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Integrated Development of Complex Products – Study of Cases with Focus on Smart Enterprise Concept

During this decade, took place a technological ‘Blietzkrieg’ where in few years everybody were being forced to a new world surrounded by new challenges, concepts and words. Maybe some of those words can be used to synthetize the trend, as: Industry 4.0, IoT, Big Data, AI, Additive Manufacturing, Automation, Digitalization, Digital Twin, etc. Even being a new set of unknowns, in the manufacturing environment it is a little bit clearer what that means and what are the trends; but in the product development environment the volatilities, uncertainties, complexities and ambiguities are almost the general rule. Akaer established a long-term project in order to prepare the company to be a ‘smart enterprise’ and mainly, to have its people prepared for this new scenario. This project, conceived originally to take 5 years, is comprise of 3 phases (research and modeling proposal, demonstration platform and propagation) and has focus in 4 areas: product development environment, management systems integration, advanced manufacturing techniques and advanced/active inspection techniques. But, by far, the most important results expected from this project are: to integrate the companies processes and to improve/shape a T skill for our people, prepared to be more flexible, adaptive and resilient facing the current challenges.

Even without the completion of the project, including the large majority of the internal fronts, many processes, techniques, methods and tools developed inside the project are already in use in other current projects at Akaer. This paper, in addition to a brief description of the innovation project in course, aims to present and discuss the experiences during the development of 4 different products in the light of those integrated processes. The products are from different applications areas (aeronautic, space, mining and agro) and complexity, but all of them are deep innovations and were or are being developed using many of those ‘magic’ words listed in the introduction and also having as basic driver the product ‘values’ and the users’ experiences.

Authors:

  • Fernando C. Ferraz, MSc, MBA
    Operational Vice-President at Akaer, COO
  • Joselito Rodrigues Henriques, MSc
    Head of R&D+I at Akaer

1 – Introduction

It is clear in all forums, analysis and reports that the way things are being produced is changing very quickly. Even being part of the human nature to believe that things today and in the future are faster than use to be in the past, it is astonishing to see how widespread is the urgent feeling about changes, challenges and innovation. In this scenario, appears a ‘consolidated’ concept that assumes different names and characteristics around the world as Industry 4.0, Advanced Manufacture, Smart Industry and others, depending on the country, but as rule all those brands have behind them a structured group of organizations, methods, technologies and policies conceived in order to enhance the companies / countries competitiveness, efficiency, flexibility and ability to adapt to new customers and markets requirements.

In general, it is being easier to see this revolution in the way how products are being produced, how companies and businesses are being managed and how services are being performed by means of a long list of new technologies, tools, systems, etc. But a new and dramatic revolution is taking place in the product/services creation and development realms; and here it is not only associated to new technologies, but mainly associated to values and basic concepts.

It is easy to worship the Technology as a new godness, associating to it the reasons of all success of some companies and the big failures of others. But in fact, behind this important factor are still old factors as people, culture and organization taking very important roles in the lives of companies and societies.

Hereafter is presented the Akaer’s view and experience running a project designed to prepare the company for its next steps. In the sequence, are also presented the example of some different products that are being developed in this new environment.

 

2 – Basic Review

Nowadays there are thousands of very good papers, reports and books about Industry 4.0 and this new environment, Ref. [1], [2], [3], [4] and [5]; for sure we do not aim to create, propose or discuss a new definition or concept about it. But we need to generate our understanding in order to driven the action plan designed to be our roadmap for the company grow.

Along this section is presented a condensed overview about Akaer’s slant related to the mains drivers, which defined its innovation program. After a long discussions were elected some specific themes as more relevant to be specifically addressed as pillars for the program:

  • Smart Enterprise concept;
  • New scenario

What is Smart Enterprise?

According to KPMG, Ref. [5], in the report “The factory of the Future” 2016, Smart Enterprise is the “Integration of all business units and value chain by means of the Digitalization”. In the future enterprise the ICT and automation processes will be fully integrated.

