A few months ago TRIGO Group, a quality management solutions provider, was awarded a contract by Airbus to provide comprehensive inspections of cabin equipment being delivered to the company’s final assembly lines in Toulouse and Hamburg. This includes seats, IFE, lighting, lavatories, galleys, baggage bins and safety equipment. TRIGO will use a team of more than 50 engineers and inspectors to carry out the work, which could also include on-demand visits to suppliers around the world.
Although this initiative is aimed at new aircraft, Emmanuel Marquis, Managing Director, Aerospace & Heavy Transportation, says the company’s methods are equally applicable to cabin conversions and upgrades, as quality control is a basic requirement if a project is to be delivered on time and to specification. He adds that quality is free – what costs money is solving problems that arise from not doing things right the first time.
For new production, there is now a supply chain bottleneck in the industry as increasing cabin complexity puts pressure on lead times. This situation is difficult to change as Airbus and Boeing are planning to increase production rates further. In addition, not only is increased manufacturing capacity required, but training for a number of specialised technical skills is also needed, especially on premium seats. Both of these take time to implement. In this scenario, customisation demands are an additional aggravating factor, Marquis adds.
He says the procurement of cabin elements can be a sensitive topic. On time deliveries come under pressure for several reasons. Unrealistic schedules are sometimes offered to gain market share, while pressure from the end customer can flow back up the supply chain to subcontractors, causing disruption. Similarly, micromanagement of suppliers can slow down the overall process.
Damage in transit is an obvious risk, but a further hazard that can be encountered once products are delivered is accidental damage caused by inspection, resulting in items being returned and replacements having to be dispatched. Ideally a seat, for example, should be delivered in its box to the aircraft. Instead, it is usually opened by Goods Inward and checked. It is then repacked and delivered to the installation site, where it is again unpacked.
Of course, incoming inspection on all procured goods does have advantages; it is easy to implement and can be subcontracted. Quality control by workers on the shop floor means the inspection is being carried out by people with knowledge of the product, thus avoiding issues over responsibility for any damage. It can also be regulated to match capacity demand. On the other hand, if it is extensive it can be costly and parts handling can be complex. Also, it will not solve any delay issues and is really just a ‘fire fighting’ action.
Pushing responsibility for inspection to the source supplier also has some advantages. All problems are identified at the factory, so rework can start immediately. It also eliminates extra costs for logistics, customs, packing and transit times when items are rejected and have to be shipped back. Unfortunately, a local presence is really needed to make it work and suppliers are scattered around the world. Source inspection is a better option, but still a corrective one.
An alternative solution, Marquis says, is to use preventative measures. A load/capacity audit of a supplier before delivery will identify any potential delays, allowing for better planning and the development of any improvements. If there is a bottleneck, this offers the best value for money, although the geographic spread of suppliers is a complication.
As an example, using a batch of 40 business class seats, each with a value of $100,000, a source inspection at the supplier’s factory will be around $300 per seat. A supplier capacity audit will cost around $5,000, or $125 per seat. If things go wrong, rework to repair a defective unit could be $5,000 per seat, while a two week delay and a late delivery penalty of 1% per day has a financial impact of around $15,000 per seat.
Of course, these solutions are based on the common assumption that it is necessary to inspect 100% of items, using standards published by the International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG). TRIGO has developed a new methodology that is based on overall financial impact and provides an indicator of how much inspection is required. The input data includes: the actual supplier quality level; cost of inspection per part; cost of defective parts going through inspection and being detected during assembly before customer delivery; and the cost of a crisis with a customer caused by an undetected fault at the end of the cycle. Unlike classical methods based on targeted defaults rate, this calculation uses the real cost of non-quality as the optimisation criteria.
Taking the example of a business class seat again, this time with a batch size of 50, a default rate of 1% is assumed and that rework will be $10,000, while a crisis will cost $200,000. Using TRIGO’s methodology (see Table 1), it is calculated that 45 out of 50 seats need to be inspected. The obvious safe solution is to inspect the entire batch. However, for a batch of 250 economy seats with a default rate of 0.5%, rework at $2,500 and a crisis at $50,000 (see Table 2), the requirement is for 65 out of 250 to be inspected. Cost optimisation slightly modifies this to one seat in four.
Taken across the wide range of equipment that comprises an entire aircraft cabin, this solution promises to reduce costs and defects and increase on time deliveries.
This article is based on a presentation by Emmanuel Marquis at the Aircraft Cabin Maintenance Conference in London on 30 November 2015.