The industrial machinery and equipment manufacturing, metal fabrication and electronics industries are very competitive at the best of times, and there is a critical requirement for manufacturers to evolve to remain competitive. One of the most important considerations in remaining competitive in the aerospace and defence industry is the ability to deliver to customers on time and in full. By Jakes Mantle.

Australia has a proven history of aerospace manufacturing and continues to provide world-class products to both the local and the global aerospace sector, based on an understanding of unique considerations such as the need for particular expertise, and dedicated resources. According to the Aerospace Manufacturing Services Report published by the Australian Trade Commission, the aerospace industry has to deal in specialty alloys and materials for their products, and also has multiple regulations and certifications to consider during the overall manufacturing process and in meeting the all-important deadline.

In order to accomplish this, certain matters must be taken into consideration. Time and quality management are crucial and can be the key differentiators. It is then critical that the right enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is in place. This will help to ensure a complete manufacturing lifecycle management system that enables planning, scheduling, publishing, collecting, tracking and analysing, to optimise and improve end-to-end manufacturing operations. As manufacturers look to effectively manage their processes, greater value will be placed in allocating budget to ERP systems, and not just to machines for the factory floor.

Streamlining operations

With specific focus on the aerospace and defence industry, the right ERP solution can ensure that you streamline your transactions with industrial alliance partners, deliver on complex products faster with tight regulatory and engineering controls, cost efficiency, advanced planning, strategic decision-making, and compliance with both domestic and international regulations. All these factors make employing the right ERP solution fundamental to the overall success of your manufacturing operation in this sector.

There are specific solutions that can drive efficiency, such as scheduling, traceability and visual APS (advanced planning and scheduling). Being able to schedule quickly and accurately will reduce downtime and enable manufacturers to maximise order fulfilment and resource utilisation, collect data from the shop floor, and track employees, equipment and orders in real time. This will lead to a reduction in resource losses, and subsequently cost reduction, and will drive continuous improvement.

Enhanced ERP systems, which allow you to automatically connect your machines in order to read data, without manual inputs, will also help aerospace manufacturers to digitise their factories, and provide insights from the in-depth analysis of the performance data. These insights will clarify, among others, why actual run rates differ from planned run rates, where performance loss is occurring in relation to operator inefficiencies, and how the business’s bottom line is being affected by equipment wear and tear, and minor stops from component jams.

Regulatory compliance

ERP systems with enhanced functionality should offer a unique level of compliance to domestic and international regulations. In the aerospace and defence sectors, manufacturers must be compliant with several regulations and certifications. One of the most important is Nadcap (National Aerospace and Defence Contractors Accreditation Program), and given that approval from Nadcap is based upon industry consensus – something that sets it apart from other third-party programs – adhering to it can be complicated.

The second main certification is the AS9100, which provides suppliers with a comprehensive quality system, making sure that products are safe and reliable and addresses civil and military aviation requirements. With the right functionality in your ERP system, compliance to these and other regulations becomes second nature.

Monitor and track your supply chain

A state-of-the-art ERP system would be able to monitor and track how your supply chain and your own production line is tracking against the regulations that are required. In this regard your supply chain is almost as important as your own business. Ensuring all levels of compliance is critical to success in this sector. This is where strategic sourcing policies for procurement come into play. By partnering with the right suppliers, you secure the best-quality materials at the lowest cost, thereby giving yourself a competitive advantage.

This industry is one typically characterised by long set-up times, detailed testing, ordering of specialist raw materials, and difficulties in sourcing. All these factors can result in long delays for deliveries to customers. And delays mean slow payments, which can hurt the bottom line and the reputation of your business. With the right systems in place, these factors can be improved upon to ensure that projects are completed in full and on time.

While manufacturers in the aerospace and defence sector are continuously balancing improving operational efficiency and keeping pace with the ever-changing industry, maintaining control over the management of the end-to-end manufacturing process can ensure the viability of your business for many years to come.

Jakes Mantle is a Product Manager at SYSPRO Australasia.