At the beginning of 2019, the U.S. government was in partial shut-down, interest rates were rising, stock markets were highly volatile, and a majority of business leaders surveyed by the Associated Press expect a recession this year. But you didn’t hear such doom-and-gloom from the aerospace community. In the final weeks of last year, Airbus, Boeing, and Embraer confirmed orders for more than 400 jetliners. And, despite engine shortages and other supply-chain challenges, Airbus and Boeing delivered record numbers of aircraft – and each has seven or more years of production to work off a 13,450 airplane backlog.
All those orders translate to jobs. Airbus is seeking about 600 experienced aircraft structure/installation mechanics, aircraft cabin installers, and aircraft electricians to work on the assembly line it’s building in Mobile, Alabama, to produce A220 regional jets – formerly known as the Bombardier CSeries. A recent Washington state aerospace job fair drew more than 1,500 prospective candidates to meet with nearly 40 companies looking to hire. Plans to continue ramping up build rates will require more production efficiency from suppliers.
Airbus delivered 800 aircraft in 2018 (20 of those were A220s via Bombardier) with 747 net orders. (See commercial aircraft production table for comparison.)
Airbus is producing A320 family single-aisle jetliners at the rate of 52 per month, with plans to go to 60 or more.
For 2018, Boeing booked 893 net orders valued at $143.7 billion – after finalizing 203 airplane sales in December, of which 181 were 737 MAX. Boeing increased production of the 737 in the middle of 2018 from 48 to 52 airplanes per month and plans an increase to 57 per month in 2019.
Ihssane Mounir, Boeing’s senior vice president of commercial sales and marketing, says, “Another year of healthy jet orders continues to support our long-term forecast for robust global demand that will see the commercial airplane fleet double in 20 years.”
Embraer’s delivery summary for 2018 was not available at press time, but at the end of Q3 2018, the company had delivered 112 aircraft: 57 E-jet commercial airliners of all types and 55 executive jets (40 light, 15 large). Its commercial jetliner firm-order backlog stood at 251, valued at $13.6 billion, on Sept. 30, 2018. Embraer officials still expect 85 to 95 commercial jet deliveries for the year but have revised down the estimate for executive jets to 91 from 105 to 125, citing the global market for executive jets is recovering more slowly than expected.
For 2019, company officials forecast deliveries of 85 to 95 commercial jets, 90 to 110 executive jets (light and large), 10 A-29 Super Tucano military trainer aircraft, and two multi-mission KC-390 cargo aircraft. With corporate and government approvals in hand, officials expect its 20/80 commercial join venture with Boeing to close by year’s end.
In 2018, Bombardier gave control of its CSeries (now A220) regional jet to Airbus, sold its Dash 8 Q Series turboprop aircraft program to Longview Aviation Capital Corp., and sold its business aircraft’s flight and technical training activities to CAE. The transportation company is focusing aviation efforts on its CRJ regional jets; Challenger, Global, and Learjet business aircraft brands; and aerostructures and engineering services. Data on 2018 deliveries and orders were not available at press time.
A new approach to six degrees of freedom
Features - Motion, Design & Automation
Traditional hexapod structures are based on parallel motion. A hybrid hexapod combines parallel and serial kinematic structures.
Incorporating new layers of capabilities with traditional concepts of six-legged positioning devices allows the Hybrid Hexapod to combine the strengths of dual kinematic architectures to overcome and exceed previous limitations. Traditional hexapod users face restrictions in travel range, speed, and precision – factors that must be optimal to improve production processes and achieve the levels of efficiency and precision demanded by industry today. With the next generation of motion control devices, manufacturers can achieve sub-micron and nano-levels of precision and increased accuracy.
Traditional hexapod structures are based on parallel motion. A hybrid hexapod combines parallel and serial kinematic structures. Rather than using six legs to create motion, it uses a traditional X-Y stage, a tripod, and a rotation stage to provide 6 degrees of freedom (DOF) in the device. The tripod’s parallel kinematic structure delivers Z-plane and tip/tilt motion, which is integrated with a monolithic serial kinematic structure for X- and Y-motion.
“The combination removes previous application limitations and positioning errors synonymous with traditional hexapods,” says Walter Silvesky, vice president of sales at Alio Industries. “With the Hybrid Hexapod, the precision of serial kinematics combined with the flexibility and compactness of a parallel kinematic device allows users to have all of the strengths of a 6DOF hexapod with none of its critical weaknesses. This key differentiator of the Hybrid Hexapod opens the door for using a 6DOF positioner in several applications not previously considered possible. The Hybrid Hexapod is therefore a true blue ocean technology, allowing manufacturers to achieve the impossible and stimulating innovation at every level.”
