September 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 5 
Integrated Defense Systems


Designing to Lean pays off in production of Arrow missile


CLEAN SLATEWhen members of the Arrow missile program team in Huntsville, Ala., began production planning just over a year ago, they had nothing more than a blank sheet of paper and a mandate from Program Manager Mark Smith to "design to Lean from the factory floor up."

They did just that, and today the Boeing Huntsville team is producing components of the Arrow II interceptor in what is arguably a model Lean environment.

Arrow is the Israeli ballistic missile defense system that provides a frontline national defense for Israel. Boeing Integrated Defense Systems and Israel Aircraft Industries coproduce the Arrow II interceptor for the system under an agreement signed in 2002.

"We had a rare opportunity to take Lean guidelines and build around them rather than struggle with an existing production line that would already have established processes, equipment and preconceived ideas on how to do things," Smith said.

Step one began with a Lean tool called Production Preparation Process. The 3P provided the framework to address the challenges of designing the Lean production line and identifying the long-lead components and material delivery process to meet demanding program schedules.

The 3P team had to define a production process in very limited space that would allow room for growth if projected demand increased or if work scope changed.

Having a blank sheet of paper to work from may have been a great opportunity, but it didn't come without significant challenges, said Floyd Cook, IDS manager of Arrow Operations. These included the differences in language and culture and the added sensitivity of handling technical information with another country-even when that country is an industrial partner.

This Lean operation features the efficient use of assets, high inventory turns, excellent supplier management, short cycle times, high quality and low transaction costs, he said. "The Israelis have been active members of our team since day one, and the result is that we are well on our way to reaching our goal: to establish a Level Four Lean operation," Cook said, referring to the Boeing Lean Manufacturing Assessment tool. This tool scores all the elements of Lean production on a scale from one to five, with five being best-in-class.

While the production facility covers only 1,840 feet-small by manufacturing standards-the team set out to squeeze process improvements out of the entire space. For instance, team members significantly reduced handling requirements when they developed an assembly cart and jig to carry an interceptor component from initial mechanical assembly through final test and into the shipping container.

The team used Level Four Lean criteria as guidelines to design the facility-an ambitious goal, said Smith. "The team agreed that to be entirely successful as a program, we needed to set the standard for this type of facility at Boeing and that Level Four criteria would give us the solid foundation to do that," Smith added.

The IDS Lean Team will assess the program later this year. These yearly assessments provide consistent scoring across all IDS sites and programs.

"The Arrow team has made remarkable progress bringing this new program on line in such a short time," said Debra Rub, vice president, Air and Missile Defense Systems for IDS. "Clearly, they are setting a standard for Lean across A&MDS. It's not only critical to the success of Arrow but to every A&MDS program."

As Arrow production gets into full swing in upcoming weeks, the team expects to make further improvements to the production process.

"We're helping Israel build the system that protects their nation every day," Smith said. "They're counting on us to deliver, and we won't disappoint them."

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