Original Date: 07/25/2005
Revision Date: 09/12/2006
Best Practice : Electronic Work Instructions
Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems’ use of Electronic Work Instructions has resulted in better communication, improved designs, reduced labor hours, and faster product development. Improved repairability, serviceability and future upgrade have also been facilitated through this process.
Prior to 1999, the Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems (NGES) legacy method for developing work instructions did not involve the manufacturing engineer at the concept level of design and product development. Drawings were released and piece parts were fabricated and built up into assemblies where they could be photographed for inclusion in the work instructions. This method caused delays in finalizing work instructions. First, piece parts had to be manufactured, causing a delay in the start of production assembly while work instructions were being completed. This placed increased pressure on manufacturing engineering. Optimum assembly methods could not be understood until the product “hit the floor.” Improved techniques were developed based on a trial-and-error method, delaying the discovery of design issues that would result in a redesign effort, further slowing the production start. In many cases, digital photos did not provide sufficient clarity to capture nuances in assembly techniques.
Today, NGES uses paperless Electronic Work Instructions (EWIs) linked to Systems Applications Products (SAP) routing operations. EWIs involve the manufacturing engineer during the conceptual design phase where assembly steps can be simulated and problems identified and resolved. Producibility improvements can be recognized and can be readily incorporated into the design. Improved clarity is being realized in the work instructions with the use of images from 3-D CAD models along with digital photos and text.
Improved communication between design and manufacturing, the early identification of missing hardware, and the visibility of interference or fit-up problems have enhanced the ability for other areas involved in the planning process (e.g., test and shipping) to be included and to identify challenges and opportunities prior to finalization. Field service and potential assembly repairs have eased needed access during service life and the potential for assembly upgrades in the future.
NGES has realized significant savings using EWIs. The assembly time for a new antenna was reduced from a typical three-month duration to three weeks, with the number of revision notices (RNs) generated on that unit reduced by 40% compared to a typical program. Other advantages of EWIs include the ability to train operators and solicit their input for improved methodology, techniques, and tooling. Shop management can be briefed prior to any build, and manpower can be forecast with greater accuracy.
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