Jul 11 2012

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Agile Manufacturing: The Smallest Parts Can Make the Biggest Difference

On January 28, 1989 almost the entire western world saw the potential consequences of a single, practically invisible component failing within an aircraft. Generations of mystified people watched in horror as the news of the Challenger space craft’s mid-air explosion spread due to a malfunctioning O-ring on its right solid-fuel rocket booster, due to uncommonly low temperatures.

Testing Conditions

In the world of Aerospace and Defence manufacturing, where a single inch of polymer o-ring might be the only thing stopping a craft from tearing apart in mid-air or exploding on take-off, rigorous testing is mandatory. As a result, there is a steady need for continuous process improvement as part of manufacturing and testing processes.

Where testing is concerned, manufacturing companies must consistently improve and strengthen their products in order to pass not only their own rigorous testing regimes, but also those imposed by regulatory agencies. This testing process has to be imposed in order to not only achieve the highest safety for their clients, but to avoid being out of regulatory compliance.

For example, manufacturing companies like PPE test their o-rings and other products in all manner of forms and conditions including: extreme temperature tests, chemical testing such as resistance to boiling acid baths, pressure resistance testing and sour gas resistance. By taking such precautions, companies like this are doing everything possible to avoid future disasters such as what happened on the Challenger’s tenth mission.

Adaptive Processes

As is the case with other industries, the A&D industry is undergoing its own transformation. For A&D manufacturers, one change is a shift towards lighter, stronger materials. Fuel costs are significant, so any product improvement that reduces fuel consumption translates into cost savings. As new production materials and processes are explored, processes must be adaptive to these new concepts. That means testing procedures must also adapt in order to maintain consistent quality levels that meet customer expectations.

In order to become an adaptive organisation, a company needs to ensure that they are capable of handling large amounts of informative data and that they can then execute complex workflows whilst communicating any exceptions to a multitude of locations and across each of the impacted functions. Broad IT solutions that operate on an enterprise wide basis can be used to accomplish this task, ensuring changes are performed simultaneously across each of the organization’s departments.

Truly adaptive manufacturing allows companies to not only achieve new product introductions quicker, but to also increase their ability to profitably replenish the supply chain whilst still responding energetically to uncertainties in supply and demand. Within global supply chains, fragility is often caused by having a fragmented supply chain, and the more fragmented the chain becomes the more adaptive processes and systems needs to be applied. Even small disruptions with the supply chain can cause serious and expensive problems for a business, so it is essential to detect these exceptions and nip them at the bud.


The benefits of being an adaptive manufacturing organization are numerous – fragmented supply chains can be better managed, new materials and processes can be more readily explored and product quality through rigorous, current testing standards can be better executed upon. Those organizations unable to change as quickly will be plagued with disparate operations, inconsistent production and testing processes – ultimately creating more waste than those lean manufacturers that are more agile.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2012/07/agile-manufacturing-the-smallest-parts-can-make-the-biggest-difference/

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