journey to lean [lean practices in aerospace product development]
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10 IEE Engineering Management | August/September 2005
Lean practices, which primarily involve theelimination of all non-essential waste, werefirst adopted by the automobile manufacturingindustry but have since been adopted by otherindustries in manufacturing and beyond.Smiths Aerospace started its lean journey in
the late 1990s, and did so for three compelling reasons.Firstly, the US aerospace industry had been taking noticeof lean since the results of the Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology (MIT) study which shook the automobileindustry. Indeed, the Womack and Jones study resulted inthe now famous best-selling management book TheMachine that Changed the World, which was followed in1996 by Lean Thinking.
Secondly, the US governments Department of Defense also stunned by the studys findings wished to see itssuppliers adopt so-called lean practices (it was at this timethat defence spending had started to fall along with theBerlin Wall). Lastly, a number of key personnel in the UK,including Smiths Aerospaces managing director, MichaelJones, had also noted how lean was transforming otherindustries.
GOING LEANThe UK Lean Aerospace Initiative commenced in 1998,initially set up as an academic study between Cranfield,Warwick, Bath and Nottingham universities to report onthe potential for lean in aerospace. The study quicklybecame an industry-led programme (through the Society ofBritish Aerospace Companies, SBAC) with defined outputsand deliverables that resulted in the rapid dissemination ofbest practice and lean knowledge throughout the UKaerospace sector.
So successful was the programme that, in late 1999, theUK government supported a 6.5m project to establish a 12-strong practical implementation team to deliversustainable improvements to the industry, in particularsmall businesses. This programme was modelled on thehighly successful automotive Industry Forum.Journey to
Grouping people by project ratherthan discipline reduced the classiclean waste unnecessary motionwhere engineers and informationwere moving to and frounnecessarily. Here a hardwaredesign engineer works yards awayfrom the production team andlocated close by are softwareengineers, programme managementand manufacturing engineering.
010-013_EM_AugSep05_ES 18/7/05 3:48 pm Page 11to different standards requirements and someincompatibility between engineering design and technicalpublications tools being redrawn; a time consumingactivity and one which introduced the possibility of errors.Accordingly, the tools and drawing standards wereharmonised for JSF, saving the business several man weeksof unnecessary effort.
Another waste was identified when it was discoveredthat company procedures at the time also demanded thatgoods-inwards be issued with a full set of drawings in orderto inspect the build quality of (outsourced) mechanical
ause lean is underpinned by several continuousrovement practices, it was realised early on that the
t course of action would be to implement lean on atively new programme, and Smiths Aerospace opted for (Joint Strike Fighter), on which work had started in
9. To this end, the functional heads of engineeringluding hardware, systems, software and mechanical)ked with those providing support roles (including thenge management teams and technical publications) to JSF as a pilot programme.
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Going lean was not, however, an overnight transition Smiths Aerospace, or indeed any of its peers, and theilosophies and practices had to be embraced by
anagement in the first instance. In Smiths Aerospacesse it began by studying the latest literature on lean anden conducting training courses (lean boot-camps) for itsnior management.The boot-camps took the form of two-day workshops inich senior managers were not only introduced, throughulations and exercises, to the basic principles of lean
t also challenged on their leadership skills and strategies.e boot camps therefore attained buy-in at the highestels of management within business which was
sential as lean requires considerable managementmmitment in order for it to succeed.At the same time, teams within Smiths Aerospace and
e UK-based consultancy LAI started runningprovement events called master classes to solve realocess problems. These master classes tended to use ahnique called value stream mapping (VSM) as a startingint so that the root causes of waste could be identified.M requires the mapping of product value streams, from
der taking through to fulfilment, including all the indirectocesses (of which design and development are but two).M quickly led Smiths Aerospace to identify its hitherto
dden non-manufacturing wastes.
ENTIFYING AND REMOVING WASTEccompits suof gooprint
ple and resources were being managed within thepany. More than 70 people of different disciplinesinstream engineering and support functions) were
ded for the JSF programme. It would have been normalice for some of these people to have worked in theirional areas. For example, the reliability,tainability and testability (RM&T) engineers wouldworked in a department of RM&T engineers allng on different projects.en analysed, it was clear that segregating engineers
cipline was creating the classic lean waste unnecessaryn, with engineers and information moving to and froessarily. The lack of easy access to key people wille any programme, so for JSF the different engineeringpport disciplines were co-located in one area.other waste was identified when the lean teamered that most engineers within the company were
ing surprisingly little of their time focusing on theirompetencies. The rest of their time was being spenter-level administrative and engineering tasks. For
ple, Smiths Aerospace (Electronic Systems) hasd 90 software design engineers. On the JSFamme, when they were not designing and craftingthe software engineers were expected to address low-
odule testing of the code something that could haveutsourced and, in fact, that now is outsourced on all
GN AND INFORMATION REUSEthe majority of its projects and programmes, Smithspace has to generate maintenance manuals, whiche detailed illustrations. These illustrations were due
aters and Jon Bevan fromerospace recount how thentic aerospace equipmenty, with its 12,000 personnel, anIEE Engineering Management | August/September 2005 11
onents. The company had for some time been issuingppliers with CAD/CAM files and it was only becauseds-inwards requirements that full drawing sets were
ed at all.
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Since the discovery of the latter waste, goods-inwards isnow equipped with only the minimum set of drawings inorder to inspect delivered products. Furthermore,procedures are to be put in place that will ensure supplierscan only deliver conforming products and SmithsAerospace will be able to reduce goods-inwards inspectionrequirements. This lean practice will be a move towards thecompanys long-term goal of drawing-less mechanicalcomponents procurement.
DESIGN PROCESS WASTESAerospace programmes and projects are rife with designreviews, conducted to ensure the integrity of the productsproduced. Prior to going lean, Smiths Aerospace used toconduct design review meetings, for which the attendeeshad done little, if any, review work before the meeting. Amaster class revealed this to be inefficient, particularly as,by doing the actual reviews at the meetings, designproblems were being flagged which could have been spottedmuch earlier. In short, the meetings were more focused onidentifying and discussing problems than reviewing andimplementing solutions.
The new, lean, order dictates that all attendees shouldreview material and documents prior to the meetings. Thishas resulted in shorter and more productive meetings and
The project control boards have removed the need to write andcirculate the vast majority of in-house reports. Project managersand team leaders are responsible for updating their parts of theboard by posting clear information about where the project isand where it needs to be. 12 IEE Engineering Management | August/September 2005
has also reduced the number of meetings held.As mentioned earlier, implementing lean into
engineering has been a case of interpreting what hadbeen learned from the world of manufacturing. One spinw the design review meetings have been improved be to say that quality control has replaced quality
CTION OF DUPLICATED EFFORTnd verification is understandably a key part of whatrospace company should be doing to deliver safe andle product. However, it is all too easy to over-test. Itund that many of the functional tests performed byrdware engineers were then repeated by the softwareeers. Moreover, many of the tests performed by both were then repeated by