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Trends driving Aerospace production control software requirements

Production engineering manager monitoring live progress of

Seiki Systems’ managing director, John Davis looks at the latest trends and demands driving aerospace customer requirements for production control software solutions.

Over the last six months in particular, there’s obviously been a huge pressure on budgets, compounded by the challenges of an uncertain order pipeline and switching production to new parts. Responding to sudden changes in resource, demand and capacity, and of course now being able to effectively support social distancing has really brought into focus what our software solutions can do to maximise resilience, visibility and agility.

Responding to production control & planning challenges

In this context, aerospace companies are looking to production control software such as the Seiki Scheduler to help factor in predictable delays and risks to their production plans and schedules. Moreover, they want the ability to adjust the plan in near real-time, taking into account issues such as equipment availability and efficiency factors for the most accurate view of true capacity. Realistically, fluctuating customer demand; staff moving to unfamiliar equipment or having to self-isolate; introducing new parts; delays in the supply chain; and any other sudden or unexpected changes can have a ripple effect that impacts both the short and longer term. People need decision support tools that help reduce some of the uncertainty of the things within their control. The insight also means they can identify any machine availability that they can actively promote – targeting the right mix and type of work needed. Seiki AIR offers an integrated solution for 360° view of manufacturing operations

Having factored in actual capacity, the focus is then on balancing the demands of meeting customer delivery dates and managing workflow and resources efficiently and economically in an extremely competitive market. It’s when you need to respond to ramp up rate demands, quick turnarounds and batch size variations that the Scheduler really comes into its own – it simplifies and speeds up what would otherwise be a complex management task using manual methods or spreadsheets. Those methods are also not live, whereas keeping the schedule up to date with the status of all work in progress (via our WIP Booking module), combined with accurate cycle time data (via the Machine Monitoring module) makes it possible to constantly adjust and refine takt times, again reinforcing the accuracy of the live plans and helping to smooth out inefficiencies being introduced by fluctuating demands.

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Improving utilisation performance

In the last few years in general, we’ve found that all companies are increasingly focusing their attention on improving the manufacturing capability of production resources, specifically their utilisation performance. Companies want to know that they are getting the most from their critical resources and be able to specifically target least efficient areas. Machine Status Monitoring is a ‘quick win’ for many companies, irrespective of whether they’ve already embraced a digital approach or they’re just starting out on that transformation journey. This is because it’s relatively easy to implement solutions such as Seiki thanks to our standard machine connectivity methods. Therefore you start to have accurate, timely and relevant analysis data as soon as you go live.

The other benefit of live status data capture is that you have greater visibility of what’s happening on the shopfloor. Response times go up, and because everyone has access to the same performance information there’s more incentive for collaboration and input into improvement initiatives. As an internal profit centre, it’s essential to know how long setup and machine cycle times actually take for accurate overhead recovery. More so if you’re introducing new products and/or trying to condense the production time to be price competitive.

Seiki AIR WIP Booking Software

For larger aerospace organisations, integration, collaboration and consolidation is driving demand. Frictionless, bi-directional transfer of information between ERP/MRP/APS systems and the shopfloor is all about driving efficiency and increasing communication and transparency between departments by sharing knowledge. Creating a frictionless flow of information also generates much richer data to create more of a 360° view. So you can drill down to the operation level to analyse and uncover even the smallest of productivity losses or view metadata such as photographs or user comments to feedback into the engineering/design process.

Ending the paper trail

Digital Jobpacks have been an integral module of our solution for nearly 30 years, and they have been successfully adopted by a significant proportion of our customers. It was probably a natural starting point for many companies to start making the transition to digital (paperless). So to have specific areas of the facility that are digital is quite typical. Where you tend to find paper documentation or manual tools crop up is where disparate systems have been deployed. We’ve always offered a modular solution because we recognise the advantages of focusing on addressing immediate pain points before building upon this by adding on other modules to complete the solution but we’ve absolutely designed our system to have the modules seamlessly integrated so there is a frictionless, real-time flow of information – such as the prioritised digital work queue generated by our APS system that links to a digital batch card and jobpack. When companies take this holistic approach, the transition to paperless/digital is facilitated more effectively. The other contributing factor is web technology, making information more readily accessible – for example our browser-based version (Seiki AIR) makes it cost effective, faster and easier to run tablets as operator terminals on the shopfloor or for supervisors to check progress on their phones.

Seiki AIR Jobpack DNC software shopfloor user screen

Just the job

After launching the new browser-based version of our WIP Booking and Monitoring modules last year, Seiki AIR Jobpack DNC is now officially launched, completing the full suite of manufacturing execution software modules. Seiki-Scheduler provides a view of the Consequences of Changes

Seiki AIR Jobpack DNC enables users to administer production data and documentation related to parts and operations, providing shopfloor users with contextual manufacturing and production information in the form of digital Jobpacks for each operation. Once approved or updated, records are instantly available to authorised users on the shopfloor. The software uses industry standard machine connectivity and communication protocols to ensure robust and reliable NC program transfer to/from machines. User permissions, file version control, revision history and audit trails all help to underpin internal quality control procedures and compliance.

With software updates regularly released throughout the year, Seiki AIR delivers a host of new features, live data capture and display options that provide users with the best tools for an integrated, collaborative and controlled approach to the production process. Exciting new features within the Monitoring and WIP Booking modules include a digital batch card, weekly order promise screen, configurable factory layout view, first-off inspection traceability, user notification controls, administration of parts and operations and performance dashboards on the shopfloor.

Free as the air

A versatile role-orientated solution, Seiki AIR provides users in any aerospace manufacturing environment with the flexibility to make fast and informed decisions. It gives users a combined view of resource and production activities in a single multi-functional, information rich workspace. The interface has been designed to be uncluttered, role adapted, and easy to navigate, making it easy for users to undertake daily tasks and track progress towards performance targets.Seiki AIR displaying its Live Status Andon View

As well as rapid implementation, Seiki AIR uses industry machine connectivity and seamless, configurable integration with ERP/MRP/APS systems to deliver a live, dynamic end-to-end connectivity and visibility of all production operations. Running on almost any smart device, it supports increased mobility and higher levels of operational flexibility.

Our aim is to help companies take a lean approach to improving their manufacturing operation by offering a solution coupled with a high level of support from a single-source. Seiki AIR has been specifically designed to give all manufacturers a fast and affordable entry point into digital manufacturing with a system that offers out-of-the-box core functionality and is quick and easy to install. We’ve applied more than 25 years’ experience to create a faster, easier and lighter solution that will give users valuable, actionable insights into their manufacturing activity and performance.


John Davis
Seiki Systems Managing Director 

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