Original Date: 05/01/2000
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Circuit Card Assembly: Flexible Manufacturing
In 1985, Northrop Grumman Defensive Systems Division (DSD) produced approximately 110 card assembly types for its programs. Prototype circuit card assemblies were typically assembled in Engineering with limited involvement by Operations personnel. Process capabilities were validated on new designs during a first build. Over the years, the development and manufacture of circuit card assemblies drastically increased in complexity and variation. To meet this challenge, the company developed a unique circuit card assembly (CCA) flexible manufacturing line to meet the entire site’s needs for CCA production. Today, Northrop Grumman DSD produces more than 530 different card assemblies.
The CCA flexible manufacturing line is designed for low-volume, high-mix environments. Operator training, equipment selection, and process development are targeted to achieve the versatility necessary to process prototype, pre-production, or experimental assemblies for Advanced Engineering as well as the substantially higher production quantities that may become commonplace in future programs. Additionally, the line’s arrangement, as a series of highly flexible islands of automation, provides the company with the ability to design and implement new lean processes which are not constricted by existing equipment and/or process flows. Thus, the CCA production line is completely independent of programs, packaging technology, specification requirements, or other factors; and can accommodate new state-of-the-art equipment technologies with only minor disruptions.
To ensure that designs produced by Engineering remain compatible with the efficient production of the CCA line, Operations instituted a Design for Manufacturability process. Producibility engineers within Operations act as liaisons between Engineering designers and the CCA process’ engineering function to develop and impose design guidelines; review design drawings for manufacturability; and act as a coordination point for prototype and pre- production builds. The latter responsibility enables the liaisons to be aware of process results, thereby staying current on production capabilities and the company’s ability to build new technologies efficiently.
The CCA flexible manufacturing line significantly impacts Northrop Grumman DSD’s production and developing programs. Other Northrop Grumman site designs may now be produced at the DSD facility as new programs are moved in. The technology transfer between Engineering and Operations ensures timely funding of new process development activities to meet production schedules. Design for Manufacturability activities have also provided part and design standardization benefits. In one case, the company was able to eliminate more than 20% of the unique components from a product design. Prototype builds can now be used to validate manufacturing process capabilities.
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