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Tooling is in sync with production.

What started out as a long-term process of cutting inventory and manufacturing leadtimes in half to meet changing demands of the market is producing significant short-term benefits for Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC). And the best is yet to come, say two key managers involved in the transition.

Major changes in the manufacturing culture at the company's main facility, located in the Montreal suburb of Longueuil in Quebec, were initiated to improve asset management and responsiveness to its customers. Included in P&WC's product mix are turboprop and turboshaft engines, small turbo fan engines, and auxiliary power units for air, land, and marine applications.

Champions emerged for the respective functional disciplines involved: Jean-Claude Bertounesque, manager of tooling; Renald Ringuette, who is a manufacturing manager. Both men agree that changes in mindset and a new-found attitude of teamwork lie at the heart of the improvements in the line.

On the tooling side, the $1.5 billion (CDN) manufacturer of gas turbine engines significantly redefined its approach to tooling and adopted flexible and modular fixturing two years ago.

On the production side, the United

Technologies' subsidiary more recently shifted from mass production to synchronous manufacturing, a systematic approach to increasing productivity by reducing inventory and leadtimes while improving delivery performance.

Mr Bertounsesque sees the changes as positive: "When inventory and leadtimes are cut, the vital role of tooling stands out. We're no longer a remote service to production, and we become a partner in production."

Results of its one-two "tooling and production" punch for P&WC's turbine disc manufacturing line have been dramatic. Between February and December 1991, inventory was reduced 58%, setups were tripled, and scrap was reduced 45%. In addition, the line's inventory turns increased from three to seven per year.

Up close and talking

"Now tool designers, process planners, and shop floor personnel meet regularly, face to face," says Mr Ringuette. "This was not always the case. In the past, when we felt we had more time to make an engine, production felt no pressure to work closely with other departments. But when we were challenged to cut manufacturing leadtimes in half, we found we had to start tearing down barriers, and inward-focused departments were among the biggest barriers."

A Quality Plus program that the company had in place for years helped pave the way for a mindset change about how the various disciplines could work together. The consulting firm of Spectrum Management Group, Wallingford, CT, supplied its expertise in helping P&WC implement synchronous manufacturing techniques.

According to Spectrum project manager, Jeffrey Nolan, the need for effective teamwork has caused the company's tooling and production teams to develop a shared strategy. "They focus on areas where change can be beneficial to both departments with each mindful of the needs of the other," he says. Strong teams are emerging that cross many departments and are moving us forward, says Mr Bertounesque: "Managers can point the way to change and provide leadership, but unless the entire organization believes in the importance of removing barriers and taking ownership of the process of change, not much is going to happen."

Optimizing setups is a priority with the production team, explains Mr Ringuette: "In a synchronous environment setups can triple or quadruple so that speeding up changeovers is a way of minimizing disruptions and possible loss of efficiency while we're transforming our manufacturing culture."

While tooling and production both have departmental objectives that must be met, they may not always seem compatible. Me tooling team must cut tooling procurement leadtime, as well as tool maintenance time and costs; the production team must accelerate throughput, improve quality, and optimize setups, Messrs Ringuette and Bertounesque explain.

A spirit of give-and-take in face-to-face meetings has produced significant linkage of both departments' agendas:

* Tooling has developed standardized, easy-to-use jaws that help optimize setups, even though this improvement will have little impact on reducing tooling leadtime and costs.

* Production has softened its demands for gage and tool kits because the tooling team wants to avoid investing in technology that will soon be obsolete.

The mutual benefits of synchronous thinking are illustrated in the turbine disc line's counter-sink operation. This critical operation was the source of quality problems that hindered throughput. Any improvement, both reasoned, would benefit the whole company, as well as their respective departments.

The tooling team took time to rethink its whole approach to the counter-sink operation. The solution was to reduce the number of fixtures for the counter-sink machine from 32 to one. "The benefit to tooling was savings in maintenance time and cost; to production, improvements in first-pass yield and quality turned out to be significant," explains Mr Bertounesque.

Changes in fixturing were welcomed by the production team who were well aware that advances in CNC technology had made their old approach to fixturing outdated.

