QMT Features: June 2009
SPC vision
An SPC approach has eliminated a large number of measurement and inspection stages on the shopfloor, empowering operators to achieve consistently high standards.

While aerospace manufacturing arguably leads the way in technology development, without a major cultural shift in the way it approaches the issue of continuous improvement, it will struggle to match the robust quality standards firmly established by its automotive counterpart.  

The aerospace industry has only recently moved away from the old concept of quality control through inspection.  Shop floor process planning and process control now need to be underpinned by new systems based firmly on proven Continuous Improvement methodology such as Statistical Process Control (SPC), Failure Mode & Effects Analysis (FMEA) and other quality tools which can help increase productivity. This is especially true within the supply chain. And for these tools to be effective they have to be accepted at all echelons of the business, from the shop floor to the boardroom.

SPC Vision software, from Infodream, can play a vital part in achieving this new practical philosophy and the success of its dynamic client Turbomeca UK’s Lean manufacturing & Process improvement project show how it need not be such a daunting task.

Turbomeca UK specialises in the manufacture of complex mechanical assemblies for the aerospace industry and the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of small/medium size gas turbines. The company forms part of the global group of SAFRAN, whose subsidiary companies are located in over 30 countries around the world and who employ over 61,000 staff.

Infodream’s SPC Vision was selected by Turbomeca UK after a 3 month trial period, to facilitate their key lean manufacturing project called ‘Self Inspection’. The project’s initial objective was to re-engineer the production inspection process to increase its efficiency and effectiveness. The project was no small task, requiring a major cultural change and new ways of shop floor working.

Pre-Self Inspection
PFig 1rior to the project, Turbomeca’s products were inspected several times during the manufacturing process. Each inspection step was conducted in isolation, often repeating measurements from previous steps. Additionally, each product underwent a thorough final inspection where the part was either passed and a certification report generated, or failed, and the required action taken. Undertaking the final inspection at the end of the process also meant that non-conforming products were sometimes not detected until this stage of the process, by which time much value has been added through each manufacturing step resulting in much higher scrap and rework costs - fig1.

New process
Turbomeca UK’s complete business process was analysed and re-engineered to dramatically improve both efficiency and effectiveness. Infodream’s SPC Vision software is the core of Turbomeca UK’s new process, where carefully selected key characteristics are measured at ‘SPC Inspection stations’ – fig 2.

TFig 2he products are now inspected at the point of manufacture, and the measurement data is analysed in real time and stored on a central database. Previously all measurements had been recorded manually but with the new integrated system, 95% of the measurements are now automatically captured by linking the CMM’s, air gauges, height gauges and digital callipers directly to SPC Vision.

The features measured at each inspection point are only those which are relevant to the associated manufacturing step so there is no duplication. With the products being inspected and data recorded at each step of the process, the final inspection has been eliminated allowing the inspectors to have a much more pro-active quality assurance role. The product conformance paperwork is generated automatically by SPC Vision at the end of the process. Non-conforming products are also detected much earlier in the process at the point of manufacture, reducing scrap, rework and processing costs. Additionally SPC Vision is used to monitor and control the process, so trends and early warning signs are detected and actions taken prior to manufacturing problems occurring.

Turbomeca production manager Malcolm Smithers says that that “SPC Vision has enabled both a large number of measurement and inspection stages to be removed and empowered the operators to achieve consistently high standards. It has really helped us achieve standard times and is already improving our profitability.”
With phase 1 of the project almost complete, Turbomeca are now looking to utilise the statistical process control (SPC) and analysis features provided by Infodream’s SPC Vision to monitor, control and improve machine and process performance. Malcolm says that, "although this was outside the original scope of the project, there are clear benefits in using SPC on the shopfloor and we feel that this could really help us reduce waste and manufacturing failures in the future.”

Turbomeca have already began the next stage of the journey by sending all of their production operators on a ‘Variation Reduction & Statistical Process Control’ training workshop provided by Infodream.  As part of a range of continuous improvement training services offered by Infodream, the course is aimed at those wanting to gain a basic understanding of SPC delivered using a practical and fun approach. Topics covered include: an introduction to variation, importance of data, measuring & visualising process performance, effective use of SPC, process capability analysis, the importance of measurement system variation.   

This proved to be a very good insight for the shopfloor personnel into what benefits could be delivered and what their role would be in this new way of working. Machining quality co-ordinator John Atkinson commented that the course had “ expelled a few myths and misconceptions surrounding SPC and has given me a much better understanding and confident view of how to apply it”

email: msmithers@Turbomeca.co.uk
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