Lockheed Martin Automates Non-Conforming Material Control Process
FORT WORTH, Texas, February 24th, 1998 -- Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems has implemented an automated control process to streamline its procedures for documenting non-conforming material in the factory that produces the F-16 and major components for the F-22 and F-2 fighters.
Non-conforming material (usually referred to simply as non-conformances) consists of discrepant parts that fail to meet exact engineering specifications. Non-conformances are documented and carefully tracked to ensure that proper corrective action is taken.
The current process for documenting non-conformances involves a lengthy, time-consuming manual procedure starting with a five-copy Quality Assurance Report (QAR) form. Once a non-conformance is identified by a quality assurance inspector, a QAR is initiated. From there, the form is manually carried to a data entry area. A data entry analyst checks the QAR for accuracy, and edits if necessary. The QAR is then delivered to the Text Data Processor (TDP), who in turn keys the QAR data into a management information system (called PAAC for Product Assurance Action Center) from the QAR form.
Meanwhile, the original copy of the QAR is routed manually for further action, and then hand-carried to the data entry area for cross-checking with the information that has been keyboarded.
Under the new process, seven steps are streamlined into four. The Quality Assurance Inspector enters the QAR directly into the PAAC data management system via computer. It is then reviewed by personnel who enter the QAR disposition into the system, which automatically performs transactions and creates rework or repair orders based on disposition. A laser printed paper QAR copy is routed with parts and then sent to the Quality Assurance Inspector who closes the QAR.
The old process took between 20 to 30 days to complete. With the automated system, up to 10 days can be cut from the cycle. It also means the elimination of a complex five-ply paper form, less personnel required for administration, greatly improved data accuracy, no lost QAR forms and immediate recognition of non-conformance events.
"With ever greater demand by our customers to reduce costs, we are constantly striving to become the least cost producer, and to implement lean manufacturing principles throughout our operations," said Alan Richardson, Manager of Quality Assurance Services for Tactical Aircraft Systems.
"By implementing an automated process for identifying, tracking and correcting non-conformances, we have taken another important step towards becoming a more lean manufacturer. For example, by 2001 we project net cumulative savings of over $1 million from this system. But that's just the tip of the iceberg, because it only accounts for the savings from comparing the operating costs of the two systems. Much greater savings will be realized by the overall efficiencies and reduced cycle times introduced in plant operations."
The automated process has already been successfully implemented in the F-22 program at Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems and is scheduled to be implemented in the F-2 program by the end of February. It will be fully implemented in the F-16 program by the end of the year, and will be applied to future programs such as the Joint Strike Fighter.
Personnel at the Fort Worth factory have significantly reduced the rate of non-conformances and associated QARs produced, as one aspect of a lean manufacturing and quality improvement initiative that began in 1992. The QAR disposition and corrective action processes have been significantly improved in both timeliness and effectiveness. These have improved flow efficiency and have reduced cycle time. As a result of this and other "lean" measures, the company has been able to reduce its cost in producing the F-16 even as production rates declined.
Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems produces the F-16 for the U.S. Air Force and a number of foreign countries, and is leading the corporation's Joint Strike Fighter program. It also produces the F-22's mid-fuselage section, is responsible for various subsystems of the air dominance fighter, and is participating in the production of Japan's F-2 fighter.