A 6DOF positioner can move up, down, forward, backward, left, and right, as well as rotate to face a different axis (pitch, yaw, and roll).
The technology’s increased travel range and working envelope create additional capabilities for its use. It can reach speeds of hundreds, or in some cases thousands of millimeters per second with extremely high acceleration. Also, encoders on all axes allow the user to know where each positioning element on the Hybrid Hexapod is at all points at any time.
Tool center points (TCPs) can be reprogrammed while the device is translating and rotating, just by uploading a series of three commands in real-time. The device does not need to restart and recalculate its kinematic space. A motion controller allows users to control the Hybrid Hexapod by using commands to indicate where to move, when to move, and how fast to move.
Changes in TCP locations are also programmed easily through provided codes.
Aerospace users often incorporate the Hybrid Hexapod in metrology systems. In precision optical elements, the tool can characterize, test, or measure optical components and optical subassemblies. In precision assembly applications such as in the joining of optical image stabilization (OIS) modules to ultra-high resolution CCD arrays, the Hybrid Hexapod can serve as the motion device that manipulates the OIS module in 6DOF space in the alignment and bonding process. The high accuracy of the Hybrid Hexapod decreases assembly time as the OIS is properly placed into a package without time-consuming post-alignment measurements and re-alignment steps.
The MAR-17-2-2.1 and the MAR-23-2-2.1 traction drives have six moving parts, use an engineered traction fluid with a coefficient of friction of 0.10 to 0.12, and reduce motor torque ripple up to 84%. The MAR17-2-2.1 traction drive reaches speeds of 3,600rpm with 10 lb-in to 20 lb-in of torque, and the MAR-23-2-2.1 traction drive is rated for 3,600rpm with 20 lb-in to 30 lb-in of torque.
Without metal-to-metal contact these compact, high efficiency drives generate up to 72% less heat after 24 hours of continuous operation. Permanently lubricated traction drives typically last 3x longer than conventional gearboxes, and create up to 38% lower noise at 3,000rpm. There is no slippage or lost motion between the input and output shafts.
Operating at temperatures lower than a motor, with low vibration, and no torque losses from 10rpm to 3,000rpm, the traction drives permit a motor to operate at peak efficiency.
An optional overriding clutch is available. Standard NEMA mounting dimensions lets the drives integrate into new and existing applications.
Suitable for harsh environments, low direct current resistance (DCR), high-current shielded surface mount power inductors operate in temperatures from -55°C to 130°C and are available in inductance values from 2.2µH to 1,000µH. Custom values are available.
They meet mechanical shock, high-frequency vibration, solderability, and moisture resistance per MIL-STD-202, thermal shock per MIL-PRF-27, and SnPb reflow profile per MIL-PRF-83446.
Engineering support is available to assist with design, assembly, and circuit testing. Production lead-time is stock to 12 weeks after the order is received.
As a Gold Certified Supplier to some of the world’s largest aerospace companies, Koss Aerospace takes its environmental responsibility seriously. Headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, the components manufacturer always looks for ways to reduce its environmental impact and has taken a number of key steps to enhance overall efficiency and eliminate waste as part of its commitment to lean manufacturing, continuous improvement, and green initiatives.
Among those steps was the addition of a PRAB Guardian coolant recycling system to address cutting fluid capacity issues and improve other operational aspects.
“With the new system, we have seen around a 75% savings on new coolant purchases,” says Maintenance Manager Alexandre Blinov. “We received the exact system and results we were promised and are very happy with the system.”
Reducing excessive waste
Established in 1975, Koss Aerospace is a global, vertically integrated, Tier 1 manufacturer of aircraft components and assemblies for commercial aerospace and defense customers. It produces various structural parts, landing gear components, ribs and spars, floor and cross beams, winglets, bulkheads, seat tracks, and stringers with in-house capabilities for machining, processing, and assembly, resulting in a seamless integration of functions. Koss Aerospace also offers integrated manufacturing solutions for high-speed multi-axis machining, complete metal finishing, assemblies, kitting, program management, and supply chain management.
Among the most concerning aspects of the Koss Aerospace operation was excessive production of waste cutting fluid, accompanied by the obvious foul odor caused by bacteria and fungus in the spent coolant. The company’s previous recycling process involved a simple coalescence system that was labor intensive, required a lot of downtime for sump maintenance, and lacked the capacity to handle all of Koss Aerospace’s 26 machining centers with an average sump size of 500L (the largest having a 1,620L capacity).