All enterprise areas and processes as R&D, commercial, suppliers, partners, manufacturing and customers will be connected in a unified and consolidated environment; making possible the simulation of results in all significant dimensions based on adjustments in key parameters defined previously. In other words, all relevant parameters related to the product life cycle are modeled, simulated and analyzed since the product conception. In such way, all development and industrialization process can be taken into account and managed since the product life cycle very beginning.

In the limit, the Smart Enterprise is an operation where the whole enterprise runs in a cyber and physical environment.

The most significant realms for Advanced Manufacturing Technologies, Ref. [3], within an Integrated Environment are:

  • Advanced Manufacturing;
  • Digital Transformation;
  • Digital Innovation;
  • Digital Cooperation Network; and
  • Integrated Digital Production

New Scenario

According to many authors and Akaer’s experience, in addition to the Smart Enterprise concept it is necessary to take into account other important factors, which are affecting the global scenario. In a simplified way, those factors are grouped in: labor market, product value and business complexity.

Labor Market

The second fact that should guide any analysis in this sense is the evolution or revolution of the labor market on a global scale. The hurricane of change is profoundly and definitively affecting existing forms and concepts of labor relations that have crystallized over the past two centuries, Ref. [8]

In the late 1990’s, the US military coined the term “VUCA” to describe the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous landscapes in which today’s soldiers must operate. More recently, the corporate world has embraced the term as an adequate description of the challenges companies face when competing in a business environment characterized by steady, rapid and unpredictable developments. Ref. [2]

This lack of trust stems from a mismatch between how we generally promote leaders and the unprecedented complexity that these leaders face at the lower levels of organizations. Most of our promotion criteria are based on past performance, not on whether leaders have the skills they need to succeed. We need leaders who are not just talented, but also agile learners.

  • Potential to learn
  • Motivation to learn
  • Adaptability to learn

In the WEF report, Ref. [8], about the Future of the Labor, is presented a singular fact: a large number of occupations, which nowadays occupy a great number of workers, do not exist 5 to 10 years ago.

Another important point is to recognize what are the driven factors for those changes. And here again, the most important are not the expected ones.

According to data shown in figure below, Ref. [8], the more important driven factors are associated to the efficient information management and to the quick adaptation to a new set of technologies, and not to aspects directly linked to manufacturing and production’s means. Those new technologies and the way that the information is managed are dramatically affecting the way how things are done; in fact now the things are done in a much more integrated and systematized approach.

Impact of Technologies in the Labor Market.

Product Value

Another set of fundamental factors for positioning ourselves is associated with a historical paradigm shift. Throughout the history of mankind the ‘power’ was concentrated in that it dominated the means of production. Today produce turned commodity, quality is prerequisite. The ‘power’ today focuses on those with the ability to set the standards and requirements.

Very quickly, changes in the consume standards are favoring services and products super-intensive in services. In fact, the participation of services in the mix of consumed goods and in the companies’ cost matrix are continuously and sharply growing. They are services of all kinds; but the fastest growing part is “embedded” services in tangible products, such as R & D, design, software, branding, and other events able to add direct value or to connect goods to the Internet or to add new features/functionalities to the existent product. When calculated by added value, services already account for 54% of global trade, but are estimated to be 75% by 2025. (Jorge Arbache, Jornal O Valor)

Another way how to see it is that the large majority of ‘new’ technologies, processes and materials that are ‘shocking’ the market are not really new; they already exist by more than 30 years. The difference today is that those technologies, processes and materials are being effectively applied in a widespread way around the world in an affordable cost. In other words, the impact comes from the fact that to produce with high quality becomes a commodity.

Business Complexity

Finally, the development and industrialization of new products has become an activity of high complexity not only technical, but requires intricate relationships between partners, suppliers, authorities and customers, and has become extremely capital intensive.

In this scenario, there is an actual race to achieve the new ‘holy grail’, which can be represented by different names as Industry 4.0, Advanced Manufacturing, Smart Industry, Intelligent Manufacturing, etc. In this race, there are some countries that have taken the lead as Germany and USA, but there many others trying to recover.

Currently, there are many countries developing dedicated policies and programs in order to improve their industrial / business performance, Ref. [1] and [2]. For each specific case, the characteristics vary based on local strength, strategy and interests, but all of them have in common the strong commitment of the triple helix environment (Government, Academia and Industry).

