Case Study One

 

GLARE (Glass Reinforced Epoxy) is an advanced pre-impregnated composite material vital to the Airbus A380 Superjumbo because it sticks the upper fuselage sections together. It was only produced on one old, multi-component machine in one location and that machine needed to produce much more of it and much more efficiently. The challenge was set to double the production speed while increasing quality and at the same time reducing the manpower required to run it. The aim was to ensure a position as a key supplier on the A380 production programme with aircraft build rates increasing from 2 to 20 per year.

 

Using a multi-factor analysis the key process factors of the machine were identified and a designed experiment (DOE) incorporating those factors was run to understand how the machine performance could be improved through their manipulation. The factors were also analysed to understand what engineering was critical to the quality (CTQ) of the operation of the machine.

 

Engineering requirements were identified and improved and the resin supply was automated. A pilot programme of machine adjustments was instigated, incrementally moving the process factors to those indicated until the machine capability limits were reached. Lean principles were also applied to production management on the machine: huddles were instigated to improve communication, performance metrics were published on the machine and discussed at the huddles, business strategy was also communicated to the team running the machine to improve engagement and a Just In Time (JIT) materials supply policy was applied through collaboration with Procurement.

 

When the project was complete after 9 months the production speed had almost quadrupled (from 0.8 to 3.0 metres per minute), batch sizes had increased from 400m to 13,000m, scrap rates had reduced from 15% per batch to consistently <1%, resin viscosity variation had been reduced by over 80% and the manpower required to operate the machine had halved. This translated into financial benefits of over £1.25m per year in material quality improvements and increased sales. It also secured the company’s position as sole global supplier for GLARE to the entire Airbus business.