Change is something we must all deal with. This is especially important in the aerospace industry. Here’s a story about a parts supplier whose entire production line was paper based. Let’s say, for example, that one of the O-rings inside of a fuel control module was no longer being produced by one of the suppliers. Engineering would make a change to the manufacturing instructions, specifying a new part number and a new vendor. New stock would come into the supply room. Then they would go around to each workstation and each operator and update the paper instructions that they had.
The older operators, being very experienced, usually never referenced the operating instructions. If there was a different procedure for installing this type of O-ring, they would do it without consulting the manual and possibly use the old procedure. If this change order was a safety issue, then they would send a team of people around the plant to scour the inventory and find every model that was made with that old O-ring. This resulted in only a 40% conformance rate. So, for example, for every 10 units produced, six either went out with the old part or had to be scrapped.
So, this company decided to put in an MES solution to digitize the process. The immediate change that it experienced was the ability for engineering design changes to immediately be visible in the operator work instructions. Second, the more experienced operators were forced to read the new instructions and use the new procedure, as they had to validate each step before proceeding to the next inside of the system. It would not let them do any assembly without first seeing the new instructions in front of them.
Also, the company could provide less training for new operators, as work instructions enforce the operation—basically, error proofing the entire process.
The result was going from 40% to 80% compliance in engineering change orders out of the shop.
Talk about big change. Another outcome was the ability to quickly identify and trace parts in the process that needed to be reworked and doing that before the parts left the site. This is the power of going from a paper-based process to one that’s digital.
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