A smart way to manufacture naval gun systems

BAE Systems is using advanced technology to monitor machining performance in the production of naval gun systems and submarine components to drive cost efficiency and quality.
The Mk 45 gun – a Louisville gun program – fires during a U.S. Navy live fire exercise in the Philippine Sea. (U.S. Navy photo)
 
Imagine every time you’re driving your car, an automotive mechanic is constantly monitoring how it’s running to ensure you’re getting to where you’re going as efficiently as possible. This can include optimizing fuel mileage, knowing quickly when maintenance is needed before a problem gets worse or becomes more costly, or understanding what prompted an engine light to turn on. It’s all about efficiency and saving money.

Now imagine if that same concept was being applied to the manufacturing process of naval guns and submarine components. You actually don’t have to use your imagination, because BAE Systems has already introduced this capability at our naval gun manufacturing site in Louisville, Kentucky.


Striving for Advancements

BAE Systems is constantly striving to bring advanced manufacturing tools into our repertoire as we produce and design vital equipment, systems and technologies needed by the men and women who serve their countries to prevail in battle. Included in that are the gun systems on naval vessels, and critical submarine components.

Our Louisville site performs high-precision machining of large components for gun systems and submarines and having best performing equipment possible is a must. So we teamed up with True Analytics Manufacturing Solutions to integrate a software package into the plant’s machining centers that collects machine data and provides real-time status and performance metrics.

“It’s very powerful at giving us real-time information, allowing us to log into the system to see how well the machines are running,” said Scott Schmechel, a manufacturing engineer overseeing the program. “It also allows machinists to offer real-time feedback throughout the day by entering comments about any challenges they are having, vastly increasing response times to address the issue.”

The software is designed to integrate devices; track utilization and downtime of critical machining centers; make data accessible to manufacturing engineers, program managers, and the operations team; promote collaboration; and solve complex problems.

With this tool, the team now has real-time performance metrics straight from machine controllers through a comprehensive web application. Historical data is stored and easily searchable, allowing users to view and manipulate the data to find process improvement opportunities.

It’s not just about the data. It automates data analysis and ranks each potential improvement, showing the user what changes are most beneficial. This helps manufacturing engineers focus their efforts by breaking the process down by quickly identifying and resolving problematic areas. This saves the engineers time, and therefore saves our customers money by driving down manufacturing costs.


Its value in a pandemic

This tool has proven even more valuable during a pandemic. BAE Systems, like the rest of the defense industry, has kept operations going throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This means our machinists continue to work on site, with additional personal protective equipment, to produce these capabilities needed for national security. To keep our workforce as safe as possible, team members who are able to work remotely do so, and that includes many manufacturing engineers who cannot be physically present for conversations about the equipment’s performance.

“We introduced this concept for the purpose of improving our output and maximizing efficiency in the manufacturing and production process,” Schmechel added. “It’s turned out to be more valuable than we even thought at the time, how reliant we would become on this technology to keep moving forward and implementing best practices in the manufacturing of guns and submarines.”

Efficiency and quality in our products are always top focuses of our manufacturing and engineering teams, and with this technology, are integrated into each step of the process.