There is some evidence that the strain in the Aerospace supply chain is increasing. Issues around the engine software for the A320 Neo and late delivery of seats and other interior components for the A350 are currently a heavy burden for Airbus’ Final Assembly Lines. There is more evidence of struggling Aerospace Suppliers, however they benefit of “sailing in the slip stream” of the top bad performers.
Therefore this might be the right moment to elaborate about our view on crisis management in operations. We think the most relevant element is focus. And the focus must be on the stabilization of operations. If you try to solve all surfacing process issues in parallel you are going to fail in reaching the major target, getting back to On time delivery (OTD). In our crisis model we recommend to do a deep dive into the relevant processes after you are back on OTD. With our crisis conclusion we improve then unstable production processes in a sustainable manner.
Operations include the entire process from ordering, engineering, procurement (buy parts), production and logistics including quality inspection as a transverse activity. From our own crisis management experience at the A380 electric harness installation recovery in 2009 we recommend that the following three main drivers need to be addressed:
- Improve visibility: You need a daily monitoring of all relevant parameters at each process step
- Improve management: You need a daily “drum beat” close to the product and the workforce to address upcoming issues in a high speed decision process – i.e. our War Room.
- Improve planning: Based on your increasing visibility you are able to provide better and more robust plans how to recovery.
Honestly, these three points are no rocket science. It is simple and we think everybody can do it. However, one thing is key: The three elements work together only.
Let us start in this blog with the improved visibility. In one of our current projects we saw a lot of reporting. But did this reporting cover the real information needed to take sound decisions? For example, a key figure in the report was the achieved rate per work station which was measured against the plan. Sounds logic, but there were two major points missing. First a (temporary) workshop for repairs was not included in the monitoring which led to a “black whole or blind spot” and second, you did not really understand why the performance of a low rate work station was so bad. A further investigation showed that it was not the workstation which did not perform, it was the upfront workstation which did not manufacture the requested quality. The output at a “good” rate was not usable for the next workstation and went directly into the “black hole”, the repair shop.
The lesson learnt is simple. You need to focus on the availability of the relevant inputs per workstation. If we allow, for the time being, to neglect the installed infrastructure like machines, working space and so on, there are three main input elements you need to consider: workload, supply, workforce.
Workload is the physical available work in front of the workstation. It is not the work shown in your IT production system, it is something the foreman can see and touch on the shop floor. The workload has to be measured in working hours. We know that especially in new programs this calculation is a challenge. But it is a must for transparency. And you must have a plan how much workload you want to accomplish per day which is related to the rate request of your recovery plan.
Supply is the released drawing, the material you need according to the drawing and the relevant tools. We recommend to measure it (again always per workstation) in percent. We must strive for 100% availability otherwise it impacts the performance and output of the workstation. In case we are below 100% we need for each single position a committed near term delivery date and recovery plan.
And last but not least the major input factor is the blue collar workforce, which should be measured in physically available production hours per work station. This figure has to consider a various number of parameters. For example, you have to differentiate between skilled blue collars and new team members which are still in a training phase and not yet up to 100% performance. Only with these exact figures, the comparison of input factor 1 – workload to be achieved – versus input factor 3 – workforce available – is reasonable and provides you with the means you need to control and manage production.
In our next blog we elaborate how this transparency is then going to be used in our second crisis management element – the Production Control or War Room.