Because the old system was unable to handle this amount of fluid, the company was disposing the excess spent coolant, moving the fluid with a mobile sump cleaner, incurring significant haul-away costs. In total, Koss Aerospace was discarding 4,000L of coolant per week.
Founder and President Drago Cajic, Vice President David Cajic, and Blinov had heard about Prab several years earlier and remembered the name while researching new recycling solutions. They explored several options and ultimately chose Prab’s Guardian system due to its greater capacity, ease of maintenance, and potential for significant coolant savings. The Guardian system also offered a coolant manager – an ozone generator designed to address the issues associated with the growth of bacteria, fungus, and mold.
With the primary criteria being ease of use and the ability to clean the company’s coolant to maximum capacity, Blinov worked with PRAB Fluid Filtration Specialist Ben McNinch and PRAB Engineer Chris Jones to specify the solution. After the Cajics gave their final approval, Blinov installed the system while PRAB Service performed the final inspection and personnel training to ensure proper operation prior to start-up. The Guardian system is plug and play – requires only connections for water, air, and power – and was up and running within two days.
Koss Aerospace began seeing operational improvements almost immediately:
Higher-quality coolant improved machining, reduced maintenance, extended tool life
Machine sumps, downtime fell, delivering smoother production during preventative maintenance
PRAB-designed dirty transfer cart pumps spent fluid from machining centers directly to the Guardian; clean return system pumps recycled coolant back to the machines, reducing labor, maintenance costs; eliminates a mobile sump cleaner for fluid movement
Less machine downtime for sump cleaning, increased productivity, efficiency, decreasing parts lead time
Haul-away costs also fell because there is no longer a need to dispose of excess fluid that – in the past – exceeded capacity. The combined savings from coolant consumption and spent fluid disposal has been significant:
Previous coolant recycling system: 4 drums (832L) of new coolant oil required 4.5 totes (4,500L) of waste fluid disposal every 7 to 8 days (on average)
PRAB Guardian system: 4 drums of new coolant needed every 28 days; 4.5 totes of waste fluid disposed of every 83 days (on average)
From the engineering department to the finance department, Koss Aerospace employees have noticed a difference throughout the plant since the Guardian system was installed. The most apparent has been an end to the unpleasant smell in the air caused by bad coolant. Equipment operators have seen major improvements in tool life and uptime. The Cajics and Blinov have been so pleased with the system’s performance that they are discussing adding a PRAB briquetter to further increase savings.
With tariffs and rumors of trade wars buffeting aerospace manufacturing, employee engagement is particularly important as a widely-recognized driver of success and because it’s one factor that manufacturers can control.
Retention: 24% improvement in high-turnover organizations, 59% better in low-turnover organizations
Absenteeism: 41% lower
Quality: 40% fewer problems
Profitability: 21% higher
However, few manufacturers are making a systematic, comprehensive effort to control it. Despite clear advantages, a deep, broad lack of employee engagement plagues manufacturing. Gallup reports that for at least two decades, the Engagement Gap has remained relatively constant.
The reasons for the Gap’s persistence are fundamental mistakes manufacturing leaders make in understanding engagement, cultivating it, and sustaining it. Engagement problems stem from leadership failures, changing manufacturing environments, demographic challenges, cultural transgressions, retention problems, skills-deficiencies, flawed incentives, compensation issues, process breakdowns, dysfunctional communications, incorrect assignments, and faulty succession systems.
Despite many factors driving the problem, one solution can work across the board – small-unit leadership.
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower said, “Generals move the pins on a map, but the front-line troops have to get the job done.”
Without good leadership in front-line units – supervisors and first-level managers in business – manufacturing organizations cannot achieve and sustain comprehensive employee engagement.
Manufacturers blunder when they try to get the shop floor engaged while neglecting to consider the perspectives their leaders bring to interactions with those on the floor. As leadership coach Steffan Surdek said in Forbes, “When going fast, leaders often confuse their perspectives with reality and have difficulty truly understanding the point of view of others.”
Like poison poured into a population’s water supply, mistaken perspectives can spread toxicity in a manufacturing organization. Manufacturing leaders should constantly analyze, monitor, and evaluate the perspectives by which they are operating. Senior leaders have important perspectives on their organizations’ strategic directions, logistics, buying and selling assets, and organizational growth activities. They often consider their perspectives as the be-all and end-all of their organization, however, shop-floor perspectives can be more productive.
Shop-floor personnel are at the crucial intersection of products and processes. They often respond first when things go wrong; they know what works and what doesn’t on a micro level; and they have a bias for action as opposed to senior leaders who are often afflicted by paralysis-by-analysis.