In Brazil, since 2015, many studies and documents, Ref. [10], [11], [12], and [13], were elaborated, but up to now, at least for us, the Brazilian objectives and directives are not clear. Consequently, there is no convergence among the local triple helix stakeholders.

3 – Overview about Akaer

Akaer is a genuinely and independent Brazilian company that is devoted to develop integrated solutions, mainly, but not only, for the Aeronautics, Space and Defense Industries. For more than 20 years Akaer has made the strategic decision to diversify its portfolio through organic growth and capacity building in specific areas as aerostructures, systems engineering, manufacturing engineering, and industrialization. In this period it was performed more than 5 million hours of services and product development activities.

As a next step of the growing strategy, in 2015 Akaer took the decision to acquire strategic companies of high technological content in order to strengthen and accelerate its growth in some specific areas and sectors. In this group are included Opto S&D with a long tradition in the optics industry (cameras for space and defense, lasers, integrated vision systems, missile guiding systems and fuzes, electronics and mission critical software), Equatorial renowned in the area of space systems (missions study and definition, critical systems and software) and Troya with great recognition in the area of toolings (design and manufacturing, tooling of parts and assembly, development of manufacturing process, automation of assembly lines). At the moment it is being studied association with other companies in order to enlarge the portfolio.

The headquarters of the Akaer Group is located in São José dos Campos. The Akaer Group operates in 4 business areas with multiple skills, acting as Program Integrator; Development and Integration; Services and Consulting; Technological Development applied.

During last 25 years Akaer was directly involved in more than 15 aircraft developments and 5 modernization processes, had released more than 75000 drawings/models, more than 500 engineering reports, and production documentation for more than 10000 parts and assemblies.

Akaer Group has more than 350 employees, mostly with a high level of specialization. Within the Group, more than 65% of the employees have a higher education level, of which more than 20% have postgraduate degrees. With regard to project allocation, about 2/3 work with the development of innovative products for customers or own, and about 10% work with pure R&D, i.e., investments in innovations not directly associated with existing projects, products and contracts.

 

4 – Overview about InovAkaer Project

Akaer has established a goal of becoming a 1st Tier supplier of segments and complex systems for the aeronautics, space and defense (AS&D) market in Brazil and worldwide.

The conventional capacitation approach foresees the outline of technological obstacles and in general puts the company at the same level as the majority of the competitors in the market, obliging each player to seek to differentiate mainly through the costs reduction.

Another approach commonly adopted is the search for alternative technological solutions, but without a systemic view of the problem and/or the structuring of the company for it. Most often, this approach leads to the consumption of many resources and time, and the results are not very different from the traditional one.

The option adopted by Akaer is an adaptation of the technological approach where a systematic and integrated innovation environment is the guideline for the technologies selection and application. In this approach the support and interaction with the Academy and partners takes an important role.

The figure below presents an illustration of the three technological approaches discussed.

Technological Approaches

In order to be able to achieve the goals coming from the strategic planning, Akaer, with the collaboration of Finep, ITA, Fatec, Siemens and other partners, structured an innovation program with the objective of establishing a ‘Center of Excellence’ in development and production of integrated aerostructure and systems for the AS&D market.

The main objectives of this program are:

  • To structure a Brazilian first-tier supplier for the AS&D market;
  • To be a reference center for the development and production of short series;
  • To be a reference in the AS&D market for aerostructures and systems;
  • Develop and deliver integrated segments; and
  • Develop and provide integrated engineering services.

Within the approach chosen by Akaer, the R&D+I area plays an extremely important role not only in the development and capacitation of new technologies, but also in the preparation of our professionals to act in the global environment of high competitiveness and uncertainties that we operate, VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous).

Today the Akaer Group has more than 10 active R&D+I projects involving several partners such as Universities, Research Centers and Companies, in Brazil and abroad. In total this network includes more than 100 researchers directly involved in these projects.

 

4.1 – Justification for the Project

Despite having one of the largest OEM, leader in the aeronautical market, Brazil does not really have an Aeronautical Industry since there is a big gap in the value chain as shown in the figure below.

