Pulse news magazine

Volume 27, November 2019

Excellence in action

As programs across the company experience accelerated production growth, teams around the globe are exploring new ways to manufacture product at ever-increasing speed.

Teams across BAE Systems are implementing new solutions to meet 21st century needs as the company strives toward Achieving Operational Excellence.

Twenty-first century problems require modern solutions. Be they emerging national security threats or customer requests to increase delivery quantities, the standards of the 1900s are no longer adequate in this high-technology era.

With this in mind, BAE Systems is breaking the paradigms of the past as we shape the factory of the future.

Manufacturing in the 21st century

As programs across the company experience accelerated production growth, teams around the globe are exploring new ways to manufacture product at ever-increasing speed. One team in Rochester, England, adopted an innovative three-dimensional laser metrology for Printed Circuit Board inspection.

Rochester manufactures approximately 12,000 PCBs each year, and each board can see up to five operation inspections. The site's early adoption of Amfax's laser metrology for PCB inspection has greatly reduced false test failures by up to 92 percent in a major program for the site.

Beyond simply replacing human inspection with cameras, automated 3D Inspection scans the boards with high-resolution lasers to generate 3D models accurate to one micron, which are then validated against the original computer-aided design model. The inspection technology yields greater accuracy and reliability to build up a picture comprising millions of measurements, identifying even the tiniest of details.

"A failure is clear-cut – it either measures correctly or it doesn't, removing the interpretation required in visual analysis," said engineer and project lead Andrew Fowler. Other key production programs at the site will soon implement the same system for their uses.

Starting on the right foot

Key to success on any project is spending time at the beginning to properly plan and identify any potential risks to eliminate them before they become issues later. With this in mind, BAE Systems implemented Advanced Product Quality Planning into a number of its major programs this year.

APQP was first developed in the 1980s by the "Big Three" U.S. automotive companies to become more forward-thinking in design plans to ensure repeated manufacturability and high quality of production units. "You have to have a fully integrated process that's cross-functional to make effective plans," said Michael Tisack, director of Strategic Operations. "Other companies have failed because they didn't do that."

In addition to breaking down "silos" within business, BAE Systems' goal is to train employees to be practitioners of APQP and create artifacts of lessons learned to apply across the company in the future. "With further development cycles, program costs drop because we have a library of best practices and clear guidelines; once we have a baseline of effective knowledge, we can understand previous failure modes and avoid those issues," said Tisack. "We have a journey ahead of us, but we have set up a good approach."

A program within the sector's precision guidance munition business has implemented APQP throughout its supply chain, allowing both the company and its suppliers to identify process gaps, their root causes, and solutions to the issues. It was not an easy task, as the implementation began after the design phase was already complete.

"Developing structure, training, updating records – and, most of all, constantly communicating with regional Supplier Quality engineers and their directors – was a lot of work," said Michael Stewart, a Quality engineer for the program. "The experience led to cataloging several lessons learned to improve upon current and future efforts."

Added John Santanello, Program Quality manager for the program: "Without driving the Quality and reducing the variation in the processes from our suppliers, we would not have been able to meet the ramp rate we’re currently doing. APQP is not about defect reduction, but defect prevention."

A Herculean effort

The C-130J Software team of Totowa, New Jersey, develops the electronic warfare warning and jamming system for the AC- and MC- variants of the Super Hercules. With only a few months to prepare, the team conducted a successful customer integration event.

They managed this accelerated effort through the "Design it Right" practices that our Engineering design teams follow to heighten their forethought and Engineering rigor in a way that surfaces issues that would negatively impact teams later in the production process, including supply chain and manufacturing. A key part of this involves bringing in stakeholders from these groups, as well as their counterparts in with Systems, Hardware, and Firmware Engineering, early enough in the design process to collaboratively identify issues that pose risks. Doing so avoids rework later in the manufacturing phase.

