Use of digital manufacturing to improve operator learning in aerospace assembly
Butterfield J., Curran R., Watson G., Craig C., Raghunathan S., Collins R., Edgar T., Higgins C., Burke R., Kelly P., Gibson C.
The process of learning in any manufacturing enterprise contributes significantly to product lead times, final cost and ultimately, competitiveness. It effects all contributors to the product development cycle including individual operators and supervisors on the shop floor, as well as those involved in the upstream disciplines of engineering, tooling design, methods, production control and design. Any improvement in learning can significantly reduce the number of hours tied up in the learning curve thereby reducing costs, especially in the preliminary stages of new product manufacture. A relatively small percentage improvement in the time taken to build the first five fuselage assemblies for a regional aircraft would result in a financial saving that is of the order of $100k. The primary goal of this work is to quantify any benefits that an animated, digital instructional format can have on aerospace assembly learning when compared to more traditional, paper based instructions. Hard copy, illustrated assembly instructions and digital, animated assembly instructions were authored for two engineering assemblies. The first was a relatively simple rear wheel hub from the Queen's University Belfast, Formula Student racing car the second was the more complex apron and uplock assembly from the Bombardier RJ900 Regional Jet. Controlled experiments were carried out to measure the build times that resulted from the use of each of the two instruction types. The results showed that the average time taken to complete five builds was faster for the groups using digital, animated instructions. This was the case for both the wheel hub and the aircraft panel. The total time taken to carry out the thirty builds for the wheel hub was 20% lower for the group using digital instructions. For the less intuitive panel build, the total time taken to carry out the twenty builds was 14% lower for the group using digital instructions. These results clearly demonstrate that the use of animated build instructions can improve build times. The improvement in learning is less for the more complex aircraft panel assembly.