Case Study: Manufacturing

Landing Gear and Aircraft

Case Study: Process Improvement – Aerospace Components Manufacturing

An Ontario-based aerospace company developed a new line of business – landing gear refurbishment kits for popular commercial aircraft. When sales of the pre-packaged kits took off, the company couldn’t keep up with demand.

When we began working with the company, we found the following: each kit contained dozens of sophisticated parts that had to be inventoried, assembled, and packaged by knowledgeable staff. The assembly team was so small that the production line was jeopardized if a single staffer called in sick.

Bottlenecks existed throughout the assembly line – work areas were small and disorganized; workflow was inefficient; storage space was limited. Availability of resources such as airplane parts and proper packaging materials were inconsistent and out of sync with incoming work orders.

Consistent, predictable output was impossible and big customers were getting annoyed. The company had to get it right, or risk losing valuable business.

The task was a daunting one: define a future state characterized by a seamless order and assembly process.

To achieve our goal, we looked closely at the assembly workflow, adopting a LEAN Six Sigma methodology to streamline activities. We removed a series of physical (and psychological) assembly bottlenecks. In addition, we developed job descriptions for every role, hiring and evaluation tools, work instructions for each phase of assembly, and a set of standard operating practices for the entire department.

It took some time, but the results of our work were significant. Within one year, outputs increased by more than 400%, escapes reduced by 95%, and inventory accuracy rose from 54% to 95%.

Although the improvement project involved a single product – this affected eight platforms and four assembly lines. It had a ripple effect across the company where our planning tools drove many efficiencies.

After all the effort of getting the flow working smoothly, the last thing to correct was the shipping label challenge. It was taking the front office about 3 weeks to generate shipping labels for all the kits in a given order. Prior to iCinfo arriving on the scene, the company had been so eager to implement the ERP system, they neglected to anticipate what information the shipping labels needed to contain. The system did not contain the data in its appropriate format to generate labels from the system. The best we could do to improve the situation short of a complete system overhaul was to create linked labels in excel spreadsheets. This shortened the lead time from three weeks to a day.