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Acceleration – The key to Delivering Rockets on Time

Producing complex products like rocket engines takes time.  It is meticulous work done in a specialized clear room that if not done correctly can lead to failures that range from spectacular to very boring, but none end well.

One of our clients had a problem – business was good and kept getting better!  They had to ramp up production and they had to move existing production at the same time.  It was sort of like changing the wheels on a train while it is running full speed down the track.  To compound the problem, they were already over 50% late in their deliveries and that is before the new wave of work hit the production area.

They had just won a new contract to deliver not just thrusters but an entire propulsion subsystem module and that meant making many more thrusters and a new product operation for the subsystem build.  In order to make the subsystems, the small rocket engine thruster production and test operations needed to move out of the way – and that meant creating a brand-new clean room for the thruster build.  Finally, if that wasn’t bad enough, the new space was about 60% the size of the existing space, but production rates needed to nearly double.

Sometimes the biggest challenge in delivering on-time, though is the fact that suppliers deliver late.  Guess what, our client had that problem as well.  And their suppliers weren’t just a little late, they were regularly months late.  In a 6 month build, their suppliers would often deliver as much as 3 to 4 months late.  It was work around after work around.  Partial builds and continuous rescheduling leading to delivering late on more than 50% of original commit dates.  That led to lots of time consuming customer meetings and visits along with a very poor reputation.

CREAN utilized our Smart Factory Methodology to perform a deep dive assessment of the many business challenges and got to work designing an operating system and approach that would ensure the success of our client.

We took the time needed to ensure we understood the critical complexities of this product, but we also focused on how to create simplicity in the production of these complex items.

We combined disparate production operations into a single mixed model production line that was able to produce all of our client’s small thrusters in one operation, thus creating the needed space savings to allow the subsystems to be built in the larger old clean room (in a CREAN designed production operation).  At the same time, using our Smart Factory tools and technology to implement massive time savings, we were able to cut what was a 6-month cycle time from kit release to ship down to just 15 days.

The results were game changing for our client.  Those late supplier deliveries were now no longer driving their schedules.  Even with a 4-month late supplier delivery, they could still deliver in 4.5 months against a 6-month promise schedule.  But 100% on-time delivery was only part of the story.  Efficiency and effectiveness skyrocketed.  What used to take 5 people working 1.5 to 2 shifts was now being done by 3 people working 1 shift.  This couple with a more than doubling a production rate capability meant cost per unit dropped significantly with commensurate increases in profits.

The freed-up time from production operators could not have come sooner because they were all needed to build the new subsystems that were arriving in kits on the production floor.

The customer meetings to discuss revised schedules were all eliminated and now the customer visits were times to show off the new operations and discuss how they had the fastest production in the industry.

This demonstrates why at CREAN we focus on production acceleration for a reason – because it also delivers satisfied customers and big profits.  Whether it is rocket engines, mechanical assemblies, or electronics, we help you deliver more, faster, cheaper, and better.

CREAN. Complexity Simplified ™