Original Date: 05/01/2000
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Information : Material Control and Kitting
In the past, Northrop Grumman Defensive Systems Division’s (DSD’s) material control and handling practices were antiquated, inefficient, and disorganized. Receiving Operations attempted to maintain thousands of components in 600 sections of ten-foot high racks. Three-by-five index cards were used for part traceability, shelf-life information, and first-in-first-out (FIFO) processing. Dock-to-stock cycle times were unknown, and electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection was non-existent. Order-picking Activities faced a never-ending backlog of work. A cycle time of 65 working days was needed to issue pick orders. Material Auditing recounted and performed 100% verification of each line item of material picked, as well as wrote out the pick-and-audit sheet for each shop order. The result was thousands of hours of overtime, excessive costs, and a lack of goals. In 1989, Northrop Grumman DSD implemented the Storage Tracking Automated Retrieval System (STARS) as part of the company’s total quality effort.
The STARS provides on-line, real-time transaction processing. Parts are efficiently stored and retrieved in horizontal and vertical carousels, utilizing barcode technology and automated trackbots. The system also features FIFO logic, lot control, serialization, visibility of shelf life, product by program, and off-site stock locations. The STARS is integrated with the Integrated Management Control System (IMCS) Shop Floor Control System. All material is verified against purchase orders and dispositioned by on-line transactions. Barcoded material travelers are used and lot number association is issued by Receiving.
Shop order issue-to-production is also driven by the IMCS via production control or auto release. The mainframe provides information to Kitting, which describes the workcenter bin list for each kit based on the automated work instructions for each assembly number. Kits are consolidated, audited for accuracy and completeness, and then issued to each requiring workcenter separately as build-ready kits. In this manner, material handling is minimized, and parts are issued when and where they are needed. The audit process ensures that parts conform to specifications (e.g., proper packaging, orientation, correct revision, alternate/substitute status). If discrepancies in the work instructions are discovered, then Process Systems Engineering is notified. Metrics are maintained by measuring kitting efficiency, accuracy, and cycle time. The primary metrics flow into the Excellent Performance Indicators (EPI) program, providing objective performance measures for the department and motivating team improvement. Since metrics tracking began in 1990, the process time, accuracy, and cycle time of kitting have steadily improved and now exceed departmental objectives.
Since implementing the STARS, Northrop Grumman DSD has significantly improved its Material Control and Kitting practices to remain competitive and profitable. Dock-to-stock cycle times are now measured in hours and days. Lot number association provides complete traceability of components throughout the system. Operators are ESD certified, and appropriate ESD protections are in place. Shelf life is monitored with automatic updates regarding impending obsolescence, and FIFO priorities are automatically performed. The company facilitates continuous improvements through active solicitation of its customers.
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