Technological Implementation

For more than a decade, Akaer has sought out compositional forms with the local base to develop an organic solution to fill this gap. Unfortunately, for various internal and external reasons, the results obtained were not satisfactory.

From 2013 Akaer has made the strategic decision to change the approach and invest in an internal solution based on a model where the excellence in the development and production of integrated aerostructures is strongly associated with the efficiency and innovation of the technological and management processes involved.

Within this new strategic approach, actions associated with ‘organic’ capacitation were taken through the structuring of systems engineering, manufacturing and industrialization, and the hiring / qualification of resources to meet existing or short-term demands. However, the main focus of this strategic process is centered on the ‘development of innovative technologies’ capable of giving Akaer the ability to position itself as the leading integrator and supplier of complex products and services for the AS & D market.

The InovAkaer Program was designed to create the environment and provide the means to achieve the ‘technological’ branch objectives of Akaer’s transformation project into the best and most important first level supplier for the AS&D market in Brazil and to have a significant position in the global market.

 

4.2 – Project Description

The aim of the project InovAkaer is to prepare Akaer to be a 1st Tier integrator, providing complex products and services to the AS&D market.

InovAkaer Phases and Project Status

The project is comprised of four development fronts, i.e. the integrated product development environment, the integrated management system, the flexible manufacturing environment and the active inspection environment.

InovAkaer Fronts and their Objectives

4.3 – Requirements and Assumptions

In addition to the global objective presented above, it is clear that the Akaer’s team capacitation and the implementation of a new strong culture focused in innovation, adaptive and agile organization, strong organization with efficient management processes designed for each specific phase and situation are key issues to be achieved.

This new ecosystem is being called as Akaer’s Knowledge Environment and intends to drive and support the way how people should actuate and conduct new developments and innovations. In general it is being proposed a more active behavior looking for knowledge and not only just waiting for receiving some pieces of knowledge if and when necessary.

Some specific results from this Knowledge Environment are:

  • Develop competence to meet future market demands for complex product development and integration, including aerostructures, by applying advanced management and engineering (product, manufacturing, automation and inspection) systems.
  • Use the technologies, systems and processes developed to extend Akaer team competency in product development in an integrated manner.
  • Develop Akaer’s competence and capacity in the formation / operation of integrated networks for research, development and supply chain of complex products.
  • Expand Akaer’s competencies to operate in new markets and technologies.

In order to maximize the project’s comprehensiveness, it is important the involvement of as many Akaer employees as possible, looking for to disseminate and multiply the knowledge, skills and culture developed by all areas and teams inside Akaer.

Since the cultural and personal aspects are very important for building the Knowledge Environment, it is fundamental the commitment of the High Staff and of all the direct and indirect collaborators.

The environments, technologies, systems and processes developed must be flexible and scalable so that they can be adjusted according to the reality of each project or scenario.

The solutions developed should be designed considering a technology integration environment, with multiple partners and suppliers directly connected to the processes at their various levels throughout the product / service life cycle.

Akaer should develop a close and healthy relationship with the Academia, funds Agencies and any other partner in the Triple Helix R&D+I environment.

 

4.4 – Organization and Methods

In order to run the project, Akaer defined a dedicated team comprised of 27 technicians and support people that was organized originally following the traditional program management organization used for the different complex projects in development at Akaer.

In addition to the Akaer employees joined to the program around 25 researches from ITA, 10 from Fatec and circa of 10 other floating collaborators from partner companies as Siemens, Dassault, Totvs and SoftExpert.

It was defined a physical infrastructure for the project able to accommodate simultaneously up to 40 people having access to the environment and tools defined for the project. In the same way a remote site was created at ITA/CCM facility in order to emulate external clients interacting with the integrated system.

