive than using meeting rooms. Mobile powered workstations allow these and many other activities.

  • Quality control testing & audits: Nothing slows down process-driven manufacturing quite like defects in parts and products. Anytime one gets through one stage of the process undetected, it’s a major issue, steps are missed and lots of non-value-added work is being completed downstream. Mobility is important during quality checks as laborers conducting tests and quality audits are working with tons of data on work orders that need to be confirmed, then inputted. Bring the measuring tools and computers you need with you on a mobile workstation to the product, this saves on time and mistakes.

  • Labeling: Mobility is key to accurate labeling as it allows laborers to label directly at the product versus walking back and forth to the printer multiple times a day. Labeling can occur right at the product location, in real time through the use of mobile-powered workstations with printers and scanners, greatly reducing the chance for errors. Scanning and printing while on the go is an immense time-saver and accuracy booster.

  • Receiving, production & traceability: Receiving is where all process-oriented manufacturing starts. Pieces of equipment are unloaded and must be accurately labeled and warehoused so they’re in the right space at the right time. In aerospace manufacturing, parts differ in size greatly. When a shipment of thousands of small parts come in, having a sophisticated receiving process is important to maintain organization. Aerospace manufacturers need to ensure that each product moves through its minimum cost flow path and has accurate traceability. Having accurate traceability and real time is also critical. Mobility tactics need to be implemented in the receiving process and production process so labor can accurately get essential parts from the dock to production and through the production system.

Aerospace manufacturing is unique because of the size of the final product. There isn’t a production line churning hundreds of finished products an hour. Mobility is essential as the distance traveled from part to part during manufacturing is lengthy. If labor can’t bring their work orders and data with them when traveling from wing to wing, there are countless wasted steps being taken, and errors are more likely to occur when fishing for all the paperwork then need.

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