Treading the critical path to increasing capacity and controlling costs creates aerospace opportunit

25 July 2016

The aerospace sector is continuing to grow and provide opportunities for UK suppliers who can help aircraft companies meet the challenge of meeting increasing demand while controlling costs, according to Boeing's Denzil Lawrence.

Produmax's new facility. 

Lawrence was speaking to members of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre Forum, gathered in the AMRC Knowledge Transfer Centre to learn how they might benefit from optimising machining performance.

"Aerospace is a very resilient sector," said Lawrence. "We are still confident that is a good sector to be in and a growing sector with the biggest growth coming from the Far East and Asia."

However, competition was increasing, with new entrants emerging and established aircraft manufacturers had to reduce their costs, working in partnership with their suppliers.

Jeremy Ridyard speaking at the event. 

Delegates at the crowded Forum heard Jeremy Ridyard, managing director of innovative high precision engineering company Produmax, explain how his company had doubled its size and turnover, secured substantial long term agreements and become more competitive after optimising its machining operations, with help from the AMRC.

In one case, the advice led to the introduction of a new tool which completely changed the way the company machined components, enabling it to increase capacity using its existing plant and avoid having to invest £500,000 in a new machine.

Sandvik business development manager Ian Lain explained how minimising downtime, reducing cycle time and introducing faster servicing could result in significant improvement.

Companies were only adding value for a quarter of the time they were using their facilities.

"You are only adding value to anything when you are machining it," said Lain. The rest of the time companies were changing tools, inserts or workpieces, checking and measuring or running the machine up to speed to start cutting.

Maximising tool capacity, using quick change tooling systems and on machine measurement could all contribute to increased productivity and competitiveness by increasing the time components were being machined.

James Needham, Head of Applications with the AMRC's Machining Group outlined the AMRC's Critical Path Approach to optimising machine performance.

"The fundamental question is 'What is stopping us going faster,' said Needham. "We need to assess the machining system to find the weakest link. The Critical Path Approach looks at the current machining strategy and finds out what the limiting factor is."

Needham explained how the Critical Path Approach had helped to significantly decrease the time taken to machine key aero engine components, along with the number of manual interventions, while increasing the number of components that were right first time.

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