The allocated resources were organized in 8 fronts defined in such way that all main disciplines identified as necessary in the preliminary studies were properly addressed. The defined fronts are listed below:

  • General Integration – responsible by the design and development of corporate systems and integration of the other different fronts;
  • Business Program Management – responsible by the definition of the business processes and management flow, and by the project organization tools;
  • Integrated Product Development – responsible by the integrated product development environment organization, development of associated technologies and
  • Requirement Management – responsible by the development of the requirements management process and tools insuring the integration of all disciplines;
  • Configuration Management – responsible by the development of configuration management process and tools from the development up to the product disposal;
  • Advanced Manufacturing – responsible by the study and development of advanced manufacturing technologies as automation, sensors and actuators, active inspection, additive manufacturing, advanced composites, etc;
  • Digital Manufacturing – responsible by the study and development of technologies associated to manufacture simulation, virtual and augmented reality and digitalization;
  • Research, Development and Innovation – responsible by the coordination of the periphery and correlated R&D+I projects developed with the support and/or to support the InovAkaer.

The first stage of the project, around 3 months, was dedicated to perform a deep review in the available technical literature, , looking for mainly four realms: engineering and manufacturing advanced processes, product development organization, technological foreseen technics, and trends, and knowledge management. As a result of this first stage it was defined a basic organization and associated set of tools based on classical literature, Ref. [21], [22] and [23]. In this stage were also defined technologies of interest using data and processes defined in the literature, Ref. [17], [18], [19] and [20].

Both, organization and set of technologies, are being analyzed, adjusted and evolved during the project evolution. Figures below show the current references for the project organization and product development.

General Roadmap used in the Project Organization

 

Reference System Development Flow

Another important concepts assumed as reference for the project were the convergence of technologies and efforts using demonstrators and collaboration nets integrating a large number of partners in common projects. Figures below presents an illustrative view of those concepts.

Concept of Technological Demonstrators Adopted

 

Concept of Research Networks

4.5 – InovAkaer – Facts, Numbers and Results

Below are presented some facts, numbers and results associated to the project InovAkaer that can summarize it up to now:

Addressable Market in 2024

According to the market analysis performed Ref. [6], [25] and [26], a Brazilian 1st Tier company has the potential to reach annual sales of more than 1 B USD in 2024. Just for reference, according to AIAB, Ref. [27], the annual average sales of the Brazilian Aeronautic Industry, excluding Embraer, does not reach 100 M USD in the last decade.

1st Tier companies have a strong leverage factor from both a technological and a financial point of view, 1st Tiers companies, Ref. [6], generate 12x more value than 2nd Tiers ones.

New Site and Industrial Facility

Akaer invested in the acquisition of a brand new facility with more than 10000 m2 of outstanding industrial area read to start aerostructures assembly and systems integration.

Investments in the Project

The total investment just in the InovAkaer Project is 40,5 M R$; the total amount of investments including the new site, companies, infrastructure and tools overpass 100 M R$.

Project Hours

The total amount of direct hours predicted to the project is 180 thousands, in addition there are more than 20 thousand hours being executed in correlated projects.

According to the last project review report delivered to Finep in May, were performed more than 94 thousand hours. The expectation is that at the end of this year it will be performed at least 120 thousand hours.

Involved Researchers

In the peak of the project, at the end of the first phase, there were 72 researchers directly involved; currently there are around 50 dedicated researchers. In the correlated R&D+I projects that Akaer is involved there are more than 20 others researchers working with.

Institutions Involved

In the InovAkaer project there are 2 Academia members, 3 partner Companies and 1 Fund Agency directly involved. In the correlated projects there are 8 Academia members, 10 Companies and 3 funds Agencies.

Correlated R&D+I Projects

There are 2 directly correlated projects, associated to advanced manufacturing processes, linked to the InovAkaer and other 7 projects associated to product/technologies development that are taking advantage of the Knowledge Environment and tools developed inside InovAkaer.

New Systems Deployed/Implemented

As part of the integrated development environment is now validated and running 2 different PLM’s, an extended ERP application covering all operational cycle of a 1st Tier company, other corporate applications as CRM and BPM, many engineering new tools for digitalization and simulation, and one manufacture management application, MES.

Assembly Lines Designed / Optimized

As part of the industrialization capacitation and training were fully developed and optimized 3 assembly lines, two of those are being or will be implemented. The third one is still being used as development reference.

Spin off

Since the project InovAkaer started it were performed 3 internal workshops with the presence of all involved researches, floating partners and support team, around 75 people each.

