Problem of Production Ramp-Up

Aviation news frequently report on delayed or even failed aircraft ramp-ups in these days. Both market leaders, Boeing and Airbus, are affected. Aircrafts in particular represent highly customized and complex products. The successful ramp-up of commercial aircraft is threatened by a variety of risks. These risks cause a significant reduction of the targeted production rate. As a result, costs are exploding.

The growing competition and a shorter innovation cycle lead to a rising number of ramp-ups. Besides the complexity of the product aircraft itself, future ramp-ups face further challenges. The transition from single to series production and new customization strategies are indispensible in order to reach high production rates.

Problem of Small Lot Production

The permanent rising of sophisticated costumer demands in different branches justifies the small lot production. This trend is driven by the increasing competition in standard product markets, especially from Asia. Therefore, more and more European companies enter into the individual customer markets. As a result, the number of ships, built in one series with identical design, has been reduced from up to 10 ships (e.g. container, bulk carrier or ferries) in the 1980-90 down to four ships per series today. According to the latest forecasts, this number will shrink further in the near future for European ship yards.

This trend will not only affect the effort in engineering individual ships for customers, but also the effort in production planning and management will significantly increase. Frequently occurring errors prove that product design, production lines, suppliers, IT or logistics are not ready for implementation at the very first products of the series. Late requests for change by customers are additional risks for this state of production. Experience from a German shipyard has shown that within a typical ship production series (passenger/car ferries, RoRo vessels) the 3rd serial product achieves the expected level of planning, product maturity and manufacturing quality. In small lot production with four or less instances, the resulting challenge is to enhance the understanding of risks, to faster respond to unexpected events, to enrich the base of information for decision making, to detect early warning and to accelerate learning. Those processes still need to be managed economically. Therefore, learning curve effects need to be exploited and decision support has to be optimized.

In this context, small lot production can be seen similar to the phase of production ramp-up. Ramp-up is the phase of transition between product development and the maximum capacity utilization. Thus, like in small lot production, the occurrence of unpredictable disruption is a common characteristic in ramp-up too.

Needs in Manufacturing Management

Given the problems in ramp-up and small lot production, an additional trend has to be taken into consideration in terms of:

  • More variants and products in shorter sequence but also significant increase of automation, ICT controlled manufacturing systems and planning and control solutions
  • Weak integration of engineering into production (horizontal) and enterprise ICT to shop floor automation and sensor level (vertical)

Consequently, future manufacturing needs to become a process of dynamic, event-sensitive operations, resource allocation, scheduling, optimization and controlling. Manufacturing management appears more and more to integrate and balance several factors, like quality, risks, costs and critical application time issues.