"Agile software development doesn't exist without customer involvement," said Roger Johnson, an Engineering director on the program. Transparency and trust amongst the teams and the customer ensured risks were exposed early, and the path forward was agreed to by all the stakeholders, which drove down costs. "We don't want to design something the customer doesn't need. In this process, they could see exactly what we would deliver to them, so there were no surprises."

The team is preparing for another customer demonstration in January 2020, and they expect improved performance applying the best practices learned.

Partnering for success

A key component in operational excellence is supply chain engagement and the selection of the right parts for the job at hand.

This year, BAE Systems' Engineering and Supplier Partnerships organizations rolled out significant enhancements to our U.S. Defense engineering software systems that provide supply chain intelligence to the engineering community. This information is now presented via simple color-coding if an electronic component is at risk for supply shortage or has extended lead times to acquire.

An Engineering and Supplier Partnerships team enhanced the engineering schematic development tool to provide these visual cues in an effective manner. This approach reduces Engineering Change Orders, shortens procurement lead-times, and increases utilization of preferred parts to improve overall program execution and cost performance. The catalyst of the initiative was recognition of the scarcity of electronic components due to increasing global demand and increasing prevalence of part obsolescence.

"As a printed board designer, it is helpful to me that these part issues are being flagged early in the design process," said Robin Moore, a design specialist. "The results are fewer last-minute part changes at the completion of the printed board layout."

Keeping tabs on items, assets, and material

Keeping track of manufacturing work in progress while ensuring sufficient inventory levels are paramount concerns for any growing company. Since more product is going out the door than ever before, BAE Systems recently expanded its use of radio frequency identification at multiple sites using real-time location systems as well as directionality.

RFID technology is simple, but it is also extremely adaptable for countless use cases. Signals from ceiling mounted antennas – or portable, handheld scanners – locate specialized tags attached to material, work in progress, or assets. The RFID tracking system reduces time in finding misplaced items and expenses of ordering replacements, according to Deirdre Schmidt, Operations Excellence leader.

"The RFID system has become heavily embedded in our day-to-day operations," said Brandon Carroll, a Material Center lead in Nashua, New Hampshire. "When I started in this area, there was no system in place – the difference is night and day. The RFID system has played a major role in improved traceability and inventory accuracy."

Safety first

As the company continues to grow and our employee population continues to rise, so too does our emphasis on embedding safety in every aspect of the workplace as a major part of Achieving Operational Excellence.

Rose Acosta, a Safety, Health & Environment advisor for ES' San Diego site, started as an intern at one of the sector's legacy companies more than 30 years ago. While the name on the building might have changed over the years, Acosta's commitment to her coworkers' safety has not. "The most important thing is for employees to keep it safe – every task, every day," said Acosta. "This company has always had a strong safety culture, from the top down."

This year, as hundreds of new employees have joined the company, ES has emphasized holistic safety, and Acosta leads a group of SHE personnel in providing guidance for employees on issues that can arise in any site or work environment. The team looks at injury and incident trends throughout the company, in addition to national topics, to create relevant and informative articles on a monthly basis.

"The people on the team roll up their sleeves, and we inspire each other in the creative process – it's a real team effort," said Acosta. "There's definitely a satisfaction when our writing resonates with the employees." The continual messaging has increased awareness of safety best practices and improved our overall proactive safety culture – valuing safety in everything we do. This not only keeps us safe but also helps the company along our Achieving Operational Excellence journey.

By Jason Simpson, Communications, Nashua, New Hampshire

Tools for success:

What is Defect Destroyer?

Defect Destroyer is one of the latest tools developed in our journey toward Achieving Operational Excellence. Hosted in a collaborative environment that allows immediate updates, it goes beyond sticky notes and email trackers to focus on discrepancies that were previously reviewed one by one within our defect data system. With defect reduction processes at their disposal, agile teams are thinking differently about Zero Defects, and methods of simplification are evolving.
What makes the Defect Destroyer tool so effective is that it reveals discrepancy trends and identifies corrective actions in real time, allowing teams to destroy defects at their root.