 

4.6 – Current Status and Next Steps

In this phase, are being performed three group of activities in the project. The first group is linked to complementary studies and optimization of manufacturing management processes including production and supply chain planning, manufacture documentation and corporate systems

The second group of activities are associated to an experimental advanced manufacturing cell designed in order to test and validate all developments achieved in the different fronts. Figures below show illustrative views of the flexible assembly cell and the Flexible Tooling architecture.

Flexible Assembly Cell
Flexible Tooling Architecture

The technical activities predicted for this phase are listed below:

Plant Simulation:

  • Optimization tools as classical probabilistic, discrete event simulation, queueing theory, Petri net, Monte Carlo and other modern computational algorithms.

Process Simulation:

  • Manufacture:
    • Actuators kinematics, programing and integration applied in the FerFlex;
    • Robots kinematics, programing and integration with sensors, actuators & controls;
    • Sensors and virtual commissioning;
    • Integration with PLM;
  • Human:
    • Human kinematics and performance simulations and analysis;
    • Ergonomic and performance simulations and analysis;
    • Vision envelope simulation and analysis;
    • Operations and processes times and cycles.

The last front in course in the InovAkaer project is the propagation and full implementation of the operational and management processes developed and tested in the project environment.

This front will take the advantage of a running project, presented in section 6.1, to validate the proposed approach mainly for the Industrialization and Production environment.

 

5 – Product Development Scenario

The product development environment has changed a lot in the last few decades, but different from what ones might think at first, the main reasons are more associated with organization and methods than new technologies. In other words, it is possible to say that the new technologies that had the greatest impact on the way products are developed were those associated to information organization and management and not direct engineering tools.

As shown in figure below, the basic disciplines and phases associated to product developments still being the same as 30 years ago, at least. In the same way, even being visible due to use of new engineering tools as CAX, the differences in each individual step are also not enough to explain the huge reduction in the development cycles and costs. The key aspect, which is driven the new scenario is the significant overlap between phases and the deep integration between different disciplines.

Complex Product Development Cycle Comparison

These phases’ overlaps and disciplines’ integration are achievable mainly by the use of new systems and tools, which make possible an efficient management of a large amount of information, allowing different teams, even in different sites and using different environments, to access and work in a unified, updated, reliable and controlled database. This unified virtual plateau, illustrated below, should containing all necessary requirements and information used by the different teams along the complete product lifecycle. A simplified view of some disciplines involved in one aircraft development and the systems normally applied for each one are shown below.

Illustrative View of Integrated Development Environment

 

Illustrative View of Disciplines and Systems Involved

In general, the vehicles defined as the collectors for the different information and requirements related to the product during its lifecycle are the models, or old drawings. Those models and associated metadata, managed in different systems as PLM, ERP, MES, define the product, and generate the concept Model Based Design or MBD.

A direct effect of the new integration reference can be seem in the next table, where are compared the amount of activities performed and deliverables generated for three similar aerostructure segments developed in the last three decades. It is easy to see that the amount of information concentrated in the product development phase increased significantly and that this phase is incorporating a lot of activities and tasks performed formerly in subsequent phases.

Example of Complexity

The consequence of this new project organization is that the teams must to identify and make explicit the necessary requirements early than did before. Additionally, the teams must to interact in order to harmonize the requirements and the project management process must to deal in a much more efficient way with lack and/or conflict of requirements since that now a failure in the input management can generate a cascade of impacts.

 

6 – Study of Cases

Here after are presented briefly four cases where some concepts, methods, tools and organization coming from the InovAkaer project were applied.

These cases are very different from each other; they are connected to different Industries, they are different in sizes, applications and technologies, they have different complexities and costs, and by the end, they are associated to different development stages.

The first one is just an evolution of an existent and tested product, with improvements in the organization and in the processes applied. Two of them are radical innovations from previous concepts, but still keep some features and functions of previous products. Finally, the fourth product is a whole new concept bringing a disruption in the way certain activities are performed.

What these cases have in common is that they were and/or are being developed simultaneously by a relatively small team; with multidisciplinary characteristics, with the collaboration of several partners and suppliers, and mainly, following a form of organization conceived in the InovAkaer project.

