At BAE Systems, we’re committed to delivering critical capabilities to our customers with speed and agility, but manufacturing world-class EW systems is no easy task. It involves the design and assembly of hundreds of tiny electronic components – some as small as a speck of pepper – into integrated modules that culminate in a system that must operate flawlessly to give warfighters a distinct competitive advantage on the battlefield.
Increasing system production to meet growing demand has its own challenges. To improve our capacity and speed, we conducted a thorough analysis of our facilities, operations, and workforce – with a focus on efficiency, consistency, and quality.
Our recent $100 million investment in EW production capacity has helped us redefine “state of the art.”
We updated our labs to add 80,000 square feet of ultra-organized workspace with linear workflows and modular, reconfigurable layouts. Modern machinery, conveyors, tools, microscopes, and software all contribute to improved production.
Our current workflows are dedicated to specific products, but we also designed the facilities so they can easily adapt to changes in demand or the product mix. The overhead electric grid, mobile workstations, and wheeled equipment give us the ability to quickly reconfigure workflows for additional capacity when it’s needed. We also have a dedicated pilot line that allows us to conduct new-build tests and low-volume production without disrupting the main production lines.
Finally, a custom dashboard shows at-a-glance performance data to production managers – with a focus on quality, delivery schedule, and cost – helping them identify and prioritize improvements.
Production and testing automation are also critical to improving efficiency and reducing defects.
Today, computer-guided lasers cut precision templates and high-speed pick-and-place and wire-bonding machines build the physical circuitry of our core modules – much faster and more precisely than the manual processes of the past. We also have automated machines that apply coatings, clean surfaces, weld modules, conduct detailed inspections, and fine-tune systems.
Our investment in automated test equipment enables highly effective production testing – reducing defects, improving quality, and maximizing the reliability of fielded EW systems.
Our experienced workforce is our biggest discriminator. Our highly skilled team produces EW modules around the clock. In the last few years, we’ve added hundreds of EW experts to our workforce.
To develop the team we needed, we didn’t wait for people to come to us. Instead, we collaborated with colleges and universities on programs focused on developing specific advanced manufacturing skills – like our customized Microelectronics Boot Camp – and hired the majority of graduates from those programs.We also updated our onboarding process, leveraging a dedicated new production training room that gives new employees a chance to build, test, and inspect modules in a controlled environment using scrap components. The process has shortened our training cycle, getting more skilled workers to the floor faster.
The Factory of the Future
BAE Systems is at the forefront of electronic warfare innovation and production. Our high-tech manufacturing facilities, processes, and people produce the world’s most technologically advanced warfighting capabilities – assuring all-domain battlefield advantage for our soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and spacemen.
Gone are the time-consuming manual processes and the factories of the past, and gone is the wait for the right employee to submit a resume.
This is the factory of the future.