Title: Importance of assembly simulation as an aid for process planning for an aircraft assembly operation: perspective from experience

Authors: J. Arnold, M. Ramulu, P.N. Rao

Addresses: The Boeing Company, Seattle, Box 3707, WA 98124-2207, USA. ' Department of Mechanical Engineering, Box 352600, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA. ' Department of Industrial Technology, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0178, USA

Abstract: Process planning for aircraft assembly is a very complex task, dependent upon the experience and domain knowledge of the process planner. Attempts to automate assembly process planning have been largely unsuccessful and it remains a manual activity. As it is a manual activity, methods to reduce the process planning development time are critical for aircraft manufacturers to stay competitive. Rather than pursue automating assembly process planning, this research investigates the effectiveness of assembly simulation as a process planning development aid. That is, can viewing assembly simulations reduce process planning development time? The investigation was accomplished by reviewing process plans from a mature aircraft manufacturing programme to establish a baseline of process plan complexity. Process planners were engaged and a survey method employed to determine process plan development time savings. Additionally, survey activities allowed process planners to evaluate the different characteristics of assembly simulation. It was found that process plan time savings do occur when an assembly simulation is provided to the process planner. Data analysis discovered that there is a relationship between process planner experience and the magnitude of time saved. Process planners unanimously identified spatial analysis capability as the most valuable characteristic of assembly simulation.

Keywords: process planning; aircraft manufacturing; aircraft assembly; assembly simulation; process plan complexity; process plan development time reduction; spatial analysis capability.

DOI: 10.1504/IJMTM.2004.005672

International Journal of Manufacturing Technology and Management, 2004 Vol.6 No.5, pp.434 - 456

Available online: 15 Nov 2004 *

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