Soon after, the teams began to study the applications and uses/users’ needs, in order to identify the real values sought. This was an interactive process, both with respect to the relation between the values identified with the preliminary requirements received and with the restrictions collected from the preliminary studies, partners, suppliers, customers, etc.

In all cases, the early interaction between different skills in addition to the long sections discussing first the values and after requirements, can be associated to the significant reduction in the development cycles and other good improvements as discussed below.

 

6.1 – Wing Assembly Line

During the last years a local operator is studying many different alternatives to extend the operational lives of its fleet. Those aircraft had their avionics and mission systems fully modernized some years ago with a state of art technology, but the structural cell are facing some operational limitations. The big challenge is to achieve an economical balance between the life extension requirements and the reconfiguration costs.

After many studies it was chosen a solution derived from an existent one having a Brazilian integrator with optimized industrial/management processes, but without affecting the original materials and technologies in order to avoid new certification costs.

For sure it is not a new product, but it was decided to use the development methodology and project organization in order to insure the full achievement of the tight schedule and budget defined. Since the original design, material and construction processes must to be kept, the few open variables were associated to the Industrialization processes, plant layout and internal logistics, team organization and training, and the management processes.

In this case, since the product is already defined and the new version must be the same as the certified product, the main values identified to be pursuit are: efficiency in traceability and configuration management, integration and efficiency in each work stations, and

Based on those values and in the previous defined requirement it was prepared a detailed Industrialization and Manufacturing Plan, which was the baseline for all other activities.

According to the master schedule, the physical assembly line will be ready only in the first quarter 2019, but since April 2018 there is a team working in study of the plant layout, workstation definitions and organization, material organization and flow, processes and production documentation, organization and management system, and resources planning.

The plant simulations and the optimization cycles, tested more than 5000 configurations up to achieve the elected one, where the balance between many production and logistic variables were considered good and cost effective.

In the same way, the bill of material and bill of processes for each production station were simulated, tested and optimized. Based on that it was defined the production documentation and the flow, including planning, follow-up, control and management.

After this phase, it was possible to achieve a theoretical efficiency around 20% higher than the original process performed by the OEM. In the same way, the expected time to have the industrialization phase ready and running, including the team training, is around of 6 months instead of 18 months as took in the original installation.

For sure, those values are theoretical and must be checked and validate after the assembly line start actually to produce, but anyway the gains related to the process knowledge in advance using the digital twin are good enough to justify the use of those tools even without other results.

Figures below show some of the performed simulations and optimizations cycles.

Conceived Assembly Line
Examples of Layout and Process Breakdown Analysis

6.2 – High Resolution Space Camera

The traditional approach used to develop space camera up to now follow a very complex and expensive process. In the last 5 years the way how space products are being developed is facing a revolution, not much due to new technologies but mainly due to new approaches that can be synthetized in the ‘new space’ concept.

Many services and application that before were restricted to large satellites in GEO orbits are now being performed by micro and nano satellites in LEO orbits and in a constellation arrangement.

In order to adapt the existent products to this new scenario it was designed a roadmap aiming to evolve from the traditional products and their development processes to the new standards where are required a significant reduction in the size, weight, cost and development cycle in combination with much better resolution and embedded services.

Product Development Roadmap

Another important change in the product development process is the way how those processes are funded. In the traditional approach the products were developed in a tailored way, designed to a specific product/application. In general, those equipment were developed with large time intervals and not following an incremental evolution. Additionally the percentage of technological reuse was small.

In the new scenario, mainly in the Brazilian reality, this design to spec model driven by previous orders is not feasible anymore. It is necessary to develop a model based on aggregation of small funds, more flexible and adaptive products able to evolve easily and requiring short development cycles.

This is a more active approach where the products are conceived based on identified market needs or even in values/applications not mapped yet, instead of wait for specifications coming from the space agencies.

The characteristics of the new line of product are significantly different from the traditional ones as can be verified in the sequence: development cycle 18 X 60 months, dimensions 1500 X 300 mm length, weight 150 X 5 kg, resolution 5 to 20 m and cost around 1 order smaller.

Other interesting characteristic is that the same platform and concepts are being adapted to three different customers covering different applications.