However, shop-floor perspectives are often grounded in rumors, self-serving attitudes, and wrong actions. They can constitute a toxic brew that thwarts good manufacturing processes.
Small-unit leadership can address mistaken perspectives from the shop floor or executive suite. Such leaders can have their own mistaken perspectives but being on the shop floor allows them to better manage manufacturing advantages. And, because they are leaders, they have substantially more commitment in terms of knowledge, accountability, and performance than the line workers they lead. This commitment ensures they identify and promote the right perspectives.
Senior executives should develop deep, on-going, genuine relationships with their small-unit leaders to ensure the right perspectives are followed. One group of executives I worked with was facing runaway vendor costs and initially opted for across-the-board cuts to address the problem. Small-unit leaders, however, said such wholesale cuts might save money in the short run but lose efficiencies, which would result in more money lost in the long run than the cuts saved.
The small-unit leaders worked directly with vendors, evaluated the immediate results of their work, monitored their efficiencies, assessed costs/benefits of their activities, and could adapt their vendor-offerings to the urgent realities of the shop floor. That interaction allowed them to better understand that across-the-board cuts would have impacted few of those actions.
The time on-site and frequency of visits by nearly all vendors fell sharply, lowering oversight requirements by management and reducing the opportunity for vendor mishaps. An ongoing, comprehensive analysis of vendor employment resulted in more-efficient manufacturing processes and led to developing and executing an improved vendor-management process. Vendor costs fell more than the across-the-board cuts would have saved.
Small-unit leaders were not let loose to accomplish tasks without guidance. Instead, they worked closely with senior leaders, while those senior leaders strongly supported small-unit leadership and acted on the unique perspectives that leadership brought to the vendor-challenge. Employee engagement accelerated productivity.
The decisive how
In a “Global Human Capital Trends 2014” survey published by Deloitte University Press, leadership “remains the No. 1 talent issue facing organizations around the world,” with 86% of respondents rating it “urgent” or “important” while only 13% say they do an excellent job of developing leaders.
Studies show that people leave managers, not companies. However, many leaders spend their careers encumbered not so much by the wrong ideas of how to lead but how to realize the right ideas. That’s because the preponderance of leadership advice they receive is linked to what, not how. “What” details leadership activities. “How” shows precise ways to make what happen.
One manufacturer’s small-unit leaders were advised to get rid of the motivational slogans (what messages) plastered all over the shop floor and instead use simple leadership communication processes to engage workers in productive relationships. Employee engagement jumped.
They were addressing the “Leader’s Fallacy.” If leaders don’t see the central issues of the challenges they face, they stumble in trying to close the Engagement Gap. The Leader’s Fallacy is the false notion that just because they are leaders, people automatically believe in and want to follow what they say. Leader’s Fallacy victims typically use orders and directives to get things done, obstructing employee engagement.
The manufacturer’s small-unit leaders were given a crash course in identifying and understanding the fallacy and were provided with communication tools to redress the wrongs caused. Rather than a simple change in perception, the change involved taking specific actions such as interacting with the people they lead by making a systematic analysis of their needs, and then doing and saying things that took their needs into account. New leadership relationships increased engagement, productivity, quality, and safety. Relationships evoked activities that slogans on the walls could not come close to matching.
One small-unit leader said, “I was absorbed with the task and responsibility that I had in front of me, and what I needed from my team. In the process, I had become unmindful to what the needs of my team were…. Now, I understand the importance of motivating the team… rather than giving them a lecture about what the problems were and telling them what to do and how to fix it.”
Top-level commitment, though necessary, is not enough. A passion for small-unit leadership should soak the entire culture of the organization. To grow small-unit leaders, everybody in the organization must cultivate them – spot them early, bring mentors into their lives, set high expectations for them and colleagues and leaders above them, and encourage them to develop leadership in others.
The persistence of the Engagement Gap proves that efforts to close it – even if initially successful – don’t last. Reasons include an overreliance on surveys, succession issues, operations bias, ignorance of engagement drivers, lack of funding, and management deficiencies.
When workers view engagement efforts as simply one more flavor of the month, long term success cannot be achieved. Engagement efforts must have mechanisms built into them at the beginning that ensure success later.
I worked with a manufacturer that was facing a serious Engagement Gap with its employees. A new CEO was demanding rapid, comprehensive changes in productivity and quality. The top-level push from the CEO’s office led to symptoms of disengagement for the workers at the bottom – absenteeism, high turn-over, mediocre performance, low morale, many complaints, and frequently voiced desires to be back in the good ole days.
I suggested that small-unit leadership is the crown jewel of sustainability, and the first step in getting help from the small-unit leaders was to reverse a great deal of the demand and expectations flow from top-down to bottom-up. Small-unit leaders helped plan new productivity and quality endeavors.
