Success Stories

Lean Tools Help Ideal Aerosmith Reduce Costs by $52,000, Boost Efficiencies and Improve Work Environment

Ideal Aerosmith

Ideal Aerosmith (Ideal) is a privately-held company located in Grand Forks, ND, with locations in East Grand Forks, MN, Phoenix, AZ, Pittsburgh, PA and Menlo Park, CA. They currently have 126 employees.

Ideal Aerosmith has been providing innovative test solutions since its founding in 1938 by a group of former airline maintenance personnel. Almost immediately, Ideal became well known in aviation maintenance shops for its reliable test equipment such as the Scorsby Table, Manual Tilt & Turn Table, and Rate-of-turn Table. During the early 1980's Ideal developed its first automatic position and rate table system for Litton Industries. Ideal Aerosmith has now become a leader in providing precision motion simulation test systems to high-tech companies around the world.

In addition to a full line of motion systems, today's Ideal Aerosmith has expanded their capabilities to include full turnkey services in the design, manufacture, and field support of aerospace Automatic Test Equipment (ATE). Their skill set includes test system design and integration, test software development, test requirements definition, and Test Program Set (TPS) Development. They are proficient at obsolescence re-engineering to upgrade existing legacy test systems.

Ideal performs high-value contract and build-to-print manufacturing of test systems, fixtures, test adapters (ITAs), and cables. Ideal can provide test hardware and software design, as well as build-to-print electromechanical assembly.

In January 2005, Ideal Aerosmith hired almost all of the personnel from the former Carco Electronics, of Pittsburgh, PA and Menlo Park, CA. The addition of this experienced technical talent now allows Ideal Aerosmith to offer high precision rate and positioning systems, real-time hardware-in-the-loop (HWIL) motion control, and high-dynamic electric and hydraulic flight motion systems.

Ideal Aerosmith also offers full service, calibration, and upgrade support for all of its products as well as for legacy Carco Electronics and Contraves-Goerz electric and hydraulic rate tables and motion platforms.

They are committed to working closely with their customers during the entire product lifecycle. For example, they have the capability to deliver quality documentation in most drawing formats and to perform on-site installation and training anywhere it is needed. They have delivered high value custom-engineered test solutions ranging from ATE systems for testing weather radar transceivers, to 5-axis Hardware-in-the-Loop Missile Flight Motion Simulators.

They have many customers in the USA and around the globe including avionics manufacturers, US Government prime contractors, all US military branches, major oil field service companies and high tech agriculture companies. They compete with many large companies, some of whom are also customers.

Their mission states, “To innovatively engineer, manufacture and sustain world-class motion and electronic test solutions and services. Establish long-term relationships by exceeding customer expectations for quality workmanship, on-time delivery, and unwavering support.”

Improve Efficiencies and Reduce Costs

One of Ideal’s major goals is continued growth. They have identified continuous improvement and increased efficiency as a major part of enabling growth. Impact Dakota was chosen to help educate and train several key personnel to help start the journey to become a LEAN Enterprise. There were several areas where they knew improvements could be made to help with plant flow and performance. In their Grand Forks facility, they do a significant amount of wire crimping for connector terminations. Ideal was looking for a more efficient way to store and locate crimping tools in the Grand Forks Electrical Assembly area as well as provide better access to all areas of the shop floor. They had several toolbox drawers with numerous crimpers in each drawer. Assemblers had to search drawers for the correct crimpers for every job, wasting valuable time. Workstations were also setup in long rows of five desks per row without any openings except at the ends of each row; which caused increased steps to move around the shop. 

Lean Tools, Plant Layout, Lean Enterprise Certification Program (LECP)

At the time they had three employees in the LEAN Enterprise course. Impact Dakota offered to come and help during one of the hands-on training days. The problem Ideal asked them to help with was their storage and retrieval of crimpers. Impact Dakota suggested they look to see how it impacted the overall assembly process.

The day began in the conference room where Mark Volesky of Impact Dakota provided a quick overview of the 5S tools for the electrical assembly employees who were not part of the class; but would be involved in the project. As the process owner, Brad Ortzman provided the group with his expectations of an improved method of storage and retrieval of crimpers.

After a quick tour of the assembly area, one of the assemblers was selected to go through the steps needed to begin working on a new job. The group followed the assembler steps and recorded steps on a spaghetti chart as well as times. Once this information was gathered, the group moved back to the conference room and began to brainstorm ideas to reduce steps and/or time.

With Impact Dakota’s class of students from several different companies, plenty of ideas were generated for consideration. Many ideas were placed in a parking lot for future improvement opportunities. The brainstorming led to a trial period of having all crimpers laid out on a tabletop. Next the group quickly realized that the other concern of room layout was valid. The current layout prevented the crimper table from being centrally located for all assemblers.

Ideal split their five rows of five workstations into six rows of four stations (two stations on each side of the center of the room). The crimper table was moved into the center of the room and the extra station was placed next to it. This station became the pull test station (for verifying correct tool settings and operation) which previously was located in the front corner of the room. Now when a crimper is needed, the assembler can pick it up and moved directly to the pull test station and document the testing without walking from one end of the room to the other. In the process they also found some common toolboxes that could easily be moved to the middle of the room.

A few weeks after the visit by Mark’s class, Ideal went from a flat table to a 4x8 A-frame mounted at waist height so crimpers could be found even faster. These changes were significant for Ideal and there was some skepticism and resistance to the change; however, eventually everyone came to like the new setup and the benefits it provided. 

 $52,000 in Annual Savings, Improved Efficiencies

The results were very good. Within a month of the initial 5S event all but one item had been resolved.

Ideal moved as many resources to a central location as possible, combined multiple pull test record books into one located at the pull test station. Having these items centralized provided them with an annual labor cost savings of $5,781.

Their crimp tool certification process was changed to enable self-inspection from qualified assemblers leading to an additional $3,850 of labor savings per year by freeing up additional personnel required under the old process. Bin control stock (nuts, bolts and misc. supplies) was also moved to a more central location saving another $300 of labor. After moving the pull test station, they found the computer was too far away, so IT moved it to the pull test station. They added an electronic link to their crimp tool manufacturers quick search database eliminating the need for physical searches on a wall chart. These actions saved another $300.

They also looked at the need to purchase more crimpers to reduce the number of times they had to recertify tools for different jobs. A small amount of research found only crimp handles required certification; locators could be interchanged to other handles already certified. They changed the certification process and reduced recertification times by 25% at a savings of $675 in labor.

Another waste identified and eliminated was preprinting of 8.5x11 assembly prints. Assemblers use 11x17 prints and they have to be verified current each day. The preprints were often outdated and never used. Eliminating the preprints saved $300 in labor and materials. This led to another improvement that had been discussed with IT a few times. With IT’s help Ideal found touch screen computer systems that could easily be installed at each workstation. The savings per week in labor and materials is $612 per week or $31,824 a year in the Grand forks facility. They will install in all facilities saving a total of $40,872 annually.

These changes not only saved time and money, but reduced their paper waste (environmental impact) and improved the work environment for employees (quality of life). Overall this effort helped Ideal realize an annual savings in labor and materials of more than $52,000 and improved working conditions for electrical assemblers. They are currently in the process of standardizing workstation drawers and adding shadowing to provide quick visual of any missing items as well as to keep everything in its place while stored.

“When they were moving everything around I thought what a mess, this will never work. Now I can’t imagine going back to the way things were.”

—Lisa Marzolf, Electrical Assembler

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