Example of the new Product Portfolio

 

7 – Discussion

This article has not the intention to be or follow an academic formality; in fact it is much more a collection of ideas and experiences coming from the Akaer’s innovation project, InovAkaer, and the application of the concepts, methods and tools defined up to now, in the development of products in different Industrial areas.

Based on that, more than discuss formally the results and/or propose new concepts or methodology, hereafter are discussed a particular view of the main trends observed, the results of the project designed to prepare the environment and people for the new scenario, and some comments about the experience with product development.

The first point important to be treated is the vision about the current environment that we are calling ‘Smart Enterprises’ since it is involving the all areas of the enterprises and all business areas not only industrial or manufacture. According to our view what define this new environment is the total integration of processes, areas, systems and business; and the key success factor is the high efficiency managing information, in all of their aspects, forms and sources.

The new way how goods or platforms are being produced, where to produce is becoming a commodity, and the growing need to quickly capture, develop and implement new features/services to be embedded in the platforms bring to the local markets a huge range of opportunities.

Still according to our view, this new environment more than be focused in automation and robot, is being driven by a significant change in the culture and in people, i.e., how much companies and countries are educated and ready to adapt and adopt the new concepts, which will keep coming continuously.

Based on those assumptions was designed the project InovAkaer that has as its main objective to create a proper environment where the new concepts could be developed, tested and validates, and where the Akaer’s people could be prepared to assume a more active role in the new projects and activities. Instead of to perform well and efficiently the defined activities, what is being expected is that each one should be able to identify the values and requirements for each activity and to participate in the development of more effective way how to perform it.

In terms of approaches how to achieve the required improvements we identified the first one based on extensive uses of new tools and methods as digitalization, simulations, automation, etc. The second is associated to the continuous sought for innovation or innovative solutions. In fact, both are complementary and must be adopted simultaneously, but it is important is to have in mind that for each specific situation the correct balance between them must be identified.

About the product development process, it is clear that the great revolution is associating the use of new tools that allows more detailed and complete analysis and a new organization system, which is allowing a significant compression of the development cycle by the overlapping of the development phases.

In general, the vehicles defined as the collectors for the different information and requirements related to the product during its lifecycle are the models, or old drawings. Those models and associated metadata, managed in different systems as PLM, ERP, MES, define the product, and generate the concept Model Based Design or MBD.

After three years running the project InovAkaer many improvements are achieved; the physical improvements in the infrastructure and corporate systems are remarkable, but by far, the most difficult task and the largest rewards are linked to the new mind set and culture developed in the group and cascaded to the others teams inside Akaer.

Even without being concluded the examples of product development presented in this article show the effectiveness of the innovation project. It is important to have in mind that up to 5 years ago Akaer was a company which has expended more than 15 years just developing aeronautic products for large OEM’s, in general following requirements and processes defined by the customers.

The fact that in a period of less than 24 months those four different and complex products were developed successfully indicates that we are in the wright way.

But, by the other hand, this project also taught us that this is an endless route; after each new conquered station, new large avenues begin that must to choose and covered to keep pursuing the market evolution. Just as an example, it was identified a huge need to improve the integration process with the complete value chain, not only with the internal actors but with all stakeholders involved in the process.

 

8 – Conclusions

Based on the exposed above, the conclusions made by Akaer, a medium size Brazilian company is clear that the new scenario of continuous quick and deep changes in the business development environment, including product development, will still be pushing the companies, at least during the near future.

In parallel with the high demand for process development and performance, the market is also forcing the companies to achieve new standards of time to market associated with prices unthinkable few years ago. The sustainable solution for this equation must to come from the balance of technological improvements and innovative solutions.

Efficient handling of product data and development knowledge is one of the key challenges in today’s product development. The interaction between digital technology, the information network, software functionality, and processes for decision-making based on needs throughout the product and plant life must still be established as a central competence.

The changes and innovations are requiring a new professional with transverse skill, T-skill, able to be adaptive, agile and with more broad view prone to integrated available solutions and new technologies in innovative arrangements.

To be able to be competitive and survive in the next decade, companies must to reshape their classical organization and approach, being much more proactive, services oriented and ready to innovate. It will be mandatory to be very efficient in the information management.

 

9 – References

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