I stressed that senior leadership relations with small-unit leaders could not be based on token participation; small-unit leaders had to be viewed as partners.
As results-partners, their input into changes in productivity and quality were given priority over senior leaders’ inputs.
Small-unit leaders were extensively trained in leadership communication techniques to get broad, deep support from workers.
Small-unit leaders were challenged to accomplish new productivity and quality and to take leadership of tasks. They had to exhibit on-going initiative, be advocates for change, develop systems for success, and be accountable for results (or lack thereof).
Small-unit leaders’ successes were communicated to and openly celebrated by senior leaders.
Small-unit leaders were to communicate the support they needed from senior leaders to accomplish their leadership tasks.
As the CEO said, “I want the support of the teams I lead to continue to work on increasing production throughput and implementing productivity projects. Now, they have a better understanding of possible futures and why there is a need to develop higher line speeds and improve productivity.”
Most manufacturers are, in small and large ways, suffering from an Engagement Gap. Just as an engaged emergency brake curtails the optimal running of a vehicle, an Engagement Gap vitiates every manufacturing function that involves people.
Closing the gap does not entail extraordinary countermeasures. Instead, it demands the help of what is clearly present and immediate in most manufacturing organizations: small-unit leadership.
Translating older data and content to the S1000D standard, an extensible markup language (XML) specification for preparing, managing, and using equipment maintenance and operations information, can be daunting. Developed by the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD) for use with military aircraft, the S1000D specification has since been modified for use with land, sea, and commercial equipment as part of the S-Series of ILS specifications for integrated logistics support.
Many content minutiae are involved with converting data to enable content migration – table structure, special characters, text hierarchy. Likewise, many business processes are equally critical – stakeholder understanding and agreement, business rules, future workflow processes. Migrating to modular standards such as S1000D also requires assigning data module code, illustration control numbers, and getting users familiar with the conceptual departure from linear information. Many companies rush into conversion without proper planning and analysis and pay for it in the long run.
A company that develops, manufactures, and supports small gas turbine engines was determined to do it the right way. The company tasked content migration expert DCL to conduct an independent analysis of its content and future process goals.
Specifically, the manufacturer wanted an analysis of Air Transport Association (ATA) standard data that covered:
Content reuse analysis – High level report to show where duplicated data is used; where potential reuse is possible
S1000D migration plan – Very high-level report of how DCL sees a mapping of the source data to S1000D
Cost analysis – Estimated cost of a full migration to S1000D
Conducting a third-party analysis allowed the company’s team to secure management buy-in to fund the full migration to S1000D.
Content reuse analysis
Every time duplicated text is found, it is converted to a standardized component that can be reused across different product or document types. It is assumed that front matter is similar across many documents, but how similar is difficult to discern without comparing all instances of that content. With large data/content sets, an automated tool ensures a thorough audit.
In this case, to analyze the potential of content reuse, DCL deployed its Harmonizer service, a tool that identifies redundant data across large document sets.
Identifying content reuse:
Reduces development time
Lowers maintenance costs
Streamlines use in other publications
After analyzing legacy data, companies must create a conversion specification to govern and document the rules of the conversion process and use as a quality assurance (QA) document – an effective method ensuring all stakeholders are on the same page.
A conversion specification creates project-specific business rules and includes:
Elements found in analyzed documents
Examples where elements can be found within documents
Concrete rules on how elements are identified
Open items, unresolved anomalies that require additional details, discussion
Data module requirements
A data module requirements list (DMRL) is another important element when planning a conversion. Pull all titles into a spreadsheet to act as a preliminary DMRL.
In addition to mapping the title to data modules, the DMRL assigns important information, including:
Identification, status section
New values for titles, other elements (more descriptive titles)
Metadata missing in the legacy data, for example, tools, skill level, materials needed for the procedure
Cost must be calculated into any project plan. While calculating how much it costs to move to a new format, it is also advised to calculate how much it will cost your organization if you do not move to S1000D.
Based on DCL’s expertise and experience with S1000D conversion, the costs comprise:
Common source data base (CSDB) – holds converted XML files, images
S1000D suite – stylesheets, authoring environment, configuration
XML authoring software
Migration of ATA XML to S1000D
S1000D is a conceptual departure from linear information, turning the traditional book format into a collection of data modules. Periodical assessment and QA checks of content should become an integral part of an organization’s routine. Ensuring the effort put into the planning stages and conversion are successful will also require internal education to stakeholders and executives, to enable them to understand the positive business impact of a successful content migration.