Factory floor data capture system pinpoints actual vs. standard cost and time comparisons

Comparing actual vs standard times and costs has boosted productivity at aircraft simulator manufacturer L-3 Link Simulation and Training.

When its board of directors ordered a 25% reduction in the 15,000 or so labour hours that go into building each aircraft simulator that it manufactures, Crawley-based L‑3 Link Simulation and Training recognised that it needed help.

The problem? The plant’s existing information systems provided only very limited visibility into where those labour hours were being spent—or, for that matter, how they were spent.

“Hours were simply being recorded on time sheets, and entered into a computer system each week, allocated to very generic tasks,” explains operations director Paul Arnold. “We had no way of distinguishing between productive hours and unproductive hours, or knowing if we were spending time rectifying errors that had been made by a supplier.”

Using the assembly of a single simulator as a test-bed for a pilot project, L-3 deployed a small number of Mestec’s ‘Manufacturing Smart Box’ touch-screen terminals.

“We could see the exact status of the simulator build,” he enthuses. “Just as importantly, we could see where every hour went—and if it was non-productive, why. What’s more, we could compare operator times for similar tasks, to identify training opportunities or flawed standard times.”

Very quickly, Arnold was convinced. And today, L-3 manufacturing executives have all the information they need, right on their desktops.

What’s more, knowing in detail where working hours are being expended has highlighted all sorts of improvement opportunities, adds Arnold.

Prompted by data on the assembly hours involved in assembling the large steel motion frame in which each simulator sits, for instance, the entire assembly operation has now been allocated to the supplier of the steelwork, at a net saving of one man-week.

“The identification of non-productive work and unproductive time is very important to us, and we’ve never previously had the ability to do this before,” says Arnold. “Now, we know exactly where we’re losing time—and can tell if the root cause is supplier failure, or issues within our own manufacturing organisation, such as engineering changes.”

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