Flexible production

"When machine tools were less sophisticated, we had, in effect, smart fixtures," Mr Ringuette explains. "We might have had as many as 100 unique fixtures for a single machine tool. Traditionally, certain parts would be routed through specific tools because that's where the optimal--and only--fixturing was. We used to think that this vast array of fixtures gave us great flexibility."

As Pratt & Whitney Canada increased the number of sophisticated CNC tools, the need for "smart" fixtures was greatly diminished. Spectrum's Mr Nolan points out that the existence of thousands of unique fixtures tends to create bottlenecks. If parts can be done on only one machine--to take advantage of unique fixturing--flexibility is greatly restricted.

"When there is a part that needs to be processed quickly, managers should have the option of routing it through two, three, five, or seven different machines--sometimes all at once--if they determine that such an approach is the best way to optimize throughput," says Mr Nolan.

To give P&WC the flexibility to do just that, the tooling team installed modular and flexible fixturing on its machine tools. Priority was given to production operations that were seen as constraints to increasing throughput.

"Making the transition to flexible simplified the manufacturing environment. Where before we might have had as many as 80 to 90 unique fixtures for one family of parts, on one specific operation, we will soon have no more than eight or ten. And all fixtures will be designed with common mountings so that there will be great flexibility in moving fixtures from machine to machine--something we could not do before," Mr Bertounesque says.

In addition, new flexible fixtures were designed so that the entire fixture no longer had to be replaced to do a changeover. Instead, only a few details on the fixture are changed. The fixture itself usually remains in place, sharply reducing setup time for the more frequent changeovers that are required in a synchronized environment.

To maximize production, synchronous manufacturing places a premium on fast response to potential delays. In the past when a fixture broke, production might have to wait weeks--sometimes months--for a new fixture to be made. Now flexible or modular fixturing has reduced replacement of broken fixtures to a matter of hours.

One future plan is to station toolmakers right on the production line so that they can assist with changeovers and fix problems on the spot. Both men expect some of the biggest payoffs to come from the area of new product development.

"When we transfer the discipline of our new approach from existing production onto new engine development, we expect to see major reductions in the time and cost required to develop and launch a new engine," says Mr Bertounesque.

Mr Ringuette agrees that tooling procurement leadtime is a big issue in P&WC's operation. "By simplifying and standardizing our tooling, we have cut the leadtime for high-quality experimental tools, as well. For this reason alone we can develop new prototypes much faster and with much less disruption to on-going production."

Toolmaking productivity has soared with the new approach to tooling, with its emphasis on flexible and modular tooling. "Before, three toolmakers might have made a total of 30 to 36 tools annually. However, in one seven- month period, the same number of toolmakers built 467 new modular fixtures of which 265 were rebuilt more than once," Mr Ringuette says.

Team building was essential to the success of the P&WC effort. At first, some workers were skeptical about abandoning the practice of having long production runs to post high efficiencies. To prove the concept, turbine disc line managers ran experiments in which 20 units of three parts were run instead of 60 units of one part.

When workers saw that they could meet delivery objectives much better with shorter runs, they started to take ownership of the new ideas. The technique of concentrating only on parts that were actually ordered revealed that a high percentage of the large batches the line used to run were parts for which there were no customer orders.

"Why make parts nobody has ordered?" Mr Ringuette asks.

The turbine disc line has become the success story of Pratt & Whitney Canada's improvement effort. It has the distinction of being the first unit in P&WC to reach and then exceed the 50% reduction-inventory target. Remarkably, despite a tripling of setups, inspectors on the line say there are now 45% fewer scrapped parts compared to 11 months ago when the line began implementing synchronous manufacturing.

The reason, says Mr Ringuette, is that "we are not as pressured as we were before. Everyone now knows we need every part that is released to the shop floor--because parts are only released when customers want them."

For more information on Pratt & Whitney Canada, circle 299.

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COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Pratt and Whitney Aircraft of Canada Inc.
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Words:1652
Previous Article:IMTS 92 ... in search of manufacturing solutions.
Next Article:Holemaking goes high-tech.
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