Global Material Handling System Integrators

Rolls-Royce opens Focused Factory with self directed workflow

I had the opportunity to attend the grand opening of the latest Rolls Royce “Focused Factory” in Plainfield Indiana yesterday. This facility is responsible for building the F-35 Stealth Joint Strike Fighter LiftFan and Vane Box. The LiftFan receives its power from the main turbine engine and can direct 19,000 lbs of thrust downward to allow vertical landing and short take-off capability. For perspective the technically advanced gear box and clutch transfers 29,000 horsepower over hundreds of missions whereas a typical dragster clutch transfers 8,500 horsepower for less than 10 races. The “Focused Factory” demonstrated the most advanced “Lean” methods that I have seen to date. As is typical in most lean facilities there was an epoxy white floor, bright lighting, clear signage, and floor markings to provide a disciplined and very organized environment. The logistics of bringing in the parts for assembly from a 3rd Party Logistics Partner (TMX Logistics Inc.) in specially configured foam “cut out” containers was laid out very well. There were several exciting technologies demonstrated to ensure an assembly process of high quality. There was an RFID tool storage chest that automatically “checks out” and “checks in” tools. The assembly process also featured 3 dimensional tracking of the tool location so that before an associate tightens a bolt the system ( ) verifies that it is the right bolt in the right sequence. Rolls-Royce also demonstrated a dry ice part cleaning system to remove impurities in an environmentally friendly manner. ImageWhat was most impressive to me was the “Self Directed” work flow which basically means each associate has all the tools, parts, and information at their finger tips to make work rate (synchronized takt time) and all necessary decisions. With mobile computers each associate has visual instructions and built in quality control to foster teamwork and get the job done without direct supervision. Most organizations do not provide this real time visibility and require direct supervision which is generally less efficient. To me there are several lessons in self directed organizational structures that can be applied to distribution and warehousing operations provided similar real time information systems are deployed at the operator level. BMH was fortunate to provide the custom LiftFan assembly work platforms to Rolls-Royce through our sister company Blue Arc Engineering for the new “Focused Factory”. Posted by Bill Bastian II on 6/14/2010

Author: Margie Schramke


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