Original Date: 05/01/2000
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Modular Factory for Electronic Warfare Component Manufacturing
Northrop Grumman Defensive Systems Division (DSD) recognizes that the business strategies used by the defense industry in the 1980s and early 1990s are no longer feasible today. Over the years, declining national defense spending has reduced the funding available to support military electronics and inevitably eroded the supplier industrial base. Despite this trend, customer demand for higher quality products and advancements in electronic warfare technologies continues to grow. To remain competitive, the defense industry needed to adopt a new strategy that strived for a flexible, lean infrastructure. Initiated in 1996, the Modular Factory for Electronic Warfare Component Manufacturing (MFEWCM) program is a joint Department of Defense (DOD)-Northrop Grumman DSD vision to address the needs of the evolving electronic warfare market. The program’s goals are to achieve market- driven products, faster product development, reduced product cost, simplified product design, and market leverage through functionality and manufacturability.
To accomplish these goals, the MFEWCM identifies, adopts, verifies, and integrates practices which not only drive for leanness and flexibility throughout the value chain, but also become integral constituents of an infrastructure to promote future changes. The Lean Aerospace Initiative (LAI) developed the groundwork within its Factory of Operations Focus Group in terms of identifying overarching/enabling practices and measures of lean principles. The LAI is a joint industry, academia, labor, and government consortium lead by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to evaluate the implications of adapting lean production principles to the aerospace industry. In this case, the MFEWCM program is a case study that will validate the modular factory in a defense electronics environment. The MFEWCM initiative is a three-phase approach to use lean practices and develop a quantity- independent, flexible manufacturing capability for cost-effective microwave power modules (MPMs).
Phase I (Pathfinder Effort) was a $2.4 million, 18-month cooperative agreement with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to lay the foundation for the lean, flexible modular factory and institute the business practices they entail. During this phase, a seamless, closed-loop, integrated information infrastructure was established using several enabling technologies. A commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) Product Data Management (PDM) software application (Metaphase II) was customized to include an intelligent part library and a cost model algorithm. This application manages all product-related information (e.g., schedule, life cycle data, change management) and has been successfully used on the B-2 Bomber and the Joint Strike Fighter programs. An automated Design Rule Checker was also implemented to replace manual design reviews. The Automated Equipment Interface (AEI) provides designers with a design translator so they can convert designs into formats recognized by product equipment, eliminating the need for manual equipment programming after production release. The AEI also provides an operator interface. The interface is the key process that will prove-out the seamless transition between design and production. A Manufacturing Execution System monitors the equipment status and notifies personnel when series out-of-control conditions (e.g., wirebonder stage overheating) occur.
A 750-square foot section of Northrop Grumman DSD’s microelectronics manufacturing facility was reconfigured into a modular cell (Figure 2-7), which shifted the focus from process-oriented to flexible, product-oriented, demand- driven manufacturing. An activity-based cost accounting system was uniquely tailored to track savings associated with eliminating non-value-added tasks. The existing design cycle and pilot production run were then baselined. The preliminary production applications reduced machine setup (changeover/programming) by more than 90% and decreased machine run (recurring) times by up to 50%.
Phase II (Pilot Implementation) was a $2 million, 30-month Joint Service effort with the Naval Research Laboratory/SPAWAR to design and produce C-Band MPMs for the U.S. Navy Cooperative Engagement Capability program. This phase measured the factory’s performance improvements against the Phase I baseline. The result was a 20% reduction in design cost; a 30% reduction in inventory cost; a 40% reduction in design cycle time; a 40% reduction in hybrid (microelectronics) manufacturing costs; a 60% reduction in manufacturing cycle time; a 200% increase in work flow velocity; and a 100% increase in shop floor density.
The current Phase III (Extension or Scale-up/Out Program) focuses on extending these practices throughout Northrop Grumman DSD’s electronics components manufacturing activities. The final report will provide a summary of achievements and lessons learned in establishing a lean, flexible modular factory under the MFEWCM program. Particular emphasis will be on the applicability and results of extending these efforts and enabling practices/technologies.
Figure 2-7. Modular Factory
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