In today’s aerospace manufacturing there is a good deal of thought and movement toward higher levels of automation. Much of automation’s focus is on the ability of the manufacturer to produce parts with minimum or no human operators, during standard hours or while running 2nd, 3rd, and weekend shifts. There are different levels of automation and automation can eliminate human error, decrease direct labor and hold down overhead cost, but intoducing these higher levels of automation, can solve some problems (stated above), and it can come with cavaets. It is not a simple either/or. We recognize the value of both automation and our machine operators. Understanding the role each play is one of the reasons we developed our certified operator program.
At Intrex Aerospace, where appropriate, we have applied different levels of automation, but this does not automatically eliminate the need for qualified operators. We recognize the tremendous value our operators continue to bring to our business. As part of our overall offering, we have developed a Certified Operator Program (COP). Our COP coupled with additions to automation can more fully utilize our employees’ talents which not only improve production but creates a more rewarding atmosphere where our employees can grow and thrive.
As we evaluate the dynamics and impact of adding automation and the interface and impact on our operators, some of the pros and cons we consider are:
- Flexibility – In an automated environment, with no one on-site, it is difficult to quickly respond to unanticipated problems.
- Machine adaption – No all machinery lends itself to high degrees of unattended operation.
- Upfront costs – Many times initial costs of automation and related technology upgrades can be very expensive and cost prohibitive.
- All Raw materials are not the same – Many raw materials machine easy, and things such as tool wear are easily monitored and managed. Some of the more exotic materials, where tool wear can be significant may require a higher level of operator oversight and intervention.
- Lot sizes – Traditionally higher volume parts lend themselves more readily to automation. In aerospace, it is not uncommon for lot sizes to be small (1-5), making machine and automation setup expensive and impractical.
- How do operators fit into our manufacturing profile – We evaluate every task and process in every cell. Part of this evaluation is asking if it is the best use of the operator’s time and skill set. Could an automated solution free up the operator to focus on a higher-value task?
Overview/Highlights of our Certified Operator Program
Under this program, an operator can achieve ‘certified’ status, and is thereby authorized to perform quality inspections on his or her own work. This applies to all operators and to personnel who manage and administer this program.
Oversight of COP
The Quality Supervisor has responsibility and authority for implementation of this procedure.
- The COP verifies compliance to requirements and identifies and remedies factors of poor quality at their earliest possible source: at the point of occurrence.
- The COP certification is the license to inspect and sign off the operator’s own work. Certified Operators are classified into four types based on the inspection equipment they are trained to utilize.
ADMINISTRATION OF THE CERTIFIED OPERATOR PROGRAM:
A Certified Operator Certificate will be issued by Quality Assurance to any employee who meets the following requirements:
- The operator must have received sufficient on-the-job training, as determined by his/her Supervisor. The Supervisor or Lead shall complete the Verification of On-The-Job Training as a written recommendation that Certified Operator status be granted to the employee. A copy of the form is to be forwarded to QA, and original filed in training records.
- The operator must pass a written exam administered by QA, with a score of 90% or higher, on company policies and procedures regarding quality. Should the operator fail to pass the exam, the Quality Supervisor shall notify the Supervisor and the incorrect answers shall be reviewed with the operator. The operator must re-take the exam and pass with 90% or better.
- The operator must pass a practical exam on understanding and proper use of inspection equipment required in the employee’s area. Operators shall have two opportunities to pass the practical exam. Should the operator fail the practical exam twice, the COP approval process shall begin anew per this procedure.
- The operator must have two successful initial COP audits to be certified.
- The above outline/overview of our COP is intended to give you the reader some specifics, as to the detail and depth of our program and our commitment to training and quality. If you would like more information, we would be happy to share that with you. We are very proud of our operators and of our COP. We believe they play an instrumental role in our success. That combination applied with an appropriate level of automation gives Intrex an efficient, competitive, manufacturing advantage.
We recognize the value of both automation and our machine operators. If you would like more information about Intrex Aerospace, please click here.